Just because Hilton Garden Inn isn’t the first one to the lobby party doesn’t mean it can’t be the life of it.
In an effort to better convey its name to consumers, HGI is embarking on a lobby refresh program that by the end of 2013 will give it a brand-wide airy welcome and comfort zone for its guests. And, oh, by the way, it could very well help boost revenue for owners.
Those are the prospects for Hilton Garden Inn after launching its Project Grow campaign. Two of the brand’s approximately 520 properties have undergone the lobby refresh—one in Twinsburg, Ohio, and one in Ridgefield Park, New Jersey. A recent visit to the 12-year-old Twinsburg hotel gave me the impression the brand is on the right track.
I’ve always thought Garden Inn didn’t do enough to convey a “garden” atmosphere, and it’s good to see that changing with the refresh. A bright open floor plan accented by signature items such as live plants (what a concept!), cabana drapery, pendant lighting and nature-inspired artwork above the fireplace has been a big hit with the Twinsburg property’s guests, said Roger Greene, GM and regional director of operations for management company Gateway Hospitality Group.
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And while there’s a danger of being a tad cheesy—I’m not sure the images that represent reeds lining the vestibule (called the Gateway) are all that great—this refresh by and large accomplishes what Hilton Worldwide hoped it would when Kurt Smith, VP of brand product, quality and innovation for the focused service brands, and his team dreamed it up.
Gone are half-walls that confined guests to specific areas depending on the time of day. The new open layout encourages movement throughout the day—but in particular at breakfast and in the evening when most guests are looking for grub and drinks. The focal point is the kitchen table, which turns into a bar at night in properties that don’t already have one.
“Imagine yourself in a friend’s house, and where do you gather?” said Alan Roberts, the brand’s VP of brand performance and sales support. “It drives the whole spirit of meeting and being with other people.”
The expense for the Twinsburg hotel lobby refresh project was approximately US$375,000, according to Roberts. That’s about the amount it will take for most refreshes, although it should be less for newer properties.
“One of the priorities was to limit construction of the actual footprint,” Roberts said. “There is very limited structural change required.”
The Twinsburg project took 23 days to complete with crews working seven days a week. Roberts said the typical refresh will take six weeks to eight weeks to complete, and the goal is to have the lobby refresh completed in all HGI properties by the end of 2013.
Executives of Apple REIT, the property’s owner, have to be pleased with the results of the refresh—beginning with improved guest-satisfaction scores and ending with more revenue in the till.
“Part of the process was to figure out how to make more money for the owner,” Roberts said.
Results thus far
Greene said beverage sales have increased up to 400% each month since the refresh and food revenue has picked up as well. The hotels are required to offer food—at the minimum is appetizer type of offerings—as part of the package.
“It’s definitely another (US)$100,000 in (annual) revenue,” Roberts said, noting a return on investment exists.
Roberts said the lobby refresh also gives a hotel’s staff a little more purpose and pride.
“This gives Hilton Garden Inn an ability to leverage the (food-and-beverage) component, which we have as an advantage over our competitors,” Roberts said.
Meanwhile, the property’s guest-satisfaction score in June jumped to 84.3.
“Those scores lead to more guests,” Greene said.
The project was designed to keep the workforce the same size as it was pre-refresh, Greene added.