CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Marriott International on Tuesday dedicated
its first “laboratory” hotel at the Charlotte Marriott City Center, and
outlined how it will use the property to test design and service initiatives
for its flagship brand.
Marriott, which dubbed the property its first “M Beta”
hotel, is using the hotel to reflect its efforts for the upper-upscale brand to
have a more local feel, including having a coffeehouse that features locally sourced
coffee and chalk-art from local artists as well as a food-and-beverage program
showcasing local chefs and nearby microbreweries.
Guestrooms have what Marriott calls a more “residential”
feel, with oval “nesting” tables instead of work desks, hard floor surfaces and
no wall art.
Stoke has an open kitchen and prepares meals with products from local purveyors. Photo Credit: Danny King
The hotel also added a pop-up bar in its former cafeteria
area, where the hotel can host private events, serving charcuterie plates with
meats and cheeses from North Carolina-based proprietors and Southern-inspired
Marriott acquired the hotel in 2013 for the purpose of turning
it into a laboratory-type property, and spent an additional $36,000 per room on
the upgrades, said Mike Dearing, managing director for the Marriott brand. He indicated
that Marriott spent about $16 million on the renovation.
“From top to bottom, we’ve reinvented this hotel,” said
Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson. “We’ve managed to touch essentially
every square inch of this hotel and try to meet what customers want.”
Marriott has already instituted some of the Charlotte
hotel’s improvements at other Marriott properties. The hotel gives guests a
chance to offer feedback via so-called “Beta buttons” placed throughout the
hotel’s public areas, where guests can note whether they like a particular part
of the hotel.
The Marriott brand is looking to shed its “cookie-cutter”
image. At the Charlotte hotel, that means amphitheater-style seating at the
multi-leveled Coco & the Director coffee bar and “cocktails on tap” at the
Stoke bar and restaurant.
LG Studio is a pre-meeting food-and-beverage space. Photo Credit: Danny King
The Charlotte hotel also has replaced the front desk with
multiple stand-up tables where hosts with tablets check guests in. At the fitness
center, guests can take cardio, strength or flexibility classes from a “digital
instructor,” which is a bank of nine televisions projecting one of an inventory
of 200 workout videos.
“Customers demand authenticity,” Sorenson said. “We want to
make sure we respond to that, and to drive the distinction from the other