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OM in the News: Hotels Layout a New Lobby Look

April 25, 2012

As Jay and I were sitting in the lobby of the Marriott hotel on Michigan Ave. (in downtown Chicago), a few days ago at the POMS meeting, we were amazed at the crowd that seemed to be in the massive space all hours of the day. People were in mini meetings, they were watching six huge TV screens, they were drinking coffee, eating, or simply typing away at their laptops. It seems the new layout of hotel lobbies is intended to make them a place for both guests and locals to lounge and feel like they are in a living room or on the deck of an ocean liner.

Hoteliers, according to The Wall Street Journal (April 19, 2012), want a lobby that is abuzz with locals  and out-of-town guests doing business or kicking back.  Consumers, it turns out,  are willing to pay a premium to stay at such a property. Beyond the buzz, mobile workers find there’s more leg room in hotel lobbies than in coffee shops. In some lobbies, it’s possible to order food and drink from the roaming wait staff. Freelancers have taken to hotel lobbies, instead of Starbucks, and hotels are courting them with long tables and lots of outlets. When Ted Copeland, for example,  comes in for his coffee at Chicago’s Public Hotel (shown in the photo), the barista has his order  ready. Then he sets up his laptop and lingers for a few hours over the caffeine and free Wi-Fi.

A crowded hotel lobby creates an upbeat, buzz-worthy atmosphere, which over time is thought to lead to higher occupancy. “If you have an active lobby, from a customer standpoint, it does reinforce the idea that the hotel is successful and a good hotel,” says an industry consultant. Many hotels say even overnight guests, especially those under 40, are more comfortable working in a public lobby than upstairs in their rooms.

Discussion questions:

1. Why is layout so important in this industry?

2. How has Starbucks taken advantage of the lobby trend?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 30, 2012 8:32 am

    I think with Starbucks, it is more of a ‘trendy’ thing than a question of layout. It almost became cool to sit in Starbucks tapping away on a laptop. Hotel lobbies have taken this and made it more about the atmosphere created. It seems to me to be less of a ‘showy’ display. Sitting in the window seats at Starbucks on a laptop is now seen as massively cliché.

  2. May 30, 2012 1:07 pm

    Richard,
    No question about that. Starbucks has created an aura that is tremendously successful and hotels are happy to incorporate the theme into their lobbies.

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