How can a boutique hotel create a unique brand for itself? Think hotel lobby. That’s what hoteliers big and small are doing. Once a place to welcome guests and usher them up to their rooms, lobbies are becoming a social center where freelancers and business people are spending time on Wi-Fi, drinking cappuccinos and sampling foodie delights such as tapas, calamari and sweet potato fries.
And not only are paying guests welcome to lounge in the lobby, hotels are welcoming the general public to sit and stay awhile. This new take on lobbies is becoming a viable revenue stream for hotels as lingering guests tend to purchase food and beverages while working or socializing.
Why go to a hotel lobby instead of hanging out at Starbuck’s? Hoteliers are offering more of an upscale ambience. The lighting is brighter; bathrooms are nicer. There’s a choice of coffee or liquor. In New York, it is said that the lobby of choice for freelancers is the Ace Hotel, sometimes so crowded that management has had to set aside an area reserved for paying guests. The Sir Francis Drake in San Francisco has always been abuzz with tourists, but the open door policy was not nearly as welcoming as it is now. Hilton’s new Home2 Suites has realized the wisdom of encouraging guests to get out of their rooms and come down to the lobby to feel more at home with brightly colored furniture, big screen TVs and free Wi-Fi.
The Andaz in Los Angeles offers free computers for those who come without and tables for those who bring their laptops. Additional outlets for powering laptops and mobile devices make it convenient for guests to work efficiently.
With an appealing décor and services to offer, a hotel lobby can become a destination. It’s the first impression people have as they walk in the door, and with a hub of activity, the guest perception will be of a vibrant and interesting place to stay. When the coffee’s on and the welcome mat is out, the word will spread.