U.K.’s Whitbread Trials New Hotel Concept

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Whitbread PLC, the U.K.’s largest hospitality group, has unveiled Zip by Premier Inn, a new no-frills hotel concept. The first Zip by Premier Inn hotel will open with 138 rooms in the Roath district of Cardiff in early 2019.

Whitbread conducted extensive research that revealed guests were willing to forgo traditional expectations—such as large rooms and super-central locations—in favor of a lower price.

Zip by Premier Inn hotels will be located on the outskirts of major towns and cities and will feature small, modern rooms with prices from £19 ($25) representing excellent value for money, according to the company.

The rooms are billed as “Basics Done Brilliantly” and are around less than half the size of a standard Premier Inn room, at just 91.5 sq. ft. The rooms are compact, however, the design by PriestmanGoode—the design consultancy behind First Class Cabins for airlines including Air France, Lufthansa and SWISS—means that the space has been packed with useful features such as lightboxes, flexible bed formats and en-suite shower rooms, according to the company.

The new brand was developed in partnership with global brand consultancy Wolff Olins, while design consultancy JCS Design developed the interior spaces.

Zip’s smaller room format will give Whitbread access to a broader range of buildings in towns and cities across the U.K. and provide a great accommodation offer for the highly price-sensitive customer. Whitbread has secured a second site, set to open in Southampton with 140 rooms, and is actively seeking further acquisitions in out-of-center town and city locations that suit the smaller room format.

“Our strategy is to grow and innovate our core U.K. business and Zip is a great example of how we are doing that,” said Alison Brittain, CEO of Whitbread PLC. “We have invested in the Premier Inn brand over many years to become the U.K.’s most-loved hotel company with 800 hotels in the U.K., and we believe there is a niche in an under-served market for Zip. It offers us an exciting new platform for growth and will give us access to a broader customer base, attracting those guests who are on a particularly tight budget but still expect and deserve the basics done brilliantly. Zip fits perfectly into Whitbread’s existing portfolio of Premier Inn and hub hotels, enabling us to attract guests with a wide range of needs— from longer staycations at Premier Inn, to those seeking a design-led experience in the heart of the city at hub by Premier Inn, and now Zip by Premier Inn, catering to short-stay value-conscious guests who are looking to zip in and zip out.”

Premier Inn Managing Director Simon Jones commented: “We are delighted to be opening our Zip by Premier Inn in Cardiff and the team are hugely excited about welcoming our very first customers. In developing the concept, we have undertaken considerable research, including having had six Zip rooms on sale to customers for many months. It’s clear through the research that people want the basics done brilliantly, such as a comfy bed and a power shower, but they are happy to compromise on location or some extras if they are paying a fantastic price for their room. We will continue to learn from our customers as they experience the product and will evolve and innovate the concept as we open more Zip hotels.”