Where Hospitality Meets Retail: Engaging Through Experience

By Scott Acton CEO & Founder, Forte Specialty Contractors | March 04, 2018

For many years, retailers and hospitality brands have had an intrinsic relationship, in particular, finding ways to wow each guest who walks through the door; and keep them coming back time and time again.

Dating back to the emergence of all-inclusive resorts in the 1950s spurred by the creation of Club Méditérannée (Club Med) to now with fashion retailer Forever 21 who has developed a playground-like experience with a lifestyle mix of beauty essentials, interiors products and accessories to further engage consumers, retail and hospitality brands are continually looking for ways to distinguish themselves and build up their brands with the demands of the consumer in mind.

We’re now seeing one of the biggest trends emerge: hospitality and retail fully integrating in order to provide the ultimate customer experience and create an extension of the brand. Leading retailers like Armani, Muji, West Elm, Nobu Matsuhisa and Parachute have begun opening their own hotels to allow a new level of engagement with the brand that consumers have never experienced before. This intersection between hospitality and retail is being largely driven by Millennials and Gen-Zers who rely heavily on technology and seek out experiential environments.

This comes as no surprise as even several years ago, according to a 2014 study conducted by PKF Hospitality Research, the hotel market dynamics began shifting and lifestyle and boutique hotels were outperforming traditional hotels in terms of revenue, due to the rise of traveling Millennials and their innovative ability to localize and personalize services that put a greater emphasis on technology and created an immersive, lifestyle experience.

As a result, larger hotel brands like Starwood, Hilton and Marriott have all taken notice and gotten in on the action. Hilton@Play has partnered with Live Nation to create a series of live music events and to appeal to the younger generation. To encourage loyalty, concert-goers must also be HHonors members with between 30,000 and 80,000 points in order to attend the live concerts. Starwood’s Aloft brands itself as “stylish, boutique hotels that break the traditional hotel mold for a truly unforgettable stay.” The Aloft brands were specifically designed to appeal to Millennials and Gen-Z consumers through social interaction from the communal pool tables to “Sips & Spins” DJ sets at the WYXZ bar or encouraging guests to tag their photos on social of the property before they even leave the grounds. Marriott’s Moxy Hotels has now brought in top social influencers to entertain guests.

Hotel operators and retailers must now look at the entirety of their mix of products -- from shelving to the guest lobby, social landscapes to event spaces, artwork, health and fitness options, and family entertainment -- in order to create a true sense of destination. Additionally, this has also prompted hoteliers and retailers to look at how they can provide unexpected moments of intrigue that captivate the senses and leave lasting impressions at every touch point.

The growing number of unique and well-constructed venues offering tactile, multi-sensory experiences through design is attracting greater numbers of guests and the general public, which translates directly into improved earnings. In order to keep pace with this experience destination movement, owners and operators must invest in exceptional creative thinking and execute their ideas in the built environment in the next 24 months.

At Forté, we specialize in bringing the built environment to life through our design-build capabilities by creating the ultimate guest experience and delivering customer satisfaction. Our most recent project brought Gordon Ramsay’s first ever Hell’s Kitchen restaurant to life by helping immerse diners by providing an environment that makes them feel like they are a part of the show, from the red and blue team-themed kitchen that is visible to guests to the flaming pitchfork at the entrance. Every detail of the project was meticulously executed to ensure a seamless experience for patrons, recreating the look and feel of the world-famous show that fans know and love.

Another great example is the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout ride at Disney California Adventure. Entirely reimagining and renovating a fan-favorite like the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror caused several die-hard Disney-goers to raise eyebrows. The design team knew that working on such an iconic project, they would have to make sure that the new ride not only met, but exceeded expectations to create something even better. Thousands of square feet of eye-catching features including custom metal cutouts, scenic backgrounds and animatronics and the seamless integration of the well-known storyline into the ride is what made this project such a phenomenal success. There is a reason that the thought of our favorite theme park invokes feelings of excitement and anticipation: the immersive experience resulting from attention to detail and purposeful design.

So, what should retailers and hotel owners and operators look at in order to create the ultimate experience for their customers?

Take a page from theme parks

Theme parks have become a destination for consumers of all ages. As a result of their multi-sensory and experiential approach, guests are able to suspend their disbelief and fully embrace the new world they've stepped into, not only feeling welcomed the minute they walk in, but staying engaged throughout the duration of their visit. They find themselves in the middle of the action and want to experience it for as long as they can. Utilize elements that make guests feel a sense of buzz and electricity the minute they step foot on your property to the minute they leave. Keep them wanting more so they’ll keep coming back.

Be authentic

There’s nothing worse than walking into a place and feeling like something is out of place or off-brand. For example, if your brand is about appealing to the local culture, take into account things like what type of food and smells make them feel at home, familiar imagery and ambient music.

Bardot Brasserie and Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville are good examples of this. Bardot is a French fine-dining establishment with a modern twist, located in ARIA Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. Built by Forté Specialty Contractors, Bardot is an all-senses-engaging, foodie experience. The lighting is inspired by early film noir and Bardot’s mix of low lighting and dramatic shadows sets the mood for guests. Whether guests are walking by or going into the restaurant, Bardot’s bar is attention-grabbing featuring polished brass shelving. With a wall that opens to the hotel’s main second floor walkway, the bar creates a sense of social engagement among the guests and visitors walking through ARIA, helping to draw additional guests in. Bardot uses a variety of textures and other visual aesthetics and ambient lighting, among other materials to engage guests. These sensory tactics, paired with the restaurant’s exceptional menu and specialty cocktails, makes Bardot a one-of-a-kind experience.

Margaritaville, located at Universal CityWalk, also utilized theming and multi-sensory design tac-tics to create a laid-back, beachy environment for guests, making it a hot spot for both Universal CityWalk visitors and Universal Studios Hollywood theme park employees. Forté was the general contractor on the project and worked with the owner and operator to ensure the implementation of the overall elements that make the eatery so unique and memorable, including the Landshark fire pit and a surfboard table display, were incorporated.

As a result of the attention to detail in the design and buildout of the restaurant, customers are instantly transported from their experience of walking down a row of retailers after a long day at an amusement park to lounging on a beach, sipping on margaritas - an experience they won't soon forget.

Don’t just think about the destination

Today’s consumers aren’t only interested in the destination, but in the journey as well. Hotel operators and retailers should wow along the way. Think about creating social settings that pop up en route to the target destination. Create a gathering place once they’ve arrived that feels familiar. Prompt them to stop and take a photo. Provide a respite with unique seating options that will likely get them to want to hang around even longer.

One of the prominent projects Forté has worked on related to this includes the Preston Bailey floral display that is the focal point of the atrium at Wynn’s Macau, Cotai and Las Vegas proper-ties and a a study in refined whimsy. Our team worked with Preston Bailey’s team and the owner’s designers to bring this eye-catching concept to life from the fantastical hot air balloon depiction and carousel installations, where each flower was installed individually by hand.

As hospitality and retail continues to integrate more fully, owners and operators need to continue to provide venues that are designed with the entire experience in mind. To create one-of-a-kind experiences for their guests, it’s incumbent upon owners and developers to think beyond a one-size-fits-all approach. Develop a strategy that’s based on creating an experience for consumers. Utilize a multi-sensory and authentic approach and one that keeps the journey in mind. These approaches will not only attract consumers, but will also keep them coming back again, ultimately boosting revenues and creating long-term success for hoteliers and retailers.

Mr. Acton Scott Acton is CEO and founder of Forté Specialty Contractors, built on three generations of creative execution of some of the globe’s iconic experiential spaces. Forté Specialty Contractors in Las Vegas, is a construction firm specializing in the hospitality, restaurant, retail, nightlife and entertainment industries. Mr. Acton is known for tackling some of the most difficult and high profile construction challenges in the industry. Mr. Acton attended “Disney University” where he learned the business and leadership skills needed to build a successful career. In 2002, Mr. Acton started his own company, Trevi Manufacturing. He is a 20-year resident of Las Vegas. Scott Acton can be contacted at 702-697-2000 or scott@fortedesignbuild.com Please visit http://fortedesignbuild.com/ for more information. Extended Biography

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.