|By Bob Freund, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Aug. 15, 2005 -- The typical traveler might not crave a five-course dinner at midnight. But some of the Kahler Grand Hotel's guests are accustomed to having what they want, when they want it.
For those demanding customers, from the merely well-heeled to the royal, there soon will be an exclusive "hotel-within-a-hotel" atop the downtown Rochester hotel.
Sunstone Hotel Properties will refurbish the 11th floor of the Kahler Grand this fall into The International, a 26-unit complex featuring what local executive Bruce Fairchild describes as "service you'd find in a five-star facility."
Access will require a special elevator key. Room service will be available 24 hours a day. Concierge staff will be stationed on the floor 16 hours a day, and a manager will be at the guests' beck and call during the remaining eight hours.
"Whatever you need, 'yes' is the answer. What's the question?" said Fairchild, who is Sunstone's regional vice president for operations, based in Rochester.
The suites, ranging as large as 3,000 square feet, will be furnished with electronics such as high-definition television sets; DVD players; wired and wireless Internet access for computers; and refrigerators, electric curtains and other amenities.
Services include complimentary breakfast, high tea at 3 p.m., complimentary cocktail and selection of European-style hors d'oeuvres every evening in an 11th-floor lounge, on-duty housekeeping at all hours, a choice of national newspapers, and special satellite TV service for keeping up with overseas events.
A manager will meet guests and usher them in when they arrive. After they leave, hotel staff will ensure the lodging is in impeccable shape for the next guest, to the extent of repairing scratches in furniture. Eventually, Fairchild says, Kahler hopes to arrange an appointment checking service and perhaps other conveniences with Mayo Clinic, the hotel's main draw.
The International likely will attract host patients and dignitaries coming to Mayo for treatment. But Fairchild said he also expects to see business travelers, such as corporate executives coming for Mayo's Executive Health Program.
The hotelier's attention won't come cheap, though. A "deluxe room" with amenities will rent from $400 a night for a deluxe room through $2,500 for the expansive Imperial Suite. The floor also currently includes six other grand suites, including the hotel's Presidential Suite. Those hefty rates will help pay for a $2.5 million renovation project, which already is starting with minor demolition. The luxury lodgings should be ready for guests about Jan. 1.
The project also will prompt 15 to 20 new hires to cover openings from current staff moving up for The International's duties, Fairchild said. Day-to-day, The International will operate separately from the rest of the Kahler Grand, John Beltz, Sunstone's regional vice president for sales and marketing, said.
Concierge-staffed floors have been a trend at full-service hotels for years. The same floor at the Kahler was remodeled as a special guests club with concierge service more than a decade ago in 1994. The Rochester Marriott Hotel next door, which also is run by Sunstone Hotel Properties, operates a concierge level on its eighth and ninth floors. Those rooms typically go for $250 a night, the managers said. The Kahler Grand will offer expanded services beyond the Marriott's, Fairchild said last week.
"What it does is put the Kahler in a category with the big-city hotels," such as those in New York, Chicago and San Francisco, said John Kahler, a retired hotelier and consultant whose family name remains on the downtown Rochester inn. "It's aiming at the top-of-the-line." And there is a market for posh lodging for visitors "from affluent on up," as Kahler said. "I think it's a good idea," said Kahler, who managed the Kahler Grand at one time. "I think that the Kahler rates with those hotels and, in order to stay in the marketplace, they should be coming up with these amenities, and I think they'll be successful with it."
--Location: 11th floor, Kahler Grand Hotel.
--Facility: Luxury accommodations.
--Room selection: 12 deluxe rooms, $400 per night; 7 minisuites, $600 a night; 7 grand suites, including the Presidential Suite, $800 to $2,500.
--Features: Controlled access, 24-hour concierge and housekeeping service, media-equipped rooms, luxury surroundings.
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