Chicago's Aparium develops localized experiences, fresh F&B concepts in Midwest hotels

(The Charmant Hotel in La Crosse, Wisconsin, part of Aparium Hotel Group's portfolio)

NATHIC Midwest is Nov. 16 and 17, at the InterContinental Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile. To learn more about the event and to register click HERE.

Aparium Hotel Group is on a mission to connect its hotels to local experiences and bring the soul of each city to life in its properties. That drive brings the company to secondary markets such as Milwaukee; La Crosse, Wis.; Covington, Ky.; Detroit; Minneapolis; and Kansas City, Mo., to name a few.

“From our perspective, these markets were saturated with the normal run-of-the-mill branded product that didn’t have any soul,” said Mario Tricoci, CEO and managing partner of Aparium. “When I would visit these markets, I would stay in typical branded hotels that didn’t have anything interesting and relevant, no culinary and beverage and cocktail experience, and didn’t connect to local experience.”

Tricoci would seek out interesting experiences the cities had to offer, looking for what locals liked to do.

“That was important for us to look across all markets to see how they are served. We go and dive in and really understand them and try to celebrate all they have to offer,” he said.

The Beginning

Aparium was founded in 2011 by Tricoci and luxury hotel veteran Kevin Robinson. The two had been co-developers, owners and operators of the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, which opened in 2009 (the hotel is now owned by Geller Capital Partners and has since rebranded under Hilton Worldwide's Waldorf Astoria flag). Aparium was born when the two met with the owners of what is now the group’s renowned Iron Horse hotel in Milwaukee (pictured below). Aparium invested, repositioned and now manages the 100-room hotel.

Tricoci said the Iron Horse was the perfect asset to launch Aparium—the property perfectly capturing the company’s hospitality philosophy focused on unique moments.

“It was interesting and cool, and it was Milwaukee through and through,” Tricoci said of the Iron Horse. “It was the perfect asset. It was a smaller, important asset, serving the locals first with a great restaurant experience. It had potential to be rooted in the company.

“People were saying, ‘You have to stay at the Iron Horse because it embodies the city,’” he went on. “That’s why we needed to be a part of it and right the operational ship.”

Never The Same

Tricoci said each of Aparium’s hotels is its own brand. “Nothing we do is replicated,” Tricoci said of Aparium’s portfolio. “We go through an organic process in every market.”

While Tricoci admitted that process isn’t always efficient because executives have to use much of their resources, he said it’s important for relationship-building.

“We spend a lot of time and build one-on-one relationships,” he said. “Big brands can’t do that. They aren’t set up that way.”

The result is outperformance. For example, Tricoci said the Iron Horse is a rate and occupancy leader in the market. Last year, the hotel finished with over 80 percent occupancy and an average rate of more than $220.

F&B Focus

Aparium is unique for another reason: A large share of its revenues come from food and beverage. Tricoci said that it’s not uncommon for most hotel groups to see about 25 percent of revenues come from F&B. At Aparium, F&B contributes between 35 and 45 percent.

The reason for the share goes back to the company’s local focus. Tricoci said strong F&B concepts are the differentiators when it comes to independent hotels, which leads to a more successful proposition.

“It’s important to deliver a wonderful experience. Food and drink, how it’s positioned and how menus are derived have to be relevant locally,” Tricoci said.

He said that while the hotels’ restaurants are there to service hotel guests, their primary intent is to become an anchor for locals to regularly eat and drink.

“When you are relevant from the culinary side, it’s almost like another built-in reservation system,” Tricoci said. “Everyone hangs out there and that audience becomes an extension of your reservation system because they celebrate the hotel.”

Aparium was founded in 2011 by Mario Tricoci (pictured above) and luxury hotel veteran Kevin Robinson.

Growth Goals

Since its inception, growth for Aparium has been on a tear. In addition to the Iron Horse, the company has hotels open in La Crosse, Wis. and New Orleans. Hotels in Covington, Ky. and Minneapolis will open this year. Next year, Aparium will see hotels open in Kansas City, Detroit and Montclair, N.J.

When asked about new hotels on tap for the company, Tricoci said he’s excited to see all of them open. Minneapolis and Detroit are two cities that get him especially energized.

“One of most important hotel openings is in Minneapolis,” he said. “It will be one of the most important in the Midwest.”

Likewise, Detroit is an important opening for Aparium and the Midwestern market, he said.

“Detroit is one of the most important American cities ever, having gone through ups and downs, but mostly downs,” Tricoci said. “Being part of that revitalization is important to us. I think it’s going to be the most important in the country next year. That market is craving a hotel that represents the past, present and future of Detroit.”

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And, he said, the hotel’s culinary contribution will be second to none.

Kansas City also represents an important opportunity for Aparium. Tricoci said the market is a few years away from being the next Nashville, Portland or Boston. He said the market has experienced “grassroots growth,” bringing with it an uprising of chefs and restaurants.

“Kansas City is a great Midwestern city that has so many attributes that have been overlooked,” Tricoci said. “We see how people are investing and why. We view that as special market and great location.”

Want to know more about companies like Aparium investing and developing in the Midwest? Interested in what Midwestern markets hoteliers have their eyes on? These topics and more will be covered at NATHIC Midwest, Nov. 16 and 17, at the InterContinental Hotel Chicago Magnificent Mile. To learn more about the event and to register click HERE.