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.

What makes a great restaurant?

A value experience makes a great restaurant. Basic. Whether it is the pub down the road or the Italian at the Four Seasons, the food presented and the experience offered needs to offer real value. That means the more it costs the more you need to offer, from ambiance to service. The customer wants great food at a fair price and that package is what you need to produce.

The food offering should be tasty, fresh, exceptionally well cooked, something that gets those taste buds tingling, in my case I like it to be reflective of the location and culture one is in.

Creative menus, not a standard offering one can except to receive in about 75% of hotel and resort restaurants.

Consistency in the food and service quality delivery. No good great one day, appalling the next

Service, the same old motto, It’s all about people. In no particular order the service needs to be attentive but not overbearing, timely and that does not mean quick or prompt it means as the dinners wish, beverages offered and refilled with out request, personable but not over friendly and well-educated and knowledgable staff who understand the product being offered.

An experience to remember, a feel good place. You do not need to spend a fortune on decor and fixtures and interior design but what is offered needs to gel together.

New crockery and flat ware will not solve your problems!

Every table should be placed and located to best advantage in relation to the service delivery, the eye contact that each guest experiences from each chair assessed in order to make best advantage of it. How a customer feels is critical. It is also, in my opinion, the most important component by miles in which a restaurant is judged. That is part of the design process.

Simple, not really, it’s an art, especially to make an adequate profit.

See my further blogs on this most interesting topic.

Value-added design in hotel development

Hotel development critical processes: value design, value engineering, value life cycle, what do they mean?

Value-added design is a process through the stages of the use of space program.

A project’s viability can be truly reflected after profound but minor economies. In the ‘Art of the Deal’ developer Donald Trump cited using three hinges on each ball room door, instead of four, thereby saving 25% of  installation and material costs.

The process, although based around common sense, requires an experienced development team, who can justify the use of all space as it relates to the unique market concept of the hotel.

Firstly they need to answer the questions, ‘is the space essential?’ and ‘how best do we use it?’

Value engineering involves the architects, engineers, manufacturers presenting a cost-benefit-analysis of the maintenance, reliability, durability of all major materials, systems and equipment being considered. Obvious aspects are hot water systems, elevators, air conditioning, communications, floor finishes, and kitchen equipment; this process also involves a life-cycle cost analysis estimating energy replacement and maintenance costs. The developer is then educated in the selection process. This takes time and perseverance, but the long-term viability of the hotel is often defined at this stage. Operating profits for years to come are defined, and a project manager experienced in the hotel field is an invaluable asset to this process.

Building safety codes, systems for exit due to smoke and fire, and fire resistance of construction elements, from doors in 3 hours walls, roofs, windows, to kitchen hoods, all need to be taken into consideration.

Obviously, cost management needs an effective and efficient system of control. Work scheduling, material and labour, technical aspects, quality standard control measures, all need to be monitored in detail so that any budget overruns can be managed well in advance.

It is in the planning stage that the major costs are reduced, the stage where the hoteliers, architects, interior designers, suppliers, lighting and acoustic consultants, etc., create value-design, which is then supported by value-engineering.