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Taking The Plunge

HVMG Dives Deeper Into Lifestyle Segment With Opening Of Lauderdale Hotel

Thursday, August 17, 2017
Dennis Nessler
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Identifying the strong momentum of lifestyle properties within the lodging sector, Hospitality Ventures Management Group (HVMG) continues to carve its niche within the growing segment by adding properties that feature unique food & beverage outlets.

The latest addition to the Atlanta-based owner/operator’s portfolio is the 163-room Plunge Beach Hotel in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, FL. The hotel—which opened a little more than a month ago—represents the company’s fourth recent upscale lifestyle hotel.

According to Robert Cole, HVMG President and CEO, part of the strategic plan for the company—which has a portfolio of more than 30 hotels in 16 states—for the past year or two has been to expand beyond its traditional branded, upscale full-service, select-service and extended-stay roots.

“We’ve made a dedicated effort to get into that lifestyle boutique space not just by targeting certain deals, but making sure we have the infrastructure and resources that can manage and operate what we end up doing,” he said.

According to the company, its F&B outlets are concepted, positioned and operated to meet the unique needs of each hotel and maximize the market opportunity. Food & beverage revenue currently contributes approximately 20 percent of the company’s total revenues.

Richard Jones, COO, HVMG, underscored the point. “The cornerstone of much of what we do in the lifestyle space is around being able to do something unique and really localized with the food and beverage program to differentiate the hotel from competition and give it that elevated reputation,” he said.

Other lifestyle properties the company has recently added include the Hotel Indigo Denver, the Hotel Indigo Atlanta Downtown and the Embassy Suites by Hilton St. Augustine Oceanfront Resort in Florida, which is currently under construction.

Cole—who acknowledged the company may at some point consider establishing a separate division for its lifestyle properties under the direction of an experienced executive—detailed why the company has made the lifestyle segment a key component of its strategy.

“If it’s not the fastest growing segment, it’s right up there in terms of percentage growth. We feel like we’ve got a niche, not just to keep up with the Joneses, but we actually have the ability to keep doing what HVMG has always done. And that is to run very efficient operating margins, deliver good guest scores, and deliver good return on investment to owners, but in that lifestyle segment,” he said.

The Plunge, which features an edgy and contemporary flair, is located on 300 feet of beach frontage in the town of Lauderdale. HVMG was brought in about two years ago to assist in the predevelopment and design development of the project. The three-building hotel features multiple F&B and retail offerings, all custom created by the company. Jones commented that the property has three “very unique F&B/retail outlets.”

Backflip Beach Bar is the only true “toes in the sand” beach bar in the town, according to the company. The bar will serve hotel guests and locals alike, along with Octopus Lobby GastroPub and the Barnacle and Bean Coffee Shop, serving local roasted coffee, fresh sandwiches and gelato. Serving fresh off-the-boat seafood and fun food truck favorites, the food at Plunge was designed to reflect its seaside surroundings.

“Our team has been there since day one to help bring identity and personality to the property through food & beverage,” noted Jones.

Meanwhile, the Hotel Indigo Denver Downtown is home to the Heart & Dram, a modern day saloon that is both wood fire driven and whiskey focused. Highlights include floor-to-ceiling windows, a seven-foot wood fired hearth, an imported French rotisserie and the largest whiskey selection in downtown Denver with 350-plus varieties, according to the company.

Jones said of the branded boutique property, “the hotel is designed around the Gold Rush days of Denver. It’s got lot of art and design elements that bring it back to the early days of Denver.”

An open kitchen is designed for guests to explore unique experiences, such as the reserve whiskey cocktail cart and group, as well as reservation only “Whole Beast Feasts.” The feasts include a whole side of beef that can accommodate a large party of 10 or more, which Jones noted has become something of a trend.

Cole stressed of the under-development Embassy Suites that it’s atypical for the brand and touted the “high rated” St. Augustine market. As an example, he noted that guests will be able to order drinks by the pool through an app that’s already been developed. Cole also described the food and beverage component as “above and beyond” for the number of keys.

“You get the best of all worlds. You get Embassy Suites, which is a category killer brand, couple that with what we bring to the table and the location, this will be an award-winning, top performing hotel,” stated Cole.

He again reinforced the importance of food & beverage to the company, specifically referring to the hiring of Garron Gare as director of food & beverage innovation. The CEO noted the company specifically targeted someone who was not in the hotel industry for a fresh perspective.

“We brought him on board almost two years ago and he has spearheaded several literally out-of-the-box concepts for Plunge and other projects. We felt like food & beverage was a critical component to that lifestyle space, more so than in your typical Marriott or Hilton. Nothing against your typical hotel food and beverage director, but we didn’t want that program,” Cole insisted.

He acknowledged that there is no shortage of competition when it comes to operators in the lifestyle space in discussing its approach. “Everyone is kind of dealing with it differently. We want to keep our lifestyle boutique resources and focus pure,” he said.

Cole further touted the company’s ability to add value to properties, whether it’s through resources, renovations, food & beverage or margin improvements. “The HVMG platform is where we can set ourselves apart from some of our competitors… As more and more lifestyle hotels get done there’s going to be owners out there who may not be happy with the performance of their hotels or their management partners. They may be looking to make a change and that’s where we’ve always done really well with our relationships because we can typically make improvements in the hotels that we take over,” he said.


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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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