By Kerry Medina
Embassy Suites by Hilton marked another step in the brand’s evolution when new dining concepts—Brickstones Kitchen & Bar and E’Terie Bar & Grill—were announced in January.
These latest developments from the all-suites brand follow in a series of new initiatives that began in 2014 when Embassy celebrated its 30th anniversary and simultaneously launched the “Atrium Refresh” program that continues to update properties that have been under the flag for 20 years or longer. These more modern legacy properties are intended to complement the newer Embassy properties that were built to the specifications of Design Prototype III, which was launched in 2007.
Today, Embassy Suites’ portfolio comprises 245 hotels globally, with nearly 40 incorporating the Design Option III prototype and another 80 showcasing a complete Atrium Refresh, with another 20 percent expected to debut Refresh renovations by year-end 2019. The late 2022, the entire portfolio will feature a unified aesthetic, via the Atrium Refresh program or the Design Option III prototype.
But Alan Roberts, global head of Embassy Suites by Hilton, isn’t passively awaiting the changes that are still to come. In fact, he’s already considering updates to the Design Option III prototype, noting that since its 2006 launch “construction costs have gone up to significantly.” To determine how the prototype could be made more cost-efficient, Roberts is currently working with several developers who have opened new-build Embassy properties at lower costs. Roberts has a formidable task ahead of him as he looks for tactics that will decrease costs to be more inline with developers’ expectations. He has no intentions of reducing the square footage of suites, nor the number of suites, including two-room suites.
Instead, changes may be in store for public areas such as corridors, back-of-house facilities, storage areas, meeting space and other requirements such as mechanical engineering specifications because, as Roberts pointed out, technology has changed since the prototype’s launch more than 10 years ago.
“Not everything we included in the prototype’s initial design is relevant today and now we’re considering what is relevant,” he said.
In the meantime, the Atrium Refresh initiative is already proving profitable for those properties that have completed the renovation. In a sample study of hotels that completed the full Atrium Refresh in 2015, the hotels were able to realize ADR gains of nearly $8 leading to RevPAR increases of $12.90 and RevPAR index improvement of 12.5 percent. Revenue growth is owing in part to the conversion of former rock waterfalls in the atrium into flexible space, anchored by a bar that can accommodate more seating and in some cases, former restaurants converted into additional meeting space.
With the introduction of these new dining venues, there’s still greater opportunity to enhance property revenues. Both concepts offer bar-centric lunch and dinner menus available as an a-la-carte grill experience from the same space that services the morning’s cook-to-order breakfast. But Brickstones, a full-service dining experience available for dine-in, take-out and in-room dining, was designed for hotels with the Design Option III Prototype, while fast-casual E’Terie, with a separate grab-and-go component, is intended for legacy hotels. After the two concepts were launched in the fourth quarter of 2017, Embassy owners can opt into the dining outlets for implementation now or they can go with another F&B concept of their choosing. But by July 1, hotels are expected to be in compliance with the new complimentary Evening Reception programming that combines the comp and pay bar experiences.
The new dining solutions are turnkey concepts that are designed to save owners on the cost of developing and marketing a unique F&B outlet. So not only are design elements and menus already in place, but the two concepts were developed specifically to integrate upsell tactics into the complimentary evening receptions that Embassy guests have come to expect of the brand.
So a single bar with newly enhanced lighting and music will contain the same complimentary evening reception—complete with the same snack and beverage offerings—in addition to upgraded, premium drinks available for a fee, along with access to the complete dinner menu. Passed samples of items such as flatbreads or wraps from Brickstones and E’Terie’s dinner menus are expected to help drive dinner sales in addition to tabletop collateral to better promote the wider spectrum of F&B offerings now available. The price points of premium drinks as well as the integration of paid food items into the complimentary receptions are intended to offset costs for owners and ultimately, drive great profit from ancillary F&B revenue while still giving guests a consistent evening experience.
A poll conducted during Hilton’s first All-Suites Brands conference in January found that 55.45 percent of Embassy properties have already made strides to merge their pay and comp bars, which Roberts said “indicates their guests have signaled acceptance of a single bar.” The additional grab-and-go concepts will create a profit stream when guests may want to a quick meal in their room either while working or after a late arrival as well as when the full-service restaurant may be closed during lunch hours.
To date, the Embassy Suites at the San Antonio Airport and the Tyson’s Corner property are each implementing the E’Terie concept. Roberts described the E’Terie at Tyson’s Corner as a “fantastic for us because this refreshed Embassy Suites is right around the corner from our corporate offices in McLean.” Yet, these are just two examples. To date, 12 Embassy Suites include either an E’Terie or a Brickstones outlet.