Hotel company executives have found ways to stay original in the independent hotel space, from great business models to talented employees.
LOS ANGELES—It’s not always necessary to reinvent the wheel, but it is important to find ways to stand out as an independent hotel.
During the “Reinvention and recycling” panel at last month’s Independent Lodging Congress in Los Angeles, Avi Brosh, CEO of Paligroup, said his company tries to differentiate itself by trying to “create the best local neighborhood inn that we can.”
“What we do, which is a little different than most, is our approach is not very democratic,” he said. “We don't (run design) by committee or really run the company by committee—it's very proprietor-driven. It's really an expression of what it is I'm thinking about. … We're taking a very highly specific idea that's driven primarily by a lot of things that interest me.”
Brosh said it’s difficult to be original, but a good business model can be what sets a company apart from the competition.
“I think we're all taking derivative, little pieces of what we bring to the table, and by that we're sort of shifting a little bit,” he said. “Today, originality also is what your business model is and how you're approaching the industry and what's valuable for your stakeholders and what have you.”
Maki Bara, president and co-founder of Chartres Lodging Group, said her company is made up of investors who “are here to make money,” and she is trying to provide a product people want depending on the market.
Customers don’t always know what they want, so hoteliers need to give them an idea they didn’t know they wanted, like an arcade bar, she said.
“Sometimes you know what the needs of that group hotel is, and sometimes the originality comes when you anticipate maybe this is something that they would appreciate, and this is another area we can make revenue-generating as opposed to non-revenue-generating,” she said.
Mama Shelter’s originality comes from finding the right talent, something founder Benjamin Trigano has done from the beginning when he started the company 11 years ago.
At that time, especially in the U.S., hotels were focusing on design and food and beverage, but they weren’t focused on “finding people who wanted to take care of other people,” he said.
“I think there's a lot of great boutique hotels out there, but sometimes they tend to forget their staff is what makes a friend happen,” he said. “Sometimes those people are cooler than their guests, and they make them feel that way. For us, everybody's welcome. That’s what we try to find.”
Other panelists agreed that finding talent is very important to the industry. Brosh said “it’s the industry’s No. 1 challenge.”
“Not only in terms of the lines, (the) staff, but also on the executive level,” he said. “I think that lodging, because of other industries that are perhaps more sexy, is not really attracting talent. I think it's a huge part of, you can have the best ideas, you can create the most beautiful hotels, you can have fantastic restaurants, (but) it takes a village to execute on those, and it's the biggest part of our challenge going forward as an industry.”
On-property associates provide the experience, “otherwise, we’re just providing a box of real estate,” Bara said.
She said her company is sometimes guilty of spending more time on real estate than on the hospitality side, but Chartres’ management company Pipeline Hospitality helps her stay educated on training and hiring the right people.
“We’ve really been involved with them and the people have educated us in becoming better investors and better at directing our resources and focus on what really matters,” she said. “It's really everything. It's not just the real estate, not just the people, but it's everything.”