With the simple goal of increasing revenues at its 11 extended-stay locations in North America, Starwood’s Element brand unwittingly discovered a flexible, multipurpose solution: a mobile, airline-style cart, which they originally used to serve beverages in the hotels’ lobby areas.
“Our evening receptions are complimentary, but we wanted to add a cash bar for afterward,” explains Jeremy Cooper, director of global guest initiatives, specialty select brands, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide. “There was a need for ongoing beverage service and a branded guest experience.”
This strategy, however, does more than help offset the expense of its receptions and activate the lobbies at night as guests relax in the lobby with friends over drinks. Since its inception, the cart has transformed into a true multitasker. In addition to serving beverages and snacks throughout the lobby in evenings, it holds towels and water in the fitness, pool, and bike areas; delivers amenities to guest rooms; posts menus in front of Restore, the onsite 24-hour pantry; provides groups in meeting rooms with roll-in breaks and happy hours; and welcomes guests near the front desk with infused water.
“We’re in an urban area, so using the carts as a rolling cash bar wasn’t a great fit,” notes Amanda Sampino, GM of Element Omaha Midtown Crossing in Omaha, Nebraska. “But we found many other ways to make it work, such as to hold maps, towels, helmets, water, and fruit at our bike and running station, which also helps market this program to guests.”
For 2014, the decal-wrapped Salon Carts have been rolled out in all Element locations. The bright-green mobile units, designed by a Seattle company that creates airline carts, boast a compact size and self-contained format—ideal for Element’s limited storage space—so they can easily be locked and rolled away. And by branding the carts and showcasing their versatility, the properties are able to meet guests’ needs and improve satisfaction with minimal investment.
“The cart draws attention with its pop of color, and customers perceive it as added value and an extra personal touch,” says Sampino. “This versatile piece of equipment fits perfectly with the fresh, active, and healthy image of the Element brand.”
Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, Mississippi.