Only a year after opening its first hotel in Oklahoma City, the development team behind Hilton's midscale Tru brand is already implementing changes, rolling out an updated prototype with upgrades to the guestrooms and public spaces for future development.
In a statement, the company claimed that the updated design was “guided by strategic partnerships with key stakeholders including owners, guests, property team members, general contractors and architects.” The original prototype was created in tandem with Cincinnati-based FRCH Design Worldwide.
“Every great brand continually evolves,” Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Tru by Hilton, said in a statement. “And, as a new brand with a ‘disruptive’ strategy, we felt the need to evolve faster and better than most. We heard from owners and guests that we had nearly all things right with the Tru by Hilton concept. But, as with any new product, we needed to make a few adjustments, which have proven during beta tests to be overwhelmingly popular with our guests and owners. Fortunately, we are at a point in our growth as a brand in which we’re able to quickly and nimbly incorporate learnings from our 24 open properties, and further refine, value-engineer and generally improve the overall prototype concept.”
Updated, not New
Tom Horwitz, EVP and hospitality leader at FRCH, which has overseen the design of the project from the first concept, said that the prototype is not "new." Instead, he argued, it is part of the normal development process.
"When [developers and brands] do the first prototype, they step back and see if everything turned out the way the team envisioned," he said of hotel developers in general. "Every time, they say, 'I wish we had done a few things differently.'" As the team gets feedback from guests, managers and suppliers, they start considering what the next steps should be. "You can build model rooms and kick the tires, but until you build and open a hotel, you don’t know exactly what you have," he said.
As the Tru team examined data and listened to customer feedback, they started planning their changes and updating the interior concept. "It's not a different building," Horwitz said. "It's not a different exterior. It's not a different room size. The DNA of the building is the guestroom, and the guestroom hasn’t changed its overall footprint. The lobby size hasn’t changed, the back-of-house hasn’t changed."
But a "new" prototype is an inaccurate way to describe it, he said. "It’s a brand evolution refinement step, which every brand does. 'New prototype' conjures up blank page and starting over. This is nothing close to that."
Guestrooms now have added bedside and workspace lighting with bedside control, as well as increasing storage and hanging capacity.
Guestrooms also have a completely new mobile desk and media area to create a larger and more flexible in-room work surface. All existing properties are in the process of being retrofitted with a movable desk solution.
While the current chair with attached table lets guests work wherever they want in the guestroom—and the public workspaces in the lobby give guests the chance to mingle while they work—some guests had requested traditional desks, and the plan was updated to accommodate their needs. "The retrofit desk goes into the rooms that are already built," Horwitz said. "We modified the guestroom to accommodate the mobile desk component."
The brand's 2,880-square-foot lobby, with its four signature brand areas, continues to be one of the brand’s key differentiators. The Eat, Work, Lounge and Play areas were designed for social activation and revenue generation.
Tru has replaced the stadium-style seating with a large sectional sofa, which creates a clear delineation between table games and board games, and improves the TV-watching experience.
Tru's new look comes just two weeks after Hilton announced an update to its upper-midscale Hampton brand prototype in the Americas.
The new Hampton prototype comes with an updated exterior, public space and guestroom designs. These updates, the company said in a statement, reflect industry best practices, owner insights, guest research and variable input from key stakeholders, Hilton said. The brand has already released a guestroom guide for new and existing hotels. A renovation guide for existing Hampton hotel lobbies and exterior spaces will be released in summer 2018.