Bill Duncan, brand leader for Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton, knows that Homewood Suites’ Gen 8 prototype is still very viable. However, as development land becomes harder to acquire, especially in the acreage required for the Gen 8 Homewood Suites, he knew another option would be needed. “We were starting to see a trend of modifications to our Gen 8 prototype simply because there were not as many pieces of land out there that were at that 3 acre size,” he says. “We still had some and that was great, but we were seeing more and more requests. The pieces of land out there are just smaller, especially as you move into the ‘A’ locations and urban locations.”
Noticing the trend, he and his team decided to look for a way to get the Homewood Suites experience into a smaller piece of land, with one caveat. “The big goal was that it not effect the guest-facing experience,” Duncan says in no uncertain terms. “We do have 300 hotels already opened and we didn’t want to have anything that might negatively affect those properties.”
What Homewood Suites did was create a prototype that is flexible and scaleable to fit into the various land sites. “They can go upward, sideways, shotgun,” Duncan says. “We brought some flexibility.”
Luckily, because of all of the modification requests at other developments, they had a number of ideas to consider. “We took the best of the best of ideas that we had done to adjust the Gen 8 to fit into smaller parcels of land and put them all together,” he continues.
One of the key changes was to move the Lodge, which was normally in somewhat of a separate building. Instead, the new prototype places the Lodge under the building so it does not protrude, using up much less space. “We’d done that in many hotels, including urban hotels,” Duncan says. “It’s a small change that significantly helped us reduce land, and again, not impact the guest experience.”
Dawn Koenig, vice president for Homewood Suites by Hilton, says two other changes of significance are the mix of studio suites to one-bedroom suites and the size of the studio suites. “In our Gen 8 prototype, the mix of studio to one-bedrooms was a 50-50 split. In Gen 9 it is 60 percent studios,” she says. “The studio suite has been reduced but we changed the layout so it’s more of an “L” shape, which does a good job of optimizing that space.”
Duncan says that the “L” shape bring more of a residential feel to the layout, as well.
Koenig says in addition to the layout change, there are some décor changes that work to the advantage of bettering the guest experience. “There was a desk and a table that was more in the kitchen area. What we’ve done is eliminate the desk and kept the more oversized kitchen activity table. Now we have a moveable desk that can be moved all over the room,” she says.
From a décor standpoint, the new prototype keeps the branding of Homewood Suites. Koenig says the brand has always been flexible with its owners and works with their designers to accommodate their own color schemes, etc. “As long as they’re meeting all of the brand standards and FF&E specifications, they can choose nearly anything they want,” she says. “It’s as long as it meets the DNA of the brand.”
Can the new prototype help attract new developers and new customers? “We wanted to make sure we were meeting the needs of our current owners because 80 percent of Homewood Suites are built by focused-service owners,” Koenig says. “The Gen 9 really came out of requests from current owners who say we have the right market but we have sites that are too small. So we wanted to make sure we have a product that our current ownership can build, especially when they want to build.”
Duncan says the new prototype also reduces construction costs through the reduction in amount of land and materials. “With the efficiency we got by redesigning the back of house and the Lodge area, it reduces construction costs by 10 to 15 percent overall,” he says. “It ends up reducing costs per key anywhere from 4 to 6 percent, which has been very appealing. It has gone over very well.”