What exactly is a boutique hotel?

In today’s hotel market one may well ask what exactly is a Boutique Hotel? It seems the word BOUTIQUE has been misused and marketed irresponsibly by many hotel owners and operators worldwide. Nowadays you see the word associated with 2-star Days Inn styled rooms at so-called ‘eco’ resorts where the only eco aspect to their operation is a few plastic bins for so-called separate waste disposal in the guest rooms. Both the word ‘eco’ and ’boutique’ are clearly overused and in most cases not at all relevant to the property marketing itself as being so.

So for ” boutique” some education for those in need of it.

A Boutique Hotel needs to reflect the following. Small, fashionable and independent; when lacking innovative design and stylish high quality personal operations and impeccable amenities, these small hotels are in violation of the fundamental boutique motif and are merely small. Add to what boutique should reflect in a hotel, innovative design, distinctive, individuality, flair, original, and creativity, and you can see how this word has been turned into more than rather a vague term confusing the market, and undermining those that actually achieve it.

Cool, or hip or historic, themed, marketed for business or leisure and more often than not both, the meaning is now an extension of the original boutique hotel urban properties where the key descriptive components were fashion, elegance, glamor and style. Nowadays the word transcends these earlier definitions and crosses many hotel classifications, from small to not so mall, luxury to affordable, urban to resort, chic and cool to traditional. Boutique Hotels have many sub segments.

Ignoring the attempts by chains to be boutique-ish, the W brand for example, and the Malmaison Group in the UK, boutique hotels independence has enabled owners and operators to keep at arm’s length corporate standards of the chains that more often than not hinder the creative ideas of those employees on site in supplying distinguished and personalized hospitality services to the travelers they know.  In boutique hotel operations it is much more than employees knowing each guest’s name, which in some of the so-called larger boutique hotels is an impossibility anyway.

It is in my mind more a return to traditional hotel keeping, knowing your guests and fully understanding their requirements as individual travelers and then actually delivering that service in an exceptional manner, all within an environment that has innovative design, distinctive characteristics, where individuality and flair shine through, and the whole experience to the traveler is original and creative.

Some development priorities summed up:

  • An at home feel in both size, elegance and throughout it is of a different perspective.
  • Inviting, at peace with itself, snug, social.
  • Top of the line, select and personalized. Personalized means sincere and warm.
  • Home made, hand-made, not the standard factory produced stuff. This goes not just for the set up and fit out, add to that food, beverages, paper, amenities.
  • Hello to the designer! Square foot by square foot thought through!
  • Concepts that are of quality, from design to delivery.
  • Amenities unseen near you, out of the box, from soaps, to personalized jams, cookie wraps, cocktails on arrival, smart phone, limos to the office, and the house essence.
  • And time and time, time to create, time to prepare to deliver!

For boutique hotel development planning and management that deliver on the true concept of the word, contact mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

Boutique hotel development room design considerations

In designing and planning a boutique hotel room basic design elements take center stage at the commencement of the development process..

Jumping from the planning of the guestroom floor with the slab and design configuration options, defining the room mix is at its core based on the market study, or the basic understanding of what market the hotel is to attract.

The guestroom program defines what bay within the architectural design will be allocated to king, queen and twin bedded rooms, the variety and number of junior and king suites, service areas, and what connects to what directly. The design team, and that includes the interior designer at the outset, studies a wide range of options and room layouts paying particular attention to the optimum width of the architectural bays, and how to use them to best advantage.

Over the years it has been ascertained that a width of a hotel bay and the associated net width of the interior of a guestroom in a single bay, be at a minimum 4.1m for an upscale property. This permits a major advantage in that it allows the king bed to be positioned against the bathroom wall and not as one usually finds in a standard hotel room on the side of the wall. It should be noted there is not that much advantage in a wider width unless it reaches 4.9m. Then a lounge or/and work area can be placed on the opposite wall to that of the bed, and allows for a 5-fixture bathroom.

The market definition for boutique hotel usually arrives at a consensus that 75% of the rooms should have king beds with additional keys being allocated to single or larger suites and queen queen rooms. In boutique hotels  the rooms are usually somewhat smaller than the norm given the fact many are renovations of old hotels that owners have  acquired at an attractive price and cost-effectively remodeled, the role of the design team becomes even more important in applying techniques for combining the guest activity zones within a room in a way that increases the flexibility of use.

To fit the market position as a true boutique hotel, projects need to create elements that distinguish themselves from being just a traditionally renovated room, adding flair and humor to give distinction from just a remodeled hotel room.

Nowhere in the room is the planning and design more important than in the guest bathroom;  to maximize the efficiency of design, bathrooms are positioned in pairs, together with the pairing of two guests rooms back to back.

Usually total guestroom area allocation at a minimum for an upscale property equates to about 24 square meters for the living area before space is allocated to a closet and an entry area, with a 1.8m by 2.8 meter bathroom. Total guestroom of 36 meters square at a bare minimum.

Summing up, 3 key areas need addressing, the net width of the inside walls, the length and the size and shape of the bathrooms. However it is not so much the size, it is how that size is utilized that holds the key to a well designed market-focused boutique hotel room.

Larger and more sexy bathrooms for boutique style properties are obviously more important than in a 3-star branded hotel at an airport. Guest bathrooms with compartmentalized toilet, separate shower stall with spa style shower heads, 2 sinks, and a tub are becoming more the norm and guests are sure to measure the boutique hotel experience to what  they enjoy in their homes. Obviously exceptional good use of space by the interior design team for each square foot available can overcome in the guests mind any limitation of size of the living area and the bathroom.

However the space is utilized, the bottom line is that innovation and artistic expression need to go hand in hand with practicality, designs that combine good flexible function and comfort within an established budget based on the market positioning, with technology aspects within the room that are easy to use.

For more advice in the design of  boutique hotels contact Turner Lodging Co; remember, a hotel design team is only as good as the hotelier who guides and inspires their creativity, helping them to integrate operational efficiency and day to day functionality into the design as only a hotelier could.

Questions to ask your resort hotel management company

One of the most important questions an owner should ask his resort hotel management company is how does the food and beverage department perform compared to the competitive set; not that well most likely.

Are you a frustrated resort hotel owner, not sure which way to turn? Then rejoice, help is at hand!

Fenced in by bland corporate food and beverage management teams, branded or chained, who can not think out side of the box?! Tied into a corporate management culture of so-called “service delivery excellence” and those “ brand standard manuals” of meaningless trivia created by creative dead souls who haven’t lived out of the corporate environment  franchise belt?!

Does your 3% and 6% management company ( only 6% you may say) think that ensuring your 29% budget food costs are in line is more important a measure of management performance than ensuring the food offering is what the customer want at a competitive price to what your clients can get up the road? Measuring as a priority $ banked, not % margins?!!

Do you pay fees over a hundred thousand to stifle individuality, having to accept food and beverage concepts driven by the need to meet group franchise standards?

Attend that quarterly owner’s and management business review meeting to hear the  same old story. Cash flow not met, REVPAR below competitive set, food and beverage staff costs over 40% due to poor product demand?

Historically, hotel restaurants have fallen short of quality, creativity, service experience, they still do in general although major efforts have been made to improve this in top line brands and chains.

Fear not though, help is at hand!!

As a hotel business adviser we are not tied in to day-to-day operations, are more qualified and specialist than General Manager’s and most corporate reports, can stand apart from brand standard operators and the corporate protocol. We have a unique stand alone advantageous position in which to see opportunities to unlock value and introduce change, positive creative change, as the third-party support for hotel owner’s.

Sample questions to ask.

Operationally, do the outlets really work? 100%? Or is your hotel restaurant dead and antiquated in product offering, value, quality, ambiance, or all four?

Do the management know the competitive offerings and associated quality and pricing? When was the last competitive market review done?

Does your compete with the high street, those near by, or try to follow it? Market leader or  follower?

What’s more important, department profit or cost margins?

Menu with too many choices, not one thing or the other, trying to be all things to everyone and not something to someone? Tasty fresh food, value pricing, reflects your location?

12 month food and beverage marketing program, leveraged, in sales efforts, daily?

What’s redundant in the market, what’s offered in the extreme in the local market? Where does your fit?

Guest feedback on hand, lease opportunities defined, guest delivery issues sorted?

Capital plan with ROI in place for future use of available capital?

Hotel management stuck in a rut?

Plus “more and more”

For answers to these, the “more and more”, and assistance in unlocking value to your food and beverage operations, be it within boutique resorts or whatever, and for creative cost-effective solutions that question the status-quo of your resort hotel management company, contact mark@turnerlodgingco.com.