No doubt: this is not an easy time for the hospitality industry, but it’s reassuring to know that some hotels have gracefully pivoted, by enlisting thoughtful, safe, and creative ways to stay open during the pandemic. That’s exactly the case with The Hoxton, Williamsburg.
After shutting down for months, the property reopened its rooftop restaurant, Summerly, on July 11, and the rest of the hotel a couple weeks later. Strategically, it proved to be a smart move. Summerly was busy right off the bat, proving that locals were more than ready to socialize outdoors and more important, be taken care of in a place that feels safe. In addition to distancing tables and requiring face masks for all staff, “we’ve stripped menus, and are using QR codes instead, “says Sharan Pasricha, CEO of Ennismore, the London-based company that owns The Hoxton brand. “It feels like we’ve jumped into the future a little bit, but they’re very functional – and something I can see sticking around.”
Other changes you’ll notice? Klein’s, the all-day restaurant, is currently set up for outdoor dining only – serving up yakitori skewers and drinks Wednesday through Sunday (depending on the weather). The hotel has also put large events, parties, and valet parking on pause. As for the accommodations, high touch items like pencils, notepads, and books have been removed, while there is now a modest charge for the once-complimentary breakfast bags. To help guests maximize their stays, they can check in and out anytime they want with Flexy Time. And for now, rooms remain empty for 24 hours after a guest departs before housekeeping comes in, and all common areas are reserved for guests only.
Below, Pasricha discusses how The Hoxton navigated these uncertain times to help guests feel welcome, safe, and secure at all their properties.
The pandemic gave us a lot of time to think about how we can do things differently. How did this time affect the Hoxton brand?
Pasricha: Never before have I dreamt that our hotels would be closed — let alone all of them at once — so it’s certainly been a chance for us all to reset and re-evaluate. It’s clear the travel industry is going to take quite some time to bounce back to anything near where it was. So in the meantime, as a brand, we’re keen to just try new things. There’s never been a better time to be creative and jump on ideas. In London, we’ve launched two new delivery-only kitchen brands out of The Hoxton, Southwark – which have been a hit so far – and might be something we look to roll out more permanently.
And what has Hoxton done to make sure guests feel safe and protected during these times?
Pasricha: We’ve changed our rates to offer full flexibility. When guests book direct they can cancel until 2pm the day before arrival to give them peace of mind when booking. We know lots of plans are up in the air at the moment, and we want our guests to know that if they’re happy to travel, we’re here. And if they can’t for whatever reason, that’s okay too. We also introduced Flexy Time at the end of last year, giving guests the opportunity to check-in and out whenever they like for free when they book direct. This is something we’re really encouraging our guests to use. It helps avoid any busy check-in and out times, and gives our guests more control over their stay.
In terms of in the hotel itself: as you’d expect we’ve got hand sanitizer dispensers stationed regularly throughout our hotels, and we’ve stripped out some high-touch items from rooms to give guests more peace of mind. And, in addition to our standard deep cleaning, we’re cleaning communal areas and kitchens more regularly. As for our hotels with pools, we’re limiting capacities and towels are only available on request. The hotel teams have worked hard to ensure our guests feel safe and secure with us, without completely stripping away our Hoxton ambience our guests know us for.
For those who are still hesitant about staying with Hoxton during at the moment, what can you share to help give them peace of mind?
Pasricha: We completely understand that not everyone is ready to travel right now and that’s something we absolutely respect. We’ll be here, ready to welcome them when they are. For those who are traveling: we want our guests to know that their safety is our main priority, and all of our team is working hard to keep our spaces safe, clean, and welcoming so they enjoy a drink, a dinner, or a couple of much-needed nights away from home.
The conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.