Birth Of A Hotel: Setting The ‘Mood’ … An Interview With The Scent & Sound Masters Of Mood Media

When it comes to setting a mood, sensory experiences are key. Sights, sounds and smells can all contribute to a guest’s perception of a hotel’s ambiance, and thus, their overall experience. To better understand the nuances of scent-scaping and dayparting (the art of crafting a mood through music), we spoke with Ben Teplitsky, senior director of business development at Mood Media, whose company has worked to craft guest experiences for major hotels and retail brands worldwide.What exactly does “setting the mood” of a hotel entail?
Really anything that involves the sensory experience. We work with music, scent, visuals, technology and sound systems, digital signage, even some in-room music technologies. We work with hotels before they even break ground, through engineering, speaker distribution, cable technology … We work to find a blend of mood and music and scent that makes sense not only for [the hotel’s] guests but for their location. After that we sample different music samples and set samples.

That’s an extensive list. What trends are you seeing in the industry?
A lot of the trends we focus on are “dayparting” [setting the mood through music]. Sometimes we even coordinate lights and music as well.

We’re also seeing hi-def footage on large video walls. Instead of necessarily seeing a billboard or TV channel like ESPN or Fox News, guests are seeing landscapes, passport channels, images from around the world, things that capture people’s attention whether they’re having a drink in the bar or waiting to check in.

A big trend in hospitality has been going global and going green – we of course accommodate that.

I’ve heard a lot about hotels having signature scents. Is that true?
Yes. It’s a similar strategy [to dayparting]. There are some very popular “hospitality scents.” In categories that means a clean and fresh scent, an odor neutralizer. In others, [hotels favor] scents that are a little more rich, a little more “frangrancy” as well as scents that really want to spark that memory. We also have ON scents – odor neutralizing scents. We use those frequently in places like fitness centers.

Are scents unique to hotels?
These are some popular broad scent choices. A white tea and fig scent is very popular, clean and fresh and distributes very well, is not intrusive. It covers the area very well for that lobby and welcoming scent. We have different types of scent distribution units – most are localized, some go through the HVAC units.

There’s another one that’s very popular in mid-scale hotels, green clover and aloe. A scent called Asia Garden is popular in casinos in Las Vegas.

Many clients do their own branded scent – when you walk into any one of their properties throughout the globe, [guests will] recognize it immediately. Some even change their scent seasonally.

So this is something that’s done just at the build or opening stage?
We can enhance the space with branded sound and branded fragrance, but we can also be a solution. We can fix an old property that was once a smoking hotel, or use a neutralizing scent on an old building that you’re going into.

Is a full-scale experience just a trend in higher end hotels?
Luxury and full-service hotels are doing more of a full sensory experience with music, scent and visuals, but some of the lower and mid-scale brands are offering smaller units or partial solutions.

Brands like Westin, Sheraton, Hilton, Doubletree like a full sensory experience. Select service hotels like Aloft, Elements and Four Points are really trending to use a lot more with branding and music. In “transitional” properties, which are traditionally less engaged, hotels are thinking that this is something they should do. It’s almost a subconscious requirement by travelers that a hotel doesn’t smell bad.

What’s cool about our role in this is we do a really good job of differentiating – it’s very possible to differentiate brand by sound and scent and visuals. We not only design but implement globally from a a consistency and branding experience.

When done correctly, these experience become part of the brand; part of the property. We also take our music and can feature it on social media, put it on Facebook pages, have it be kind of a fan experience.

[Image: Hotel Indigo in Atlanta, a Mood Media client]

The Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling-exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at “The Birth Of A Hotel” page, here. We’d also love to hear from you, our readers. If you have a topic about hotel development or trends that you’d love to see explored, or leave a comment below.

Hotel 101: So You Want To Build A Hotel? (Part Two)

Last week, we introduced you to “The Birth of a Hotel” series, where we announced plans to dissect and discuss all aspects of a hotel’s build – from developing and financing to building, marketing, opening and everything in between.

We talked all about the first four steps in the process (location, funding, hotel class and ownership / management structure) in “Hotel 101: So You Want To Build A Hotel (Part One).”

Now we’re back with Part Two, where we’ll go over the basics of marketing, development, branding and legal concerns – many of the items that can make or break the choices made in Part One’s discussion.

Step Five: So … Do You Have A Marketing Plan?
As in any business, a good marketing plan can make or break your success. Much of the data behind the plan is done at the point of due diligence, where hotel owners and management companies make decisions regarding location, brand, service level, number and quality of rooms and other on-property amenities.

“In some instances [hotels are] more complex than other businesses because [they have] a real estate component that sits separate from the operating component,” says John Hughes, director of hospitality management and associate professor of hospitality at the York College of Pennsylvania.

A year to six months from opening, the hotel makes its first major staff hires – a general manager and a director of sales and marketing. The general manager helps govern many of the major management-level hires of the hotel, and will, in many cases, serve as the face of the property.

The director of sales and marketing also will serve to help decide the hotel’s fate.
The pair work together to make many of the key marketing and branding decisions for the hotel, all while working to “pre-sell” group space and make critical plans to drive revenue in the year after opening.

Industry experts agree that relationships formed at this stage – both with vendors and area businesses – are critical. Here, experience is key.

Sandy Kunkel, partner and chief operating officer of Z/K Hospitality, which owns New York’s The Bowery House, says that drawing from past experience at this step is key.

His business partner, Alessandro Zampedri, put it this way. “You have to know who is most similar to you, what they charge and what they offer. It is also essential to market each property based on the set of limitations each property possesses. After an asset analysis you begin to determine who would be most likely to be attracted to what you are offering and then you build a targeted campaign to reach those particular consumers.”

Location is also a key driver as well as marketing through website photographs, PR and social media campaigns.

[Image courtesy of Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown’s Facebook page]Step Six: Let’s Hire Some Staff

If the hotel being built is branded, like Capella, key staffers are often adopted from other properties in the portfolio. Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown’s general manager came from the brand’s Dusseldorf, Germany property, while their director of sales and marketing had extensive Washington area experience at other luxury hotels.

Nick Gregory, general manager at boutique brand Kimpton’s new Hotel Monaco in Philadelphia, says that “the secret sauce” in hiring the correct staff is using a combination of people who are “torch-bearers for culture and shiny new faces.”

The hospitality industry is a small one. Staffers often spend their whole careers working in an industry, and moving from brand to brand or property to property is not uncommon.
“It’s nice to be the shiny new toy,” Gregory says with a wry laugh.

Step Seven: How’s That Construction Coming?

Hotels, like any large building, can often suffer costly construction setbacks – weather, zoning laws and delayed materials or structural issues are just some of the many reasons that can delay a property’s opening.

Delays, of course, can be costly.

Capella Washington D.C. will push to meet their public opening, currently scheduled for the second week in January, in order to be fully operational in time for the 2013 presidential inauguration. Thus far, the hotel is on schedule.

Step Eight: Sell, Baby, Sell

From marketing phase to opening day, hotel sales staff work to pre-sell reservations for the hotel’s function spaces and room blocks. Weddings, corporate events, and business travel partnerships can make up more than half of many hotels’ business, particularly during the week.

Step Nine: Training Is Key

Training is essential. Several weeks before opening, hotels conduct a “move in,” where staffers enter the property for the first time and begin learning to properly do their jobs and work with the new team. Here again, branded properties may have an advantage – a culture and training mantra to learn from.

Hank Fried of The Impulsive Group, which owns a number of New York City hotels, says that many of his staff have been with him upwards of two decades. He lacks a formal structured on-boarding program, instead preferring one-on-one interaction with his key staffers to get on the same page regarding corporate culture.

Capella Washington D.C.’s will begin with a daylong welcome initiation, helmed by none other than Capella CEO Horst Schulze. From housekeeping to the hotel concierge, no detail will be overlooked in the quest to have everything in tip-top shape for a grand opening.

And you won’t miss a beat – we’ll bring you along, every step of the way.

“The Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling-exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at “The Birth Of A Hotel” page, here. We’d also love to hear from you, our readers. If you have a topic about hotel development or trends that you’d love to see explored, email us or leave a comment below.

The Birth Of A Hotel: The Beginning

Welcome to “The Birth of a Hotel,” Gadling’s first-ever series on what it takes to build a hotel from the ground up. For the next four months, we’ll be discussing how a hotel is developed and opened, from the initial stages of financing to the economic impact of a new hotel on a community.

We’ll go inside to learn about how staffers are trained, how a hotel’s brand is chosen, where those fancy bath amenities and crazy shower heads are selected, speaking with people ranging from the concierge to the executive chef and everyone in between.

It’s an exciting series for Gadling, and we’ll be giving readers the first glimpse of the soon-to-open Capella Washington hotel, the luxury brand Capella’s new flagship property. Many thanks to Capella for allowing us insider access so we can photograph, tweet and talk about a real-life example in the series.

Expect to see an article just about every week on some aspect of the hotel development process, all tagged with the handy “Birth of a Hotel” label. We welcome what interests you about the hotel world too, so please feel free to email or leave comments on topics you’d like covered in the series.

We look forward to keeping you entertained and informed over the coming months! Remember, you can always bookmark this link to follow along with the series.