Origin Hotel Collection Pays Employees to Travel
New brand keeps a close eye to local F&B, but with a worldly perspective.
Origin Hotel Collection launched in early August with the opening of its first property, Origin Red Rocks in Golden, Colorado, the official hotel partner to Red Rocks Amphitheatre. It’s a brand that is proactive in helping guests get out and about in the area around each property—as well as helping employees explore in a much larger scope.
While Origin certainly wants guests to spend in its restaurants, it also knows why they’re traveling and encourages them to explore the area. For guests of each Origin property, the hotel provides easy access to do so through its Do List, an experience guide curated by the hotel’s Locals and guests, featuring the area’s must-eat, must-drink, and must-do tips. Guests can take the suggestions of Locals and former guests in order to experience all that the destination has to offer, from local hot spots and hidden gems, to biking trails and the best breweries.
But what is novel about the new brand’s interest in exploration is its Origin Travel Program, which provides opportunities for Origin employees, or Locals, as the brand calls them, to explore other areas around the country.
Every Local is granted funds to travel the country and the opportunity to stay at any Origin or Schulte (Origin’s management company) property for a discounted rate. In return, all that is asked of Locals is to come back and share their experience, to further promote living an experience-driven lifestyle. The funds each employee is granted are able to be used at the leisure of each employee as long as they are out and experiencing something; there are no stipulations.
Once employees return from their travels, they are encouraged to post photos and details of their travels on a Travel Board that is located in the employee lounge and talk about their travels to spark interest in their co-workers and the hotel’s guests for future travels.
Thrash Group, based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, created the Origin Hotel brand, which will open additional properties in Lexington, Kentucky, Raleigh, North Carolina, and Westminster, Colorado, by the end of 2019.
“In restaurants especially, you get turnover,” says Walker Thrash, partner in Thrash Group. “In an economy with very low unemployment, you have the basic issue of staffing. When we originally were looking at our concept, we were asking a couple questions but kept coming back to the same central theme. We really want this to be an employee-forward model and have ownership have a relationship with the tribe, which is what we call our team onsite—and have it be real, not just something on paper. The travel program was born so we could have a relationship between ownership, management, and the employee."
Thrash says the program demonstrates that Origin is invested in its employees' development.
"The travel program is a way to say that in the culture of the hotel we’re building, these are the kind of people we want to attract—people who enjoy travel and experiences," he says. "We didn’t create it as an incentive; it’s simply a right. If you work at Origin, we want you to travel and pay you to make sure you travel each year and bring those experiences back to the hotel. Across the board, if you had to check boxes, and you asked potential employees, ‘Do you enjoy travel,’ the yesses will be more successful in the overall culture of the hotel.
Back to the Origin
Employee learnings from travels ultimately inform their enthusiasm for and perspective about the F&B they are executing back at the hotel, which is decidedly local to the property.
“We want to create a food and beverage offering that aligns with the Origin brand,” Thrash says. “It’s just important, if not more important, that we create the right guest experience at the hotel with our F&B offering, as creating a profitable restaurant venture within the hotel. I truly believe in the way current travel selections work, that the right restaurant really brands your hotel as much as anything else. Our goal with every hotel is to do something inherently local, and the same is true of the restaurant.”
In Lexington, Kentucky, for example, Thrash is examining the local scene, talking to restaurateurs, and asking people what they feel is missing.
“We tried to do that with our Origin Red Rocks project,” says Thrash. “We looked at the offerings in the area—as fundamental as what people are eating there. We came up with a Nomad Taqueria + Beer Garden, which aligns with the traveler who is using the Origin Red Rocks product. As each hotel comes up, the last thing we want to do is have a prepackaged restaurant concept that we cart around to each hotel. That would be antithetical to what we’re trying to do.”