The Dream Hotel Group last week revealed plans to open six hotels by 2019, five in the U.S. and one in Qatar, doubling the brand's footprint with a total of $1.5 billion in development. News editor Johanna Jainchill sat down with Jay Stein, Dream Hotel Group CEO, to discuss the locations and why the company doesn't want to build its own hotels going forward.
Q: Why did you choose those locations?
A: Dallas is a natural for us. We're not in the middle of the country yet. In Nashville, we found great partners and an amazing location, and it's Music City, one of the most up-and-coming cities, and perfect for a lifestyle brand like ours.
Palm Springs, Calif., used to have the real hipster, Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin vibe, so we connect to that, and [its] downtown is really up-and-coming. Times Square [New York], that's our backyard, and Long Island City [Queens, N.Y.], we're very comfortable being in that market. With Doha, Qatar, we are also trying to get a deal done in Dubai. We haven't yet locked that up, but we're working on it. Then we'll have that synergy of our brand in the region.
Q: Is the Dream brand going to India?
A: There are two sites we've had in Jaipur and Goa for a number of years. We're trying to figure out a deal to get them built, and whether we take the lead or a local developer comes in and we contribute the land. Obviously India is a natural with Sant Singh Chatwal [the Dream chairman, who was born in India], and these are two great, great locations.
Q: Both Dream and Time are upper-upscale lifestyle brands. How would you distinguish them?
A: Dream requires there be a certain amount of [food and beverage] outlets. You can't build a Dream with one rooftop bar or restaurant. You could do that with a Time hotel. There is no set minimum for Dream, but usually it's four or more outlets: a rooftop bar, a lobby lounge, a nightclub, a pool bar, a signature restaurant, another restaurant. You don't need all of those, but you need more than two.
Q: Are rooftops bars your signature feature?
A: Where it works, and sometimes it's not feasible, we like to look at rooftop bars in every building that we build. We get very little credit but we started the rooftop bar. The Peninsula [New York] had one, and some other places, but they weren't hip. They were sedate, places to go for a cocktail, a corporate type of thing. When we opened the Ava Lounge in the Dream Hotel in 2003, that was the first one that had the velvet rope and the hipster scene. Since then it's become a requirement: If you build a hip hotel, you gotta have a rooftop bar. We were the first group to put that emphasis on it.
Q: You are changing your strategy to brand and manage your hotels rather than own them. Why?
A: These things cost $100 to $200 million apiece to develop, they take three to five years to build and we spent years building our brands. It's hard to build these things one at a time. We have six of them going on because we have six different partners working on them. We think that's the smart way to go.