HOTEL BUSINESS REVIEW

NOVEMBER FOCUS: Architecture & Design

 

Design Tweaks in Select Service and Extended Stay Hotels

Today's Branded Properties Can Offer Market-Specific Features

By Mark Ricketts President & Chief Operating Officer, McNeill Hotel Company | November 2022

This article was co-authored by Brent McDowell, Executive VP Business Development, McNeill Investment Group

Certainly, the pandemic encouraged an industry where people are invited to come together to become even more "space conscious."

However, whether chatting up a new guest, digging in at the morning breakfast buffet or congregating to watch the news or a ball game on a big screen TV in the lobby, staff and guest behaviors were tempered by a new concept of the day, social distancing. 

As we adapted to this contingency, our behaviors were defined and enforced in various proportions by a range of guidance, including from local jurisdictions, brand and organizational standards, and good old common sense.

Spacing has always been a part of hospitality design where the size and configuration of rooms, common areas and specialty spaces like fitness centers or banquet rooms, along with the fit and finish of furnishings, fixtures and equipment, are designed to work their subtle magic. The goals include a sparkling property of which ownership can be proud, a great guest experience and maximum return on investment.

Moreover, in recent years, we have been though many interesting trends with respect to room configurations, common areas, amenities and choices for fit and finish. Consider business centers, fitness centers, pools, atrium lobbies versus more intimate ones, the lobby bar versus rooftop bars, market convenience shops, guest room entertainment centers, bathtubs versus walk-in showers, right down to the strategies for in-room minibars. Never a dull moment on the design front.

Some of these features have been implemented in response to consumer needs and demands; others are in the realm of experimentation, working to push the envelope of a hotel stay. For example, who thought that one day we would be hosting children (with their parents) who may be attending a school session from their guest room! Broadband capacity is everything.

Thus, as we progress from the pandemic, renewed attention is being given to hotel design. These quests include appealing to guests mixing business and leisure trips; re-invigorating the human community aspects of a hotel stay; finding ways to contain construction and operating costs, while improving operating efficiencies; or, of increasing importance, improving task flow and even creature comforts for our team members.

In this article, we will review some of these trends, including for select service and extended stay properties; and how cost to build and cost to operate considerations may interact with the less easy to define, but equally valuable goal of crafting a memorable stay for guests.

Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan Kansas features inviting outdoor spaces.

Are We Leaving Our Cocoons?

First, some observations.

One of us with family members recently stayed at a newer downtown, lifestyle hotel in a high-profile secondary market, which was not one of our own McNeill properties. We couldn't help but notice that in this case guest rooms seemed to be getting smaller.  Also, they weren't without quality furnishings and amenities; perhaps, minimalist would be a more apt description of the situation.

We can draw two ideas or conclusions from this experience that may inform what will be driving some aspects of hotel design in the near future. The first is that smaller rooms, less square footage, with less expensive materials may help curb construction costs for new builds. Construction costs are already facing pressure from ever higher costs of building materials, when they are available, and the costs and availability of general contractors and skilled labor.

Some of these trends were already in motion pre-pandemic. Examples include using laminate flooring in place of carpets or walk-in showers in place of full bath tubs. In both cases, guest preference may work in concert with less costs to furnish, as well as materials that are easier to clean and maintain. These considerations will become extremely important as ownership groups work to refund CapEx budgets that were deferred during the pandemic, along with any resumption of more aggressive property improvement schedules.

A second observation is that these newer rooms almost seemed designed around the concept of encouraging guests to venture out of their rooms, as they help to activate lobbies and other common areas. Clearly, less time spent huddling in one's room may also mean more time spending money at lobby or rooftop bars, on-property restaurants, market shops and any other pay-as-you-go amenities.

We have witnessed a similar phenomenon at our own properties where solo business travelers seem to be leaving their rooms, choosing to do work in the atmosphere of a lobby. Similarly, business groups may hold quick pre-excursion meetings in our lobbies, as opposed to a guest room or asking for a small meeting room.

In response, many hotel operators, including of branded properties like ours, are thinking of public space as cross-functional. Through the appropriate physical and functional dividers, these zoned lobbies can serve a number of uses: coffee shop or bar; a place to gather by a public space television; an area where small groups can hold brief meetings; or spaces meet to be used more quietly by individuals.

This zoning principle need not be fixed. Just as we can re-configure a meeting room depending on the intended function, lobbies of the future can be designed to be more easily configured for different uses-without making the rearrangement look haphazard or in breaking with the overall design theme. Whether for remodels or new builds, we expect these considerations to be brought up at the initial design phases and supported by the furnishings and other physical elements chosen.

The sense that people are anxious to get back to "public spaces" and renew socializing with each other is further supported when property design and amenities are customized for a wide range of asset classes, including branded properties. Actually, this trend has been occurring for some time. However, we can expect it to strengthen with continued strong demand for hotel stays and unique experiences. In doing so, hotel designers, developers and ownership groups will work creatively to balance the many financial, operational and marketing advantages of belonging to a brand with tweaks that enhance guest satisfaction, revenue possibilities and local market competitiveness.

For example, our recently built Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan, Kansas, adjacent to Kansas State University in the Aggieville district, features a stylish roof-top terrace with both open and partly-covered areas. The ambience is enhanced by overhead strings of lights in the covered area for night time enjoyment and the overall feel is of the indoor comfort brought outdoors.

Similarly, our Homewood Suites Athens, Georgia features an elevated outdoor deck space, which is on top of a parking area. Complete with food service, this space is extremely popular almost all-year round in warm weather Georgia, including college football season.

Our Courtyard by Marriott Nashville Green Hills features a fashionable Bistro Bar, outdoor fire pit, outdoor lounge spaces and goes one better with a rooftop pool and lounge area that wouldn't be out of place at many a resort. Also, thanks for that Courtyard, Marriott!

Work with the Right Architect

As we've discussed, today's new hotels, including branded properties with their overall well-defined platforms, will increasingly be distinguished by special, one-off design features. Climate, market location, intended user groups and local traditions are all factors that will influence the pursuit of a harmonious, successful design.

As a result, in our experience with new hospitality development, we think it is extremely important to work with an architect that has credible hotel experience. This consideration goes beyond understanding the basic "dormitory-like" principles of constructing a hotel, including plumbing, HVAC or security features, as well as other typical features like bars and restaurants; or meeting rooms, pools or fitness centers.

It is also important to be able to devise useful modifications to the standard brand platform and its specifications for back of the house efficiencies. Examples include locations for laundry rooms and elevator access to help with housekeeping; or enlarging a kitchen to provide extra space for more efficient food preparation. Any extra costs for such modifications will be weighed against potential benefits, including operational effectiveness; amount of labor required to complete a given task; and team member and guest safety. Will we bring back those time and space experts to help us fine tune every hospitality task in the future? Who knows?

Another area where we may give architects a bit of free play is in the area of individual room configuration and location within a property. While this may apply more to independent and boutique properties, all property level revenue managers these days are searching for extra sources of revenue, including in the area of room upgrades.  Right now, these upgrades are primarily based on factors like room location within the property, the view from any given room or enhanced amenity packages. However, in the future, some hotel developers might want to experiment with a greater variety-and implied values-in room size or configuration than we have at present with most platforms. Something to consider.

Finally, one area of concern for operators going forward will be in tweaking our platforms to provide consideration for team members. Break rooms will no longer be shoe-horned into a space designed principally for something else like storage. Such spaces need not be excessively large or glitzy, but, instead, be designed to enhance team member productivity and demonstrate our commitment to any staff member as a valued part of our hospitality organization.

Best of both worlds.

The modern hospitality industry is doing an outstanding job in offering a memorable lodging experience for guests. We are further learning that luxury or boutique properties don't have a monopoly on style and comfort.

This is especially important during a changing economy or when availability is somehow constrained, as happened during the pandemic. At such times, guests may "buy down" when choosing a place to stay, but still expect a distinctive experience. This is an area, as we have discussed, where select service and extended stay properties shine, as they expand the design envelope to go along with great guest service and overall value.

By closely tracking guest preferences and, also, minding the needs of those who serve our guests, today's astute operators and our brand partners are right on course.

Main Image: Courtyard by Marriott Manhattan Kansas, in the heart of the Aggieville shopping and entertainment district adjacent to Kansas State University, is a new build by McNeill Hotel Company.

Mr. McDowellThis article was co-authored by Brent McDowell. Mr. McDowell joined McNeill Hotel Company upon its formation in 2015 and was instrumental in its growth, which included the development, design and construction of 7 new-build hotel projects.  As Executive Vice President, Business Development for newly formed McNeill Investment Group and with nearly 30 years in the hospitality industry, he is responsible for the growth of the platform's investment vehicles.  Prior to joining McNeill, Mr. McDowell served as Vice President of Pillar Hotels & Resorts Construction, where he was responsible for the strategic capital planning and execution of capital expenditures for a portfolio of more than 300 hotels encompassing 10 hotel brands. His hospitality career also includes serving as Asset Manager in the Realty Management Division for Goldman Sachs, providing oversight for nearly 100 properties across multiple major brands.  

Mr. Ricketts Mark Ricketts serves as President and COO of McNeill Hotels. Prior to joining McNeill Hotel Company, Mr. Ricketts spent the previous seven years serving as Vice President of Hotel Asset Management in the Realty Management Division for Goldman Sachs in Irving, TX. In his capacity, Mr. Ricketts provided hotel asset management oversight for a portfolio of over 300 properties, spanning 10 brands and 27 flags while working with nearly twenty (20) management companies. Mr. Ricketts has nearly 35 years of experience in the hotel industry, starting as a Hotel General Manager at the age of 23 years old. Mr. Ricketts previously worked as Vice President of Asset Management for Equity Inns, Inc., a publicly traded Hotel REIT based in Germantown, TN. At the time of its sale to Goldman Sachs, Equity Inns was the 3rd largest Hotel REIT in terms of number of hotels owned. Extended Biography & Contact Information

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If you choose to purchase a subscription, member subscription payments can be made in U.S. Dollars, as well as a variety of international currencies. Membership terms are Annual Recurring, and Monthly Recurring. The Annual Recurring subscription is an annual commitment and subscribers will be charged each consecutive billing cycle. Annual Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first billing cycle and within 30-days of the billing date for a full refund. Monthly Recurring subscriptions are ongoing and subscribers will be charged each consecutive monthly billing cycle. Monthly Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first month and within 7 days of the monthly billing cycle for a full refund.

12. PAYMENT AUTHORIZATION

Payment for the services provided to you in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive may be made by automatic credit card, debit card, direct debit, bankwire or Paypal and other approved payment means offered in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive, and you hereby authorize HotelExecutive and its agents to transact such payments on your behalf.

You hereby authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card to pay for your membership to HotelExecutive. You further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card for any and all purchases of products, services in association with HotelExecutive. You agree to be personally liable for all charges incurred by you in association with your access or other use of any content provided by HotelExecutive or any third party in association with HotelExecutive. You acknowledge and agree that your liability for all such charges shall continue after termination of your access or any type of membership arrangement with HotelExecutive.

In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Mary Cook
Robert  O'Halloran
Po-Ju Chen
Margit Whitlock
Michael Goldrich
Monica Salter
Ted  Horner
Mariam  Roberson
Eddy Eisenberg
Daisy Wolfenden
Allison Kronberg
Kiko Singh
Nickole Valdov
Andrea Stokes
Breffni Noone
Coming up in December 2022...

Hotel Law: Legal Consequences

The pandemic provoked more than a global health crisis. It also disrupted world economies, financial markets and social systems on a massive scale. Naturally, there are legal consequences associated with this kind of severe business disruption and the issues will be litigated for years to come. In the hotel industry, there are several issues that are currently germane. One issue pertains to the legal obligations hotels have to re-hire employees who were laid off due to the pandemic. Lawsuits have been filed by former employees who claim that certain promises were made to them when they were furloughed, and they are suing hotels for breach of implied contract. Another major issue involves hotels suing their insurance companies for failing to cover their business losses due to the pandemic. Still other hotels have brought lawsuits against local governments for the strict restrictions that were placed on their businesses, chiefly restaurants and bars. These are just a few of the legal issues that will be addressed in the December issue of the Hotel Business Review.