Hospitality Design

By Jeannine Bazer-Schwartz, FASID

Hospitality design includes such projects as hotels, resorts, restaurants, country or golf clubs, athletic and city clubs, as well as casinos and cruise ships. For an interior designer in this specialty, it is important to understand the client's business, including operational procedures, image and use requirements as well as budget and financial constraints. Our design solutions have to be responsive to goals, budgets and aesthetic objectives established by the owner so they are market-driven designs. The facilities we design are destinations for the end user, so we design for two sets of clients-our client as well as his customer.

It's important to work with the client from his or her perspective. Hospitality clients are very concerned with cost. To understand why, you must be knowledgeable about their debt service, what they spend on project, time frame for payback and exit strategy, projected profit and cost of doing business. Their funding must cover all costs, including fees. To be successful, the designer must understand why working within the budgeted amount is so important. Every dollar put into the project has to support the owner's ultimate financial goals and satisfy debt service. Owners respond well to designers who can assure them that their design solution will give them the edge in meeting or exceeding their financial goals for the property.

Optimizing the budget and offering options is a major concern of clients. In hospitality design there's enormous wear and tear on the interiors, especially seating, flooring and fabrics. By presenting options and pointing out differences in quality, what the overall cost will mean to the budget, and where dollars can be saved on something else, we relate design and cost to longevity. Business people understand that. Without this knowledge, our decisions will not be valid and will often be rejected.

Today people are eating out more than ever, so we find restaurants becoming a destination or a part of something happening-eating is only part of the overall experience. Design, along with food and service, creates a reason for the diner to return.

Travel and tourism are the world's largest industry. Today, there is enormous competition for dollars spent in hospitality design. For instance, more luxurious bathrooms and materials attract customers to many hotels. Even though this capital expenditure represents one of the highest costs of hotel construction, it is an investment rewarded with years of returns. There's stronger emphasis on furnishings for the business traveler at hotels. By understanding these trends, we can provide alternatives and solutions for the client's benefit. They are learning quality is important if it can be shown to create added value to the property.

In country clubs and daily fee golf clubs, there is a definite trend toward a more casual, less formal environment. Because of a change in lifestyles, women play a more prominent role at country clubs. They want equal locker and lounge facilities as well as more coed and family dining. Clubs want to attract members of an age or income category, so the design must appeal to this desired audience. Daily fee courses want players to enjoy a "country club" experience for the day. Often, residential developments provide a golf clubhouse as an amenity to attract homeowners.

New cruise ships are added to lines every year. Casinos are the hot, new entertainment in many states. Many casinos are added to hotel properties. These destination resorts are for fun and relaxation. Some are designed to appeal to families traveling with children. Dining facilities, whether for upper management or all employees, are viable parts of offices.

Over the next 10 years, changes in demographics, attitudes and lifestyles will continue to affect what, where and how consumers eat or where they stay, so designers must stay in touch with these desires of the public and understand that design that is "off the mark" can lose business for the client. Code requirements and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as energy laws have caused immense changes, particularly in the hospitality industry. Typically, hospitality designers work in many states and even internationally. Therefore, it is imperative we keep abreast of these issues and changes, along with professional registration. As litigation seems to be a way of life, designers must be aware of the codes and restrictions of our profession.

As hospitality designers, it is important we are skilled in professional project management. Our clients have a fixed opening date that's tied to publicity, parties or events, not to mention anticipated dollars spent by their customers. Experience teaches us what to anticipate and what questions to ask so we can manage the project better. We need to constantly monitor all trades involved, from the contractor all the way to the delivery and installation of furnishings. Clients and all parties involved must be kept informed in a timely manner that is brief and understandable.

Because of the scheduling issues, communication with the client up front is important on programming or desired effects, budgetary concerns, presentation methods and schedules, the approval process (who, how and when), and the time frame for each. The client needs to know what they can expect from the designer and how to work together most effectively.

Because there is an enormous amount of coordination in hospitality projects, hospitality design is very much a team effort involving client, contractor, operator (sometimes), architect, consultants and specialists, and vendors. Good teaming must start from the beginning. Clients do not want to be in the middle when conflicts arise.

In summary, hospitality designers must provide design that will produce greater customer satisfaction and improve the client's bottom line. Hospitality designers sell the value of the investment in the design and the return on the investment by relating recommendations to the client's desired image or targeted audience, keeping within the budgeted amount and still maximizing quality and longevity of design and products. The client will see the return on his or her investment when the end user finds it appealing and spends dollars, and he or she doesn't have to redo the design too soon or often.

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