Bloc Hotels takes ‘budget boutique’ to England
Bloc Hotels takes ‘budget boutique’ to England
28 APRIL 2011 7:57 AM

A new pod-hotel concept opens its first location in Birmingham, England.

Bloc Hotel guestrooms are small on size but big on comfort.

BIRMINGHAM, United Kingdom—If you could save time and money by doing something faster without skimping on the details, would you do it?

The team at Bloc Hotels hopes so. The pod-hotel company is banking on the fact that most investors would love to cut construction costs while upholding quality standards of design and guest experience.

Bloc Hotels’ first location, a “boutique budget” product, opened earlier this month in the company’s hometown of Birmingham, U.K.

The 73-room hotel was planned and built in exactly 25 weeks, according to Olivier Delaunoy, marketing and operations director of Bloc Hotels. He added the planning process in England is very long, but the construction of the core structure was finished in eight days.

Bedrooms are built remotely—Bloc Hotels is a volumetric or modular construction product created by the owners of Boxbuild, a design and development company.

“It’s a very high standard bedroom we worked hard on,” Delaunoy said. “The rooms are 10 square meters, but we manage to make them feel roomy and spacious, not cold.”

This is accomplished through the use of wood finishes, a glass door to the bathroom (that houses a monsoon shower) and a longer-than-average, king-size bed with luxury linens, he said.

In the tradition of Japanese pod hotels that are finding increasing popularity in major markets, Bloc Hotels focuses on the sleep and shower experiences while eliminating space wasters, such as the wardrobe.

  A rendering of a typical Bloc guestroom layout.
The service model is based on hiring for personality, Delaunoy said.

“Our hotel team is employed solely on personality, not experience,” he said. “We train from scratch. Our take is that someone with a great personality, you can always teach them to work in the industry. They must have a great rapport with customers.”

Feedback, performance
While the Birmingham property has only been open about a week, Delaunoy said guest feedback is good.

“We believe in always growing and developing ways to better ourselves. Even so, there hasn’t been any overwhelming comment for changes (since the opening),” he said.

The Birmingham market had 102 hotels with 9,515 rooms as of March 2011, according to STR Global. Bloc Hotel was the first hotel to open in the city in the past 12 months.

Delaunoy said the expected occupancy for the first year of operation is 60% to 63%, but that’s below the citywide average to make sure they had some room to improve. Birmingham has good convention business, and the hotel is located in the town’s Jewellery Quarter.

Brand building
Future locations already are in the works. The company is close to signing four deals, three of which are in London, according to Delaunoy.

“When you’re a new operator, it’s very difficult and intense to find sites and develop them,” he said. “You have to work harder, do the research. We’re putting feelers out to find gems.”

The project started with investment from private investors in Morocco.

“At this moment in the U.K. you could never go to the bank to start a business,” Delaunoy said. “You have to invest in the business up front and then go to the bank and prove the product. We are lucky enough to have an investor back us up.”

Long-term plans will focus on brand building.

“Our ultimate goal is to be the brand builder, so our product is not about any of the five directors,” he said. “We believe it is about developing a brand that has value and drive—it has its own personality … we have a strategy of growth like most entrepreneurs, and we’re believers in doing the best we can every day. If we achieve return early, that’s great.”

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