Wyndham Garden’s cost-effective prototype brings the outdoors in

Wyndham Garden, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts’ fastest-growing brand, has unveiled its latest prototype—Arbor—which is inspired by nature, and includes a new F&B program.

The new four-story, 110-room prototype began to take shape after Danica Boyd, Wyndham Garden brand leader, took her position last year and visited owners and developers. “A lot of people were coming to me and telling me that they love the beautiful, seven-story prototype, but for their market and conditions, they only needed a four-story hotel, and only about 110 rooms,” she told Hotel Business at Wyndham’s headquarters in Parsippany, NJ. “Hearing that and coming back to the team, we really made the conscientious effort to take the name of Wyndham Garden and reimagine it into this new prototype.”

The time was right, she said, to introduce the new design. “We have 75 hotels across North America,” said Boyd. “We have 120 globally, and we have about 30 in our pipeline. We are in that sweet spot where if we are going to make this change and pivot, we are in the right spot to do it.”

While the brand had a number of great attributes, there were a few that needed to be made more consistent. “There wasn’t a lot of consistency around food and beverage,” she said. “There wasn’t a lot of consistency in terms of size—how tall it is, how big it is. We’re taking Wyndham Garden and pivoting to a new-construction brand. We’ll be able to move forward where we can have some guest consistency, with a food and beverage program that is bar-none with a celebrity chef, and a thoughtful building design and materials that are simple, that have that upscale look and feel.”

Boyd said the prototype, designed by architecture firm CallisonRTKL, is inspired by the harmony of nature, bringing the outside in with elements of dappled light, textured wood, natural fabrics and flexible outdoor space. The blueprint offers developers a scalable option at under 58,000 sq. ft., fitted for less than two acres of land. Arbor aims to reduce construction costs with the goal of an estimated price point of approximately $110,000 per key, based on current construction rates.

“We spend a lot of our time indoors, yet it wasn’t too long ago that our ancestors were outside nearly 100% of the time,” she said. “Now, we only spend 7% of our day outside. This has led to a lack of vitamin D from the sun and less fresh air. This was really our inspiration, along with the garden name, to move to our new design. When you walk in the hotel, you are going to have that wood look. The textures are going to be rich with fresh linen, and the color scheme is very serene. We want to bring the elements of nature into the hotel, as well as in our social spaces.”

The entry experience creates the sense of walking into a tranquil clearing, with an abstract interpretation of an arbor adorning the ceiling—starting from the porte cochere and extending through the lobby into the back patio—accented by wooden features and clustered pendant lighting that creates an anchored path.

The patio is an example of another aspect of Arbor—connection to community. “We have thoughtful spaces for our guests,” said Boyd. “We have come up with these zones. You can gather, you can socialize and you can chill. Gather [refers to] playful games like checkers. Social is where you can hang out with friends, family and colleagues. Chill is where you, perhaps, just need a moment to have some tranquility, be outside, breathe that fresh air, but maybe you are not feeling super social and you don’t want to be in a big crowd.

“We are really proud of this because we feel this truly emulates Arbor and the feeling behind that touch and connection to community,” she added.

The guestrooms have calming color schemes, luxe textures and clean, simple lines. Boyd explained, “The room is your serene place, your tranquility; here is where you can really connect with this natural look—we have the wood floors, we have the lovely linens and the textures.”

The brand also expects to offer hotels the option to provide upgraded, premium wellness features through Delos’ Fresh by Stay Well program, including air purifiers, mood-enhancing aromatherapy and shower infusers that neutralize chlorine.

Developer advisory council

All of the decisions made for the new prototype were made with a Developer Advisor Council, made up of a dozen developers across multiple brands and segments, some of whom had not previously done business with Wyndham.

“They were the ones who said, ‘This kind of material is better for the exterior,’” said Boyd. “‘In my professional opinion, when I have built hotels, this should be streamlined.’ We’re even getting into the back of the house where an electric box is and how many steps it takes to get across the lobby to put the stuff in the market. They were very methodical and really precise experts.”

She continued, “At the end of the day, everything that the team and I do is always with our owners’ bottom line and value proposition in mind. That is why we are in business. But also, I work tirelessly with our owners and our development council in making sure their voices and expert opinions are part of the process. I am really big on collaboration, and that is why I am so proud of the nine months of work on this project.”

Elevated eating

A key new element of the prototype is Nice&Vice, a new food and beverage program created with celebrity chef Jet Tila. [See sidebar for the chef’s take on the concept.]

Wyndham found through research that travelers seek both healthy and indulgent experiences, and created the program to offer guests just that. “We worked with an agency that helped us do very extensive guest research with Garden guests, as well as with the competition, people who are staying within our market segment,” said Boyd. “Hands down, everybody was looking for healthier options. They didn’t want a bag of Doritos, they wanted BoomChickaPop or bananas or granola. They wanted healthier snack items, so we definitely have that stocked, but sometimes you just need a Snickers bar. You can decide to have a quinoa grain bowl for breakfast, or you can have a sausage and biscuit sandwich. We don’t judge at Wyndham Garden.”

The brand worked with Tila, who has appeared on Food Network shows including Cutthroat Kitchen and Iron Chef America, to create a consistent experience for guests at all of its properties, streamlining supply costs and kitchen space for operators. The menu relies on a condensed selection of ingredients that can be combined to create multiple dishes, all of which can be cooked in a Turbo Chef oven, making execution quick and more cost-effective.

“We wanted to get away from a big, full, hot breakfast buffet—that really didn’t help our owners’ bottom line—to a simple menu,” she said. “Instead of having seven different lettuces, we maybe have just two that they can use across multiple items. Leveraging our relationships with our sourcing team and our vendors, it was really a collaborative effort.”

She continued, “For dinner, we scaled way back to have seven to 10 items because we know somebody who wants a great steak will go on Yelp to find a steakhouse and Uber over,” she said. “But there are many guests who want to stay at Wyndham Garden and have a chicken Caesar salad with a glass of wine or a juicy burger with a craft beer. Again, we don’t judge. We have both options. We have calorie counts. We have the ingredients labeled on the menu. We worked with our food purveyors at Foodbuy, Sysco and US Foods and really thoughtfully put together this menu so you can make that decision.”

Owners are also given a comprehensive program guide to make running the program easier. “It lists every ingredient, along with suggested pricing with an asterisk that everything is based on market pricing,” said Boyd. “It at least gives them a sense of a budget as well. At the end of the day, we want to increase our owners’ value proposition with Wyndham and Wyndham Garden, as well as increase our guest experience, and have them come back.”

The program is expected to help increase that value proposition by helping the bottom line. “Here is an example from one hotel that was previously running a buffet breakfast and a dinner/bar menu,” she said. “While it did approximately $108,000 in revenue, the food costs are so high that it was losing $102,000 per year. When our expert third-party food purveyors assessed the budget following the Nice&Vice menu, which streamlines ingredients across its creative recipes, the hotel was able to estimate that it would drop food cost approximately 70%—therefore taking that example from a $102,000 loss to an estimated profit of $124,000.”

The prototype includes both a food and beverage lobby area with service, as well as a Nice&Vice Market with elevated snacks, healthy bites, fresh salads and quick meals meeting the program’s criteria.

The market is located right next to the check-in area and the wide windows near the lobby. “We wanted it front and center for guests,” said Boyd. “Potentially, when guests walk in and they are congregating around that area, they want to grab a snack or two and go up to their room… We ended here because we wanted people to see it from the outside in and we wanted it to not be right in front of the food and beverage area, which could cause traffic. Some folks like to get up and have a cup of coffee and a parfait, and they can go up to the market. Some people want to go to the food and beverage lobby area and grab an a la carte sandwich.”

While Nice&Vice is part of the prototype, Boyd said that all Wyndham Garden hotels will have the menus by the end of this year, and the market by 2021. “Nice&Vice is really what our guests are expecting,” she said. HB