Tempo by Hilton keeps guests on beat

NEW YORK—It may seem that new brands are sprouting up left and right, each promising to serve a new customer and tackle a new challenge. Hilton, however, is setting out to solve a problem all too familiar to travelers: Travel can be a disruption to our lives.

Tempo by Hilton marks the company’s 18th brand—one that Hilton curated to serve a growing segment known as “modern achievers”—with a focus on maintaining guests’ everyday routines or, more obviously, their tempos.

Tempo by Hilton launches on the heels of Motto, a micro-hotel concept, and Signia, a meeting and event-focused brand unveiled last year.

Hilton has launched 10 brands over the past decade and, according to President/CEO Christopher Nassetta, the company does it differently from conception, starting with hard work and research.

“One thing a little bit different about us than many of our competitors is that we have launched every one of those 10 brands—more than doubling our family of brands over the last decade—organically,” Nassetta said at the launch event here. “We don’t buy brands because buying brands means that we’re fixing other people’s problems.”

In developing Tempo, Hilton worked with more than 10,000 customers and hundreds of owners to discover what both guests and the industry want.

The brand already has 60 deals under its belt, with commitments in New York; Maui, HI; Boston; Los Angeles; Lexington, KY; Nashville, TN; San Diego; Charlotte, NC; Washington, DC; Houston; and Atlanta, with 30 additional deals under development and the first expected to open next year.

“I think this will be one of our larger brands in the U.S. and, ultimately, globally,” Nassetta said. “In the U.S. alone, we can have 500 Tempo locations over time. This is a mega-brand for us.”

Tempos will primarily be new-build structures in urban and urban-suburban cities, with surrounding infrastructure to support its limited-service model. Further, Tempo by Hilton will offer all the amenities travelers expect, but do so affordably.

According to Phil Cordell, SVP/global head of new brand development, Hilton, the properties will be in the 140-150 guestroom range and Tempo will sit—from an ADR perspective—about 15-20% above a Hilton Garden Inn and below a Canopy.

“We’re calling it approachable lifestyle,” Cordell told Hotel Business. “Lifestyle is a phrase that sometimes gets overused in our industry because it’s hard to articulate exactly what it means… You feel it. There are times when consistency is incredibly important, but if something can be just a bit different, that would be awesome.”

Consistency with that added spark is key here, especially for Tempo’s target customer, the modern achiever, who Cordell describes as a younger guest who travels about 10-12 times a year and whose mindset transcends their age and generation.

“They have a pattern of life that they follow at home, and we thought Tempo could be a really cool thing to help them try and maintain that rhythm,” Cordell explained. “We’re not a spa; we can’t fix them overnight, we’re not trying to transform you, but help you maintain your rhythm through some of the things we’ll offer in the hotels.”

Many of these offerings stem from partnerships, aimed at helping guests maintain their habits efficiently, while also providing them with a heightened platform to do so.

“Tempo, in the metronome sense, was the iconic way for us to convey that notion of pace, routine and consistency and keeping everything on a beat,” Jon Witter, chief customer officer, Hilton told Hotel Business. “When I go to a hotel, I always have difficulty sleeping the first night. You’re in unfamiliar surroundings, you’re typically hyped up from the activity and the energy of traveling. You may have a hard time feeling comfortable in the new space.”

In the guestroom, it starts with sleep. Tempo has partnered with Arianna Huffington’s behavior change platform, Thrive Global, offering programs “Power Up” and “Power Down.” These in-room experiences are available on guestroom TVs, giving travelers morning and nighttime rituals to encourage healthy sleep patterns.

Early in the development process, Hilton met with wellness experts across physiology, exercise, F&B, mental wellness, life coaching, work/life balance and other areas, helping to decide which experiences to focus on.

According to Cordell, Hilton’s goal is to bring the experiences to guests realistically, with room for partnerships to evolve with the brand.

“The fact that this brand is both data- and science-based, and based on anticipating some of these human needs, helps them [guests] live lives they want and not just lives they settle for,” said Arianna Huffington, founder/CEO of Thrive Global at a roundtable discussion at the brand launch event.

Along with in-room programming, the room offers a “Get Ready Zone,” a dedicated area for guests to get ready, do work or even keep up with their fitness routines. As for the room’s composition, 60% is dedicated for the bed area while the remaining 40% is for the bathroom and Get Ready Zone.

This is another way that Tempo by Hilton is delivering ways for guests to keep their routines the same while doing so in a way that feels not only practical but a little luxurious. Other hints at luxury include the brand’s partnership with restaurant planning and development company Blau + Associates, giving guests convenient and affordable bites without sacrificing creativity.

“Instead of what we’ve seen over the years—big restaurants that serve breakfast but then nobody comes during the day and there’s an evening concept that does or doesn’t work—we’re hyper-focused on what we’re doing,” Elizabeth Blau, founder/CEO, Blau + Associates, told Hotel Business.

F&B offerings will be elevated counter service, with both healthy and indulgent options and a focus on the bar and small plates.

“If you’re in the South, you don’t want the same menu you’re going to get at a New England property, nor will you have access to that kind of product,” Blau said. “It’s not cookie-cutter in its approach but it’s easy for an owner to have multiple properties without reinventing the wheel.”

The in-lobby Fuel Bar will offer quality coffees and teas, all complimentary and customizable.

“It’s designed to be incredibly profitable for hotel operators. Instead of this big three-meal concoction that’s trying to please everybody, this is the answer to the next generation,” she added.

Blau + Associates will also deliver local flavors through its Chef Collective, which will immerse young chefs into Tempo’s programming, helping to curate diverse and seasonal menus.

“It’s another way to look for local flavors you might not always get in an elevated select-service hotel. Not only the built environment but the offering environment will have lots of flexibility,” Cordell said.

As Blau explained, this model not only appeals to busy travelers but to owners as well, most of whom are coming from the select-service space. Tempo’s model as a whole aims to attract these owners who are already comfortable with the space, but to take their portfolio to the next level.

“Even though it’s a bit more aspirational, it’s still within the range of their comfort to secure financing and to get the margins they need,” Cordell said. “It’s an opportunity for an owner to get into a space that is definitely part of the industry’s future.”

This also marks the challenge for Tempo, Witter explained, in creating something that genuinely meets the customers’ requirements, but also doing so in a way that works for owners and investors.

“The magic here is not that customers have these heightened expectations, but the question is how do you deliver on those expectations in a way that drives both the reality and perception—but do it affordably?” Witter said. “Ultimately, if it doesn’t work economically, none of these things will end up getting done.”

It seems Hilton and Tempo are getting it done, with sights set on future partnerships in the health and wellness and fitness areas.

“The name [Tempo] sums up the modern problem that we’re trying to solve, which is that we all feel like we’re running out of time, that every time we look at our watch, it’s later in the day,” Huffington said. “We’re living this breathless life and what Tempo implies is that there is another rhythm of life, a natural rhythm of life.” HB