retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

Fast Company has a piece about how a new Marriott in Charlotte, North Carolina, is a working laboratory for new concepts that the company is testing for possible inclusion in future properties and concepts. The focus is on creating consistent and yet differentiated amenities ... which sounds like a contradiction in terms.

And so, Marriott seems to be testing localized offerings that might not be specifically replicated elsewhere, but could form a kind of customizable blueprint for other hotels.

"Throughout the Charlotte property, there are local touches," Fast Company writes. "For instance, rather than a generic restaurant and cafe, local chefs and entrepreneurs have set up permanent restaurants in the hotel, bringing with them their own tastes, cuisine, and aesthetics. Marriott has also invited a local business person to set up a wine bar and shop. If guests try a particular wine and enjoy it, they can purchase it on the spot. And instead of the standard Starbucks, an independent cafe from the area is now situated in the lobby.

"Marriott also found that guests are interested in mingling in open spaces. Millennials, in particular, see activities like going to the gym or a coffee shop as an opportunity to meet new people and start conversations. So in Charlotte, in place of a sterile gym, guests can sign up for boutique studio classes taught by local instructors, similar to those popular in big cities. At other times, they can pick from a range of fitness videos from celebrity trainers that will be streamed onto a big screen ... The Charlotte hotel will also have plenty of big lofty spaces, like lobbies with comfy chairs and casual coffee nooks scattered around the lobby, where people can do work or relax among fellow visitors. These spots are especially designed for frequent travelers - like consultants who might be at the hotel for an entire week - and are looking for opportunities to connect with other people while they're away from home."

The test seems consistent with something that Marriott has said it has been told by more and more hotel guests - that they want a less cookie-cutter, less vanilla, less beige experience. And I think that this approach - understanding that even if you;re making cookies, it makes sense to not allow it to look like you are using a cookie cutter - is, in fact, an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: