Hospitality Innovation In Europe

Updated: Jan 21, 2019

Along with 30 of my Cornell University School of Hotel Administration colleagues, I recently visited London to meet with and learn about the hospitality industry in Europe. Innovation was a consistent theme across a dozen or so meetings and site visits.

Hotel School faculty with Keith Barr, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group, at the Kimpton Fitzroy London

It was no surprise to hear Google and YouTube executives speak about designing content based on a hypothesis for their hospitality customers and measuring multiple tests to determine the best strategy. And it was great to hear hotel companies and restaurants adopting similar language as they develop new concepts/services and innovative behind-the-scenes processes.


New Concepts: Reducing Room Sizes

Many hotel companies are reducing construction and operating expenses by designing hotels with smaller guest rooms and common areas that can drive revenue throughout the day. My first two nights in London I stayed at one of the three citizenM properties. The rooms are 140 square feet with a large king-sized bed that spans the width of the room. The space reminded me a bit of a cabin on a cruise ship; citizenM uses the word “cozy” to describe its rooms. The lobby, designed to be gathering place at all hours of the day, includes comfortable seating, contemporary art, an open kitchen, and cocktail bar.


Similarly, Marriott has seen great success with its Moxy brand with over 25 locations open and at least 80 in the pipeline. In addition, Hilton is set to open its first Motto by Hilton hotel in Marylebone, London in 2020. Both concepts offer rooms as small as 150 square feet.


Moxy Times Square (Image Credit: New York Times)

Technology: Improving the Guest Experience

Staying at citizenM Southbank felt like a preview of what hotels will be like in the future. Using one of the six self-check-in terminals in the lobby, I scanned the QR code from my email confirmation and made my way to the elevator in less than one minute. The experience continued in the room. An iPad controls the lighting, blinds, thermostat, and the TV (free movies included).

A personalized experience at citizenM London Bankside

Too often the conversation around tech in the hospitality space focuses on how tech will replace humans. The more interesting conversation is how tech can be used to improve the guest experience.


Four Seasons, a luxury brand, understands this point. They want to give their guests the option – human touch or tech. For example, guests staying in their properties can use an instant messaging function even when they are off property. This is an example where tech may be creating more jobs because Four Seasons needs enough employees to meet guest expectations of receiving a response within 90 seconds of making a request.

Sitting with Michael Hirschler (left), Director of People and Culture / Director of University Relations - Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, at Four Seasons Ten Trinity

Lynn Brutman, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons London at Park Lane said, “The best ideas come from the guests.” Observing guests while on property, listening to their needs, and asking front-line employees to share their findings are three ways hospitality companies can foster an innovation mindset among employees.


Sustainability: Going Green Is Good For Business

Hospitality companies continue to invest in sustainability initiatives because guests want to do business with sustainable companies and employees prefer to work for companies that live up to their values. Hotels continue to experiment with creative housekeeping options to reduce water waste and labor costs. Some luxury properties have even moved to refillable soap dispensers to reduce plastic waste.


Just Eat, an online food order and delivery service operating in 13 countries, is focused on innovating within its supply chain. The company is working with suppliers and customers to develop ways to reduce packaging waste. In addition, the company recently began offering its partner restaurants a discount on electric scooters in an effort to encourage them to embrace low-carbon deliveries.

F&B: Creating Memorable Experiences

Hotels are creating exciting partnerships to make food and beverage spaces a destination for guests, tourists, and locals. I share three examples from my trip below.


Four Seasons at Ten Trinity has two destination restaurants on property. Both concepts were designed by a restaurant designer (rather than a hotel designer) and include their own web presence. La Dame De Pic London is a Michelin-starred French restaurant serving signature cuisine from renowned French chef Anne-Sophie Pic. Just across the corridor, Mei Ume serves traditional Chinese and Japanese dishes with a modern approach.


Edwardian Hampshire, a Radisson Blu property, features Leicester Square Kitchen. The concept is so distinct some guests dining in one of London’s most iconic squares might not realize there’s a hotel above them. The kitchen showcases a selection of contemporary Mexican and Peruvian small plates, complemented with fine wine and signature cocktails. When I dined there, it was one of the Top 100 rated restaurants in London on Trip Advisor (out of 18,000+). The smoked tuna with tequila lime mustard tostada, Mexican street-spiced asparagus, and stone bass with crushed Andean chili lime sea salt from the pre-theater menu were amazing.


Leicester Square Kitchen is one of two onsite restaurants at Radisson Blu Edwardian Hampshire Hotel


The Mirror Room, inside Rosewood London, has floor-to-ceiling decorative mirrors, low lighting and lounge style seating. My wife and I visited for afternoon tea and by the time we left (two hours later) the place was packed. Voted as the Best Contemporary Afternoon Tea in the UK for the second year running, Executive Pastry Chef Mark Perkins’ latest creations are inspired by retro art from the 70s and 80s.

A Black Forest Gateau inspired by Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans

As I update my Leadership Communication for Innovators executive education course for July, I’ll draw on these examples and our visits to Kimpton Fitzroy, EDITION by Marriott, 67 Paul Mall, Duck & Waffle, Novotel, The Dorchester, and Etc. Venues.