by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Meeting Expectations Through Hotel Design


Lit neon hotel sign with blue and purple background

During Hospitality Design Expo 2021, the show’s version of a live “Ask Me Anything” addressed meeting and exceeding new guest expectations.

On the design side, firms must meet the needs and visions of clients and brands. In turn, design clients are attempting to best meet their guests’ expectations in the short and long term.

Additionally, agencies are designing for the pandemic-driven new normal. The way guests use hotels and resorts has changed. Hotel and resort operators must adapt, and so must the designers with whom they work.

Gonzalo Bustamante, Executive Vice President, Design and Development, MGM Resorts International

Quick to point out that he comes from the design world rather than the hotel world, Bustamante is proud of how fast MGM embraced the pivot.

The company adapted to meet the needs of guests while also doing what’s necessary for the bottom line.

Bustamante feels we’re all living and working “in the new version of reality.” Therefore, moving forward, MGM properties will feature design based on the new normal.

When collaborating with designers, Bustamante looks for storytellers who can listen and stay on budget.

Kristen Conry, Senior Vice President, Global Design, US & Canada, Marriott International

What was once a guest desire, says Conry, is now an expectation.

For instance, guests expect hotels and resorts to build and operate sustainably; offer health and wellness features; and provide access to outdoor spaces.

Conry is curious about two specific elements of hotel and resort design.

One, she has an interest in how all-inclusive stays and properties will perform and progress.

Two, Conry wonders if hotel groups shrinking their carbon footprints will encourage guests to make more repeat visits. If a guest is motivated to support a particular brand because of their commitment to “green” operations, the hope is that they won’t cut back on hotel stays to shrink their own footprint.

Conry is encouraged by the increase in conversations designers and their clients are having about utilizing indoor-outdoor and outdoor spaces.

Gary Dollens, Global Head, Design / Product and Brand Development, Hyatt

Leisure travelers are returning to hotels, meaning they’re more important now to the bottom line, per Dollens.

However, there are two other developments that seem to have really caught Dollens’ attention.

One is hotel and resort properties operating with smaller teams. The second is that margins are “better than they’ve ever been.”

If groups can operate with smaller teams without impacting the guest experience negatively, why would they return to working with larger teams? Operators, encouraged by improved margins, are now used to new changes and are unlikely to go back to pre-pandemic operations.

For example, Dollens stated that Hyatt’s current RevPAR (revenue per available room) is up 19 percent compared to 2019. The company also acquired all-inclusive luxury brand Apple Leisure Group for $2.7 billion this year.

Helen Jorgensen, Vice President, Design and Procurement, Host Hotels & Resorts

Jorgensen and Host, like so many companies, adapted to working remotely.

Of course, teams used to gather to discuss design projects. Now, they gather digitally to review virtual room models.

However, it seems she’s eager to return to working in person. After all, while we’ve definitely made leaps and bounds in terms of technology, nothing beats experiencing a hotel room physically. There’s no better way—at the moment—to gauge the guest experience than actually touching and seeing everything in person.

Host and Jorgensen, like MGM and Bustamante, have been moving quickly. She expects Host to complete 16 major property renovations by 2023.

Part of those renovations has to do with room size and amenities. For instance, Jorgensen says suites will account for 19 percent of property rooms. That’s more than double current Host inventory, which is eight percent.

In terms of other design trends, Jorgensen expects sustainability to become more important to more guests. Certainly, that’s related to another trend Jorgensen identifies as crucial moving forward: wellness.

Larry Traxler, Senior Vice President, Global Design, Hilton

All-inclusive experiences are the future for hotels and resorts, per Traxler. Given the increased stress guests are experiencing on a daily basis due in large part to the pandemic, this makes sense.

Guests want to show up and know that everything is handled—eliminating friction is a luxury.

Speaking of which, luxury and lifestyle categories are performing very well for Hilton. However, extended stay is the current category leader for the brand.

When it comes to design challenges, Traxler and Hilton are focusing on a few crucial elements: F&B, outdoor experiences, and air quality.

During this session, Traxler said that F&B must evolve. Destination restaurants on property are performing well for Hilton.

That speaks to another crucial element Traxler mentioned: avoiding cookie-cutter design and experiences. Guests want unique experiences, and that extends to all markets. In fact, many guests want access to more outdoor areas, from balconies and pool areas to lawns and restaurants.

And while it may seem counterintuitive, Traxler says that hotels and resorts can improve property air quality without a “massive outlay” of money. In fact, Traxler says there’s no better time than now to build hotels, with Hilton projecting five-percent growth but achieving seven percent.


When it comes to hotels, resorts, and design, there are a few key factors operators should focus on now and for the future:

  • Luxury, extended stay, and all-inclusive categories are performing well.
  • The leisure traveler is returning.
  • Food & Beverage offerings must evolve.
  • The use of outdoor spaces is now integral to design.
  • Sustainability, health, and wellness are important to a growing percentage of guests. This includes air quality.
  • Smaller teams may shift from trend to standard operating procedure.
  • The time to build is now.

Image: Ph B on Unsplash

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month: May

5 Books to Read this Month: May

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

This month’s fun and informative book selections will help you develop next-level culinary, beverage and leadership skills.

To review last month’s book recommendations, click here.

Let’s dive in!

Trejo’s Tacos: Recipes and Stories from L.A.

Who doesn’t love Danny Trejo? His story is inspiring, his IMDB page is full of memorable characters, and he’s got fast-casual restaurants and a coffee shop. Trejo’s cookbook features 75 recipes and tons of insight into the man himself.

Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon?

Learn how to organize and execute an awesome tasting from Peggy Noe Stevens, the first female master bourbon taster in the world and founder of the Bourbon Women Association, and Susan Reigler, a prolific bourbon correspondent and author. Which Fork Do I Use with My Bourbon? includes tips, recipes and more for pulling off a great bourbon-centric event.

Zero: A New Approach to Non-Alcoholic Drinks

From the unique minds behind the ultra-creative Aviary cocktail bar comes Zero. If you’re looking to elevate your non-alcohol menu and approach to creating zero-proof drinks, this is the book for you. In addition to about 100 recipes, this book shares insights into Chef Grant Achatz’s culinary approach to cocktails, whether low-, zero- or full-proof.

Finding Fire: Cooking at its Most Elemental

Like Bar Hacks podcast guest Chef Brian Duffy said on episode 33, we’re fully in a comfort food zone. We’re also back to the fundamentals and simple techniques. When it comes to cooking, nothing is more fundamental than using fire. Chef Lennox Hastie dives deep into cooking with fire and provides 80 recipes in Finding Fire.

How to Listen with Intention

There’s a misconception among many business owners and managers that leadership is just delegating and issuing orders. Too many people forget that listening is a key element of leadership. Patrick King’s book How to Listen with Intention aims to change our mindset so we view listening as a superpower.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash 

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

5 Books to Read this Month

5 Books to Read this Month

by David Klemt

Flipping through an open book

Spring is traditionally the time when we’re meant to reinvent or otherwise better ourselves. These books can help you do just that.

Some will help you expand or enter this business, others will boost your marketing and social media, and a couple will help you refresh your drink menu.

With restrictions easing and vaccination rates in the United States growing, now’s the time to improve yourself and your business.

Prepare now for pent-up demand for in-person dining and drinking.

Food Truck Business Guide for Beginners

Looking to enter this industry with a food truck or expand your existing business with one? This book is a great place to start.

Food Truck Business Guide for Beginners is a comprehensive guide that covers:

  • common mistakes that lead to food truck failure, and exactly how to avoid them;
  • the most successful ways to secure funding;
  • how to master marketing;
  • best practices for passing health inspections;
  • tackling and mastering marketing for your business;
  • and many more topics.

The Terroir of Whiskey: A Distiller’s Journey Into the Flavor of Place

Dr. Rob Arnold is a plant biochemist and the master distiller at TX Distillery. To say he understands the science of whiskey and terroir is obvious.

What’s less obvious is the direction Dr. Arnold’s book heads into. He takes readers to distilleries in Kentucky, Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere, but he takes things further.

In The Terroir of Whiskey, Dr. Arnold shines a light on plant breeders, local farmers, and distillers bringing back “lost” grains. These same innovators are also attempting to create new grains to further develop terroir.

This book will definitely enhance your whiskey knowledge and engagement with guests.

Rad Cocktails

Yes, this book’s description states that it focuses on the home bartender.

No, that doesn’t mean bartenders, operators, and other hospitality pros can’t learn from it.

Rad Cocktails, in addition to including awesome illustrations, also embodies a growing cocktail trend: simplification. Innovative cocktails don’t have to be complicated or take ten minutes to build.

Beautiful Booze: Stylish Cocktails to Make at Home

Natalie Migliarini, also known as Beautiful Booze, has more than 95,000 followers on Instagram. Her cocktail recipes, photographs and mastery of social media help her stand out in a roiling sea of influencers.

Her first book, Beautiful Booze: Stylish Cocktails to Make at Home, also targets home bartenders…on the surface. This book, creative cocktail recipes, can help elevate anyone’s bartending skills. The beautiful photography will also help inspire anyone to take their social media shooting to the next level.

Hacking the New Normal: Hitting the Reset Button on the Hospitality Industry

Alright, this may seem self-serving. However, I wouldn’t have written the foreword for a book I didn’t believe this book would truly help people.

Millions of hospitality industry professionals’ lives were imperiled at the start of last year. We continue to innovate and adapt to overcome unprecedented challenges.

Hacking the New Normal addresses the need for an industry-wide reset and seeks to guide operators through rebuilding for the long term, and to strengthen the industry moving forward.

Image: Mikołaj on Unsplash