I’m sure I’m not the only one that has noticed that hotels in the US seem to treat club lounges as a liability. Many hotels seem to keep them just to please elite members that get club lounge access, while offering the absolute minimum possible in terms of food, drinks, service etc. It never ceases to amaze me that most club lounges in the US actually charge for alcoholic beverages, while Embassy Suites offers it free for all guests.
I guess in a way, it’s much like domestic first class here in the US. Instead of offering a decent product that people would be willing to pay for, most US airlines have devalued the product into something that is a great bargain for those getting “free” upgrades, all the while alienating those that would actually pay for first class.
But then there are some exceptions, like the InterContinental San Francisco, which remains one of my favorite hotels in North America. I’ve stayed here several times a year since the hotel has opened, and even through the recession, the quality of the offerings in the club lounge hasn’t changed one bit.
Most club lounges in the US nowadays seem to offer a “very” continental breakfast, cookies throughout the day, and then cold evening snacks.
Then there’s the InterContinental San Francisco, which has five different “servings” a day.
To start, in the morning, breakfast is served for four hours, much longer than virtually any other hotel I’ve stayed at. And the offerings are actually tasty, including fruit, cheese, cereal, all kinds of meats and cheese, salmon, scrambled eggs, bacon, the world’s best almond croissants, bagels, pastries, fresh juice, etc. On the weekends they even serve mimosas.
Then mid-day they serve soup, which seems to alternate almost daily, with all kinds of “toppings.”
Then they were afternoon tea for a few hours. I even once invited a British friend that was in town to join me in the club lounge, and he thought the selection was pretty “legit.” The sandwiches, scones, and pastries are insanely good.
Then in the evenings for two hours they serve appetizers. Again, it’s much more substantial than the offerings at other club lounges, including crab cakes, chicken skewers, all kinds of meats and cheese, plenty of finger sandwiches, veggies, etc. For those that drink, all alcohol is free as well.
After that, for a few hours, they serve cookies, cake, and dessert wines.
While the “hard product” itself is probably the best of any non-Ritz Carlton/Four Seasons in the US, that’s not even what impresses me. It’s the people that work there. The club lounge team and guest relations team at this hotel are what really set the lounge apart. They remember your name every time you enter and just couldn’t be nicer. I could give a million examples, but the people working there are the most customer focused people I can think of. And they’re consistent. Just a few examples off the top of my head:
- One morning I showed up for breakfast about 15 minutes before it was over, and noticed they didn’t have any more almond croissants. I asked if they had any more in the back room, though unfortunately they didn’t. Of course this is no big deal, though instead of just saying “nope,” they phoned down to the restaurant and had someone bring up a couple of almond croissants just for me.
- The agents are great at “small talk” and get to know all the guests. One of the couples in the club lounge was planning on going to Napa Valley in two days. The agent asked whether they had planned out winery tours yet, and they indicated they hadn’t. The agent insisted she would prepare an itinerary for them by the following evening, which she did.
- The well known server in the lounge, Luis, couldn’t be nicer. During my most recent stay, there was an older British couple that was telling Luis “when we go back to the UK we’ll have forgotten a lot of the sights we’ve seen, though we won’t have forgotten you, Luis.”
Anyway, I’ll get to my point. During my last stay, I couldn’t help but notice how full the club lounge was. While Royal Ambassador members do get complimentary access to the club, there aren’t nearly as many Royal Ambassadors as, say, Hyatt Diamond members. So I had a conversation with someone at the hotel, only to learn that they seem to actually sell club access to the point that the club in and of itself is doing “quite well.”
And frankly, even at a cost of $40 per person, I think club access at this hotel is an absolute bargain.
It just comes to show you, a truly good product with even more memorable employees can go a long way.
While I love Hyatt hotels, I’ve yet to stay at a Hyatt in the US where I would have actually paid the rate for club access.