Bar design

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

by David Klemt

Sign on wall that reads, "We like you too"

Many speakers at HD Expo 2022 are focusing on an important element of design and the hospitality industry: the people we serve.

In other words, designers, their collaborative partners, and their clients want to engage communities.

Now, it’s true that HD Expo 2022 speakers were mainly talking about the hotel side of hospitality design. However, much of what they have to say on the subject of community relates to restaurant and bar projects as well.

Below are helpful insights into engaging the community your business operates in and serves.

Valuing the Community

Crystal Vinisse Thomas, vide president and global brand leader of lifestyle and luxury brands for Hyatt Hotels is bringing Caption by Hyatt to life.

A core element of Caption is community engagement. Yes, travelers are crucial to the success of a hotel brand. However, so are the locals.

After all, hotels, restaurants, and bars employ people from the community. Engaging the community leads to the creation of a loyal guests. During slower times, those loyal locals keep those registers ringing.

As Vinisse Thomas says, operators need to focus on locals as much as travelers. Further, she defines her approach to community as creating a space that’s open to everyone.

One way that Caption is staying true to Vinisse Thomas and Hyatt’s vision for the brand is the Talk Shop. As the name suggests, this is a hangout space. Talk Shop is a communal workspace, a a restaurant, a coffee shop… It’s a hangout for everyone, hotel guest or community guest.

However, Vinisse Thomas does admit that there are challenges when designing and operating for community engagement. One of those challenges is scalability.

Then there’s another big challenge. Designing and operating with the community in mind looks great on paper. But there’s no guarantee that this approach will give an operator an edge of the competition.

To that point, Vinisse Thomas suggests it may be best to speak with one’s competitors to partner on community engagement efforts.

Honoring the Community

An additional challenge when attempting to engage a community is authenticity. It’s a great buzzword, as Vinisse Thomas says, but it needs to be more than that.

Dyonne Fashina, principal of Denizens of Design, has some thoughts on community engagement and authenticity.

Putting it bluntly, Fashina says that honoring a community requires more than a Google search. Rather, designers and operators need to spend time in a given community. They need to get to know the people, the culture, and the vibe.

At KRG Hospitality, we agree. One of our services is site selection. We conduct intensive research to identify the best site for a concept.

However, operator clients need to ensure they know the location. Not just the ZIP code, not just the address, not just the cross streets—the community.

After KRG identifies ideal sites, the client should spend time in those communities, speaking with the people who live and work in them.

Fashina also has another excellent piece of advice for operators. The project, as we often say at KRG, isn’t over after the grand opening. Fashina’s advice speaks to that point.

If an element of an operator’s business isn’t working for the community, she says, they need to be flexible enough to fix it. For owners who perhaps don’t spend every day inside their business or businesses, Fashina recommends visiting to analyze community engagement.

Hospitality is about service, and service requires commitment to being a responsible host and steward. To that end, operators should ensure their concepts improve communities rather than exploit them.

Image: Adam Jang on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

by David Klemt

Interior of world's first crypto bar

Design driven by a story and narrative, technological innovation, and people’s desire to socialize are what’s next in hospitality design.

The influences above are factoring into the current approach to design in the F&B space. Be it a hotel or restaurant, the F&B landscape is going to look different for several reasons.

Five leading industry experts addressed this topic during HD Expo 2022‘s “F&B Trends: What’s Next?” panel.

Technology

Well, let’s start with arguably the biggest “trend” in F&B. Our industry is finally making major advancements in the area of technology.

It may not seem like it to some, but speaking generally, hospitality hasn’t always found itself on tech’s bleeding edge. That’s changing.

In fact, some industry experts feel we may be moving too quickly. For example, an interesting prediction from Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 is a more deliberate approach to developing and implementing hospitality-specific tech.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a significant slowdown in tech innovation. Rather, innovators may take a more calculated approach to truly relieve hospitality pain points.

For example, Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head of food and beverage brands for Hilton, points to a few innovations now common throughout the industry. Digital order, digital pay, and the ability to deliver food essentially anywhere within a hotel, resort or casino property are tech solutions driving efficiency.

However, Crocini sees one segment in need of a specific solution. In the luxury segment, guests prefer in-person engagement with staff and tactile engagement with physical menus.

Ari Kastrati, chief hospitality officer for MGM Resorts International, seems to agree. Tech, says Kastrati, shouldn’t replace human connections. Rather, technology needs to enable and enhance.

The Experience

When it comes to design, much of the focus is on the impact it will have on the guest or consumer. However, the end user is hardly the starting point.

For Kastrati, a successful project begins with the development of a relationship. That relationship is between the designer, the operator, and the concept. If care isn’t taken to nurture that relationship, it will likely show in the final product.

In Crocini’s eyes, that relationship informs the development of the operator’s concept. How? Through the development of a story and narrative.

If the designer and operator can develop a story, the design can be grounded in said story. Further, every element of a design can be held up against that story to see if it “fits.” If it does, the design will deliver a holistic experience and engage the guest or consumer.

In terms of F&B, Kastrati and Crocini make similar points. Both feel knowing the guest and anticipating their needs is crucial.

Addressing design elements that impact the experience, Crocini believes design should start with lighting. A design without proper lighting, Crocini says, is like a Scorsese film without the score.

Alexis Readinger, founder of Preen, is focusing in part on unique floorplan design. In particular, Readinger likes features that encourage interaction between guests, such as communal loveseats. However, “protecting the introverts” is also important for some guests’ comfort levels.

It’s safe to say that Caroline Landry Farouki, partner at Farouki Farouki, agrees with Readinger and Crocini. Seating, says Landry Farouki, can create different levels of intimacy to engage extroverts and introverts, and lighting designers are crucial and can really tell the story.

F&B Trends

In terms of consumer trends, Kastrati points to something specific he’s seeing in Las Vegas. People are seeking out specialty restaurants and luxury retail. At least anecdotally, this confirms what many reports and experts have been saying for the past few years: Consumers are showing increased interest in luxury.

However, Kastrati’s focus in the F&B space isn’t solely on guests and consumers. Rather, he suggests that the next step is bringing people back to the workforce. As Kastrati says, there’s no hospitality without people. Kastrati believes all of us in the industry need to encourage people to pursue hospitality careers.

Switching gears, Jessica Gidari, director of design and concept development for Union Square Hospitality Group, points to an effective pivot as a possible industry trend.

At least one concept in the Union Square portfolio has pivoted from a restaurant to a cocktail bar. A menu with shareable plates leverages guest desire to socialize and share. Gidari also says doing away with some traditional two- and four-top tables and replacing them with communal seating can “rebrand” a space as a “convivial” lounge.

Landry Farouki thinks operators can count on two compelling trends in the F&B space. One is the return of the restaurant as “the bar.” As someone who lives and works in Las Vegas, I can attest to treating restaurants more as bars myself.

Another possible trend Landry Farouki predicts is “mature dining” replacing fine dining. Explaining mature dining, Landry Farouki says such a concept is chef-driven but doesn’t focus solely on the chef.

Trend predictions must be taken with a grain of salt. However, I only see upside for design that helps operators engage guests more from the start.

Image: LYCS Architecture on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

by David Klemt

Blurry image of people in a nightclub or bar

Interior design has the power to remove a person’s anxiety, improving the guest experience by making them feel more comfortable.

Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of ICRAVE, addressed design and anxiety at HD Expo 2022 in Las Vegas. While anxiety wasn’t the entire focus of this intimate discussion, what Ohayon had to say was powerful.

When some operators consider their space, they probably aren’t thinking about guest anxiety. Ohayon, who designs with compassion and empathy in mind, believes designers can address anxiety through the design process.

Why the respected designer think designers can accomplish this feat? He does it himself.

Innovative Design

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Ohayon and ICRAVE, some background.

Specializing in interiors and lighting, ICRAVE is an award-winning design firm. Founded by Ohayon, the firm’s approach to design includes a focus on the experiential and the client’s brand strategy.

One may assume that ICRAVE works solely in the hospitality space. To that point, the firm’s portfolio includes some of the world’s most impressive restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs, hotels, and spas.

However, the company is well known for work in the healthcare, wellness, entertainment, residential, workplace, mixed-use, and airport spaces.

After two decades, ICRAVE has honed their vision, approach, and strategy. A key pillar is “experience design.” In fact, the firm believes that “the experience is the brand.”

It would be impossible to live and deliver on that core tenet without understanding a client’s business. For ICRAVE, the final product must engage all those who use the space they’ve designed and their client is operating.

Reducing Anxiety

Consider this scenario. It’s not one that we’ve all found ourselves in. However, it is a situation that those who experience anxiety live with every day.

Let’s say someone has agreed to meet friends at a nightclub. They’re not meeting somewhere outside of the club so they can enter as a group.

This person arrives, enters, and is seeking out their friends. Unfortunately for them and their anxiety, they’re the first to get there. Anxiety (and even panic) sets in. Now, the last place this guest wants to be is in this nightclub.

Obviously, this is a terrible guest experience. And now this guest may associate the venue, fairly or not, with feelings of anxiety. They may never want to return.

Throughout Ohayon’s career, he has designed for this exact situation. During his HD Expo session—which was much more an intimate conversation inside the DesignWell Pavilion—Ohayon explained that he has incorporated “perches” in a number of his designs.

A perch, in this context, is a space a person can access that makes them feel comfortable while they wait for others in their party to arrive. The way I understand it, a perch is like a “hideaway,” a space someone feeling anxiety in public can use so they don’t feel like everyone’s eyes—and judgment—are upon them.

Designing and planning for longevity requires designers and their clients to think differently. Health and wellness must be more than buzzwords—they must be authentic to a brand.

Anything less is disingenuous. Today’s consumer is perceptive when it comes to sensing the inauthentic, and they don’t like it.

Takeaway

Now, some operators may feel as though addressing a guest’s anxiety isn’t their problem. And we’re not always sensitive to the fact that someone is feeling anxious.

Some people may even feel defensive about their venue right now. Their space, they may be thinking, isn’t causing anyone anxiety.

At risk of putting too fine a point on it or stating the obvious, a key element of hospitality is guest comfort. If a guest’s comfort and sense of safety isn’t important to someone, they really shouldn’t be in hospitality.

To clarify, Ohayon’s comments on anxiety are first and foremost for designers. He wants designers to consider how they can incorporate elements that may help reduce a person’s anxiety.

On the client side, though, an operator can and should ask about such elements during the design process of their space. There’s no reason to be defensive—this is about mindfulness, wellness, and compassion.

Removing anxiety through design pays off during day-to-day operations. If a space can reduce a guest’s anxiety, that guest can be present and engaged. That engagement leads to a positive, memorable experience. And that type of experience evolves into repeat visits from loyal guests.

Image: Maurício Mascaro

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Key Themes from HD Expo 2022

Key Themes from HD Expo 2022

by David Klemt

Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino Las Vegas

The educational conference sessions at Hospitality Design Expo 2022 in Las Vegas were connected by a number of key, overarching themes.

Hosted by the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, HD Expo packed each day with invaluable education. Founders, designers, highly placed executives, and other influential industry professionals addressed a wide range of crucial topics.

Below are five key topics and themes from HD Expo 2022.

Sustainability

Unsurprisingly, sustainability was one of the most-discussed topics.

Of course, conversations about sustainable design, construction, and operational practices have been at the forefront of hospitality for several years now. However, the topic seemed supercharged this year at HD Expo.

Drilling down, speakers at the 2022 show are focusing on “building performance,” light-touch construction, and waste recovery, to name but a few session topics.

When some think about sustainability, they think of low- and no-waste practices, energy efficiency, and upcycling. For others, being sustainable means building in an eco-friendly or green way.

However, several HD Expo 2022 speakers, their teams and agencies, and their partners and clients are thinking more locally. The impact of building and operating on local communities is now a greater focus.

For example, Victor Body-Lawson, founder and principal of Body Lawson Associates Architects & Planners. During a panel he co-presented, Body-Lawson addressed the importance of designing, building, and operating for the local community.

In short, he explained how not using local materials and labor has a significant negative impact on the environment. Additionally, Body-Lawson feels that the objective of design is that whomever engages with end product—commercial or residential—comes out better.

Wellness

Refreshingly, it appears the stigma surrounding wellness is dissipating. More people seem to be more comfortable discussing their mental and emotional health openly.

Designers and their clients, particularly in the hotel and resort space, are taking note.

Long a staple amenity, the health center is undergoing reinvention. In fact, many resorts and hotels are focusing on wellness centers and programming.

In fact, a number of concepts are more wellness and healing getaway than hotel or resort. One such project coming to market is the Jenesis House.

The creation of Jenesis Laforcarde, this concept’s focus is explicitly mental health, physical well-being, and self-care. Additional core values are community, hiring local, and engaging with local small businesses.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion

Like the topic of wellness, DEI has received more earnest attention during the pandemic. And why not? Diversity, inclusion, and equity are inextricably connected to wellness.

Of course, DEI is also connected to community. Moving forward, designers, their partners, and their clients must focus on DEI within their companies and local communities.

One hotel brand that seeks to embody this mission is Caption, part of the Hyatt portfolio. Crystal Vinisse Thomas, VP and global brand leader of lifestyle and luxury brands for Hyatt, is bringing Caption to market.

At this brand’s core is community. Locals are as important as the travelers staying at a Caption property. And, again, why shouldn’t that be the case?

Locals will work at the hotel. Locals will use the hotel. And locals will feel the impact—positive or negative—of the hotel.

A visit to the website provides all the proof anyone needs that Caption is committed to locals:

  • “The people make the place here. We hire local, buy local, and vibe local.”
  • “We strive to be a good neighbor.”

Interestingly, Thomas tied DEI and the community together. While it may be a difficult conversation to start, if a designer, executive, partner, or client sees that a project isn’t representing the community, they need to address it.

Staying silent isn’t how things move forward. In fact, it’s a sure-fire way to take steps backward.

Discovery

What keeps guests coming back? Is it the amenities of a hotel? The food and beverage? Do guests return because of the service they receive?

Of course. However, a shift in guest behavior and expectations shows that F&B, amenities, and service may no longer be enough to motivate repeat visits.

When it comes to hotel and resort design, the future is discovery. Another way to think about discovery is the “hotel within the hotel,” or “resort inside the resort.” A concept that embraces this approach reveals layers that guests can discover.

Perhaps their first stay is in the main or more traditional space. Then, the guest discovers that there are different areas they can book for a stay. These could be villas, luxury tents, a pre-fab luxury Moliving unit (as an example)…

The point is that the guest knows they can engage with the property differently during each stay. While there are core elements that define a particular brand, they can deliver different experiences on the same property.

Of course, such a concept also ties into the themes of community and wellness. Many brands are eschewing the traditional operational ethos of attempting to keep a guest on property for as long as possible. Instead, the local community is a key experiential element of a hotel or resort.

The future of hospitality design—indeed, of hospitality as a whole—encompasses each of these themes. Perhaps most importantly, each theme serves a greater concept: Community.

Image: tommao wang on Unsplash

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