Presented By: HqO
Hospitality Seen as Key to Reestablishing Office Life
In today’s office market, given the apprehension many workers have about returning, the most important concept for office landlords to consider is hospitality.
This was the premise that sparked “The Future of Work: The Rise of Hospitality-First Workspaces,” a June 15 webinar hosted by Commercial Observer Partner Insights and presented by HqO.
The discussion featured insights from Steve Kelly, head of strategic partnerships at Ritual; Katie Muto, director of product at HqO; and Paul Schulman, principal and COO at American Real Estate Partners (AREP). The event was moderated by Lauren Mead, VP of marketing at HqO.
Mead opened the discussion by noting that at HqO, the leading tenant experience platform for office buildings, hospitality-first is the philosophy but determining exactly what that means is a work in progress.
“Like many buzzwords and trends, what hospitality-first means and how you actually achieve it leaves a lot open to interpretation,” said Mead.
Schulman noted that the pandemic has turned an already growing trend in that direction into a necessity.
“Pre-pandemic, the office sector was inspired to match the hotel experience,” Schulman said. “What we’ve seen lately is that it’s become even more critical for us to reestablish how the office can support our tenant’s culture, but in an environment that their employees want to return to. It’s all about truly understanding what your customer wants and why, and empowering them to customize their own experience.”
Muto added that the year office workers just spent taking intense precautions in order to avoid catching COVID-19 will not be easily forgotten, and needs to be considered when establishing precautions for the office.
“We need to think about every single person who walks through the door of a property,” said Muto. “There’s a security layer in making sure people feel safe. There’s a sense of wanting to understand that people have taken precautions and, therefore, making sure we have improved security.”
Kelly noted that at Ritual, the priority is helping tenants unlock the best experiences, both in the building and throughout the local neighborhood.
“For us, that starts with food and beverage,” said Kelly. “When we think about the trends we see, with over 70 percent of daily orders happening between peak congestion periods of the day, we think about how can we use things like order-ahead to allow folks to access their favorite locations, and not have to substitute what they can do during congestion periods. There are lots of fun ways we can use digital to bring about easier access to all the things that make being at the office more enjoyable for tenants.”
Schulman mentioned that one aspect of tenant engagement his company is considering is a loyalty or membership program of some sort.
“We’re looking at creating some type of exclusivity, where being a tenant of AREP would offer benefits that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” said Schulman. “Building that loyalty not only from a tenant point of contact, but in a much broader sense from their employees, and utilizing tenant engagement platforms like HqO really allows us to connect directly to those employees, not just to the C-suite.”
Muto mentioned that this sort of direct communication and feedback, which allows landlords to connect with every tenant in the building, is part of the core functionality of HqO’s platform.
“You’re able to communicate through push notifications, through email, and through the home screen of the application itself,” said Muto, “so you can promote different amenities that are on-site.”
She also pointed out that this communication was two-way, so the platform could collect occupier feedback and data as well.
“One of the key pieces of hospitality is understanding what people actually want and being able to deliver that,” said Muto. “Having access to all the tenants in the building, and being able to receive feedback and data from those tenants, is really important to being able to elevate their experience.”
Mead noted that this communication proved essential for dispensing vital health and safety information throughout the pandemic, especially with employees not working from any one centralized location.
Schulman then spoke about steps his company has taken to deepen the social aspect of their hospitality offerings, including having food trucks available throughout their portfolio.
“It’s ultimately about creating critical experience touchpoints with our customers, and letting them create those touchpoints among themselves,” said Schulman. “We’re allowing our customers to have a varied experience, giving them choice but also convenience. We ultimately think that’s going to help support bringing people back and recreating the social experience that was there before the pandemic.”
Kelly spoke about the advantage of partnering with local restaurants in order to provide tenants with perks.
“As employers or landlords start to use the platform to incentivize workers, it builds on what the merchant base, like local restaurants, are already doing,” said Kelly. “And so, the budget can go a lot further in terms of helping people notice that they’re accumulating these benefits by being back at their work.”
Kelly also mentioned that some enterprising merchants were even making life easier for their customers by creating food for them to take home for cooking dinner, and that this sort of ingenuity could define office workers’ feelings toward the workplace as we move forward.
“We saw our merchant base experimenting around food kits and meal kits, and different day parts that they weren’t perhaps as focused on for the local residential community,” said Kelly. “I anticipate a lot of continued experimentation in this regard.”
Muto added that the data available via the HqO platform can help landlords ensure that these merchants are presenting just the right offerings to get people coming back.
“One example of how HqO can work effectively with a landlord is that we’re seeing a lot of demand for data that we can provide to a company like Ritual, who then has this relationship with local merchants,” said Muto. “They can then help merchants improve some of their offerings, while also ensuring that we’re providing that experience on the asset level as well.”