By Heather McNeill
If you’re looking for an exciting venue this year, you’re likely to find it among the St. Louis area hotels of Lodging Hospitality Management (LHM). The company is unveiling a gleaming new Sheraton Westport Plaza and Chalet and has added fresh appeal to its Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark downtown, including a rooftop bar that will surely become one of the city’s major attractions when it opens in July. LHM has consistently offered planners a streamlined process for finding a meeting space among its more than a dozen Midwest hotels. And it has continually invested in these hotels and the wider community. This year alone, the company plans to invest more than $25 million renovating its St. Louis properties, said Tom Lyons, LHM’s vice president of sales and revenue. “Our collective goal is to accelerate the growth of LHM and support the work being done to create world class hotels, which will change the St. Louis hotel industry and set us apart from the competition,” he said. So, prepare for some of St. Louis’s most invigorated meeting space, starting with the unveiling of a $10 million combined renovation of the Sheraton Westport Chalet and Plaza.
A NEW LOOK: SHERATON WESTPORT CHALET AND PLAZA
The Sheraton Westport Chalet and Plaza, sister hotels in the Westport Plaza mixed-use development in Maryland Heights, have obvious advantages. “These hotels have always been a phenomenal location for meetings, events and business travelers because they’re just five miles from the airport—but you get a resort feel,” Lyons said. Surrounding the hotels are 18 restaurants and entertainment choices, including the Trainwreck Saloon, IceKitchen, The Drunken Fish and the Funny Bone Comedy Club. Together, the hotels have a combined 42,000 square feet of meeting space, including an IACC-approved conference center. LHM is making what’s great about the hotels even better. This includes a new front entrance to the 300-room Chalet hotel. The Chalet’s look now has a traditional yet contemporary edge, similar to what you might find at a private London club, such as Boodles, but with a much more relaxed and inviting feel. At the Plaza, renovations will be completed in March 2011. Crisp, clean mid-century modern décor will freshen up the luxury hotel. Among other updates, the lobby and bar will be integrated for a much more inviting guest experience, and all 210 of the guest rooms will be remodeled. The Sheraton Westport hotels also will implement an innovative guest service concept. Instead of a traditional front desk, the hotel staff will be standing at small desks, or “pods,” where they can easily slip out and walk along with guests, point them to a room, or help them with luggage. Lyons said LHM has received training tips from Nordstrom and Southwest Airlines and has applied this training to improve the experience of guests and staff at its hotels.
MODERN SPACE AND FROZEN TREATS : HILTON ST. LOUIS AT THE BALLPA RK
With an incredible location next to Busch Stadium and additional views of downtown and the Gateway Arch, the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark has been hugely popular. It was ranked by the Riverfront Times as St. Louis’s best hotel in 2009, and has been included on Expedia’s 2010 Insiders’ Select list, which places it among the top 1% of the world’s hotels. “We consistently get really good customer feedback on this hotel,” Lyons said. “We also take that feedback and always want to try and improve and make it better than it is today.” One of the recent renovations to the hotel has been an update of the 7,000-square-foot Gateway Ballroom to match the modern theme of the rest of the property. The changes create a seamless transition into other space, such as the stunning Archview Ballroom, for trade shows with exhibits. An especially flavorful addition to the Hilton Ballpark is Yo My Goodness, a St. Louis-based store serving a variety of frozen yogurt flavors and toppings. The shop opened in January at the hotel, and also offers other St. Louis favorites such as Imo’s Pizza.
ALSO IN THE NEWS
This past December, LHM acquired St. Louis’s 108-guestroom Cheshire Inn in Richmond Heights. The iconic hotel will bring Old World elegance with a touch of whimsy to LHM’s offerings, which also include the Tudor-style boutique hotel, the Seven Gables Inn, in nearby Clayton. The Cheshire will re-open this summer after $11 million in renovations. These updates will add 21st century amenities, while preserving the look and history of this hotel, Lyons said. The Doubletree Collinsville, adjacent to the Gateway Conference Center in Collinsville, Il., also has been renovated, as has the Hilton Airport. You may have seen the Hilton in the 2009 film “Up in the Air,” which prominently featured George Clooney’s character enjoying the hotel’s amenities, including the Honors guest rewards program. Reflecting LHM’s commitment to sustainable environmental practices, the Doubletree Hotel St. Louis at Westport has been certified a green hotel by the Missouri Hotel and Lodging Association.The same is true of the Sheraton Westport Chalet and Plaza properties a mere three blocks away. LHM is also excited about its Accessibility Ambassador Program, which provides staff training and equipment to better meet the needs of people with disabilities. Each hotel has an appointed staff member, the accessibility ambassador, who will ensure disabled accessibility for patrons.
FOCUSED ON THE CUSTOMER
LHM’s customer service focus extends to its commitment to planners as they search for properties and carry out their meetings. Jennifer Long, meeting and event manager for investment firm Scottrade Inc., has appreciated LHM’s competitive rates, versatile space and consistent customer service. “As a planner, it’s great knowing you have one sales manager who knows your needs and can source multiple properties in the St. Louis area. The on-site staff has always been able to accommodate our needs, regardless of which LHM property.” Amanda Armstrong, manager of the Meetings and Travel Department of Enterprise Holdings, has planned two national meetings at the Hilton Ballpark for the company’s car sales and remarketing groups. She said the staff went beyond expectations. “Each hotel staff member looked for ways to add value, which translated to many memorable guest experiences. So memorable, our attendees were asking to come back before the meeting ended. “Our survey results speak for themselves. Every hotel category (rooms, food quality, service) scored above 95% in attendee satisfaction,” Armstrong said.
THE EXCITEMENT BUILDS
LHM’s latest project at The Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark is a highly anticipated $7 million rooftop bar that will have a 360-degree view of the city, including the Arch, downtown and Busch Stadium. When the Cardinals are playing, baseball fans will have an excellent seat to see the game. The rooftop was designed by Bill Johnson of The Johnson Studio, and restaurant consultant Bob Amick, both of Atlanta. They also designed the Chicago rooftop bar theWit. The rooftop’s contractor is Paric Corp., based in O’Fallon. The bar will be located on the 26th floor of the east tower of the hotel complex. Of the 6,388 square feet of space, two thirds will be an indoor restaurant and bar area and one third will be an exterior bar. The rooftop also will have two outdoor patios seating up to eight people, and an area for private parties for up to 30 people that will be enclosed in glass with NanaWalls. Outdoor spaces will have seating areas encircling fire pits. From any seat in the house, you’ll be able to enjoy cocktails and tapas, as well as pizza from the ceramic-tiled oven behind the indoor bar. The space will be open year-round for visitors. Although it will have a private function area, the roof will always be open to the public, so hotel guests and the people of St. Louis will be able to enjoy it—perhaps before or after a baseball game, said Steve O’Loughlin, LHM’s president and chief operating officer. “We see this also as an attraction for local people in the community. If you’ve got family or friends in from out of town, we feel this will be a unique destination, with great food and drink,” he said.
Founded in 1986, LHM currently employs 1,600 people in the St. Louis area and has donated millions of dollars to local civic and nonprofit organizations. “It’s very important to us to be a part of the community. We’ve always felt that because we’re headquartered here—most of our hotels are in the metropolitan area—we want to give back,” said Robert O’Loughlin, LHM’s chairman and chief executive officer, and Steve O’Loughlin’s father. Robert O’Loughlin’s contributions to the hospitality industry have been far-reaching. He is currently chair of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission. He has been the president of St. Louis Hotel/Motel Association and the Missouri Hotel/Motel Association and was also on the board of the American Hotel Association. He serves on several community organization boards, and has served on the executive committee of the Regional Business Council, and the board of the St. Louis Regional Chamber and Growth Association. MM&E
(Heather McNeill is a contributor from Kansas City, Mo.)
Lodging Hospitality Management
111 West Port Plaza, Suite 500
St. Louis, MO 63146
Phone: (314) 682-3362