Boutique hotels turn to artisan coffee for wake-up service

Skift grip

Hotels would be well advised to ditch powdered dairy products and differentiate themselves by aligning themselves with local roasters for craft coffee programs. While this may lead to lower immediate profits, cross-branding and foot traffic could ultimately improve property results.

Carley Thornel

It’s no surprise that coffee culture brings people together. But can he take people back to a hotel?

Tom Sullivan certainly hopes so. The general manager of the Blake Hotel in New Haven, Conn., offers what he calls “a free wake-up call” to each of its 108 rooms every day “the brand’s freshly brewed Cuban-style caffeine Pestle is delivered just outside the door.

In the long list of guest pet peeves, for many, nothing is more off-putting than not having a coffee machine in their room, allowing for that immediate jolt to life. Sullivan understands that.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always thought it was something that would have a huge ‘wow’ factor,” said Sullivan, who has worked for boutiques and major international brands. “My philosophy is that if you’re an unbranded hotel, you have to work twice as hard to get Mr. or Mrs. Smith to stay here. What can we do to be different, that no one else does, to get customers to give up their 200 points from a Marriott or a Hilton? »

The coffee delivery program has positioned The Blake well to enter the pandemic in several ways, Sullivan said. Not only have they reduced traffic in the lobby to busy areas like the coffee bar (where only staff are allowed to touch equipment), but the service reduces in-room usage – and maintenance – Nespresso machines.

The general manager added that The Blake did not have to change sanitation protocols, as they were already using Ecolab products after the SARS outbreak. Properties like Hard Rock Hotels, Nobo Hotelsand The Thayer at West Point have flooded the internet since the start of the pandemic by posting their sanitation guidelines, which highlight hotel cafes and coffee machines.

Customer expectations are already high because most visitors to the area — which looms in the shadow of Ivy League Yale University — would stay at five-star properties if they were available in New Haven, Sullivan said. But several rave reviews of hotels mention the wake-up call program in particular, with one Parisian traveler calling her time at The Blake”one of the best service experiences of my travel life.”

The Graduate Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, went so far as to remove in-room brewing machines after the property was temporarily closed at the start of the pandemic. Offering customers tokens for their morning pickup from the on-site Poindexter Cafe has eliminated some cleaning and maintenance tasks while helping to address the labor shortage crisis in the hospitality industry.

The edgy-designed, cheekily-named cafe universally appeals to Ivy Leaguers from nearby Brown University, art students from the Rhode Island School of Design, and guests. The hotel lobby opens directly onto the boutique, also accessible from the street, contributing to the spirit of the community while increasing brand awareness.

The number of boutique hotels with niche cafes designed as part of or accessible from the lobby continues to grow like a pitch in a French press. These include High Line Hotel’s partnership with Intelligensia, Ace’s team with Stumptown, and the Louisville Omni’s association with local favorite, Heine Brothers. The Guild House Hotel in Philadelphia serves coffee from Sip & Sonder, a black women-owned cafe and roastery in California that sources beans from countries including Ethiopia, Burundi, Colombia, Rwanda and La Papua New Guinea.

But the potential advantage that properties offering craft blends have over hotels with large beans is still untapped in many areas, said Derek Bromley, founder of Ohm Coffee Roasters. Incredibly, he said, one of those markets is in one of the nation’s top food and beverage regions: Napa, California.

“You have some of the best wines in the world here. And starred restaurants throughout the valley. You have great coffee roasters nearby in the Bay Area,” he said. “But the coffee world is particularly lacking here in Napa.”

Bromley, a former wine marketing executive and sommelier, set out to change that as the region’s “Johnny Appleseed”. He is active in the local farmers market scene, which is how he first networked with The Archer Hotel. His blends are featured in the lobby, along with his on-site Charlie Palmer Steak restaurant.

Part of his role as a “coffee crusader” is to make customers feel at home while providing a premium experience.

“I traveled a lot for the wine trade. I know that feeling of being in a foreign place, wondering where you’re going to get a good cup of coffee and having to do some research on the internet,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than bad hotel coffee. It doesn’t start the day off right.

While its beers will set guests back a fair trade price of $3.50 per cup, the cost of the beans — up to four times what a hotel supplier might charge — is deterring some properties from offering blends. crafts in their lobby or F&B outlets, Bromley said.

“Some (hotels) say, ‘I make a lot of money with my coffee program, why should I pay more per pound?’ But if you’re at a restaurant where people pay $80 for Kobe beef, does your fridge have Costco mayonnaise?” he said.

Ultimately, a hotel’s return on investment can be slower than the 60 seconds it takes to brew a K-cup, Bromley estimates.

“A good coffee program is more about boosting your brand image,” he said.

In terms of regular customers, Bromley does not have access to the Archer’s measurements, but many customers who are part of its coffee subscription service have been hotel guests, he said.

As olfactory functioning is the sense most closely linked to memory, even the smell of beans brewing in the morning can be enough to prompt booking a repeat trip.

“Like wine, bringing something back from their local roaster is enough to evoke the overall experience of this magical trip to Napa Valley,” Bromley said.