Brand Flexibility Builds Better Designs, and Lasting Partnerships

By Alan Roberts Global Head, Embassy Suites by Hilton | November 11, 2018

This article was co-authored by Gregory L. Steinhauer, President American Life, Inc.

How can hotel brands and owners work together to create properties that embrace their unique surroundings and respond to distinct site challenges? More specifically, how can they launch new hotels (or renovated and re-branded structures, for that matter) that are designed to be true to both the brand and the location, all while achieving strong ROI and customer satisfaction? Our shared story in a complex and historic urban setting, in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, offers some valuable insight, along with useful principles for getting the job done the right way, from the very beginning.

With the design, build, and branding of Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square, we arrived at a property and an experience that is genuinely different, and yet entirely familiar to returning Embassy Suites by Hilton guests. The success of our joint effort derived not from a formula, but instead from a willingness to look beyond formulas. It came not from a rigid set of design standards, but instead from a desire to infuse flexibility into brand programs, prototypes, and our whole working partnership.

From a hotel brand perspective, Embassy Suites by Hilton recognizes that guests, whether leisure or business travelers, increasingly seek environments and amenities that connect them to the special places they are visiting. Therefore, it is essential that hoteliers have the flexibility to develop unique properties that reflect neighborhood histories, styles, and attractions. Designs must be allowed to respect site-specific requirements, construction challenges, and regional development trends. And when it comes to specific finishes and interior elements, local flavor is important, as well as the general expectations of visitors to the region.

In a booming metropolis like Seattle, for instance, guests might expect an urban feel, beautiful downtown or water views, top amenities, and a property that is integrated with local attractions. But they also expect to pay a bit more for it than they might in a rural location or smaller city. And that brings us to a critical point in the design flexibility equation: while interior finishes and quality should reflect the local aesthetic, they also should account for local economic realities. That means, for instance, a high value property in a dense urban setting should most likely offer top design finishes that can command rates to offset the high cost of development – in turn promising strong ROI.

Of course, the right brand affiliation brings serious benefits, including powerful reservations delivery, streamlined technology tools, and the lasting loyalty of guests around the globe. As a result, fully customized properties like Embassy Suites by Hilton Seattle Downtown Pioneer Square must achieve a delicate balance, delivering the new environment while adhering to the spirit and standards that define the brand and delight its customers. Together, we realized this goal through lasting cooperation, adaptability, and consistent communication.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.