Appellation crafts excitement for future guests

Appellation, the culinary-first hotel brand cofounded by chef Charlie Palmer and former Four Seasons President Christopher Hunsberger, was first announced in June 2022. While its first property isn’t scheduled to open until 2025, the brand is already working to get its future guests and locals excited.

The brand has taken its soon-to-be signature programming, Crafted by Appellation, and begun previewing it in future locations. “One of the features of the brand and of the hotels is that we build these spaces inside of the hotels for local makers and artisans to come in and perform their craft and interact with the guests,” said Ed Skapinok, chief commercial officer, Appellation. “It could be a very casual, free activity like a local coffee roaster doing a cupping activity or a ticketed event where we bring in local experts who perform a craft with guests.”

The company starts the activities about 18 months before the hotels are set to open in each market. The events have already begun for Appellation Healdsburg in California, which is set to open in 2025, and will begin soon for Appellation Petaluma in the Golden State as well, set to open in 2026. Other properties on the horizon include Appellation Pacific Grove, another California location, and Appellation Sun Valley in Idaho.

While the activities help build excitement for the future hotels, they also serve another purpose, according to Skapinok. “It’s to get the brand out there, but it is also a bit of R&D for us,” he said. “It tells us, in the absence of hotel guests, what kind of topics resonate with the local audience. It gives us a chance to work through timing and details that we want to have in place and figure out before the hotels open.”

He has found that the F&B-centered events have been the most popular. “I think the people who are attracted to us have a real interest in great culinary,” he said. “They enjoy the hands-on cooking classes, but we have also done some culinary craft-type classes, like taking grape vines and making wreaths out of them for the spring with air plants or mixology classes taught by a local distiller. They are sort of culinary adjacent, but very much about working with your hands and working with local experts who can talk about the materials that are used, the process and what is really unique to the region.”

With the brand’s culinary-first focus, these events are extremely helpful in building future visitors. “Some of our best customers may never stay overnight with us,” said the Appellation CCO. “That makes us a little different from other hotel companies. It is someone that is in a local market and they attend classes monthly, use our spa quarterly and maybe have dinner with us a few times a year. They very well could spend more money with us annually than somebody who comes in for a long weekend once a year.”

Skapinok believes that too many hotels are focused on those one-time guests. “There’s a lot of revenue opportunity and loyalty to be built by activating and creating relationships,” he explained. “That’s what we have done with the brand programming.”
Mark Fancourt, the company’s chief information officer agrees. “Appelation has addressed that something for everyone,” he said. “There is a reason for local people to want to engage in the business, whereas at most hotels, there isn’t. Hotels exist for the people that don’t live there. Commercially, having been involved in a lot of mixed-use developments in my prior career, it’s a masterstroke, yet such a simple thing to turn the business into something that becomes attractive for multiple customer sets.”

The Australia-born Fancourt said that offering this type of programming is a natural fit for the culinary-first brand. “Food and beverage has traditionally been a local business. Coming predominantly from Asia, where you don’t have too many city hotels or resorts that don’t have multiple food and beverage and lifestyle outlets, I see a lot of familiarity with that and what we are bringing to life with Appellation in the general product footprint that the company is embarking on.”

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