Posted on 03/12/2018 by Lukas James
The concept of private social clubs is not a recent phenomenon. Whilst the terminology may have once conjured imagery of debaucherous aristocrats swilling champagne in smoke-filled, female-free dining rooms, the success of new generation private member clubs like Nick Jones’ Soho House has a number of upstarts creating waves through the whole hospitality industry. We take a look at how these clubs are shaping expectations and what the hospitality industry can learn from private member clubs.
The Soho House model has been the darling of the modern members-only club world, establishing a 18 properties across the globe since the doors first opened in 1995. A new generation of hotel-member club hybrids like NeueHouse (www.neuehouse.com/) and WeWork (www.wework.com) adapt the Soho House model in some ways but are focussed on creating a more inclusive model for a broader customer base, whilst still retaining the ‘members-only’ feel.
Many hotels are looking to increase their audience base, what lessons are there to take from private members clubs and how can becoming more selective actually help hotel bottom lines?
Find Your Passion
Old-world members clubs traditionally focussed on wealth and status, where level of wealth and the college and university you attended acted as barriers to entry.
The new generation of clubs focus on assembling communities of members that have something in common. Whether this is people that work in traditionally creative industries, entrepreneurs or industry selective groups, with a singular focus, hotels are able to provide more value to their guests.
Soho House has been able to follow this model to perfection, building a strong tribe of members across the film, fashion, advertising, music, art and media sectors. Whenever guests are interacting with others that share their passions conversation is less forced, opportunities for collaboration present themselves and a true sense of belonging asserts itself.
La Granja (www.lagranjaibiza.com) is a fantastic example of a members only model with a clear focus on a particular niche. The 10-room farmstead is set amongst Ibiza’s pastoral inlands and is ‘dedicated to the cultivation of arts, crops and inner gardens’. Guests eat biodynamic foods and enjoy small batch products, as well as taking part in farm rituals to inspire change and promote mindfulness.
What’s Behind Door Number Three?
At the Curtain Hotel and Private Member Club (www.thecurtain.com) and Four Seasons Ten Trinity (www.fourseasons.com/tentrinity), guests are welcomed in some areas while other doors are closed to non-members.
When asked about The Curtain, which opened in 2017, Michael Achenbaum, co-owner and president of Gansevoort Hotel Group said that a hotel needs “varying levels of exclusivity versus very open kinds of spaces … you need a little bit of both. You need to have offerings that are very general public, that are very open-minded in feel. Then you have to have some spaces where there’s a sense that there are relationships involved. It’s a balance.”
Part of the appeal of clubs is the sense of community that they engender. What’s the point of being in a club if you’re never around to be a part of it?
The clubs become an additional revenue source for properties as well and ,eans hotels don’t need to rely so heavily on daily occupancy. There are less rooms to build and manage, as well as “supercharged food and beverage and spa revenue because you have like minded members and their guests who like to be there,” says Brandmark Collective CEO Tony Kurrz.
Achenbaum explains, “we want people who are going to be popping in consistently, want to drive our food and beverage, and add more to the community by being there,” he said. “Having someone who pops in twice a year is not really part of the community.”
Keep it upbeat
There is a reason that comedy sitcoms play a series of noisy guffaws in their laughter tracks during airplay. We may think that laughter is innate but laughter often relies on a number of cues - in fact we are thirty times more likely to laugh if we are with company than when we are alone.
When people are in an environment where they know other people around them, and people are having fun, it elevates the mood of the room. It may, in fact, be just the thing to raise them out of a bad mood.
Weekly events for members should be engaging and keep people stimulated. London’s The Curtain has a program that includes cabaret, speakers, whisky tastings, wine-pairing dinners hosted by local wine dealers, live musical performances, movie premieres, and more. The activities are not openly available to the public and encourage repeat visitation.
Could the models of Soho House, The Curtain and others provide a blueprint for where the hospitality industry is headed? How do you balance exclusivity against access? These are just some of the questions that a new model of hotels and clubs raise.
The hoteliers that can take on these lessons will be best able adapt to the changing desires and requirements of a new generation of consumers, allowing them to define the guest experience and exploit future opportunities.
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