Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and sbe, the privately held leading international lifestyle hospitality group that develops, manages and operates hotels, restaurants, lounges and nightclubs, have launched a new smart lifestyle conversion brand under the working title Project HQ Hotels & Residences.
Owned by sbe with strategic investment by entertainer, entrepreneur and sbe equity partner Marc Anthony and his company Magnus, Project HQ, which is targeting Millennials and Gen Z, will be affiliated with Wyndham’s Registry Collection Hotels, which caters to hotel owners in the luxury and smart lifestyle segments.
This marks sbe’s first hotel brand after the 2020 sale of its hospitality brand and management platform—which included more than 100 hotels (SLS, Delano, Mondrian and Hyde, among others); more than 150 restaurants and lounges; and more than $4 billion of luxury residential sales—to Accor.
“I’ve been out of the game for a little over three years, and in that process, we as a team here at sbe have been thinking, ‘For us to come back into the hotel world, what would make the biggest disruption and what category would we really want to focus on?’” said Sam Nazarian, founder/CEO, sbe. “We spent the last three or four years continuing to build our food and beverage business, both on the full-service side, but more importantly, around the category of Millennials and Gen Z and really this new-age consumer that we feel really curious about and how to be relevant within that ever-growing and fast-growing segment. And I think we’ve done a pretty good job in the last four years and proving out that we can be relevant in this new consumer.”
In connecting with that consumer, Nazarian said, the company decided to create a new category of hotels just for them. “Why don’t we look at a category within lifestyle that really complements what we did for the last 20 years in luxury?” he said.
With that, the team at sbe has created a new category called Smart Lifestyle, “designed as a four-star conversion product that enables all the content and connectivity that sbe brings in food and beverage, entertainment, digital and wellness, and do it in a manner that hotel owners, who have a very big sensitivity to return on investment and are up against contracts that are coming up with legacy hotels,” said Nazarian.
In the process of creating the category, he said that they were looking for the right partner, adding, “We feel that we have partnered with Geoff [Ballotti, Wyndham president/CEO] and Wyndham at a perfect time to really bring what we’ve built and the perspective we have with our connectivity with the global influencers, celebrities and culinary talent into this democratized F&B and entertainment environment.”
Ballotti said his entire company is “jazzed” to work with sbe. He sees the new brand as something that will be a benefit for Wyndham Rewards members. “This aspirational redemption opportunity we feel right now is exactly like nothing we have—it’s just completely different,” he said. “What Sam is creating here is such a fresh take. We talked about how our membership in Wyndham Rewards continues to become younger, how our overall guest demographic and makeup continues to become younger and they’re looking for this type of experience. Appealing to this [demographic] as we become younger is going to really work well from a distribution standpoint.”
Project HQ was concepted to be a more approachable experience for the consumer that has been priced out of the lifestyle hotel market and doesn’t feel like they have a brand that speaks to their desires in travel, according to the companies. The brand name “Project HQ” is born from the concept that Project HQ Hotels will be in the heart of the cities they launch in, serving as the “headquarters” for exceptional dining, nightlife and wellness.
With brands backed by celebrity chefs like Casa Dani from 3-star Michelin Chef Dani García; MXO, a Mexican Steakhouse by Chef Wes Avila; the award-winning Katsuya by Chef Katsuya Uechi; and more brands in incubation with “rising stars” in the culinary space, Project HQ will provide a unique food and beverage experience that transforms its hotels into “sought-after” destinations for locals and travelers alike, the companies report.
Project HQ will provide owners with sbe wellness programming, adding the med spa offering with sbe Wellness Clinics, and food and beverage offerings ranging from fine dining to the array of brands from Sam Nazarian’s C3 and Nextbite with celebrity partners like Sofia Vergara, Dario Cecchini, Iron Chef Masharu Morimoto, Dani García, and Wes Avila; YouTube influencers like Dude Perfect and Matt Stonie; brands like Umami Burger and Soom Soom and additional brands with built-in followings.
Project HQ will also deliver a branded residential offering for markets that the companies believe are underserved like integrated student housing, workforce housing and the like.
The companies plan to open 50 hotels by 2030, delivering approximately 7,500 rooms, with 50% of properties stateside and 50% internationally.