Celebrity chef restaurants, locally inspired food and beverage offerings, communal social spaces, and in-room and hotel-led fitness options–these trends represent a transformation of the traditional hotel model. Amenity preferences, particularly for authentic, one-of-a-kind social experiences, continue to segment the hospitality industry. Many of the large hotel chains have countered with a series of new boutique-style brands that cater to individuality of the customer and locale. Owners are taking advantage of the opportunity to transform their properties into unique assets. Below are three areas that hoteliers are focusing on in the process of repositioning unique assets.
1. Food & Beverage Experiences
Hotels are building entire experiences around food and beverage as a way to distinguish themselves from their competition. Celebrity chef restaurants have become a commonplace feature in freshly renovated hotels. Often, they give a nod to local cuisine or provide a fresh twist on fusion. For example, the renovation and rebranding of the Ambassador Hotel in New Orleans in 2015 included the opening of Compère Lapin, a locally inspired restaurant by celebrity chef Nina Compton.
In recognition of the importance food plays in defining authenticity, the major brand companies have developed food-centered offshoot brands. For example, each of the hotels in Hilton’s Canopy brand offers guests locally inspired food options and hosts complimentary beer, wine, and spirits tastings each evening. Though all of the Canopies opened to date have been new builds, Hilton designed Canopy with the intention that it would be a conversion friendly brand.
Even the softer brands, like Marriott’s Autograph Collection and Hilton’s Curio Collection, acknowledge the importance of food in enhancing an asset’s unique character. The conversion of the Hilton Doubletree to The Darcy Washington D.C., Curio Collection by Hilton, which opened in 2017, included the opening of a new restaurant led by two veteran D.C. restaurateurs as well as a coffee shop helmed by celebrity chef David Guas.
Experiences centered around food can be just as important as the food itself. As part of the recent overhaul of its guestrooms, The Penninsula Chicago created Keys to the City, what it describes as “an experiential program that provides guests with complimentary access to incredible ‘only-in-Chicago’ experiences”. One of the experiences offered under the program is an exclusive, hands-on tour of the Michelin-starred restaurant Grace.
2. Communal Spaces
Redesigning communal spaces for guests to interact with one another while also drawing in local residents is another way that hotels are setting themselves apart. For example, the recent $32 million renovation of the Hotel Zephyr in San Francisco included the construction of an 11,500 square foot outdoor lounge named the Yard, which provides guests with board games, ping pong tables, and other group activities meant to foster communal interaction. Hotels have found that such draws help provide incremental revenue to the bottom-line.
TRU by Hilton takes the redesign of public spaces to another level by targeting millennial business travelers with open public spaces built for play, work, and advanced use of technology throughout the hotels. Incorporating more technology in hotels is helping to streamline and attract certain travelers that desire and are more comfortable with smart phones, tablets, and even robots.
3. Fitness Focus
Many hotels are seeking to set themselves apart by offering over the top fitness options. InterContinental Hotels Group’s EVEN Hotels brand is designed around guest wellness and fitness, going so far as to describe their general managers as “chief wellness officers.” The Holiday Inn Express in Rockville, Maryland, was converted to an EVEN Hotel as part of a repositioning in 2014.
Some brands have taken a lighter touch in how they offer fitness options to their guests. Hilton’s Five Feet to Fitness rooms, which were introduced earlier this year at the Hilton McLean Tysons Corner and Parc55 in San Francisco, provide guests with in-room work-out equipment, a training video kiosk, exercise beverages, and even a meditation chair. These rooms, which don’t belong to a particular Hilton brand, have been rolled out as a pick-me-up to various Hiltons a few rooms at a time–a sign to customers who take their fitness seriously that Hilton does too.
About the Authors
Samantha Ahuja, Molly Kacheris, and David Reina of Morris, Manning & Martin represent owners, operators, and developers of hotels with a focus on hotel acquisitions, operations, development and finance, hotel management agreements, licensing agreements, and commercial real estate acquisitions and sales.