By Kaitlyn Wallace
Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton has been a shining beacon of success in a treacherous era for the hotel industry. Despite having opened mid-pandemic, when meetings and events (as well as hotel bookings) were at an all-time low, Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton has used their cohesive vision of class, creativity, and community to build a new, personalized model of engagement with meeting and event planners from across the country. This strategy has proliferated into a variety of engaging programs and projects, creating a culture that anticipates consumer needs and provides a dynamic and intriguing space for meetings and events.
With over 17,000 feet of chic, stylish event space spanned over three ballrooms, three breakout rooms, an executive boardroom, and a private dining room, Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton can accommodate almost any combination of event arrangements – from private executive meetings to national conferences drawing hundreds of attendees. The property also provides over 2,000 square feet of outdoor event space, allowing event planners to meet in style in St. Louis’ beautiful spring and summer months.
Contributing to the aura of elegance are 52 pieces of art which are displayed throughout the hotel. Curated by Eaton Fine Arts from local and nationally renowned artists, these pieces provide what Camille Garcia, Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton’s Director of Sales and Marketing, describes as “small moments of discovery throughout the building.”
The property’s engagement with arts and culture does not stop there; with the Unlock Art program, any guest can show their key and a voucher to gain free access to all paid exhibits at the St. Louis Art Museum. As Andrew Hargis, General Manager, explained: “Giving overnight guests the opportunity to truly blend business and experience through the discovery of local art is a pillar in our hotel culture.”
This elegant and dynamic hotel culture is also reflected in Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton’s warmth and engagement with guests. Barbara Dietrich is the Vice President and Assistant Treasurer of Bereaved Parents USA, an organization which aims to support and educate people who have lost a child, grandchild, or sibling through no-cost workshops, sharing sessions, and conferences. Bereaved Parents USA held their annual national conference at Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton, about which Dietrich explained the following: “Their staff was probably the best staff I’ve ever worked with in doing any kind of event in my career… Everyone knows your name; they wave to you, ask if you’re okay, ask if you need anything… they’re easy to work with and absolutely wonderful.”
Creative meeting and event practices are woven through every step of the planning process with this venue. Along with encouragement of out-of-the-box solutions and a culture of open engagement with new ideas, Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton presents to meeting planners their own Creative Meeting Programming. Garcia explains: “Creative Meeting Planning is a way for meeting planners to offer their attendees a way to discover the destination of St. Louis through local culture in a collaborative setting, moments of savoring, experience-based offerings, and more.” Encouraging engaging and dynamic breaks between meetings both allows attendees to experience the diversity of food and fun that St. Louis has to offer and refreshes their attention, making for a more energetic and collaborative culture for the remaining meetings or events– not to mention providing a delicious and innovative menu. Chef Michael Frank describes the Creative Meeting Breaks as follows: “Meeting planners will find full afternoon breakfasts themed after The Hill, the historically Italian neighborhood in St. Louis, the famous Soulard Farmers Market, and the 1904 World’s Fair… the Creative Meeting Breaks, outside of our gelato cart, are likely the most interesting items on our banquet menu.”
Did we mention? Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton also offers a traveling gelato cart, equipped with fresh and funky flavors to add wonder and ingenuity to any meeting or event. Both the explicit focus on creativity and the playfully engaging examples set by this amazing venue encourages planners and executives alike to think outside of the box and keep their minds open to new and innovative ideas.
Having experienced a global pandemic and massive collaborative efforts to protect each other over the past year and a half, we have all gained a deeper understanding and appreciation of the importance of community. Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton, having opened during and fully experienced the pandemic, has made community one of its core values, both exposing guests to the wide variety of experience that St. Louis has to offer and by making a point to help guests give back. For example, Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton has introduced their Experience Menu, which “offers team building and philanthropic turnkey activities, such as making snack bags for local schools, making lasagnas for police and fire departments of Clayton, or hosting a live craft cocktail class with part of the proceeds benefiting a charity of the meeting planner’s choice,” according to Garcia.
This emphasis on community is also reflected in Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton’s health and safety policies during COVID-19. Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton explicitly offers touchless meeting programs, which include sanitation, low touch points, individually wrapped food and beverage, onsite COVID testing, mobile check-in, and more. Dietrich, from Bereaved Parents USA, confirmed the hotel’s commitment to the health and safety of guests, saying “the hotel was great about informing us any time the mask mandate changed. They put up reminder signs, hand sanitation stations, and had masks available. We were also able to have the dining room set up for social distancing. It felt very safe for us.”
Le Meridien St. Louis Clayton has proven over the past year that navigating a changing and treacherous market is possible. It takes hard work, connection to your customers and your community, and creative solutions, but it is possible. We can all learn from this strategy; especially in the uncertain coming months and even years of the pandemic, we can be reminded of the hotel industry’s success with class, creativity, and community: Le Meridien St. Louis’s 3 C’s.
Kaitlyn Wallace is a contributing writer from St. Louis.