Faced with competition from sources such as poshtels and Airbnb, Accor’s first in-house brand, Jo&Joe, seeks to be its locations’ central site of urban cool and happening public spaces with innovation, design and sound F&B.
GENTILLY, France—Jo&Joe, Accor’s newest flag—and the first from its in-house design and ideas house, the Innovation Lab—has design at its core, according to brand executives.
Jo&Joe opened its first hotel, Jo&Joe Hossegor, just north of Bayonne, France, in 2017, but its first real statement is its Paris-Gentilly property, which opened on 18 April.
Frédéric Fontaine, SVP of Accor’s Innovation Lab, said three years were spent on the design and innovation of the brand.
For anything to get approval from the Innovation Lab and the rubber stamp from Accor executives, Fontaine said it must answer yes to three questions: “Does it match a need? Does it create value? And does it fulfill the overall strategy of Accor?”
After a global search, Penson & Co. was chosen to be the chief design house for the brand. The design firm’s founder and CEO, Lee Penson said before coming on board he had only marginal experience in the hotel industry.
“Only on two boutique hotels, and many years before, but immediately we saw we needed to put the emotion back into hotels,” he said.
He added that buildings, whether they are hotels or not, no longer have just one function.
“Buildings have become de-categorized,” Penson said.
Fontaine said a principal idea of the Innovation Lab is to design hotels that come to the guest, not the other way around.
“Buildings can be hotels, work spaces, fitness centers. They can be co-working centers, wellness hubs,” he said.
Cédric Gobilliard, Accor’s SVP of lifestyle, added the legacy of the Jo&Joe brand will be determined not by how much it changes but by how it much it moves with demands, trends and guest needs.
“New expressions only work when they are authentic,” he said.
Gobilliard said two designers who contributed to some of the parts of the Gentilly hotel came from the small town itself, while at the southern France property there is a collaboration with global surfing brand Quiksilver because surfing culture is such a large draw in the area.
Each Jo&Joe will have a small handful of rooms known as “000” (Triple 0) rooms, in which local artists are allowed a full run at interpreting local themes.
“Guests want so much more nowadays, and this often results in them sleeping at Airbnbs and poshtels. We cannot ignore this,” Fontaine said.
Fontaine said he sees three types of travelers moving across the landscape in which Jo&Joe is competing—the solo-social guest, couples looking to discover destinations and the tribal guest, a category that also includes curious retirees.
Staff has to mirror these guests, he added.
“Staffing is about appropriation. Staff have to make something their own and be very approachable. We’ve worked with sociologists (in regards to staffing), and we see the hotel as a theater in which everyone has a role,” Fontaine said.
He added the Innovation Lab comprises 12 individuals with a mixed profile of skills, including social media, communications, marketing and sales.
Damien Perrot, Accor’s global SVP of design for multibrands, said the biggest question with design has been: How can guests enjoy a space to its maximum potential?
“There was never a discussion about color, or what is the right type of chair,” he said.
Penson said that frame of thought was understood by his team very early in the process.
“It is important not to have design teams default back to the usual themes,” he said.
Perrot added it was also an important part of conversations with investors.
Food and square feet
It is important to Accor that the brand is seen as different and a hub for locals.
Speaking with Hotel News Now at the grand launch, Accor President and CEO Sébastien Bazin said the French hotel firm is immensely proud of Jo&Joe because it represents one of the few in-house brands created in the last decade or so and does not follow a standardized, formulized pattern.
“It is one of the few days where Accor can show what it actually can do. (Jo&Joe) has very wacko designers, and the flagship has a wall of self-serve beer taps and has just been opened by a Communist mayor who has supported us from the very beginning,” Bazin said, referring to Patricia Tordjman of the ruling Parti Communiste Français, who was guest of honor at the April opening.
F&B is a big component of the brand offering and comprises 35% to 55% of turnover, said François Leclerc, Jo&Joe’s VP of brand and operations.
Penson said the design of the brand accounts for that.
“We did 4,000 mojitos in August in Jo&Joe Hossegor, and I truly believe design helps in this. We make design relative to (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization),” he said.
As well as the “OOO” rooms, 45% of beds will be in rooms that have two to three beds; 30% will be dormitories with four beds; and 20% will be larger dormitories of six to 10 beds. Room counts will range from 350 to 600 beds, with 10 to 11 square meters (108 to 118 square feet) per bed.
In 2020, Jo&Joe assets are due to open in Budapest, Krakow, London and Rio de Janeiro, as well as a second one in Paris.
One hundred cities have been targeted, with a goal of 30 opened properties before the end of 2024 in such cities as Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Liverpool, Montpellier, Rome and Vienna.
Gobilliard said Jo&Joe expects to have 10 assets in the next three years.
Editor’s note: Accor paid for train and hotel expenses related to the trip. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the HNN editorial team; Accor had no influence on the coverage provided.