Why this design firm sees value in select service brands

At last week’s Lodging Conference, Gettys One, the select-service design division of The Gettys Group, launched a new brand marketing platform that includes a new website (highlighting project case studies and video content) as well as a refreshed logo and color scheme.

The Gettys Group established Gettys One in 2012, and since then Gettys ONE has worked with select service hospitality brands including Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and IHG, as well as on the creation of the upcoming Reverb by Hard Rock brand.

The Growth of Select Service

Gettys One’s five-year growth trajectory mirrors a major trend in the hospitality industry: A full 80 percent of current new construction projects in the U.S. are identified as select service projects, and the sector is leveraging design as a key differentiator from brand to brand.

“With more and more brands being developed, differentiation is more important,” Gettys One design director Erin Heckert said. “It’s not only with design, but the whole offering. Each of the major companies want to be sure each brand they release is different and captures a piece of the market. Design is more critical, but it needs to be balanced with the branded elements to maintain the brand loyalists and make sure they’re happy.”

Gettys One, then, grew in tandem with the midscale sector, Molly O’Keefe, Gettys’ director of development and client services, said. “We’re responding; we’re getting ahead of clients’ needs and expectations.”

Owners, Heckert said, rely on designers to understand the different segments and what is expected at each level—from guests, owners and brand leaders alike. “We established ourselves as a bridge between the ownership groups and the brands,” she said. “They look to us to understand brand standards and incorporate them into our designs.”

New Select Service Normals

The new prototypes in select service hotels—with minimalist guestrooms and custom design in public spaces—cater to an increasingly “sophisticated” guest demographic, O’Keefe said. “Competition is fierce among select-service hotels, and now that more people are traveling, developers have to stand out and be unique.” Marriott, she noted, has been reconfiguring its 30 brands following last year’s Starwood acquisition into “classic” and “distinctive” designations. “The distinctive brands segment is a combination of custom and prototype design,” she said. “Not every product will lean into that.”

Another trend O’Keefe has noticed is minimal meeting spaces in hotels. The need for the space has grown as more corporate travelers look to save money by staying in airport hotels and reducing their travel, but they still expect “design-savvy meeting spaces,” even in select-service properties. “They have to have windows,” she said. “They’re not in the basement anymore. It’s the same with fitness centers.”

Food and beverage is also a growing focus in the segment, Heckert said, with bars becoming ubiquitous in lobby spaces. “It gives the owners a chance for additional income,” she said, noting that Hyatt Place has free breakfasts, but offers upgrades for a price. Other brands are skipping the complimentary breakfasts entirely and only serving traditional restaurant-style meals.

The midscale, select-service market is where the market is going, O’Keefe said, so Gettys One will maintain its focus on that sector. “We’ll continue to get ahead of the changes in where the market is going. Right now, we design with social media in mind. How do we get ahead of the trends and also evolve our studio and our group to respond to that? When Gettys One first started, it was focused on prototype design. Now it’s more about knowing where to apply they money and create "Instagrammable" moments rather than keeping the guestroom simple.”

The company will work closely with the parent companies on brand refreshes, Heckert said, and on writing new tech standards for hotels. That, O’Keefe added, is another rapidly growing part of Gettys business. “We’re becoming known for, and we enjoy working on, brand refreshes. It lets us stay ahead of the trends because we’re creating them.”

Gettys also has a dedicated branding group, which O’Keefe said is becoming more important in the full-service segment. “The branding team is more relevant to create stories,” she said. “It’s fun to collaborate and execute. We’re working with owners to support their wants and needs. Really, it’s all about growth.”