A few minutes with the new Ian Schrager

A few minutes with the new Ian Schrager

I spent an hour late last week walking through Public Chicago with Ian Schrager. This is Schrager’s brand that he is developing on his own, while still working with Marriott on Edition hotels. As always, Ian was eminently quotable and full of surprises. Love him or hate him, he is usually a step ahead of the curve and a trendsetter in the hotel industry.

At 65, he remains a master at marketing and schmoozing, and was quick to give me some inside information about pending deals that, unfortunately, I cannot share just yet. The journalist in me felt he was giving me these scoops to curry favor. I hope I am wrong with my suspicions. The funny thing is that Ian told me he is rather introverted socially, and prefers the corner seat and his wife’s hand at parties. He has always been somewhat soft-spoken and lets his actions speak louder than words.

As for Public, I like his positioning as a 3.5-star at a very accessible price point (starting at US$135) with the vibe of a 4-star boutique. Of course, this time he says the difference maker will be great service and value. No more nickel-and-diming and a lot less attitude, he said rather emphatically. He is done playing that game.

What really surprised me was when he told me who he sees as his competition: Courtyard by Marriott and Hilton Garden Inn. He wants to get into that space and steal share with a more unique experience. Can he bring in the road warriors who love their loyalty points? Time will tell as he tries to roll out this concept quickly, hopefully with a soon-to-be-announced equity partner.

I liked what I saw from Public. Ian did not make a huge investment in the rooms, he usually never does, spending just enough to pull off and execute a strong and original concept. I feel like the public space is what really carries the hotel with its “Starbucks on steroids” lobby and library, as well as the reasonably priced Jean-Georges Vongerichten restaurant. It is different and accessible.

He is doing something very unique with room service — very reasonably priced gourmet brown bags dropped at the door by more efficient runners, not waiters, in five to eight minutes. A pot of roomservice coffee: US$5.

Use the player below to hear Schrager himself during our interview, and if you like click on the downward-pointing arrow on the right side of the player to download the mp3 to listen to at your convenience. I pulled out some talking points that were very interesting and worth a few minutes of your time to understand what one of the industry’s true innovators is thinking today.

Ian Schrager interview by HOTELSmagazine