5 Hotel Design Problems and How to Solve Them

July 19, 2017


A hotel is a puzzle. When all the pieces come together, it works. Design, location, branding and management are all important pieces — and the picture is constantly changing. Many of the design concepts considered standard today were unheard of twenty years ago. So was the word “millennial.” We hoteliers truly face a landscape that is truly changing.


When it comes to managing individual properties in this changing landscape, there are many physical constraints. Fitting a property with free wifi, or updating guest rooms with Keurig coffee makers, is something virtually any hotel can do. But when you start taking about open floor plans, updated business centres, attractive lobbies and updated bathrooms, you’re talking renovation dollars. New hotels have the advantage of starting fresh with today’s (and tomorrow’s) guest in mind — but for hotels that have been here awhile, the flaws and constraints of the past can be challenging.


Don’t despair — even if the walls of your property are getting to you, there is plenty of reason for optimism. The hospitality spectrum is wider than it’s ever been, and new models are being tried out all the time. Investors are repurposing warehouses and other unconventional spaces as hotels, and many old hotels are solving design problems to bring themselves back into the conversation. Here are three such problems:


1. Too much variation in guest rooms

When a hotel has regular rooms, deluxe rooms, junior executive rooms and master suites (for example), the various value propositions and cost-benefit ratios are difficult to establish. It creates unnecessary confusion for those who crave a simple booking process and clear value propositions. The ability to keep things simple and uniform, with only a few options, is an asset for modern hotels.


The second problem with too many types of room is that people like to know what they’re getting. If the room is significantly different to what they saw while booking, you’re going to hear about it on one of popular review platforms.


So how is this problem solved? Taking steps to minimize differences between rooms and layouts may not be as complicated as it seems at first glance, especially if it means only a handful of rooms need renovation. Alternatively, classify rooms with similar features (Queen beds, 49” TV screens, baths etc) and then note in the description that they may vary in square metres, view or décor). Most times, people decide on a room based on bed types initally rather than their view, so make the bed type and number of people accommodate the primary descriptor. In all cases, photography at booking should be accurate — and rooms booked should be exactly as pictured. Nothing screams “negative review” like false advertising.


2. Tight space in guest rooms

There are so many situations in which a complete overhaul is just not feasible, and working with what you have is crucial. Take, for example, the idea that guests want bulky, stately furniture in a hotel room. This idea has persisted for decades, but times have changed. Slimming down the furniture can free up valuable square footage while giving rooms a more open and contemporary feel. Such changes are well within the scope of many budgets. We only have to look at the advent of brands such as Yotel and Citizen M to see that there are many clever ways to create a sense of space.


3. Back-of-house problems

The underbelly of your hotel doesn’t attract as much attention, in large part because guest don’t see or review it. But design flaws here can cause a litany of problems, none of which are good for your hotel’s reputation. For example, if you don’t have enough storage space, your employees will battle daily to work around cluttered spaces, and you’ll have to re-stock key supplies constantly. If there are workflow flaws in the kitchen and/or garbage disposal areas, service will slow down and tasks will pile up. Or, if staff have to continually walk through guest areas to reach other departments this will impact on the guest experience and detract from their sense of home-away-from-home.


Thinking about the morale and workflow of your staff can give you reasonable incentive to re-think your back-of-house operations, and even consider renovations in these areas. In many ways, the staff experience is just as important as the guest experience. As we’ve pointed out many times on this blog, the two are inextricably linked.


Piecing it all together


Even if you’re running a brand new property with a cutting edge design concept and a brand new finish, you know that changes and challenges can’t be far off. A hotel is a puzzle, and the picture is never 100% complete. But removing old pieces and finding new ones is not a dour and thankless task. Through creative problem solving, we can strive for excellence in the guest experience. For the true hotelier, that striving is what makes it fun.



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