Suburban Cookie-Cutter? Not!
By Lou Carrier President, Distinctive Hospitality Group | September 15, 2013
We're all looking for an edge. In the ever-competitive environment in which we operate, it's one of the never changing business constants... find the "edge"!
Whether competing for corporate, leisure, government or the increasingly sophisticated segment of "group" finding that edge in the piranha pool of a hotel's competitive set is never easy. Hitching your wagon to a big brand family and the theoretical catnip of the loyalty program is thought to be a business necessity in most every domestic market where corporate and group business fuel a property's financial vitality.
The power of brands is undeniable. Perhaps the most important decision an owner makes and an operator lives by is the color of neon that bathes the building at night, and for good reason. Brands provide the template, a playbook, if you will, to assist in competing in the game we all sweat at 24/365. But the playbook doesn't come with all the players. This is why property leadership and properly trained teams are so critical. When effective, they deliver and perpetuate the brand promise while flavoring a guest's experience with regional nuance and property specific culture and ethos.
A property's interior design can be another element in tipping the edge factor scale. Very often though, and this is especially true in the suburban hotel market space, design is playbook heavy and creativity light. Homogenous and yawn-worthy even in the proximate glow of a high-wattage metropolis "design" and the concept behind it seem to trip a wire when departing downtown proper. Some historians even contend that "cookie-cutter" was actually first coined to describe suburban hotels, not the term's fresh-baked namesake.
I've had the opportunity to learn and lead with some great hotel and great brand companies: Stouffer Hotels (remember them?) and Loews Hotels as well as having been involved in the birth of Hard Rock Hotels and theWit, a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel-Chicago. In each was an appreciation of the dividends which could be paid by integrating design and concept with genuinely impressive service.
In the spring of 2010, Distinctive Hospitality Group acquired a small portfolio of branded properties in the suburban Boston area including the 251 room Crowne Plaza Hotel in Natick, MA. This Natick market is anchored by some serious corporate campuses (Bose, Boston Scientific, TJX, The Mathworks), the largest retail players in New England outside of downtown Boston (The Natick Mall, Shoppers World), and a robust number of residential zip codes. In its 25 years, the hotel had many of market domination and leadership as the pre-eminent full service hotel. In recent times, it had eased into a warm bath of mediocrity accelerated by the economic downturn and the capex belt-tightening that usually follows.
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