Quasi-Service Hotels Carving Out a New Niche

The Sweet Spot

By Robert Habeeb President & Chief Executive Officer, First Hospitality Group, Inc. | April 16, 2017

There are growing numbers of quasi-service hotels that are carving out a new niche between select-service and full-service properties. Select-service hotels have been a hot hotel industry segment for several years now. From new concepts to new developments, it has established itself as a clear front-runner in the hotel category horse race. That being said, a recent uptick in full service hotel development clearly shows that segment remains vibrant, as well.

But, what’s interesting is that the lines have become increasingly blurred between what we as an industry see as the various types of hotels all together as more and more hoteliers look to be focusing on an approach that falls somewhere in between select- and full-service hotels. These properties occupy a category that has not yet been formally named, but they are select service by brand nature, while also featuring full-service components. This hybrid concept, which some are calling quasi-service, often relies on a standout restaurant or dining feature to deliver some of the experiential punch and luxurious elements typically associated with full-service properties, and to help establish a memorable and defining sense of place. Whether it is a rooftop bar, an outstanding lounge area or a creative and dynamic drinking or dining space, the result is a hospitality experience that may not be full service, but instantly stands out above its select-service competitors.

A New Generation

The Hilton Garden Inn Louisville Downtown Hotel is a classic example of this type of unique dining feature in action. The hotel is home to the 8UP Elevated Drinkery and Kitchen ( 8UP ), an indoor-outdoor all-glass venue that offers progressive American cuisine and outstanding views of downtown Louisville. 8UP is a 90-seat facility with an open kitchen and distinctive dark wood paneling that conveys a sense of opulence and comfort while giving diners a peek at the energy and activity taking place “backstage.” Perhaps unsurprisingly, 8UP has become a regional destination that appeals to area residents as well as hotel guests: a venue that captures the culinary spirit and sense of fun that is such integral part of Louisville’s identity. It is a testament to the impact that 8UP has had on the local dining and hospitality market that the restaurant was recently recognized in OpenTable’s 100 Hottest Restaurants in America 2016 compilation, achieving an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5.

There are plenty of hotel management companies looking to incorporate more of these types of exciting and popular dining facilities into their hotels­. Other examples of restaurant and bar environments that will be a part of existing properties and upcoming properties currently in development across the Midwest include an open-air rooftop bar and eatery in what was formerly the Toledo Grand Plaza Hotel. Opening in spring, as a Renaissance by Marriott, the hotel’s distinctive dining rooftop space will offer spectacular panoramic views of the Maumee River and the Toledo skyline. Rooftop bar and lounge space is also in the works for a new dual-branded hotel opening in early 2018 in a mixed-use development in the Illinois Medical District, and for the world’s first tri-branded Hilton hotel complex at Chicago’s McCormick Place ( on track to open late 2018 ).

Additionally, a creative new hotel property on Chicago’s iconic Navy Pier, which will feature two full stories of dining space and at least one full-service and high-energy restaurant, is scheduled to open later in 2017.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.