Micrometrics Marketing Lead, Dave Hale, sat down with Audrey Laurent and Sergio Maclean from Mac&Lo to discuss:
- The uniqueness of the Shinola Hotel in Detroit.
- Why they felt it was absolutely necessary to turn their properties from hotels into physical and emotional safe havens for their guests.
- The need for amazing leadership and team efforts to unite around executing on a common vision
Audrey and Sergio first started their careers in the arts. Audrey was a dancer and Sergio was an actor and singer. Their love for hospitality arose from the flexibility of being able to still work in the arts in the beginning of their career along with many different roles in the hospitality industry. Their artistic background as well as their travels in the United States and Europe inspired and helped them build the fundamentals that they use today in their hospitality business. They are the proud owners of Mac&Lo, a full development, management, and consulting company for restaurant and hotel operations. Their operation is nimble, unique, and focused on people – both staff and guests.
They have collaborated and consulted with some of the bigger names in the industry across Europe and in the United States and their biggest project to date was the full development of the Shinola Hotel in Detroit which they started developing in 2016 and opened in 2018. They are currently managing it with great success.
Audrey and Sergio had many wonderful things to say about the Shinola Hotel and what makes it unique.
“I mean I think there are a few components there that make it unique, obviously the building and it’s his history is 100% unique, you’re not going to replicate that anytime soon, for sure. And then you know, filtering the aesthetic of the Shinola brand into a hotel, making that happen is unique because it’s never happened before. So what that looks like and how that feels like in terms of design and culture is very different.”
“We’re so used to working and training and developing niche boutique hotels that we sort of came to infuse that into the project as well which hasn’t really been around in Detroit for a minute, it’s not like it’s never been around in Detroit, but it hasn’t for a while so that also makes it very unique. Creating unique properties is the game in boutique hospitality.“ The uniqueness can be seen from the design aesthetic, to the guest offerings, and the food and beverage options. All of which were enhanced, not stripped back, during the pandemic.
When many hotels were shifting into the mentality of a “battleground” to get through the pandemic, Audrey and Sergio chose to turn the Shinola Hotel into a safe haven.
“We took the complete opposite approach to the industry. Nobody needed a reminder of what we were going through. So, taking everything into account, we wanted to create environments that would really allow you to escape the pandemic in the safest possible way, but really focus not on what you were not getting as an experience but how we could upgrade the experience from what was normally happening, so that it’s really worth it to you to come to us.” The demographic that the Shinola Hotel was catering to were people who wanted to get out of the house and go somewhere safe where they could still have an exceptional experience, an escape of sorts.
The Shinola Hotel became a safe haven and upgraded their experience during the pandemic by:
- Doubling up their minibars since people could not go out to grab a drink.
- Offering free movies on demand so that you could have dinner and a movie in the rooms and suites.
- Expanded in-room dining to provide the full menu of the restaurant from their James Beard award winning chef Andrew Carmellini.
- Not downsizing their team. They wanted their staff to feel relaxed and confident in order to do their job well for guests.
“We added as many things as possible, so that you would really feel like you were upgrading by coming alive rather than hiding in a more institutional, almost hospital like environment.” They offered an escape. “Human Nature doesn’t change, it may stall for a second, but it’s unavoidable the moment things start to open we’re going to have the business back. The moment you give people the right product, they’re going to come to you regardless of the environment, you just need to make it responsibly safe for your team, as well as for the guest. You don’t need to change the product into some sort of downgraded version of hospitality, because to us hospitality is very simple, it’s not a high luxury, of course we have incredibly high design but really it’s what our team delivers.”
Dave asked Audrey & Sergio about the efforts they took to unite their team around a common vision and bring them into that discussion and that experience. How did they go about doing that and what was the vision?
The first step was to hire people who were naturally good communicators and who didn’t come from a traditional hotel background. “When you are working in a boutique hotel you understand what the boutique environment feels like. It’s not a corporate hotel, it’s not a chain hotel. So it’s a different mentality. It comes with a different set of services.” They look for big-personality type people who are natural communicators and then give them all the training possible so they’re not thinking about the “1,2,3,4 steps” they need to take at the front desk or anywhere else in the hotel. “Those become second nature to them and the focus can stay on the guest. They’re really just connecting to the guest, that’s the approach – very theatrical. We’re always looking for ways to grow our managers, and therefore grow the staff along with it, which you know it’s always a work in progress to us. Finding perfection is not a thing, it’s kind of always evolving.”
Dave closed out the engaging conversation by asking Audrey & Sergio for the top takeaways they have learned that they will take into operations moving forward.
Their main takeaways were:
- Focus on the people.
- Don’t change who you are because guests will come to you for who you are. Enhance but do not change.
- Hotels are for human beings. Focus can get lost with “heads in beds” but we have to remember why people come to hotels in the first place.
- Trust your teams and be receptive.
Sergio closed out the conversation by saying, “You seek theatre, you’re seeking the arts, you’re seeking entertainment, and in hospitality to take people away from the daily routine for one hour, two hours, one day, one week, and give them something unique, that stops everything for a second – where there’s no worries. It’s that moment that counts.”
Helping guests create more of the moments that count can be done with Micrometrics’ Helix automated guest messaging platform!
Learn more about Helix here.