New York City’s latest construction boom has led to a rise in sexy, boutique hotels—not your usual generic flagships but cool new concepts like the Viceroy, the Virgin Hotel and upcoming SLS Hotel on Park Avenue South. Along with these new hotel flags come equally exciting food concepts, as restaurants have become an essential component in the formula of running a successful hotel operation as a whole.
Leasing a hotel’s retail to a buzzworthy restaurant concept wasn’t always a part of the equation. Good service, nice accommodations and a prime location were once the only keys to a hotel’s success—but in today’s market, good food and a sexy atmosphere have become imperative as it brings excitement and notoriety to these exclusive hotel brands. Just look at Chef Marc Murphy, known for some of the elegant dining options at the Time Warner Center. He recently opened Kingside at the nearby Viceroy Hotel, drawing name recognition from tourists and locals alike. Even existing hotels have seen the value in modernizing and bringing in a big-name resident chef, as evidenced by the recent opening of Tao Downtown in the Maritime Hotel. Since opening, the restaurant has made the Maritime Hotel a destination and household name amongst foodies and nightlife aficionados alike. Even if they’re not staying at the Maritime, people still want to have a night out at Tao. It’s becoming a name people know and recognize, and will likely remember next time they need to book a hotel room in Manhattan.
The relationship between hotels and restaurants is far from a one-way street. These hotels are often built in some of the best locations in the city, opening up prime retail sites for these food operators. Up-and-coming restaurateurs are then able to attach their name to a hip hotel brand and give their concept credibility, as well as rooms full of hungry guests to serve. It must also be noted that liquor licenses and cabaret licenses are easier to come by for food operators leasing hotel retail space. It’s a win-win for all parties involved and the industry has been taking notice. Many of the restaurant tenants with whom I work are showing renewed interest in hotel availabilities and when it comes down to putting in an offer, rents are higher and competition is fiercer than even just one year ago. In today’s market, you have to truly stand out to make your mark, and the marriage of boutique hotels with equally hip restaurants is going a long way toward doing just that.