What vendors need to know to get a foot through Marriott's door

Suppliers and designers meet at HOTEC Design in Sarasota, Fla. Photo credit: Jena Tesse Fox

SARASOTA, Fla. — Every summer, hotel designers and industry suppliers gather for two intense days of one-on-one meetings at the HOTEC Design conference. At this week’s event, held at the Ritz-Carlton, Sarasota in Florida, attendees were buzzing over the presence of Carlos Fernandez, senior director of global design guidelines at Marriott International.

Fernandez, who has been with Marriott since 2004, develops and maintains current global brand design standards, prototype documentation and relationship program with consultants and vendors for the company’s 30 brands. He directs, organizes, manages and develops global design standards to maintain consistent product quality and promote efficient communication between design team members.

During a lunch break, Fernandez answered questions submitted by suppliers about how Marriott selects products and what potential partners need to know before pitching something new to the company.

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Building Relationships

A successful vendor, said Fernandez, keeps in touch with Marriott on a regular basis, keeping the company informed about what’s new with both their products and the industry at large. This, he added, builds trust, and trust leads to a profitable partnership. “We know that the suppliers have Marriott’s back,” he said. “We know that they will help take care of the [hotel] owner and the partners.” Trust also means that the supplier will step in to solve any challenges that may arise with their product, he said.

Carlos Fernandez of Marriott and Jennifer Lutton of Tuuci
Carlos Fernandez of Marriott and Jennifer Lutton of
Tuuci at HOTEC Design in Sarasota, Fla. 

Of course, not every relationship works out, Fernandez said, especially when suppliers try to get Marriott to use products that are not applicable to hospitality or that are not a good match to the company’s brands. “It is important for vendors do their research about our brand designs and have a good understanding of the products we currently specify,” he said. Before contacting Marriott, a supplier should be familiar with Marriott’s brands and what makes them distinct, and then determine what kind of product is a good fit for one (or more) of those brands. “Help us understand your products. We have too many commodities, and we’re not experts on many things. A good supplier helps us understand and bridge that gap.”  

To achieve that, personal meetings can go a long way toward educating people on both sides of the table. Fernandez recommended that suppliers host “lunch-and-learn” events where they can introduce their product to the Marriott global design team. Beyond presenting the product to the company’s representatives, he said, this gives the supplier a chance to demonstrate how good its distribution is, how well it stands by its product and how it provides good customer service.

Price vs. Quality

When selecting products for a hotel, any company must find a balance between quality and price, but what factor is more important? “Everything starts with quality and making sure the product performs well,” Fernandez said. “After that, we make sure pricing fits within the overall cost model for a brand.” And again, knowing what product is right for what brand can go a long way, he added, noting that some products will simply be a better fit for a luxury brand than midscale.

Certain product categories are more challenging for Marriott to select than others, Fernandez acknowledged. For example, Marriott is very careful about choosing plumbing fixtures because the team has to find the right balance in design, performance and pricing. “Any issue with performance may end up having a direct impact to the guest experience and hotel operations,” he said. “Millwork would be another category because the complexity of the details.”

Ultimately for Marriott, new products are selected in two different ways, Fernandez said. “It can be as part of a new design initiative for a brand or as part of us constantly looking at product alternatives and innovation.”

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