New York is not only a capital of commerce but also for hotels. With over a hundred thousand total guestrooms as well as properties that range from modern lifestyle and traditional boutique luxury to the monsters that abut Times Square, you can find just about anything on this empire isle. This makes a vibrant, albeit cutthroat, competitive environment, and tons of learning opportunities therein.
My latest sojourn into the city found me at the newly launched Hotel Hayden, a 122-room property in the perennially hip Chelsea neighborhood that opened in 2012 as the Indigo Chelsea, the first hotel for this IHG brand in New York City. Categorized as an upscale, lifestyle-driven boutique hotel, this independent has sought to draw prominent influences from the surrounding Chelsea and nearby flower district, all under the direction of an streamlined team of approximately 20 employees and another 30-some contracted labor positions for F&B, housekeeping, the revenue team and housemen.
During my time there, I sat down with the general manager, Mark Speranza, to discuss what makes his property special amongst so much competition as well as the transition process.
Tell us about the previous branding. Why the change?
As the first Indigo Hotel, the hotel had good success under the new and innovative brand. Fortuna Realty then open the Hotel Hugo very successfully and they saw the potential in branding a collection of independent hotels – Hotel Hugo, Hotel Henri, Hotel Hayden and the soon-to-come Hotel Hendricks. The independent business model is beneficial in many ways including the lack of franchise fees and the ability to operate a bespoke individual hotel. The costs of the conversion were ‘significant’ as the hotel is now at a higher tier than it was previously.
How does this arrangement change your management approach?
For most contracted or outsourced models, we still have a supervisor that is a Hotel Hayden employee, so communication is through each department head as in a traditional business model. Our outsourced revenue team is located just six blocks away, so we can still hold weekly face-to-face meetings with this partner. The F&B subcontractor has associates on property at all times, so that relationship is also seamless as far as communication.
Tell us about the facilities.
There is one meeting room, Hendricks, that is 460 square feet and located on the hotel’s lower level. F&B is all handled by Mykonos Blue Restaurant, which offers Greek-themed cuisine and over 80 Greek wines. They operate a 40-seat restaurant for breakfast, lunch and dinner with some additional seating in front of the hotel’s main entrance. Mykonos rooftop is opened for small plates and cocktails, and it has an incredible view of the surrounding Chelsea area and a direct sightline to the Freedom Tower. Mykonos Restaurant also handles room service and F&B requirements for in-house meetings.
What’s your groups strategy?
We handle a variety of groups including contributions from the social, corporate and association segments. Businesses in the area are a combination of media players, high-tech stalwarts and newcomers, as well as some domestic and international tourism to the Chelsea area. Local attractions include Madison Square Garden, the Javits Convention Center and the Fashion Institute of Technology. We aim to provide a small hotel experience that enhances our location and the services that we provide. We target groups from the companies of our individual travelers, through our relationship with Preferred, and via local key relationships and area knowledge.
Do you have any other special programs and partnerships?
Hayden is located in a bustling area competing with big brand hotels that offer definite strengths and weaknesses. As the independent hotel outlier, we will leverage and relish this status, promoting the benefits of being boutique in size and in style. This will include reciprocal partnerships with area organizations such as FIT, The Highline, local art galleries and Chelsea Markets. Whether we are styling our suites, joining an area fundraising initiative or providing our guests with bespoke products and services, we are true to our location and to bringing the Chelsea experience into all facets of the hotel.