Skift Take

Archer Hotels is helping keep the lifestyle hospitality market interesting with high-end F&B partnerships and a focus on human—versus hotel—experiences.

We’ve all met a guy like Archer, who can make a well-nuanced martini with one hand while texting his friends in Marseilles with the other.

Archer, always the consummate host with equal parts deference and flair, is the mysterious persona behind Archer Hotels, which opened its first property in New York’s buzzy Garment District last spring. Developing the Archer persona is a clever mechanism that adds a more human element to the brand, and it plays well on social media. The Standard Hotel group also does it deftly with its Stan D’Arde character.

During the year before the New York launch, we heard a lot about Archer on social. He was living large in Paris one week, then drinking craft beer in Williamsburg the next. At times the persona went from aspirational to punchable. We never really get a close glimpse of Archer because he’s the original silent traveler. He’s savvy with mobile and the latest hotel tech, but he’s also comfortable engaging locals in the lounge when the mood strikes.

Two more Archer properties are presently in development in Napa and Austin, both scheduled to open late next year.

With all of the big hotel brands moving into the lifestyle market lately, everyone seems to be reading off the same Lifestyle Hotels 101 playbook, filled with cliches about large lobbies and local food. So we looked for a newcomer like Archer where the corporate brand team still consider themselves as much hotel people as they do business and branding people. That’s getting harder to find these days.

“The lifestyle segment is the new darling in the industry because everyone wants to tap into the new consumer mindset,” says Cheryl Gilliam, senior VP of brands & marketing for the Wichita-based hotel development company LodgeWorks behind Archer Hotels. “However, those new brands have to maintain their chain attributes, whereas the original definition of a boutique, lifestyle hotel is small and independent with its own personality that can’t be duplicated.”

So who is Archer?

Gilliam says, “Archer is the best host in all of us. He’s the charming, creative, worldly inspiration behind the brand, because we’re not just a hotel experience, we’re a human experience.”

That human experience is manifested in Manhattan with almost the entire lobby dedicated to food and beverage (F&B), beginning with star chef David Burke’s fabrick restaurant. The big, bright yellow leather-tufted couches at the entrance connect the bar and restaurant that lead up to the Spyglass rooftop bar directly facing the Empire State Building. So there’s constant movement through the hotel’s public spaces based on intentional design, like you would expect at any well hosted cocktail party or dinner in someone’s home. Someone, say, like Archer.

This design concept, where basically a hotel’s entire ground level is dedicated to F&B, that just happens to have a bunch of rooms on top, is evolving rapidly. Ian Schrager’s EDITION brand is at the forefront of this, as he did with Public Hotels. New Le Meridien Hotels are moving in this direction, and it’s flawlessly executed in many indie boutique properties from Ace Hotel London Shoreditch to Hotel Daniel Vienna.

“Archer appreciates food and beverage, specific to where his home is, where you’re swept into the experience,” says Gilliam. “This is about much more than an open concept design. It’s an integrated whole where guests and locals flow from space to space.”

Your Hosts: Charlie & Archer

Yesterday, Archer Hotels announced a new partnership with restaurateur Charlie Palmer, who will be developing all F&B at Archer Hotel Napa. Other Charlie Palmer Steak restaurants are located in New York, Washington, DC, Reno and Las Vegas, serving progressive menu items like Ritz Cracker-stuffed Maine lobster.

For the Texas property, Archer teamed up with celebrity chef David Bull, who runs the trendy Second Bar + Kitchen and top-ranked Congress restaurants in Austin.

So for the first three Archer properties out of the gate, that’s a rather high-caliber of chefs for a new brand just over one-year old, and it’s something that big box brands couldn’t possibly duplicate at this price point.

We asked Palmer why he decided to team up with Archer and LodgeWorks.

“They’re a very stable group and we’re very stable operators,” he says. “We’re an independent company with many, many different concepts, so we’re not a chain of restaurants. I think what makes a great hotel dining experience unique is the combination of day visitors, locals and hotel guests. That’s the experience we want to create with Archer, where hotel guests are rubbing shoulders with locals.”

Half of those hotel guests will be women, according to Gilliam. She says Archer’s guest profile is 80% independent traveler and 50% female. When asked why the brand is so popular with women, she points to the brand’s dinner party design ethos, independent spirit and human touch. In Napa, the guest rooms will have individual designs to help personalize the experience.

“We challenge Archer designers to immerse our guests in the place, so we give them the freedom to express the destination as they think best because we’re an open canvas,” explains Gilliam. “We also look for emerging markets that have high barriers of entry so the hotels are difficult to duplicate. Women tend to plan most of the travel and they’re very open to new and unique experiences, while at the same time, our human approach helps us become part of their story.”

Greg Oates covers tourism and hospitality development.

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Photo credit: Archer Hotels' consumer profile is 50% female. Archer Hotels

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