Tru design: Efficient rooms, versatile lobbies
25 JANUARY 2016 3:05 AM
A four-zone lobby experience complements space-efficient guestrooms in the new Tru by Hilton brand’s prototype, according to executives.
MCLEAN, Virginia—Tru by Hilton, the newest brand offering from Hilton Worldwide Holdings, will feature guestrooms with less than 300 square feet of space and lobbies designed to appeal to consumers’ sense of community, according to company executives.
Designed to appeal to value-conscious multigenerational consumers in the midscale space, Tru will provide guests with the experience they’re looking for, according to Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta.
“What consumers want at this price point is adequate size and they really want functionality,” Nassetta said during a telephone interview with Hotel News Now. “They want a great bathroom and a functional room with all the things they need. They are at lost less focused on having excess space.”
A king room measures 231 square feet, while a double queen room measures 275 square feet, according to Alexandra Jaritz, global head for Tru. By comparison, the typical room for a Hampton by Hilton property—the company’s upper-midscale brand—is 350 square feet.
Mitch Patel, president and CEO of Chattanooga, Tennessee-based Vision Hospitality Group, said the room size will be an advantage in airport markets where the average length of stay is one night. Patel has committed to developing eight Tru properties.
“Construction costs have gone up 30% to 40% in the last two and a half years alone. … As a developer I like the business model that goes along with the smaller rooms,” Patel said. “You’re buying (floor area ratio), not the square footage of dirt. If I can put more rooms in a certain amount of FAR, it doesn’t take a lot for someone to figure out what business model makes sense.”
Hilton’s expansion into Europe with several of its select-service brands helped it refine the Tru offering because guestrooms there typically are smaller than they are in the United States, Jaritz said.
The typical 4% capital-expenditure reserve for most owners doesn’t always cover necessary items, so the Tru team set out to limit the number of moving parts in the prototype, according to Phil Cordell, global head for focused service and Hampton brand management.
“It is a smaller guestroom; it’s been designed in such a way that it optimizes the space,” Jaritz said, pointing out the 8-foot windows that provide a lot of natural light, no enclosed case goods, all wall-mounted furniture, a platform bed that doesn’t need a box spring and utilizes all-white bedding, and integrated lighting that has no free-standing lamps. “The guest acceptance we think is going to be positive, and there’s been no pushback from a developer’s standpoint.”
A group of a dozen owners were instrumental in the creation of the brand’s prototype, which—exclusive of land—will cost between $83,000 and $85,000 to develop, Jaritz said.
Guestrooms will have easy-to-clean luxury vinyl tile in lieu of carpet, she said. Guestroom bathrooms are larger than what’s been offered traditionally in the midscale space. There will be no tubs—only showers—and they’ll feature bulk amenities.
“There are several minutes we can cut off (housekeeping time) because it’s a smaller room; there is no vacuuming, and there’s no bathtub to clean,” Jaritz said.
“It’s all about in and out of the room with speed and efficiency,” Cordell said. “There will be no maid carts because they’ll only need three products to clean with.”
Jaritz said the packaged terminal air conditioner area has multifunctional space that has a bench placed over it to use as extra seating or a place to put luggage.
Window coverings—there will be no curtains—will include a decorative inner shade that serves as an art element, and a blackout shade, Jaritz said.
Each room will include a mini refrigerator; there will be no in-room coffee because executives said guests will prefer to get better coffee from the lobby market area. Cordell said the team considered doing away with an in-room iron and ironing board, but opted to keep those available.
In addition, a multifunctional chair with a flip-up table will be the standard in lieu of a traditional desk.
Tru properties will not have suite options.
The 2,776-square-foot lobby, called The Hive, is divided into four zones.
- The work zone has more desk space and includes cubes for people who want to work alone in a community environment.
- The lounge area has multifunctional seating for more communal activity.
- The play zone includes games such as foosball or table tennis and stadium-style seating.
- The eating zone includes a circular command center that serves as the front desk and has retail space for light meals, single service beer and wine, and snacks.
“People want a sense of place; we’re giving them choice and control of how they spend their time,” Jaritz said.
A 55-inch TV in the lobby will offer 152 channels of programming—the same number of channels that will be a brand standard for each guestroom. Jaritz said other technology-oriented components will be free “significantly fast” high-speed Internet access and digital keyless entry. Plus, guests will not need to look far for a power outlet, regardless of where they are in the hotel.
The company wanted to be sure to keep expectations manageable on the technology front, the executives said.
“Technology can be expensive and dangerous to lead in our segment,” Cordell said. “I wouldn’t call any of it leading edge because leading edge can turn into bleeding edge if you’re not careful.”
Therefore, in-room TVs are “semi-smart” in that guests can plug in a device to mirror the content, but they won’t be able to stream content directly on the TV.
“Hilton’s commitment to technology will help this brand,” said Jeff Good, president of Valparaiso, Indiana-based Good Hospitality Services, who served on the Tru owners’ advisory council.
The brand standard free breakfast will feature baked goods and 30 different toppings.
“You can be your own taste maker,” Cordell said. “It has tested phenomenally well with guests.”
The 424-square-foot fitness area includes more room for stretching, yoga and core exercise, Cordell said.
“A lot of people are going to be extremely surprised at how big that small of room feels,” Good said. “I have a lot of comfort in it because Hilton and Hampton have done a lot of mining on smaller rooms. They’ve done a lot of research on it.”