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A Quirky Approach to Group Business – Lodging

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On a street corner in downtown Richmond, Va., Quirk Hotel, a Destination Hotel, lives up to its name. Showcasing local curiosities such as obscure art and artisanal eats, the Richmond-centric, 74-key property breaks away from the confines of brand-bound uniformity at every turn. Though the property, which was built as a department store in 1916, does not scream corporate meeting place, that is exactly what the hotel hopes to sell its group business on: Imaginative meeting break experiences that planners can only find at this particular boutique hotel.

\”When we realized our meeting spaces were not going to be the same old meeting space, we decided our breaks couldn\’t be, either,\” explains Kate McDonald Brown, area director of sales and marketing at Quirk Hotel.

Opened Sept. 17, 2015, the pink-and-white-painted hotel features six spaces designed to take guests out of the bland, formal boardroom and into areas that promote the free-flowing exchange of ideas. For example, the 720-square-foot Love and Happiness meeting room, distinctive for its barn doors, leaves blank space on the walls to give occupants room to hang up posters, maps, or blank pieces of paper-literally going back to the drawing board. \”After one client left, we found Post-It notes still stuck all over the inside of the barn doors,\” Brown says.

The lobby mezzanine, also used as overflow for the hotel\’s Maple & Pine restaurant, overlooks the property\’s open lobby and bar. The Terrace offers views of Richmond\’s skyline with 1,000 square feet of event space, while the Rooftop, just completed for the 2016 spring season, gives 360-degree views of the city with space for up to 120 guests. And then there\’s Gray Owl, a 460-square-foot meeting and event space with a floor-to-ceiling wall of windows that overlook yet another meeting area, called the Courtyard, which offers room for 100 guests to meet and mingle between brick and glass walls.

The meeting spaces may have inspired the meeting breaks, but when it comes to selling an unconventional experience to groups and planners, the breaks speak for themselves. Among the hotel\’s offerings are hula hooping, bath product creation, yoga, vision boarding, cocktail making, and mural painting. With major companies headquartered in Richmond, including Capital One and VCU Health System, and TravelClick projecting a 4.4 percent rise in group bookings through January 2017, using a standout way to drive group business pays off.

\”We had a local artist take a clients\’ old company picture and break it up into little 4-by-4-inch pieces, on what would end up being a 6-by-10 piece of art,\” Brown says. Each meeting participant painted their own small square based on the piece of the picture they were asked to interpret, not knowing what the final product was meant to be. The artist then came back to piece the smaller paintings together to create a collaborative piece of artwork.

\”We wanted to teach this group that you have your individual contribution, but at the end of the day, you\’re part of this big 6-by-10. You\’re part of a bigger picture,\” Brown explains. \”This client will only host meetings at the Quirk now, all because of the effort we put into doing this break for them.\”

The hotel makes these unique breaks happen by looking for local professionals who offer something special to Richmond-for instance, a beer brewer who offers vegan options. \”It tells us they think differently, and therefore would be a good fit,\” Brown says. Then, the hotel collaborates with the client to get to the heart of the company\’s branding and what attendee takeaways should be. With that information in hand, the hotel offers clever ideas to bring out the best in employees.

\”We just want to get people out of the same old, same old. Get their minds thinking differently when they\’re in a meeting so that they can be more creative and more receptive to what they\’re in the meeting for,\” Brown says. \”Our approach is not to sell features, but to sell experiences. We don\’t offer a cookie-cutter meeting package.\”

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