Written by: John Caulfield

Who could have guessed that food trucks and flat-screen TVs would have such an impact on the hospitality business?

Food trucks, for the local flavor and immediacy of cuisine they deliver to on-the-go customers. Flat-screen TVs, for liberating hotels from bulky furniture, freeing designers to streamline guest rooms for greater comfort and efficiency.

Toss into this mix more seismic factors—Airbnb, the outsize influence of boutique hotels, a surfeit of brands, the influx of foreign investors, and the growing importance of food and beverage offerings—and you have a hospitality sector that’s constantly searching for the next hot format, cool design flourish, or quirky amenity (memory pillows, anyone?) that will click with patrons, especially younger customers.

“Hospitality is a different animal from other sectors because there are so many stakeholders,” starting with consumers, says Lisa Zengerle, Principal/Director of Hospitality at SERA Architects, which has designed numerous projects for Marriott International.

“It’s not just about designing a place anymore,” states WATG|Wimberly Interiors, the Irvine, Calif.-based hospitality design firm. “It’s about designing an experience that flows from check-in to sleeping, to bathing, to dining.” Hospitality today is all about the experience, “how many times your guests say Wow!” says Chad McWhinney, CEO of Denver-based developer/property manager McWHINNEY, whose firm co-developed (with Sage Hospitality) the 1881 Great Hall in Denver’s Union Station.

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