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Hotels wake up to designers', guests' concerns about coffee service

Hotel coffee

The Rise coffee bar is located inside the Restoration Hotel.

Architect David Thompson is responsible for the look of FIG, Indaco, Butcher & Bee and The Grocery, among other local restaurants, but also works on assorted hotel projects. Even in those cases, though, he’s forced to think about guests’ food-and-drink preferences.

“Who knew that the majority of time spent designing a hotel room would be spent figuring out how to hide the Keurig!?,” he recently posted on his Instagram account.

Concerns about aesthetics and the environmental consequences of single-serve brewing pods have prompted some hotels to rethink how they provide coffee. But with the amenity considered as essential as a working shower and bug-free bed, local hoteliers can’t escape their caffeinating responsibility.

“Coffee culture is such a tremendous thing in our country,” says Michael Tall, president of Charlestowne Hotels, a management company that operates about 40 properties.

According to Tall, guests are generally comfortable making their own coffee, and haven’t yet demonstrated a propensity to break in-room espresso machines or brewers. But he’s well aware that some designers take exception to adding another piece of furniture to a room for the sole purpose of obscuring an appliance.

At The Spectator, he says, Jenny Keenan of Jenny Keenan Interior Design “found a very sleek espresso machine that she was comfortable with, and it allows guests to make quality coffee.”

Still, even with more and more handsome coffee makers on the market, the range of styles doesn’t come close to the choice spectrum available to designers selecting, say, shower curtains or throw pillows.

To avoid the eyesore factor entirely, Tall says some hotels are moving coffee service into the hallway. At French Quarter Inn, “you can just come out of the room and go right back into the room,” he says.

There isn’t any expectation at French Quarter that guests will mingle while stirring cream into their coffee (drinkers who don't take their coffee black are among the most vocal opponents of in-room coffee makers, since non-dairy creamer is a sad substitute for the fresh stuff.) But at properties that want to emulate more traditional inns, coffee stations are strategically placed “to create a community environment” — meaning guests have to get dressed before their first cup. 

Leaving coffee production to hotel staff instead of weary travelers tends to ensure the coffee is of higher quality, although hotels sometimes try to hedge their bets with in-room coffee by supplying artisan beans. Charlestowne Hotels runs a hotel in Illinois where guests can order coffee delivered free to their room “at any time,” Tall says. “That was a conscious decision to have the coffee experience delivered the way it should be delivered.”

Despite the company’s success with various service strategies, Tall is confident the category will continue to evolve.

“As you can imagine, with social media and everything else, we get lots of feedback from our guests on how they wish to enjoy their experience,” he says.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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