ATLANTA—After the relaunch of the Holiday Inn family of brands, the executive team behind InterContinental Hotel Group’s ubiquitous upper-midscale flags is pushing forward with Social Hub, a communal lobby design that was announced at the IHG owners conference last year.
The company on 10 June opened the first Social Hub at the Holiday Inn Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Georgia.
Verchele Wiggins, VP of global brand management for the Holiday Inn family of brands, earlier this month provided an update on the new design from IHG’s North American headquarters in Atlanta.
The Social Hub is an integrated approach to public spaces, she said.
“It’s all about making familiar foods interesting, whether through the plating, portion size or ingredients,” Wiggins said, as a new menu for The Hub sat on her desk.
She pointed out the grilled mac and cheese sandwich as a new twist on a familiar favorite.
Wiggins said the goal was to provide a balance of comfort and healthy foods, while also bringing more discipline to the menu—some Holiday Inns had menus that were “books.”
The drink menu will have classic cocktails and two signature drinks.
Other things that will make the Hub standout: an integrated shift from day to night; a 24-hour market with high-quality juices, chips, salads and sandwiches; and a gaming area with a Wii, Wiggins said.
“We feel like the brand position is different,” she said. “Others are focused on business productivity. We do that and say, ‘Relax and have fun.’”
Wiggins said the second Social Hub location would be open by the end of the year. The core concepts (and variations on the concept) have not been finalized.
Since the 2005 relaunch, there have been 1,200 hotel exits and about 1,500 hotel additions to the Holiday Inn/Holiday Inn Express portfolio, according to Wiggins.
Holiday Inn hotel and room count, as of 31 March 2011
Holiday Inn Express
Source-IHG First Quarter Supplementary Information
The pipeline has 800 hotels, making it one of the largest in the world, she said.
“The relaunch has been a great force,” Wiggins said. “It affirms the strength of the brand and the commitment of the company gave confidence to everyone around us. It shows we’re continuing to evolve.”
For the rest of 2011, Wiggins said she’ll be focused on the Social Hub and understanding the impact on the guest and the owner.
“We will continue to be focused on being vigilant with consistency and quality for the system,” she said. “We’re diligent about the focus. We have to make sure we don’t get complacent and we keep that foundation strong.”