Revamped Sheraton brand will emphasize gathering in public spaces

Sheraton plans to transform lobbies into town square-style gathering areas.
Sheraton plans to transform lobbies into town square-style gathering areas.

Community tables; lounge, booth and studio spaces; and a designated on-property "community manager" are some of the additions coming to the public spaces inside Sheraton Hotels as Marriott International works to improve the brand globally.

When Marriott International closed its acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts in 2016, one of the first questions investors asked was "What will happen with Sheraton?" Not only did Sheraton constitute the largest brand for Starwood, but its poor reputation in North America was seen as a drag on Starwood's system. Adding to the sting is that the brand had undergone two revitalization efforts within the past decade.

Since Marriott became the official parent of the Sheraton brand, it has exited 6,000 rooms and expects to exit another 2,000 by the end of the year. Marriott president and CEO Arne Sorenson in November 2017 described the aggressive downsizing as "a full-court press to improve the Sheraton brand." Yet, Marriott also has signed 5,000 new rooms to the brand since 2016.

But Sheraton vice president and global brand leader Indy Adenaw said turning Sheraton around is about more than exiting underperforming products. "Our first six months was focused nearly entirely on understanding the business," Adenaw told Business Travel News. "We went around and talked to a bunch of owners and said, 'Tell us the good, the bad and the ugly. Tell us everything.'" The next phase, he said, was to speak to consumers in 13 cities across the globe about why they do or do not use Sheraton and what those consumers were looking for in an experience.

From that legwork, Adenaw said, the team identified the Sheraton core traveler as "the team player." The segment, he said, "fundamentally believes in the 'we' versus the 'I.' When you think about hotel brands, they have become very individualistic." The team player, instead, enjoys public spaces where they can blend work and leisure and collaborate with others.

More on the public space upgrades

During the recent NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, Marriott set up a 4,200-square-foot mock lobby space to showcase some of the enhancements the brand would adopt to meet the needs of the target customer.

The community table offers charging outlets, as well as wireless mobile charging, programmable lighting and lockable desk compartments. The lounge is a smaller flexible space off the main lobby area with power outlets at each seat, business lockers with programmable locks and partition screens to create a private-public environment.

The booths are individual, soundproof spaces with charging outlets that allow customers to speak in privacy. The studios are open team working spaces furnished with technology and tools to allow for small meetings and collaboration.

Assisting guests in the space will be a dedicated community manager who will roam the lobby to assist with reservations for public spaces and food and beverage and other requests. "Imagine them being the host of the community space; they're really focused on helping people gather," Adenaw said. "In a lot of places, it will be much more specific around work. So if you need the ability to print, you need the ability to borrow a cable, this would be a person that would go get it for you."

Additionally, Sheraton guests will be able to book public spaces, find events and order food and drink through a digital platform at each property. For food and beverage, Sheraton is focusing on elevated offerings inspired locally and is looking to redefine the hotel cafe experience with its Coffee Bar Bar, which transitions from a coffee bar to a cocktail bar from day to evening.

While Sheraton is focused on areas to meet in public spaces, Adenaw said the brand is not going down the same road of AccorHotels with its AccorLocal product, which provides on-property services to the entire community, not just hotel guests.

Marriott wants this to work

Sheraton currently constitutes the third largest brand in Marriott's 30-brand portfolio. So far, owners at 25% of Sheraton hotels globally have committed to make renovations to their properties. Since undertaking the Sheraton revamp, Marriott has leaned heavily on its past track record of revitalizing brands, including Marriott, Fairfield Inn & Suites and Courtyard.

While the Sheraton team has created a new identity for the future of the brand, Adenaw said the lobby space set up in New York City is by no means a standard prototype.

"We think at the full-service tier, the hotels have to adjust to their location and the clientele that they serve," Adenaw said.

Instead, the brand has created guiding ideas, such as how customers like to meet, and owners have some flexibility on how to execute that depending on their property size and location.

"In a small, 200-room hotel you may have one community table that is purpose built around working; in a large conventional hotel you may need four of them," he said.

Source: Business Travel News

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