Lobby Wars: Clash of the Titans

A note to F&B Directors:

For years I’ve wondered about the Clash. No, not the legendary punk group from London. I mean, I’ve wondered about them too but that isn’t germane to today’s topic. I’m talking about hotel Titans: the General Manager and the F&B Director. From my F&B point of view, it’s quite simple: the Lobby is the entry point to the hotel, often the only entry point. Therefore it should both inform the incoming guest and excite them. And encourage them to spend money. 

By “excite them” I mean “drive them to the F&B outlets”. With respect, “try our new (pick a scent) amenity toiletries” may not excite the guest. On the other hand, for example, a description and picture of something like the remarkable Beet Berry Pop I enjoyed at the even more remarkable Holeman & Finch Public House last weekend would, let’s just say, pique my interest (cazadores blanco, la muse verte absinthe, beet berry soda + fresh lime juice).

So what is the clash? Let me illustrate with my own story: yes, I am a veteran of Lobby Wars, 1988. I was a Food & Beverage Director, and we had a bar that spilled out into the lobby, or came close to doing so. I wanted to put a small $2 chef-served buffet in the lobby to attract passers by, as the lobby was a walk-through for many office workers in the connected office building. The Titan GM, a great manager and even greater person, said no. It would wreak havoc with the lobby (which of course was my intent: mix things up with a little chaos, generate excitement). A short time after he said “no”, guess who went to Europe for two weeks? Cutting to the chase: we erected a buffet, put up a sign, and when the GM came back there was a line of 25 patrons going through the $2 buffet, bar sales were up 38% and I had added seating in the bar as we were now at overflow. After he fired me (this happened more than once) we compromised on a location at the “edge” of the lobby and I know that the promotion was going strong a decade later.

So, are GM’s too touchy about their lobbies? Do they not “get it”? If only our business challenges could be met with such easy answers. No, GM’s are not the problem, their focus is and should be the “big picture”. But there IS a conflict. I think a designer’s and GM’s perspective is that a lobby must first and foremost drive the hotel’s image (and indirectly ADR). Whether the desired impression is one of “elegance” or “class” or “professionalism” or “at your service”…that impression may not be one of excitement.

Over in F&B however, excitement is the name of the game. Especially where bars are concerned. We (and by this I mean “you”) work hard to create an environment that fosters  a certain feeling – maybe fun or  mystery or adventure or curiosity? A nicely done poster in the lobby might help convey this feeling. But I recommend doing something that will GRAB the guest’s attention.. Can this be done without a clash? Is a clash really a bad thing?

If you would like to create an attention-getting promotion, think outside of the box (poster). Project a movie of your bar scene on the lobby floor (or wall or ceiling). B&W works fine. Spray water-color stenciled images (foot prints?) on the lobby floor, that lead to the bar (check out: www.gogorillamedia.com). Get a brightly colored light-rope and string it from a point in the lobby (“start here”) to the bar (run it along the ceiling, or along the walls, etc. – and don’t go in a perfectly straight line).

Finally, my all time favorite combines wayfinding, humor and mystery. If you’re old enough to remember Burma Shave you should be fishing, not reading this. Regardless, construct a small humorous story, put a piece of the story on each of several signs, and let the signs lead your guests where they want to go. Change the signs/story often. Try a 4-day rotation. Like this. You travel too much | You work too hard | When is it time? | To let down your guard? | (name of lounge) | One hour, two hours, | Even three | Happy they are | Come at 5 and see! | (name of lounge) See also:  www.burma-shave.org.

By the way: you might want to wait for the GM to go on vacation.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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  • Comments (2)
    • Matt Kaufman
    • June 9th, 2010

    Ned,

    Brilliant story and what a way to make your point. I would have loved to be there when the GM got back from vacation.

    Matt

  1. organizations, GM’S and many others are like elephants……slow to change…. They all learned from conditioning. “we have always done it this way” Their success ties them to their past.
    Sometimes w ecan walk into a business and see the elephants doing a death dance. So sad.
    I think wha tyour GM missed and you assumed is “EMPOWERMENT” and from empowerment you created change.
    Just a thought
    BTY… love you blogs and wisdom

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