THE SHIFTING SANDS OF HOSPITALITY

CONTRIBUTOR: Tammy Marshall

THE SHIFTING SANDS OF HOSPITALITY

Cookie cutter hotel experiences are firmly on the back burner as lifestyle hotel brands shine the light on truly personal experiences.

My absolute favourite hotel experience this year is Soho House in the Mitte district, Berlin. This impressive building has an interesting past – built in the late 1920s it was a seven-story department store complete with rooftop restaurant, earlier still it served as a Communist party office of state during the war years before being the subject of a reparations act that saw it returned to descendants of the original owner. It lay empty for 10 years prior to the opening of Soho House in 2010.

Soho House & Co across the UK, Europe and North America operate on an application process with guests formally applying to stay – fortunately I was accepted and this in itself felt like something special and it is certainly a far cry from the price commoditization of traditional hotels.

From the moment I walked through into the Lobby I was struck by the incredibly strong sense of place… the detail and layers of art, lighting, signature furniture pieces, the bustle – I could feel the strong heart and soul instantly.

This hotel is a captivating blend of the old and new. The past is respected and bought to life with an underlying modern charm that delivers an indulgent yet comfortable space.   I loved the worn in floorboards and the blending of new and old furniture pieces that added warmth, texture and character to the experience. With Chesterfields and love seats with glamorous velvets and fine upholstery. The lighting perfectly highlights the signature furniture pieces and cleverly curated art collection.

The rooms are designed with one thing in mind – guests. Every detail in my spacious and uniquely styled room had been considered. I was greeted with freshly baked cookies in the old fashioned cookie tin, a perfect collection of design magazines and books as well as a private bar complete with fresh lemons and limes and condiments so I could create the perfect drink right there in my room. The room experience continued with a delightful bed and mattress, beautiful crisp linen and pillows and the finishing touches of a vintage telephone and clock radio added character and interest.

The Italian restaurant on the ground floor was nothing short of exceptional. The same could be said for the Club House which is the place for dining or a bar drink at any time of the day.

My Sunday arrival was perfect for indulging in an all-day, old-fashioned Sunday roast that was served on Royal Albert chinaware which saw me reminiscing about my Grandma and filled me with memories of special Sunday roasts with my family.  This was pure scrumptious simple cooking with fresh ingredients – roast chicken, gravy, mint peas, cauliflower cheese, Yorkshire pudding and vegetables – yum.  The ‘house regulars’ are a flash to the past with inclusions like old-school macaroni cheese; hotel classics like burgers and chips, BLTs, and plenty of vege options with Caesar and quinoa salads, ceviche, and much more.   I took prime position at the bar in a big swivel bar stool (with a back) to watch the barmen – they really know their cocktails and added a sprinkle of theatre.

This experience just emphasised and confirmed for me that the ingredients for a guest stay have changed.  The biggest physical changes are in design, particularly in activating lobbies and creating spaces that guests can linger and enjoy, the restaurant and bars deliver a casual but stylish and convenient all day dining menu. There’s more emphasis on technology – more bandwidth, more data, more mobile options, and more tailored guest room entertainment.

In the end though it really comes down to how we deliver a positive guest experience through understanding the psychographics of our guests and what they value the most.

In hospitality lobbies are no longer functional areas but activated living spaces; provenance integrated into the design to capture the past and the local region, and restaurants and bars need to do more that feed our guests.  As hoteliers we need to place more emphasis on design, our food and beverage and recognise that technology serves a fundamental need in Maslow’s basic hierarchy of needs.

The future for hospitality has arrived. Hoteliers now need to know their guests and really understand their preferences, they need to leverage technology to provide a seamless experience that delivers an engaged, tailored and original stay.

Now that the future is here the question really is how fast can hoteliers adapt to deliver the experiences that our guests want – and expect.

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