Epicurean icon brings hybrid to central Europe

The emergence of The Julius brand in Prague further proved the winds of hospitality change continue to blow.

A Viennese gourmet food brand from the Julius Meinl family is jumping into the hybrid hotel space with a tech-led, apartment-style offering that includes co-working and communal social spaces, lounges, and on-site retail and F&B. The Julius is launching in Prague this Spring with further openings planned for Belgrade and Budapest. Longer term, the Meinl family wants to further expand the concept – first in central Europe.

The Julius will offer 168 short- and long-term apartment-style residences complete with living rooms and separate bedroom spaces, with many featuring an open-plan kitchen. Homey features will include oak wood floors, soft linen sheets and contemporary bathrooms.

The Julius will also offer tech-enabled services, self-check-in and contactless room entry, as well as on-site shops and restaurants stocked with House of Julius Meinl products.

Each booking is tailored to the needs and preferences of the guest, providing options such as an individual address for deliveries and detailed guides to help navigate the city as a local.

The first residence, The Julius Prague, will launch within a reimagined art deco building and is being designed by Italian architects Matteo Thun & Partners. A central light-filled conservatory sits at the heart of the building, while communal areas, restaurants and residences will offer soft furnishings and an autumnal color palette, inspired by the works of the celebrated Czech artist Alphonse Mucha.

“Good customer service, quality products and an environment to embrace innovation – three simple yet fundamental values that underpin everything we do,” said The Julius Co-Founder Julius Meinl Vl. “Our aim is to set the highest possible benchmark in the hospitality sector.”

HOTELS recently spoke to Julius Meinl, co-founder of The Julius, to learn more about the family’s plans for further development.

HOTELS: You’re a hybrid hotel brand – why that direction?

Julius Meinl: Put simply, we do not believe that most of the hospitality offerings that are available today meet the full requirements of modern travelers. Of course, if you are traveling on your own, will arrive late in the evening and depart early next morning, a hotel with a 20 square meter room, an antiquated business centre and a dull restaurant may be fine. But if you want more space of your own, are staying for longer, or are travelling with a family, it simply is not. Travelers today want more space of their own, more flexibility and to stay in venues that provide the services that they really value. The Julius recognizes this and makes it central to the offer.

Rendering of the welcome lounge by designer Matteo Thun at The Julius in Prague

H: What are your longer-term goals with the hotel brand? Where would you like to expand beyond what has been announced?

JM: The Julius is part of a strategy of the House of Julius Meinl to acquire, develop, own and operate serviced residences in some of Europe’s most exciting cities. We initially focus on key capitals in Central Europe, which is home to the House of Julius Meinl, but are looking to expand to other destinations in the future. We are constantly looking at opportunities in Europe and in the U.S.

H: Are you developing with your own equity and are you willing to bring in equity partners? And will you be willing to just manage or franchise the brand?

JM: Currently, entities representing the interests of the Julius Meinl family are the owners of all the equity. Depending on how quickly we do ultimately expand, it may well be that additional equity is required. The first port of call for that will, of course, be the family. However, we recognize also that third-party equity investors may be able to bring more than money alone; experience and ideas are also important as, in today’s world, is the ability to institutionalize. Therefore, at the right time and on the right terms I am sure that we will eventually be willing to bring in equity partners.

We see the ability to create value from our properties through their development into The Julius properties, from their ownership as investments and through their eventual operation. However, we also recognize that both owning and operating is quite a capital-intensive approach. Given this, it may well be that once we have reached a certain level, other approaches will make sense and will enable us to accelerate our growth.

H: Why venture into hotels, especially now?

JM: The House of Julius Meinl has been synonymous with finesse, tradition and quality for 160 years. In 2021, The Julius was born, a natural progression, extending and honoring the founding principles of the House of Julius Meinl, bringing our impeccable standards to a new sphere of hospitality and extending our expertise to new audiences and locations.

Our destinations are not traditional hotels; they are a fusion of hotels and living spaces – a concept that we created even before the pandemic.

H: How is COVID impact and informing your plans?

JM: Pre-COVID, the residence segment grew quickly; the benefits of the customer proposition and the economic advantages have made residences a fast-growing accommodation segment, with strong historic growth in both supply and demand.

It is natural that travellers will continue to want to manage their risk of exposure to COVID. Linked to this, aparthotels may provide the accommodation of choice for a much higher proportion of travelers.

As such, we believe that COVID has raised awareness among both travelers and investors for the residence segment, accelerating its growth. At the same time, though, we do not believe that COVID is somehow required to continue to be a serious problem for our properties to succeed. We believe that they will succeed however COVID evolves.

H: What point of difference will Julius bring?

JM: The Julius represents next generation hospitality, drawn from a proud history of service and quality. Our locations are places to sleep, to stay and to live, offering sustainable luxury at an accessible price point, in prime city center locations.

Our aim is to set the highest possible benchmark in the hospitality sector, whether that is for a cup of coffee or a room for the night. We will offer:

High-spec interiors: Our generously sized private residences are beautifully fitted with world-class amenities and elegant yet homely features such as oak wood floors, soft linen sheets and contemporary bathrooms. The atmosphere of home extends to communal living areas, open for residents and their families to relax in, network from and enjoy.

Experience: Whether for a city-break or looking for a longer-term stay, The Julius is a vibrant place to relax or socialize. Spacious communal areas, relaxing lounges and professional co-working spaces allow guests to network, meet like-minded people or simply unplug. Our easy-to-use services enable guests to discover the city, providing the understated yet personal touch that we are famed for.

Flexibility: Whether staying for one night or one month, our guests experience the freedom of apartment living alongside a first-class experience tailored to their preferences. Moving away from the traditional reception desk, our innovative use of tech creates a streamlined guest experience, allowing self-check in, access to a local’s guide for the city and everything they need to get the most out of their visit.

Sustainability: Each of our residences are designed to stand the test of time and leave a positive impression on our environment. We are delivering sustainable initiatives across the House of Julius Meinl and in each of our locations. Our working ethos and products are guided by the principles of reducing consumption and creating quality products and services that support our society. We believe in creating places and products that support our environment for the benefit of future generations, and we believe this is of utmost importance to our residents also.

“We initially focus on key capitals in Central Europe, which is home to the House of Julius Meinl, but are looking to expand to other destinations in the future. We are constantly looking at opportunities in Europe and in the U.S.” – Julius Meinl

H: How will you differentiate your public/communal space and how important is this space to the brand and its essence?

JM: The Julius will offer unique look and feel created by Italian Studio Matteo Thun following the principle “soul of the room, soul of the place.” The rooms are similar design in our properties; however, ground floor amenities, the restaurant, co-working spaces and the gym are going to be specific in each destination, displaying the flavor and uniqueness of the destination. In addition, it is our intention that our properties should incorporate boutique outlets for the House of Julius Meinl products developed for and mainly sold through Julius Meinl am Graben in Vienna. These products are terrific. Their availability should both reinforce the brand within the properties and draw people to the properties.

H: What/who inspired you?

JM: Personal experience and obstacles one comes across as a traveller, as well as insights from friends and colleagues. Nowadays, the modern businessman travels less frequently but stays longer at one place. So, there is a natural need for a home away from home. Digital nomads do not depend on the office space, they find co-working spaces in the places they travel to. Likewise, the modern family wants rooms that configure well to more than two occupants. The bottom line: today’s world needs to be much more flexible and adaptable to travelers’ needs. Precisely because traditional hospitality venues tend to be neither flexible nor adapted in this way, we saw the opportunity to create an offering that was different.

Honoring our founding principles, the creation of The Julius is an exciting moment to not only look back on our legacy but to also establish a new future. The Julius offers a chance to bring the standards of the House of Julius Meinl to a new sphere of hospitality, to a new audience and to new destinations.

H: What do you like and dislike about current upscale and luxury hotel products today?

JM: Around the world today there are many beautiful hotels with great staff, some recent and some with long histories. However, most operate on the same premise; namely that a hotel room is just for sleeping and bathing. We believe that in most situations’ travelers want a great deal more than that – and that travelers do not just come in ones and twos, but in families as well. Most hotel offerings are not well adapted for the needs of families.

Also, the number of people traveling for business on assignments of two weeks or more has been increasing. Our service and offer fits this growing trend, too