Excerpt from Co.Design
Chatbots, plentiful amenities, and hardly any furniture: Hotelier Ian Schrager’s newest venture aims for luxury on the cheap.
Public developed an app that lets guests check in remotely, and they can receive a mobile key that allows them to use their smartphones to unlock their rooms if they don’t want to check in on the hotel’s iPads. (There’s also a more traditional key card available.)
There’s no room service at Public, a decision Schrager made to help reduce operating costs–i.e., for staffing. Instead, Public offers a grab-and-go service. Using a custom chatbot, guests can order food and beverages from the hotel’s restaurant and within a few minutes, it’s boxed up and waiting for them on a shelf in the hotel’s lobby.
“At Sweetgreen and Starbucks, you can order your coffee and your salad or whatever you want on your iPhone, and they put it on a shelf and you pick it up,” Schrager says. “You don’t have to wait in line it’s just very efficient. It increases convenience of shopping, which is a big thing. It’s not only value [that’s important], it’s convenience.”
Schrager’s rule of thumb for integrating technology into the hotels was restraint. “The only reason to have technology in a room is to improve the experience or it makes it less expensive,” he says. “If it doesn’t do one of those, there’s no reason.”
For example, he calls out the hospitality industry’s propensity to try and insert unnecessary–and expensive–tech into rooms with only marginal benefits for guests. Years ago, it was fax machines and printers, television screens in bathroom mirrors, and even the dreaded toilet-adjacent phone. Now, many hotels are putting iPads into rooms to control shades and lighting. (Schrager didn’t even want to put phones in the room, but had to for safety reasons.) When he was developing the project, Amazon and Google both approached him to integrate their voice assistants into the rooms, but he declined–since he didn’t think the technology was mature enough to be beneficial for his guests.
Schrager hopes that his new definition of a luxury hotel experience–eye-catching design, convenience, efficiency, and a lively social scene–at an affordable rate will help him stay competitive. He plans to expand the Public brand of hotels to “24-hour international gateway cities” and is eyeing London, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles next.
“I’m trying to reinvent myself with coming up with a new kind of hotel and disrupting things and upsetting the status quo,” he says.
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