By: Ellen Callas, Vice President of Operations at Richfield Hospitality
Walk into a new hotel of any major brand and you will be hard pressed to see the front desk immediately. Instead, your senses will go into overdrive with the delicious aroma from the modern lobby café. Perhaps the presence of a hip microbrew bar will catch your eye but undeniably you will encounter gatherings of customers around large communal tables complete with every high tech convenience under the sun. Contrast this experience with entering a 30 year old hotel with a serene entry way leading to a bank teller style front desk and a bland, quiet corridor to the elevator. The new, sleek gathering place lobbies are becoming more prevalent and a very compelling feature providing a significant differentiation to established properties.
With competition for customer loyalty fierce, hotel owners are embarking on off cycle renovation projects and changing the footprint of their hotel lobbies dramatically. The major brands are supporting these efforts by developing retrofit architectural and design schemes for varying sized properties. With installation investments as low as $150,000, these new lobby transformations are not only updating the cool vibe of the hotel but increasing hotel revenues. With average revenues ranging from $3.00 – $6.00 per occupied room, the ROI on these new lobby outlets can be as short as two years.
One only has to walk into a hotel which has undergone a lobby renewal to see that it is not just the millennial customers desiring the new chic niche, but baby boomers as well are just as invested in the communal space. Whether working on laptops and striking up conversations with other customers or grabbing a quick bite from the grab & go offerings, these relaxing and inviting spaces are making what was once a serene lobby experience into an active, exciting place to be. Turning their guest room to a mere part of their living space while visiting the property.
At Richfield Hospitality, we have partnered with the major hotel brands to identify opportunities to upgrade our lobby spaces, bringing our more mature properties in direct competition with the newer fashionable hotels popping up. These retrofitted lobby venues not only drive incremental revenues and customer loyalty but ultimately increase the value of the asset. As we push through the second half of this decade, lobby conversions will be common place. The hotel industry continues to follow the cues of our customers, from unbelievably plush beds, expanded Wi-Fi connectivity to lobby great rooms. But one thing is certain, it is exciting to see where our business and leisure customers will take us in our need to stay connected.