Making The Most of Your Hotel Lobby: Functionality Over Design

The Hotel Lobby is one of the most important rooms in your hotel (with the obvious exception of the guest rooms themselves). This is because the lobby is the first room your guest's experience when they arrive at your hotel and, as we all know, first impressions count for a lot.

The hotel lobby is the heart of your hotel and often has more than one function. As a result, the space should be creatively segmented to provide ‘zones’ that serve for different needs.

It’s All About the Guests

The best lobbies/reception areas are those that cater to their guests, providing them not only with the services that they need but with the services they want. If you want to make your guests feel even more special, give them extra services and ‘freebies’ that are beyond what is usually expected.

For example, I recently stayed at the Crazy Bear in Beaconsfield and was given a flute of champagne as I walked through the entrance. That made me feel special and excited and started my experience from the very first moment I stepped through the entrance.

NB: A hotel that provides good services and surprising ‘extras’ is more likely to be talked about and reviewed in a positive way (just like I did in the example above) because it goes beyond the expected and usual standard of service.

Functionality First, Design Second

It’s very easy to get lost in the design elements – colours, lighting, art, furniture. I mean, a stunning and flashy hotel lobby will stop and make people go “wow” – right?

While it’s true that aesthetics plays a major part in any design, the functionality of your hotel lobby will be more important to your guests. No matter how impressive your lobby looks, if there’s no seating waiting for your guests after they’ve spent a whole day travelling to get to you – that’ll be the first thing they complain about.

Before you even start thinking about colour schemes, you should think about the functions your hotel lobby needs to serve, and the types of guests you expect.

Think about how your guests use your hotel lobby:

Most lobbies these days are multi-functional, providing a range of services and uses, such as:

  • Checking in/out
  • Meet and greet
  • Waiting area
  • Social hangout
  • Information hub 

The best way to approach multi-functional lobbies is to use creative segmented zones. For example, you might want to have a waiting area near the check-in reception desk, with comfortable seating and entertainment (TVs, Magazines, etc.). Use coffee tables and sofas to create a more social area for visitors and guests to meet/socialise.

Next, think about the types of guests who visit your hotel:

Different types of guests require different services/functions from your hotel lobby. Who does your hotel cater to?

  • Couples
  • Families
  • Business travellers
  • Corporate groups

If you’re a family-friendly hotel, consider having a child’s zone, which can entertain impatient children while parents wait to check-in. If you’re in a central city location and are regularly frequented by business travellers, create a quiet work zone with computers/laptop ports.

Keep the Check-In Process Simple

As mentioned earlier, the hotel lobby is your guests first encounter with your hotel and the beginning of their experience with you. Regardless of what your check-in desk looks like, you must also ensure that the process itself is quick and simple;

"All I’ve ever wanted from a hotel is that when I walk in, they hand me my room key. None of this, stand there, sign this, let me rehash everything you already filled out online, let me take your card, even though we have that info.” –  9 Basics I Expect When Staying in a Hotel , Consumer Traveler

Whether you use self-service iPads or the traditional manned-desk, make it as simple as possible for guests to check-in and proceed to their room. This will also help to reduce the number of people you have waiting around.

3 Free Things Every Hotel Lobby Should Have

1. Wifi
Access to the internet is now an expectation, and the benefits of providing free Wifi in your hotel lobby far outweigh any negatives expenses. You don’t HAVE to provide your guests with free and unlimited access to the internet (although if you can, your guests will love you for it), but basic access (capped bandwidth and/or time) allowing guests to access/update their social media profiles should be considered.

You can also use free Wifi to your advantage, by encouraging visitors to ‘check-in’ and ‘like’ your hotel on Facebook.

2. Access to water
The number of hotels (and other places) that don’t have free water dispensers never fails to amaze me. After a day of travelling (and waiting), you tend to be tired, and more often than not, slightly dehydrated. Bottled water in hotel rooms is not always free, and – as an essential requirement for, you know, staying alive – your guests should always have access to free drinking water.

3. A place to sit down
Again, I’m constantly surprised by the lack of seating many hotel lobbies seem to have. You should know how many people to expect at your busiest times, and you should offer them a place to sit whilst they are waiting.

Social seating areas also encourage people to hang out in your hotel lobby, which can make your hotel seem busier/friendly than others.

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