Mr. Rosenberger

Boutique Hotels

Break Away from 'Corporate Uniformity' and Learn to 'Go Local'

By Matthew Rosenberger, Consultant & Publisher, ABC Travel Guides for Kids

Today the hospitality industry is dominated by a handful of large international hotel chains. Like other industries, consumers continue to look to recognizable brands for comfort, value, dependability and quality. Traditionally hotels have recognized the importance of brand or chain loyalty with reward programs and an expanded range of lodging options under one corporate umbrella. Many of these properties are independently owned and affiliated with the brand through a franchise agreement or management contract; some are corporate owned. Either way, marketing initiatives are often put into place to highlight the brand's recognizable logo or slogan to consumers. The properties will participate in the company's national reservations service and incentive program. Learning to "go local" and break away from "corporate uniformity" does not mean abandoning the value these programs bring, but it does require an understanding that, in today's market, appearing to be part of a "larger enterprise" is not always the most effective way to increase market share in the industry. A combination of marketing that includes utilization of branding programs and corporate good will, with more personalized local services and unique experiences, is necessary. Consider the growth of boutique hotels in recent years. Generally found in urban locations, these smaller hotels provide visitors with great service at competitive pricing with distinct amenities and dining opportunities, and all without a large corporate brand behind them.

Anyone who has recently shopped for a digital camera, television or stereo knows it. Anyone who has recently dined in a restaurant where the chef owner cooked their meal or greeted them as they entered the establishment knows it. Anyone who has picked up a new pair of baseball cleats for their son or daughter at the local sporting good store knows it. Anyone who has recently had a prescription filled where the pharmacist knew them by first name knows it. It is common sense. Simply stated, locally owned businesses, where the owner, or their family, is on site servicing their customers, offer the gold standard in customer service experience. A knowledgeable staff and original and unique products and services are the hallmarks for creating loyal customers. These are businesses owned by people who live and shop in the region. Whose kids attend the local schools and churches and temples. Owners who make their own decisions about their business and pick and choose the highest quality products for their customers. There is no distant corporate office to associate with or to direct their every move. These are also businesses that have some of the most loyal customers on the planet because local business owners and their customers form friendships, and help create a real sense of community that is not available with a distant invisible corporate enterprise is calling the shots. When visitors are remembered they feel special and become loyal repeat customers. When business owners are visible and can be held accountable in the community, they understand the needs and wants of their clientele and provide better customer service. Hotels must adopt some of the same strategies of locally owned businesses implemented in the above examples to attract guests and to breed loyal repeat visitors.

One strategy to accomplish this is to form business relationships with local suppliers, theaters, museums and restaurants in the community. It is important that hotels solicit opinions and suggestions from local business owners when it comes to decision-making that impacts the local community. Also important is participation in local fund raising efforts, street fairs, and the like. This good will will not go unnoticed on the local level and will trickle up to the boardroom and help the brand improve and maximize returns to shareholders. It will also generate positive media coverage and publicity. Like locally owned businesses, hotels can too be guided by other values besides the bottom line. Showing a concern about the local community's welfare and long-term growth, health and vitality is good business sense. Using the local bakery or a nearby farm for some baked goods or produce for your guests or staff will distinguish your property from competitors who are unable or unwilling to "go local". When we visit a property or region that is well known for its bread or baked goods, meats or cheeses, or fruits and vegetables, we want to see these items on-site. Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts and Illy are okay too, but there should be room for the local roaster and baker as well. What steps have you taken to form partnerships and relationships with these providers of regional delicacies? It is these efforts that will improve brand visibility in the community and at the same time satisfy your guests' expectations.

Consider the example of Loews Hotels. In early 2009 Loews Hotels launched the "Adopt-A-Farmer," initiative entering into partnerships with area farmers, fishermen and independent purveyors. With the launch, Loews Hotels became one of the first hospitality industry companies to issue a brand-wide mandate to support and enhance local farming communities. Using locally grown ingredients not only supports local farms but also provides guests with fresh, flavorful and environmentally friendly dishes that change as the seasons change. Coinciding with the Adopt-A-Farmer program, Loews Hotels will adopt a new menu format that spotlights the program. Guests will find "From the Garden" selections featuring farm-fresh ingredients harvested by local farmers and fishermen, as well as "Things We Share" selections designed to bring people together.

Contrasting the Loews initiative with communities dominated by retail chain stores rather than local owned mom and pop shops or nearby farms, will highlight a history of debate, dissension, and discontent among the locals. When decisions like store hours, or what selection of goods to carry or wage to pay, are made in a centralized corporate office where the realities and culture of the local community are ignored or unknown, financial woes and failure are not far behind. A balance should be the goal - a community composed of a combination of locally owned mom and pop shops where these same decisions are made by people who live in the community and who will feel the impact of the decisions they make, and some larger chain oriented brands that are vested in the community and involved with the community. It is this element of accountability to friends and family in the community that breeds loyalty. It will also keep dollars in the local economy, create tremendous good will by word of mouth, and bring new guests to the hotel. Whether it's food and supplies purchased from a local store or an arrangement in place with a local farmer, dollars will be circulated and spent at other locally owned businesses; this will enrich the community as a whole.

So what plan is in place at your property to show a commitment to "go local" and provide onsite managers the authority they need to make quick and discretionary decisions when necessary to forge relationships in the community? Are local community issues being addressed in sales and marketing meetings? Understanding that your guest wants to experience life like "a local" (as well as "a tourist") will go along way in ensuring a return visit and glowing recommendations to others. In today's marketplace, breaking away from corporate uniformity and a commitment to "go local" is a must to attract today's traveler.

Matthew G. Rosenberger is a family travel consultant and publisher who works with hotels that want to be recognized as the most family friendly in their region. He is publisher of ABC City Guides for Kids, an all-in-one alphabet book, activity guide and souvenir. The books are customized by hotels and resorts to feature their images, logo and address on the book's front and back covers. Mr. Rosenberger also promotes his selection of family friendly hotels at his website and family travel related assignments through his "We Love Kids" and "TOP FIVE" pick selections. Mr. Rosenberger can be contacted at 215-242-4011 or mgr@kidstravelguides.com Extended Bio...

HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.

Receive our daily newsletter with the latest breaking news and hotel management best practices.
Hotel Business Review on Facebook
RESOURCE CENTER - SEARCH ARCHIVES
General Search:

AUGUST: Food & Beverage: Multiplicity and Diversity are Key

Larry Steinberg

The foodservice industry is one of the oldest and most important. Consumers from all demographics rely on it virtually every day for sustenance. In fact, in the U.S. alone, itís a nearly $800 billion industry thatís extremely competitive, with hundreds of new establishments popping up every year, and much of this new business is the result of increased consumer demand. Consumers want more options. For every practiced chef, there is a collective of guests eager to spend their hard-earned dollars on something exotic and different. They want to experience a bit of culture by way of their next meal, and they want to find it using the latest technology. READ MORE

Frank Sanchez

About two years ago, I started my career at the Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile. I came from San Diego, California, the apparent capital of farmerís markets. When I moved to Chicago in late-October, the number of farmerís markets had already begun to taper off and all that was left of the hotelís rooftop garden was the sad remnants of a summer full of bounty. However, I was in for a pleasant surprise. The Chicago Marriott Downtown operates a year-round experience to create food from scratch that gives customers fresh and nutritional options. I was thrilled to join a team that can tell a customer that the very greens on their plate were grown just floors above them. READ MORE

Thomas  McKeown

To serve todayís eclectic, socially engaged and sophisticated guests, hotels and chefs need to get creative, change their thinking and push back some walls Ė sometimes literally. The fun thing about meetings hotels is that they are a different place just about every week. One week weíre hosting a bridge tournament, the next a corporate sales team, or a dentistsí conference, or sci-fi fans in costumes, or cheerleaders jumping for joy. You name the group, and our hotel has probably welcomed them. READ MORE

Elizabeth  Blau

Over the past several years, many of us have watched with excitement and interest as the fast-casual restaurant segment has continued to boom. More and more, talented chefs with fine dining pedigrees are bringing their skills, creativity, and experience to concepts built around speed, approachability, and volume. Right now, the ability to offer a gourmet experience at all price points is as compelling to restaurateurs and diners alike. READ MORE

Coming Up In The September Online Hotel Business Review




{300x250.media}
Feature Focus
Hotel Group Meetings: Blue Skies Ahead
After a decade of sacrifice and struggle, it seems that hotels and meeting planners have every reason to be optimistic about the group meeting business going forward. By every industry benchmark and measure, 2017 is shaping up to be a record year, which means more meetings in more locations for more attendees. And though no one in the industry is complaining about this rosy outlook, the strong demand is increasing competition among meeting planners across the board Ė for the most desirable locations, for the best hotels, for the most creative experiences, for the most talented chefs, and for the best technology available. Because of this robust demand, hotels are in the driverís seat and they are flexing their collective muscles. Even though over 100,000 new rooms were added last year, hotel rates are expected to rise by a minimum of 4.0%, and they are also charging fees on amenities that were often gratis in the past. In addition, hotels are offering shorter lead times on booking commitments, forcing planners to sign contracts earlier than in past years. Planners are having to work more quickly and to commit farther in advance to secure key properties. Planners are also having to meet increased attendee expectations. They no longer are content with a trade show and a few dinners; they want an experience. Planners need to find ways to create a meaningful experience to ensure that attendees walk away with an impactful memory. This kind of experiential learning can generate a deeper emotional connection, which can ultimately result in increased brand recognition, client retention, and incremental sales. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group business and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.