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You Redid Your Lobby Now What?

You were told redoing your lobby would lead to lots more money in your pocket, so the question is did you do it right? Read this and find out.

Monday, June 29, 2015
Cherryl Marie
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Your hotel lobby has always represented a central welcome area for guests and these days it’s critical to keep up with what your customers demand in a lobby experience.

Customer expectations have radically changed and now your lobby is the focal point of attention. So the question becomes are you maximizing your appeal in this emerging profit center? Now the lobby has transformed into a popular, bustling social hub for a variety of audiences, so you must adjust with the times to keep your business humming. No matter the scope of your next hotel lobby renovation, here are some great tips on how to preserve your best qualities while incorporating new assets that will please patrons and new guests alike.

Hotels need to constantly adapt to the industry’s trends, so recognize the audience you’re trying to capture and cater to them. According to Marriott International’s annual report, Millennials accounted for about 19 percent of its U.S. business room travel in 2013. The company projects that rate to increase to 34 percent by 2020 as the next batch of Millennials graduate from college and enter the work force. As a result, the Company is currently renovating three of its Palm Beach County to draw in the ever-so-popular millennial crowd – through modern touches, trendy cocktail lounges and new age entertainment offerings well loved by city-goers in the surrounding area.

Communicate often to both guests and your team members. You need to educate your staff with the changes before they occur so that they are prepared to answer questions. Display clear signage and provide updates as to when things may or may not be accessible during the construction. Be as transparent as possible by including news on your website and social platforms.

The Westin Convention Center in Pittsburgh dedicates a page on their website with all the information about the remodel that guests need, stating that “upon arrival, our staff will guide you to the temporary location for check in as our lobby and front desk area will be undergoing a transformation.” Moreover, while their F&B venues in the lobby are closed for the interim, they state that guests “can find dining options at the Penn City Grill (located on the second floor) or via our in-room dining menu.” We all know that the best follow-up to an absence or lack of offering is to provide alternatives to your other delicious options.

Be respectful and considerate of your guests by scheduling much of the renovation plan’s heavy lifting during off-peak hours. Don’t let the temptation of completion and results blind you from why you’re doing this in the first place – to elevate overall guest experience. Reduce the impact of construction noise by blanketing it with drapes and putting down carpet to absorb sound levels.

Identify up front just how extreme of a change you’re seeking to make. It’s vital to your destination’s success that you don’t sacrifice the elements that have made your hotel the go-to hotel for your guests who return time and time again. You want to keep their loyalty while finding a perfect balance of gaining the allegiance of new fans.

In the heart of Old Quebec, Canada lies The Fairmont Le Château Frontenac which with the help of the Rockwell Group, just completed major renovations. Changes included a $2 million lobby makeover that married historical elements with contemporary touches. Designers restored key features such as marble floors and original wall sconces and complemented them with new elements, such as new lobby furniture that pays homage to the original designs of the architects who designed the tower, furniture and light fixtures in the 1920s.

Have confidence that you can make things new again without losing the gems that made you shine bright to begin with. Be creative. There’s always something that can be re-used in some shape or form. Repurpose old glass by staining them into artwork; use crystal accents from a light fixture and incorporate into your lobby bar décor.

Make sure your design is representative of the message your hotel is trying to instill in your guests. What do you stand for? What do you want people to remember about your hotel? If it’s music, like Hard Rock Hotels across the country, there should be artist displays on your floor. Row NYC, with its long history, unveiled the result of a two-year renovation this past March, which included an artistic transformation of its lobby. In just that space alone, guests are treated to a 24-foot-high crystalline glass façade, an illuminated grand staircase and light sculptures that showcase graphic animations by artist Yorgo Alexopoulo, New York’s graffiti-artist-turned graphic animator.

Your lobby is your livelihood and if you haven’t activated it to make it more social you’re leaving money on the table. And we most definitely want you folks making money and boosting that customer loyalty. Here’s some more ideas how to make your lobby relevant and profitable.

Designing the lobby the right way is paramount. Whether you have a designer in-house, or you hire a contractor, make sure you do your research and that whoever is designing your lobby ensures that your brand image doesn’t get lost between the lines (or in this case, between the walls).

A way to people’s hearts is through their stomachs so why not win them over as soon as they walk in? Allocate room for a lobby bar that offers small bites paired with signature concoctions – maybe have your lead mixologist mix up nostalgic cocktails from the first year your hotel opened and equip your staff with those stories to tell guests when the timing is appropriate (they also make for great media hooks).

At Hilton Nashville, their recently renovated lobby invites guests to try Trattoria Il Mulino, a name that any true authentic foodie is familiar with. “The menu is seasonally based and features items locally sourced,” said Will Freeman, General Manager. “The extensive beverage menu now offers Tennessee Whiskeys and Kentucky Bourbons – served with an oversized single ice cube.” Not only does this gain Hilton Nashville brownie points for sourcing right from their “neighborhood,” but it serves as a reminder to the importance of showcasing products unique to your city.

When you’re making a sound investment in elevating your hotel’s focal gathering point, make sure it’s also music to people’s ears. If you have a concert venue, what better music to play than that of musicians playing that weekend? Maybe it’s a live band in the lobby that attracts the crowds “after hours” with mellow jazz or piano tunes. Maybe you’re simply looking to welcome your guests with the calming sound of water cascading from behind the front desk.

Hear us out – if you set up guests’ experiences the proper way, the sound of “cha-ching” will be music to your ears.

Lobbies still serve as waiting areas for guests, so make sure your furniture is inviting. The newest kid on the block in Miami belongs to the Marriott family, The Miami Beach EDITION, a very thoughtful remake of the landmark 1955 Seville Hotel.

“Filled with a variety of comfortable seating groupings and intimate lounging areas, the lobby will embody the EDITION's next-generation spirit, a place where the lines between work and play, socializing and networking, begin to blur.”

Consider the material and color of your furniture when picking it out for your newly decorated space. White suede may look great at first, but with that much foot traffic coming through this area, you may regret that decision a few months from installation. Comfort is king, so while it may please aesthetically, make sure it receives a top rating for functionality and comfort too. Test out fabrics and textures and make sure they look and feel right with the rest of the hotel.

Be mindful of the proximity of the lobby to the main street because this could be a game changer for you and the crowd you attract. Lobbies draw in a large number of people who aren’t even there to stay.

“Our new lobby provides new venues for guests visiting downtown attractions and events like the Schermerhorn Symphony Center, concerts at the Bridgestone Arena & Ryman Auditorium and the Music City Center,” explained Freeman.

If there is a huge convention in town, make sure your lobby attractions are looking their best and that your staff is ready to take on the extra volume of people. Expect that your lobby will serve as a gathering and meeting area for business professionals, or a bachelor party or even a family reunion. This is just another window to sell them food, drinks and entertainment.

When it’s all said and done, you have to, and should, show it off. Take advantage of your new bragging rights by tapping into your social media outlets. Communicate the new space through images on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Blog about it on your hotel website and reveal the changes from start to finish. Produce a press release and invite media to tour the new areas. If you’re so inclined, throw a party!

Freeman couldn’t have said it better when he shared, “the lobby of a hotel is really the heart and soul of a hotel. It is the gathering room for your guests and it has to make the statement for the personality of your property.”

Times sure are changing, so there’s no better way to keep up with the demand of travelers than to welcome the future and accept the challenge. Don’t have the budget to conduct a complete do-over? Well the lobby is a great place to start. Small steps turn into big strides and as long as you are making an effort and demonstrating your ambition to guests, you’re already way ahead of your game.
Cherryl Marie
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division
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