By Adam and Larry Mogelonsky
“It’s attention to detail that makes the difference between average and stunning.” (Francis Attenbury, 1663-1732)
To put this into an adage that we prefer and have used, “The story is in the specificity.” As a thought, how many times have you stayed at a hotel where the interior of the guestroom offers no distinctive finishes so much so that you could wake up and not know what brand or city you are in? While this may be fine for the economy and midscale hotels-in-beds operations, if you want to chart a course for above-market ADR increases, your hotel needs an identity.
Some of this comes through your service offerings and your staff. Some requires a bit more opex. And then some involves your ‘reason to visit’ with a substantial capital improvement cost. Heed our words though: with great rate comes great expectations!
If your guest can afford to spend a thousand in ADR on your accommodations, their expectations go far beyond a good night’s sleep. Their comp set is not just other properties that are in geographic distance, but of equal importance is how you stack up against their own home! To put this another way, luxury hotels should never aim to be ‘just like home’ but must always strive to be ‘better than home’, which requires an ever-vigilant eye on the current aspirational trends.
Spend a few minutes browsing any of the recent editions of home and architecture magazines. Guests do not necessarily expect that your property will be featured in AD (Architectural Digest), Interior Design or Wallpaper. But pay attention to the clues from these publications. These are the photographs your guests are using to furnish or style their homes. Their expectations for your property are formed accordingly.
As part of our recent oeuvre of strategic consulting assignments, we’ve had the opportunity to evaluate the FF&E requirements of several new developments. These properties have forecasted rates through a good portion of the year at $1,000+ ADRs. Yet, in the perfunctory budget cutting to meet financial acquisition targets, FF&E design elements were stripped. As the hotel experts on the project, we cannot precisely quantify the impact on daily rates through the elimination of these supposed ‘frills’. However, we can say that the delivered end product will not be as we envisioned.
On one consulting assignment, we assumed the role of asset managers for a property on the West Coast. The rooms were large but spartan. As a real estate agent would say, “The property has good bones.” But with an empty coffee table in the living room, an empty fridge, a limited amenity package in the bathroom and only a few paintings (and not of any memorable quality or subject matter), the place looked ‘desperate’ – that is, to borrow the Latin translation of the word, lacking breath and spirit. The catch was that we could not add to the rooms unless we generated the rates, and yet without the extras, we could not ask for better rates!
As our opening quotation highlights, it’s all in the details. And yet, many of these do not require substantial capex, only a more meticulous attitude that emphasizes the importance of nuance, as well as some SOP rewrites and retraining. Here is a checklist of ten detail items that should be on your radar.
1. Fresh flowers: a display in the entry or suite and single flowers in each bathroom. Succulent plants are bathroom alternatives. This is pretty much standard at any Four Seasons property.
2. Robes and slippers: as differentiated by season and properly sized for guests, we were first introduced to this at the Lake Austin Spa Resort where, of course, this amenity also included small bedside mats placed at turndown service.
3. Bathroom amenity kits: these include makeup remover cloth and pads, shaving cream, disposable razor, toothpaste/toothbrush, comb, nail file and mouthwash, with the Crown Hotel in Melbourne as a great example to emulate in this regard.
4. Turndown service elements: not just chocolate, but something unique; the best we’ve seen is the Halekulani in Waikiki Beach, which features a different turndown amenity every day of the week, reflecting the average LOS of about seven days.
5. Taschen books: on the suite coffee table, with the newly renovated ARIA Sky Suites in Las Vegas having half a dozen to scan through.
6. Great magazines: to ponder while enjoying your suite; apart from the design magazines or a local high-end lifestyle magazine, consider others that reflect your property’s aesthetic, wherein the Montage brand is highly renowned for this.
7. A real newspaper in a delivery sleeve: Digital readers are excellent and no doubt more efficient, but nothing beats the tactile experience of sitting at your dining room table having room service breakfast with a copy of the Financial Times or Wall Street Journal, as emphasized by a recent stay at The Savoy in London that reinforced the sheer luxury of this minor indulgence.
8. The minibar: incorporating several interesting treats and non-alcoholic beverages, ideally local and unusual, all of which for Mille Club member hotels should be made available at no charge to the guest, and indeed this is something we instituted at the Villa Eyrie Resort in British Columbia.
9. A complimentary arrival plate: if possible, personalized for the individual, wherein we have seen buckets of cold beer and homemade chips, fresh chocolate chip cookies, intricate truffles, fruit plates and combinations thereof – all were appreciated.
10. Binoculars: in locations where the sights are spectacular such as the Wickaninnish Inn located in Tofino, British Columbia where they also included heavy-duty rain gear to encourage you to walk the beach regardless of the weather.