and Winston-Salem and
• Expansion through
ship with IHG
• Maintaining its bou-
tique brand identity
• Appetite for
Kimpton Hotels & Restau- rants is on a path for growth, not just in the U.S., but also in Europe, where it opened its first
property in May, the Kimpton De
Witt in Amsterdam. Lodging editor Julie Sickel spoke with CEO
So you’re owned by Inter-
Continental Hotels Group.
Has that changed the Kimp-
ton identity at all?
Two-and-a-half years ago IHG acquired the Kimpton management
company; with that they did not
acquire any of the real estate. We’re
one of IHG’s nine brands, but we’re
fully managed; we don’t have a
franchise model. And a big part of
what we offer is the fully managed
Kimpton way, from design to operations to restaurant programming
to restaurant concepting, activation, hiring and training of the employees. IHG has been very careful
to make sure that Kimpton is held
somewhat separately and allowed
to do what we do the way we’ve
done it. We say that our company
is powered by IHG and delivered
And how do you work together
on operations and sales?
We are still, and plan to be for the
long term, based in San Francisco.
I’m one of the only Kimpton employees who actually has a reporting line into IHG. I report to the
CEO of the Americas Elie Maalouf.
We have all Kimpton salespeople
on property, which is the majori-
ty of our sales efforts, and we use
IHG’s above-property sales teams.
Some of the Kimpton national
sales team members also moved
over to the IHG team and sell the
whole portfolio. We’re also using
IHG’s resources out in the world.
They have three other main offic-
es: one in London for Europe, one
in Singapore for EMEA, and one
in Shanghai for China. We work
through those offices to try to get
hotels in those regions.
How has the portfolio changed
since Kimpton was acquired?
We’re about the same size. At
the end of the year we’ll be larger. We had some hotels that left
the system [in California], but we
opened up more hotels last year
than we ever have before. We have
about 60 hotels currently. We just
opened our first in Europe, in Amsterdam, and we have seven more
to open this year.
There’s a lot of investment talk
in the midscale segment at the
moment. What’s the appetite
for an upper-upscale brand
Since our hotels are more expensive to build than a midscale hotel,
they have to command a higher
rate. Higher rates are found in places like New York, Chicago and L.A.
Now, some markets are perceived
as being overbuilt, so financing is
tighter than it used to be. But the
appetite is still voracious. Devel-
opers want to develop, so they are
trying different things, different
combinations to get deals financed
and get things across the line.
We’re going into some second-
ary markets like Milwaukee and
Cleveland and Winston-Salem and
Pittsburgh, which we hadn’t done
before. In Charlotte, we’re open-
ing a hotel that has a giant office
building connected to it. In Sacra-
mento, we’re opening one that has
condos attached to it, right next
to the [Golden1Center]. More real
estate developers are looking for a
unique, highly stylized, youthful
offering to anchor or be a part of
A number of new brands describe themselves as lifestyle
or boutique, and now we see
the same with soft brands.
What are your thoughts?
The fact that there are a lot of
these boutique or collection
brands is a tribute in some respects to the niche. The boutique
or independent or lifestyle or
whatever people want to call it is
here to stay, and it is actually valid and attractive to both customers and owners. The collection
brands have some commercial
validity, but they are very different. There is complete inconsistency in product delivery; there’s
no standardization. At Kimpton,
we’re very conscious that every
hotel’s got to behave in its own
way and has to have its own certain cha-cha, but the experience,
the charm will always be identifi-ably Kimpton.
Kimpton’s Plans for Growth
in a Boutique-Thirsty World