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Where hoteliers are investing to improve guest sleep

Where hoteliers are investing to improve guest sleep

Originally appeared in Hotel News Now in August, 2019

One of the most critical things a hotel can offer a guest is a quality night's sleep, but according to a recent survey from JD Power, some hotels aren't delivering satisfactory sleeping conditions.

According to results from JD Power's 2019 North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index Study, just 29% of hotel guests surveyed said they had a "better-than-expected" quality of sleep. The majority of guests who had a good night's sleep at a hotel said they would return to the property or brand.

Hoteliers investing in the sleep experience know the value it brings.

Chris Manley, COO at Stonebridge Companies, which manages a portfolio of hotels in the brand families of Hilton, Marriott International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, said a good night's stay is highly important.

Despite the costly expense, investing in products to support sleep is critical, he said.

Start with the bed

Ron Pohl, SVP and COO at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, said what customers really want is a clean and comfortable bed. He said mattresses have always been a key element for each of the company's brands.

For Best Western Premier, which ranked highest in guest satisfaction for the upscale segment in JD Power's 2019 study, Pohl said his team researches which mattresses people are buying the most for their homes, then will endorse vendors who can provide those preferred mattresses to hotels.

"We continue to evolve that mattress spec to ensure it's the latest and greatest sleeping experience out there," he said. "The minimum expectation of a customer is ‘I want as nice of a mattress as I have at home and if it exceeds that, we remember that.'"

When implementing new mattress specs, he said all new hotels coming into the brand or undergoing a renovation will have to purchase them, but other hotels will finish out current mattress warranties before replacement.

There are numerous new mattress manufacturers hitting the scene, he said, including many that haven't entered the hotel space before. One of the determining factors when vetting vendors is looking at mattress warranties, he said.

"Some mattresses might have a five- or seven-year warranty on them. That to us means the mattress will need to be replaced relatively soon, so our basis is it's got to have at least a 10-year warranty," he said.

Pohl said using platform beds in place of traditional box springs is one way North American hotels have recently adopted European influences. In addition to design opportunities, platform beds can offer cost savings too, he said.

The Premier brand still uses box springs in its beds, he said, but Best Western's newer Vib and Glo brands use a platform bed design. Having that design does not detract from the sleep experience, and it's as good as having a box spring, he added.

Platform beds also make the furniture more multipurpose, he said. Designs include drawers as well as headboards that can double as desks.

"We've seen a lot more of the upscale and upper-midscale boutique hotels designing the room around a platform type bed," he said.

Beds in the Vib brand also have zip-off pillow tops on the mattresses, which allows hotels to replace the pillow top without having to replace the entire mattress.

"The days of flipping and turning mattresses has evolved," he said. "You still turn them to make sure you get the life span out of them, but mattresses are pretty well manufactured these days, so there's not a lot of maintenance and upkeep required."

Pohl noted it is difficult to determine the return on investment on mattress types because some people like hard mattresses while others like soft. Having a lack of complaints is a good indication that guests are satisfied, he said. At times, Best Western will even have guests who want to purchase its mattresses, he said.

"That's always a really good indicator that you're providing something that they like," he said.

For Wyndham Hotels and Resorts' Microtel brand, Keri Putera, VP of brand operations, said brand standards are constantly updated with the best linens, bedding, mattresses and pillows. Everything has to be top-notch, she said.

Microtel ranked highest for the economy segment in the JD Power survey.

Manley said most of his properties in the Stonebridge portfolio use two-sided mattresses, although many others in the industry are transitioning to one-sided mattress. Having two-sided mattress allows hotel staff to flip and rotate the mattresses quarterly to extend lifespan.

The rest of the sleep experience

Putera said comfort and convenience are the two main priorities for providing a satisfactory guest stay, especially when it comes to sleep.

"They really want that convenient room, that comfortable bed, but at a price that doesn't make them feel like they're paying for extras that they don't need," she said.

Microtel recently rolled out its new prototype, Moda, which is all about style and efficiency, she said. Microtel continues to use wall-hung beds and furniture, which gives guests more floor space, she added.

However, it's not solely about the bed. She said some of the top factors behind a poor night's sleep include jetlag, unfamiliar routines and stress. That's why Microtel focuses on other aspects of a night's stay such as 24-hour coffee in the lobby and a breakfast in the morning.

"It's all about the things they need without muddling that message," she said.

Pohl said Best Western will offer things like ear plugs on request, especially at properties near airports, but automatically giving them to guests at traditional properties can create a bad impression that the hotel is noisy.

Sources agreed that if a guest has a bad night's stay, it could affect whether or not that guest will remain loyal and return the next time.

Maintain satisfaction

Manley said there are a lot of operational concerns to ensure guests have a quality night's sleep. Stonebridge's job as an operator is controlling the quality of linens, age of mattresses and where the company can and should invest capital, he said.

Linens are a big expense, he said, adding that he notices too many operators, especially newer managers, are trying to save expenses by not ordering enough linens. In return, that can cause issues when the hotel can't maintain its linen par levels.

In order to maintain years of satisfaction, Pohl said it is crucial that a brand not only listens to its customers but also solicits feedback from its owners and GMs.

"We meet with that focus group twice a year to understand what are the guests telling you, how can we move the brand forward, what types of enhancements can we make," he said. "Not only do we get great feedback, but when you take that approach, they are 100% committed to making it happen within the brand themselves because they are the owners of those hotels and the costs is theirs to bear."

By: Dana Miller