California-based Proper Hospitality has been at the forefront of luxury lifestyle and boutique hotels since 2013. But with its new brand, Hotel June, set to debut in summer 2020, the company is taking a more relaxed approach to luxury.
SANTA MONICA, California—With a new brand to debut this summer and a cutting-edge vision, Proper Hospitality continues to make its mark on the luxury boutique and lifestyle segment.
Co-founders Brad Korzen, Brian De Lowe and Alex Samek had a passion for lifestyle hotels and a desire to serve the needs and wants of luxury travelers, VP of Commercial Patrick Pahlke said.
In 2013, they asked themselves, “Where’s luxury going?”
From there, Proper Hospitality was born with a goal of designing and operating high-end lifestyle hotels. The men behind Proper Hospitality weren’t unfamiliar with the industry, though. Korzen is the former founder and CEO of Kor Hotel Group, now Viceory Hotels, which launched in 1999, Pahlke said.
Today, Proper Hospitality includes its brands Avalon Hotels, which originated with Viceroy in 1999; Proper Hotels, which formed in 2014 and launched its first hotel in 2015; and Hotel June, its newest brand set to debut in summer 2020, he said.
Hotel June was originally set to debut in April, but due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, it has been pushed back, the company said.
Pahlke said Avalon, Proper and June are “three distinct brands” that fit in the lifestyle segment and center around “uncommon luxury,” which entails eclectic and luxurious design, localness and exceptional food-and-beverage options.
Something unique that Proper Hospitality does with its restaurants is partner with local chefs from the location of where the hotel is rather than with international celebrity chefs, he said.
“We feel when people travel to San Francisco, (for example), they don’t want to eat at another international celebrity chef restaurant, they want to eat at a restaurant that is curated or created in partnership with whoever is the hottest upcoming chef in that specific location,” he said.
He said Proper Hospitality also does not outsource operations of its restaurants, and instead operates them with a local partner.
Pahlke said luxury as a whole is starting to evolve away from formal service and the classic white tablecloth to a more relaxed approach. But he noted without classic luxury, there wouldn’t be uncommon luxury.
“We have to be very grateful of that approach,” he said, adding that the formal approach is becoming irrelevant as the industry moves into the future.
What sets Hotel June apart from the rest of Proper Hospitality’s brands is its more affordable price point and approachable feel, Pahlke said. However, the quality established at Proper Hospitality’s other brands won’t be diminished in Hotel June, he said. It’s still about great experiences, relevant cultural programming, a sense of community and F&B.
“Imagine if Proper had a little sister,” he said. “Hotel June is a brand that we will definitely be focused on growing a lot in the future because it’s easier to grow a mid-tier lifestyle brand.”
Proper Hospitality’s Custom Hotel in Los Angeles near LAX Airport will convert into Hotel June’s first property and will feature 250 guestrooms, he said, adding there’s a lot of interest surrounding the hotel because there aren’t many lifestyle properties on the west side of LA.
The next step for Hotel June is to expand in the East Coast and eventually in Europe and Asia/Pacific, he said, noting they have “big plans for this brand.” Each property will contain Hotel June in the name, he said.
Though Hotel June is in the spotlight right now, Pahlke said his team will still focus on growing both the Proper Hotels brand and Hotel June equally. The Avalon brand currently consists of two heritage hotels, Avalon Hotel Beverly Hills and Avalon Hotel & Bungalows Palm Springs, and likely won’t grow at the same rate.
“The Proper brand will remain at the core of what we are doing because it’s the flagship brand,” he said.
Proper Hotels opened Santa Monica Proper in 2019, and in early 2020 opened Austin Proper Hotel and Residences. Next will be Downtown Los Angeles Proper set to open this summer.
To keep everything in order, Proper Hospitality has its own in-house development, finance, F&B, sales and digital marketing teams and more.
“We basically work like a larger hospitality chain,” he said.
But because they are not a big-box brand, they have the freedom to be more agile, he said.
“If we have a good idea, from idea to implementation, there’s not a lot of red tape. We can move quite quickly … which I see that very essential to do lifestyle well.”
Perspectives from new COO
Joining the Proper Hospitality team this year as COO is Blake Danner, with more than 25 years of experience in the industry. In an email interview, he said he’s seen a major shift in the way travelers think about the hotels they book.
“Hotels are no longer just a place to sleep, but rather an integral part of the experience when traveling and a destination unto themselves,” he said. “Curating this experience for guests starts by examining on-property offerings that span beyond just a comfortable room.”
He also noted that the luxury traveler is putting more of an emphasis on wellness, social responsibility, creative programming and brand partnerships. He said a lifestyle company needs to be thoughtful in its approach to all of those aspects.
Danner outlined three major goals he has for Proper Hospitality, which includes creating an attractive and successful work environment, growing revenue and enhancing customer recognition through customer relationship management.
He highlighted revenue growth as a focus that every COO should have.
“It encompasses so many aspects—happy customers, happy investors, ability to reinvest and grow. I have a unique perspective on this because I spent so much of my early hotel career leading sales teams,” he said.