Renaissance Downtown Cincinnati

hotelofthemonth12-2014If “lifestyle brand hotel” means something to you, then so too should Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown, a lodging destination featuring a past as grand as the promise of its splendid future.

The newly opened hotel is in the historic and historically renovated Bartlett Building, designed by renowned architect Daniel Burnham, and opened for business in1901. For more than 100 years, much of the City’s banking and commercial business passed through the offices of that building. Today, the building is another jewel in the necklace of Renaissance hotels in the Marriott chain that circle the globe.

“We worked with the Preservation Society (of Cincinnati) to do everything we could to preserve the wonderful (neoclassical) architecture of the first three floors,” said Keoni Christensen, GM of the property. “Cities go through change, rebirth, and some of that has to do with renovating existing structures. The architecture and design of this building lent itself well to the Renaissance hotel concept.”

The reason the Bartlett Building was a perfect fit for conversion to a luxury hotel is its original configuration. The first three floors contain the neoclassic design of Burnham—lots of granite, marble and exquisite detail. Those floors are the lobby and meeting room/ballroom spaces of the hotel. The remaining 16 floors would be demolished and reconfigured into plush hotel rooms and suites without worry over historical architectural preservation, according to Christensen.

“Our hotel is new and unique to this city. If lodgers want something more than a simple place to sleep, then they might consider a stay with us at the Renaissance hotel. We have a great downtown here in Cincinnati,” he said, and if people want to be in the middle of that, then Christensen’s hotel is central to the City’s vibrant general renaissance.

The hotel has the décor of granite and marble in the lobby area. Off the lobby, a slightly elevated walkway to Burnham’s, the BLD restaurant that is attracting more than just guests of the property. Attracting diners from outside the hotel is always a good sign for the restaurant. “Already, we have a strong lunch crowd,” said Christensen.

For lunch, you’ll find dishes such as Romaine Scampi, featuring grilled hearts of romaine, tiger shrimp, finished scampi style, with classic Caesar dressing and shaved Pecorino Romano. How about Quiche Lorraine? It’s made with Swiss and gruyere cheeses, smoked bacon and sweet onion, and served with a salad.

Hampton Inn Cincinnati Riverfront

timothyharmonGuest service makes or breaks a hotel,” according to Beth Wuestefeld, GM at the Hampton Inn Cincinnati Riverfront in Covington, Kentucky.

She backs up her statement by pointing out that the vast majority of hotel properties offer the same set of basic amenities, including a comfortable bed, an adequate bathroom, all set in a clean room, and so on.

So to Wuestefeld, service is key. “Service is the deal-breaker that brings back our repeat guests,” she claimed. “While we do have a beautiful product, we host many guests, traveling for both business and leisure, who tell us they stay with us because they feel at home with our staff.”

Another event that brings people to the Hampton Inn Covington location is the Flying Pig Marathon race every May. Past winners have stayed at Wuestefeld’s hotel, and the staff delights in the fun of it all. “We make a big deal out of it, including offering breakfast-on-the-go bags for runners early in the morning. But our favorite is clapping and cheering for every one of our runners as they return to the hotel.”

As to mindset in the guest services area, team members are encouraged and expected to take matters into their own hands when they see an opportunity to “wow” a guest, said Wuestefeld. One example she gave was of a couple celebrating their anniversary while passing through the area. They mentioned this to the agent at check-in, went out to dinner, and on their return, discovered a bottle of champagne chilling in their room. There were no prompts or approvals; just a customer-service-driven employee observing and reacting to the opportunity to do something special for guests.

Another example was an unhappy little boy who really wanted chocolate milk for breakfast. The hotel did not have chocolate milk in the breakfast mix at that time, so after overhearing the little boy with his parents, the attendant ran to the nearby convenience store and bought chocolate milk. Needless to say, the parents were elated with the service, and their little one had chocolate milk each morning of his stay.

Kudos to the entire staff at Hampton Inn Cincinnati Riverfront for an approach to service that has them flying high in guest satisfaction, year after year.

Garfield Suites Hotel offers more room for you

darrenschreiber-guestservicemanagerAs a visitor to Greater Cincinnati, you likely think the claim that “bigger is better” is accurate when suites in hotels are the subject of discussion. At Garfield Suites Hotel, you will find bigger suites, according to Darren Schreiber, guest service manager for the property. The hotel is located at 2 Garfield Place, fronting Vine Street in Cincinnati’s downtown grid. The hotel also features Café Martin, where breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service are offered.

The suites at the Garfield hotel tend to be significantly larger, he said, because each suite was built on the order of a residential apartment rather than just a hotel suite. The cumulative result is more square footage and larger rooms, as well as larger kitchen and bath areas. “We get a lot of guests here who comment on the added space they enjoy in our suites, and that’s to be expected since they are a lot roomier than what you find in the average suites hotel,” Schreiber said.

Schreiber and his front-desk staff cater to business and leisure travelers alike, and guests range from singles to couples and families. The focus at the front desk is to help every type of guest fully enjoy the stay and the visit to Greater Cincinnati.

He said one of the most appreciated services offered at the front desk is the courtesy shuttle provided by Garfield Suites Hotel to help guests needing a lift. The shuttle takes guests to downtown grid locations such as Great American ballpark, Paul Brown Stadium, The Banks and Over-The-Rhine entertainment districts, Findlay Market and the Union Terminal Museum Center. “Everybody likes the courtesy shuttle,” is the word from the front desk.
Trying to anticipate guest needs is central to the job at the front desk. “If a guest comes to us needing change for the hotel laundry, we’ll ask them if they need laundry soap and fabric softener sheets, and give them that as a courtesy,” he said. That kind of little extra may be why the Garfield Suites Hotel has been recipient of the Best Front Desk award offered by Cincy Magazine in area-wide competition.

Mostly, people come to the front desk wanting to know where to eat, according to Schreiber. Many more want good bar scenes, or places to take kids for special fun things to do, or good places to shop for special gifts.
“When we have information on places of interest that we can point out to guests, we do that, and they can make decisions based on that,” he said. “For us (at Garfield Suites), we are working to exceed guest expectations. If we do that, then they are going to be happy with us and with their visit.”

Spring Hill Suites prime location overlooks downtown Cincinnati

hotelofmonth-august2014Visitors to Greater Cincinnati may not find a better voice for this area’s dining and entertainment options than the folks at Cincinnati midtown Spring Hill Suites. The Marriott property overlooks Cincinnati’s downtown skyline from north of the city, located at 610 Eden Park Drive.

GM Mike Houle has an extraordinary approach to promoting Greater Cincinnati and all it offers to his guests at Spring Hill Suites. He sees his front-desk personnel as concierges for the hotel, and here’s what he says about that: “We really like all our guests to have a good idea of the city—and we use all our resources, such as Key magazine, to help educate (our front desk personnel) on the city and all the great things we have to offer here in Cincinnati. Guests want to know first-hand, and we want our front-desk personnel to be able to say ‘hey, I’ve been there,’ to be able to talk from experience.”

Houle does more than might be expected to assure his personnel have the experience. “We like to send our front-desk team out to local attractions, like lunch at the Horseshoe casino, or a trip to the Art Museum in Eden Park, or the restaurants in Mt. Adams, so they know what they are talking about.”

Management at the Midtown property has put together special sheets for guests wanting to take advantage of the sights, shopping and eateries in Greater Cincinnati. A sheet of nearby restaurants features 30 options, with phone numbers, addresses and types of food. A similar sheet exists for shopping areas, with 10 areas listed. And there is a “Cincy Eats” sheet that highlights local, hometown favorites such as Skyline Chili, Graeter’s ice cream, Montgomery Inn ribs and more. “We do that little extra to help make the stay of our guests’ more enjoyable,” he said.

As for the suites at Spring Hill, each is at least 20 percent larger than a typical hotel room. Plus, each has a fold-out sofa for added sleeping space, making it easier for a family to fit in a suite in comfort.

The breakfast at Spring Hill is included in the room cost, and Houle stated it’s a better breakfast than most hotels offer. “Weekdays, the breakfast includes fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, ham and eggs, sausage, things like that,” he said. In fact, in July of last year, Spring Hill upgraded its breakfast offering across the whole chain, and Houle says his guests love the change.

Spring Hill’s Midtown location features a pool with a handicapped lift for getting in and out of the water. Next to the pool area is a fitness center, and individual machines are equipped with TV screens. There is a small market next to the front desk for those you may need a personal item, want a quick snack or a beverage. Also, there is a bar in the lobby area, serving guests in the evenings from 5 to 11 p.m.

See you at Spring Hill Suites Midtown!

21c “Museum” Hotel truly a work of art

Hotelofthemonth-6-2014

Ever sleep in a museum? You can in Cincinnati, in your own room, plush with amenities.

The place is 21c Museum Hotel at 609 Walnut Street in the Backstage District of Cincinnati’s downtown. The brilliance of the 21c concept may surprise you. Hotel founders, Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, are committed to lofty goals. Among those goals are: engaging the public through contemporary art, supporting the revitalization of American downtowns, and doing so with a sense of preserving and enriching the environment of the American city.

The 21c building is the former Metropole Hotel, built in 1912, and re-opened as a hotel in 2012. Cincinnati’s 21c Museum Hotel is part of the Brown-Wilson mission of revitalization. They carefully renovated the building, diligently working to preserve features such as a mosaic tile main floor that had been overlaid and forgotten decades ago. The façade of the building also received a careful restorative touch. The restoration alone is worth the time to walk through, but there is more—much more.

“First and foremost, we are an art museum, which makes us unique from any other hotel,” said Barbara Gurren, Director of Sales & Marketing for 21c in Cincinnati.

The museum offers exemplary features, along with its array of contemporary art. It’s open 24/7, and free to the public, except during private functions in the main space. Even then, there’s plenty of art to view, starting with the lobby area. The front desk is a work of art that will entice, intrigue and excite, and cause you to want to explore further.

The 21c museum exhibits are curated, and the second-floor gallery is impressive—8,000 square feet dedicated to exhibits, where meetings can be held amidst art items on display.

Dedication to art is not confined to the galleries, as Gurren points out. “We partner with the Contemporary Arts Center, next door to the 21c. Docents come over (from CAC) to the hotel every Saturday at 4 p.m. and tour the 21c art space, and then take those on tour with them for free admission to a CAC tour.”

The restaurant, named Metropole after the former hotel, is a wonder. You’ll see an open hearth cook-space, where a conical stack of hardwood burns and heats. The menu focuses on dishes cooked in the custom-built wood-burning hearth, such as burnt carrot and avocado salad, a crowd pleaser. Chef Michael Paley works on a farm-to-table principle, using local purveyors to supply his restaurant with foodstuffs. There are hearth-roasted meats, fish and vegetables, and a charcuterie hung with sausages and other cures of meat specialties made in house.

The Cocktail Terrace on the roof of 21c is spectacular…..the ambience and views can’t be beat, and The Spa at 21c is the Queen City’s prime pampering destination.

Lastly, there are 156 guest rooms and suites, with every amenity one can imagine. You’ll find turn-down service, chocolate leave-behinds, Nespresso coffee makers, ice buckets filled for you, robes, umbrellas and even rubber duckies.

See you at 21c Museum Hotel!

Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown: No. 1 nationwide

residence-inn-june2014Travelers should know the score, because it makes for better, more comfortable experiences on the road.  The scorecard for Residence Inn Cincinnati Downtown positions it in first place among all other Residence Inns in the Marriott chain.  There are 652 of them, so the status of numero uno in customer satisfaction is a big deal.

There is another laurel, just in case the number-one ranking inside the Marriott chain might not be enough.  This same Residence Inn was ranked by Trip Advisor at number 19 in customer satisfaction among 85,000 lodging properties nationwide in 2013.  Imagine that: right here in River City!

“We take very good care of our guests, and we try to make absolutely sure that no guest ever leaves this hotel feeling less than fully satisfied,” said Jason Druso, general manager.  “We want everyone who stays with us to feel at home and know that we care about their comfort and satisfaction.”
Druso states that the hotel has some outstanding amenities.  Housed in the historic Phelps Building,  this Residence Inn is a downtown property,  on the fringe of the hustle and bustle of the downtown grid.  The entrance overlooks a park and walking/jogging trails are nearby.  Few lodging properties anywhere have that going for them, much less a city-based one.

Another advantage is that the property is a suite hotel in Cincinnati’s downtown, so many of the hotel’s guests are longer stay.  That means there are more business guests staying at the property, many of whom are repeat customers.  Suites are 30 percent larger than at most suite hotels in the area, and feature kitchens.  Vacationers and baseball fans (and football fans later in the year) also make up a sizeable portion of the guest list at this Residence Inn, because it is convenient to Great American Ballpark, US Bank arena, the Taft Museum of Art, the Serpentine Wall on the Ohio River, and to the Banks entertainment area of the city.

This particular Residence Inn also has an expanded restaurant service, offering a complimentary breakfast to guests, and having an evening menu for those who want to eat at the hotel.  There is a lounge area adjacent to the restaurant where guests can socialize.

In addition, the hotel features a rooftop bar called Top of the Park.  The bar is a focus for private parties and business meetings, as well as being open to the public Tuesday through Saturday, when not booked for private events.  The Top of the Park offers panoramic views of Mount Adams and the Ohio River and Kentucky shoreline.