Some dual-branded properties, whether part of the same franchise family or from separate companies, have found ways to share amenities and spaces while at the same time staying true to their brand identity.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Dual-branded hotels are cutting costs by sharing the same footprint, certain amenities, back-of-house operations and sometimes employees. The success of such collaboration hinges on finding the right fit with design and operations, which depends on the properties, sources said.
At The Wharf area in Washington, D.C., Concord Hospitality took a unique approach to dual branding by creating a shared, yet separate space between the Hyatt House Washington D.C./The Wharf and the Canopy by Hilton Washington D.C. The Wharf.
Matt McClelland, EVP of operations and development at Concord, said the hotels share the same footprint, green space, meeting space, fitness center and back-of-house operations, such as laundry and employee break rooms, but each hotel has its own GM and team, and separate entrances and elevators.
Employees might switch between hotels if staffing becomes tight, and in that event would change uniforms, he said, but for the most part, each hotel has its own team.
While the hotels are housed under one roof, the design of each was focused on creating an identity unique to each brand, McClelland said.
“We’re very diligent in making sure that the two separate brands, whatever the brands may be, remain within their identity,” he said. “We want to make sure we remain consistent to the brand DNA of each individual product. It’s important to the customers; it’s important to us. When you share spaces, you have to really think it through on your design.”
Most of the time, with a dual-branded property, the brands are within the same family, but McClelland said making the Hyatt House and Canopy work in the same building wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.
“We think it’s going to be the future because of how there’s so many different markets that … there may not be the availability to stay within the franchise family and do, (for example), a Hampton and a Homewood, or a Courtyard and a Residence Inn … because of the density the product is in,” he said.
“So, the franchise families are beginning to recognize we can get a great product on this side of the building; and on the back side of the building, (another hotel) may be attached here. Some of them are even sharing elevator shafts, which we did not do here. But it wasn’t as difficult as it sounds.”
McClelland added that the most important thing is to remain committed to the customer in front of you.
“We’re running two completely separate businesses,” he said. “We did not cross over the general manager. We have one director of sales, but they oversee two sales managers (one for each hotel.)”
At dual-branded properties in which the two brands are from the same family, part of the return on investment comes from shared staffs, according to sources.
At the dual-branded Aloft Austin Downtown/Element Austin Downtown, the properties share a staff, said David Meisner, dual GM.
“The uniqueness of our dual-branded hotel is it’s all within four walls,” he said. “We have a 33-story building. The first, second and third floor is all common lobby space; and then four through 33 is guestroom tower space.
“Two-thirds of it is shared between the two brands and then the top third is just Aloft. Anyone who works in any position in this hotel essentially and effectively oversees their discipline for both hotels.”
Niels Vuijsters, GM of the Le Méridien Denver Downtown/AC Hotel Denver Downtown, sees the same benefit in shared staffing.
“A lot of the senior leadership, including myself as the general manager, oversee both hotels versus having two (separate teams),” he said.
Adrian Kurre, global head of Homewood and Home2 Suites by Hilton, said it’s difficult to quantify the benefits of sharing staff and amenities between dual-branded hotels under Hilton, “due to the variables in wages, benefits and our staffing models between brands.”
Brands under the same roof have to implement certain wayfinding techniques to ensure guests are staying at the hotel they paid for, sources said.
The Aloft and Element Austin worked with a local spray-paint artist to create signs that direct people where they need to go, Meisner said, and team members are always on hand to point guests in the right direction.
“One of the things we’ve had to do is really step up or signage presence without doing a bunch of signs,” he said. “… We’ve got some neat signs that are really authentic to Austin, add a nice pop of color, that … have a purpose, but also add a design element, so again, it’s not just a bunch of hotel signs all over the place, it’s actually kind of fun and it brings a nice bit of light to it.”
“Both hotels have their distinct entrances and websites, so as a consumer when you book your experience, you book entirely for one experience,” Vuijsters said. But, he added, “having that connectivity between the two hotels, but still keeping your brand identity, is the most important part of this wayfinding.”
At a dual-branded hotel, it’s important to give guests the experience they booked, but there’s also opportunity to play to the strengths of each property to enhance the guest stay.
Most Aloft and Element properties don’t have major food-and-beverage areas, but the Aloft/Element Austin has its Caroline bakery and coffeehouse downstairs, as well as its bar, Upstairs at Caroline*, which is unique for both brands, Meisner said.
“We’re kind of fortunate because we have your typical hotel amenities, but then we also have these really two unique concepts that add what I would consider a ton of value and a ton of ROI,” he said. “Between the two concepts, we’ll probably do $7 million (revenue) this year. You wouldn’t have that kind of F&B contribution in a typical Aloft or Element.”
The addition of the property’s two F&B outlets also serves as a place for overflow when the lobby area is busy with guests checking in, Meisner said.
The Aloft and Element each have their own check-in desks, but the hotel has a complex point-of-sale system, which allows Aloft guests to be checked in at the Element desk and vice versa, he added.
“Our restaurant seats 201 people, and our upstairs Caroline space has 164 seats, but we could peak out at probably 275 people in the space,” he said. “Although we have these smaller public, commercial common spaces, we’ve got these really big food-and-beverage spaces that really allows us to create this overflow environment where people can (sit).”
*Correction, 24 May 2018: A previous version of the story had an incorrect name for the bar at the Aloft/Element Austin.