By Larry and Adam Mogelonsky

In the current travel recovery scenario, first impressions are everything. It isn’t just about maximizing new arrivals during the rapidly inbound summer peak season but ensuring that your property creates a lasting memory so that you are considered for a return visit. With lots of amenities curtailed during the pandemic, hotels must now rethink the physicality of the onsite experience so that positive sentiments are instilled, and this starts at the entranceway then continues into the lobby area.

Remember that so many of us are just now emerging from our pandemic caves. Many of us crave the bustle and glamor of a kinetic hotel lobby as this gives us a strong feeling that things are returning to normal and putting the mind at ease after a likely stressful flight where some COVID-19 rules still apply.

Rearranging your ops to enable a vibrant lobby bar thus has far-reaching implications beyond only this profit center’s topline. What are the sights and sounds? Is there any lobby art? Are there flower arrangements to both stimulate the eyes and the noses? Are you making guests wait to check in or do you have kiosks, online guest registration or a mobile-based check-in platform to ease the burden? Do you have the staffing to provide a welcome refreshment station?

Part of the grand tradition of all the best hotels around the world is that people admired their lobbies. Lobbies give off a ‘vibe’ and set the tone. When done right, guests wanted to linger, to socialize, to identify with these properties. As the pandemic comes to a definitive end, successful hotels that garner return visits – lasting word of mouth that pays out well beyond this current travel recovery phase – will in part be those that exude this sense of community. To that end, a vibrant lobby bar is a great way to endear guests to your hotel.

A lobby bar can take many forms and décors depending on your brand and your budget. You need some food, of course, which may be tricky, although you can get away with lighter, cold snacks or servicing from an adjacent restaurant. You need great drinks – the lubrication of most every social affair – and an uncomplicated or lean menu to not slow down service and overwhelm the limited bar staff. While you can also throttle the hours of operation, also consider the home base effect of having this outlet open later than other standalone dining operations.

Then consider music, which will likely reverberate through to the front desk area, helping entice guests and set the mood. Live music may well be one of the welcoming sensations after over two years of lockup. And the design of table areas is equally as important. Although physical distancing has been ingrained into the mindsets of interior designers, the two of us are perhaps a bit controversial for stating that seating arrangements stretched too far apart make a space feel desolate – more doctor’s office than hangout spot – and not to mention unprofitable. Stick within your area’s guidelines but look for ways to bring people together so that we can all get back to some semblance of normal which, for homo sapiens at least, involves socializing.

Many of us are perhaps too laser-focused on the current staffing woes and filling rooms to concern ourselves with the lobby or rooftop bar. The post-pandemic hotel is resolutely no longer merely about ‘heads and beds’. That is a strategy for eternal trial and no loyalty.

We see the lobby bar not only as a great way to maximize revenue per guest (TRevPAR) but to create memorable moments that will compel guests to recommend your property and give it a stellar review. This is the ‘halo effect’ where a one-star operation casts a positive light on others, creating a virtuous circle for maximizing TRevPAR, demand, and then ADR. The exercise of figuring out how this works for your lobby space can thus be applied to numerous other onsite operations and tech integrations.

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Editor’s note: To discuss business challenges or speaking engagements please contact Larry or Adam directly.