Jeff Gurtman and I kicked off the 36th Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Conference on Sunday, June 1st by getting a tour of the new CitizenM Hotel in Times Square from the founder and visionary behind the hotel, Michael Levie.
The first thing you notice about the CitizenM is that the hotel’s ‘in-out-in-out design’ which mixes interior spaces with outdoor space throughout the expansive lobby. Front porch blends to living room, then kitchen and finally back deck. Yes, exactly what you would expect entering someone’s home.
Interestingly, the staff (called ‘ambassadors’) aren’t fenced in behind desks; they are conspicuously cruising the space helping guests as needed; exactly what one would expect the host at someone’s home to do. The net result was that on this sleepy Sunday afternoon, the lobby was abuzz with shoppers, arriving guests, three gents watching a ball game, and yes two people on the back porch, feet-up, reading.
Michael talked about the design features and planning that goes into designing and then staffing the space. Ultimately, he says the lobby has to pass the “coffee test.” In Michael’s mind’s eye, that means the lobby has to be a place you want people to come visit you for a cup of coffee–in other words, you are proud of where you are staying.
The concept is as visceral as it is brilliantly simple. Friends catch-up over coffee, business gets conducted over coffee and relationships are often formed over a cup of coffee.
The CitizenM lobby and public areas certainly pass the coffee test.
The next time you travel, walk into the lobby and see if your hotel passes the coffee test.