NEW YORK—Hyatt’s boutique-inspired Andaz brand is gaining a substantial global presence through recent conversions and a re-energized pipeline that will see a doubling of the collection’s size within the next three or four years.
Hyatt Hotels Corporation earlier this month announced conversions to the brand in Napa, California; and Savannah, Georgia; both properties formerly operated under the Avia name, which Hyatt acquired in September.
Prior to their conversions, the 141-room Avia Napa and the 151-room Avia Savannah will complete renovations already underway.
Both hotels will be re-flagged this summer, to be followed shortly by opening of the Andaz Amsterdam, which will be the ninth Andaz location. Additional properties are under development in Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos, India, China and Maui.
Both the goal and the challenge, according to a number of Andaz general managers who gathered recently for an event in New York, is to maintain the Andaz culture as the company grows.
Jonathan Frolich, GM of the Andaz 5th Avenue, one of two New York properties, said all the hotels—while differing widely from a physical standpoint—will remain true to the Andaz core principles: locally inspired with the feel of an independent and not a chain; service that is “excellent but not fussy”; and offering the “backbone” of a major brand with benefits like Hyatt’s Gold Passport loyalty program.
“We want guests to feel free in the hotel,” Frolich said. “They can be themselves. If they want to carry their own luggage, that’s fine.”
While Andaz charges rates at the top of the markets in which it operates, it prides itself on being “unpretentious,” Frolich said. “We are inclusive. There are no velvet ropes.”
The signature Andaz template features a lobby-host approach with employees roaming the lobby helping visitors with whatever they need, including check-in on iPads.
“Our staff gets a lot of training in body language so we can tell who needs to check in or who is looking for help,” Frolich said. “And we have to know how to deal with people from different places. You don’t approach a Japanese guest the same way you might an American.”
Andaz hotels tend to be on the small side, though the Wall Street location has 253 rooms.
According to Toni Hinterstoisser, former GM of the Wall Street property and soon-to-be GM of the Andaz Amsterdam, Andaz will grow through a combination of owned and partially owned positions as well as third-party management, but will not franchise.
“Even as we grow, we can maintain our non-chain feel as long as we’re true to our ethos, Frloich said. “We’re not stuck in a box. We’re flexible and we can change. We want guests to feel as though they’re visiting friends at home.”
“We train our staff to be entrepreneurs,” added Arnaud de Saint-Exupery, GM of the Andaz London, which was the first international Andaz. “It’s up to them to run the hotel, not us.”
A guestroom at the Andaz 5th avenue.
Andaz hotels tend to offer locally oriented programs, such as in-house tattoo and graffiti artists at the Andaz 5th Avenue. And the Andaz Wall Street will have an accountant in-house the week before 15 April to help guests complete their taxes.
Every Andaz offers a Salon series—a regular series of events and discussions held under the guidance of an event host.
A hands-on approach
While some GMs of new Andaz locations already are experienced in the brand’s style, others are coming from Hyatt locations—such as Jeffrey Miller, new GM at the Andaz Wall Street, who recently moved from the Hyatt at Bellevue in Philadelphia.
“You have to go through the brand training,” Miller said. “There are core Hyatt values in areas like human resources, but we provide a different style for the guest. The staff selection process is crucial.”
“As general managers, we have to be more hands-on,” Hinterstoisser added. “What does the general manger title mean? We are always in the lobby, we carry luggage and we will all deliver tea to guests if it’s called for.”
Frolich said Andaz is a perfect fit for a resort setting, and Andaz properties will open in Costa Rica, Turks and Caicos and Maui. “The price is already inclusive at our city hotels,” he said. “At a resort you might have a speedboat come to you on an island with somebody on board checking you in with the iPad. That’s very Andaz.”
“We work for a large corporation,” Hinterstoisser said, “but we are still a small family that interacts constantly. We communicate with each other monthly to share best practices.”