SEATTLE—The hotel lobby is the first impression, the gateway, the culmination of a property’s design, story and character. Check-in, ample seating and open space may come to mind, and while these are all vital components to a welcoming space, a new lobby trend is brewing: coffee.
Italian-made La Marzocco espresso machines have made their mark in hotel restaurants and bars, but are now filtering into the walk-up café, located in—or adjacent to—many hotel lobbies.
“Cafés have become one of the trends that give people permission to slow down for a minute, enjoy something that is deliciously handcrafted and have a conversation with a friend,” said Scott Callender, VP of marketing and consumer strategy for La Marzocco USA. “As the need for these types of interactions increases, the walk-up café continues to expand in popularity and importance in our society.”
These cafés give guests and locals room to not only order and sip their coffee, but also offer the space that comes with a hotel lobby area.
“The lobby of a hotel is an ideal place to have a meaningful interaction. They are beautiful places with comfortable seating, usually with areas where you can have a private conversation. It is similar to a really large café space. It only makes sense to enliven that feeling through a beverage program,” Callender said.
The Durham Hotel in Durham, NC, is one of the many properties making the most out of cafés and the La Marzocco brand, embracing the professional machines and space for guests to savor.
“Serving coffee in lobbies is the other end of the spectrum from the hotel bar, which often catches people at the end of the day, but provides much of the same functions—bringing people together in a communal space over the ritual of food and beverage to celebrate our interconnectedness,” said Mark Daumen, head barista and manager of the coffee program at The Durham Hotel.
These machines not only allow for this connectivity, but offer a design component as well: a La Marzocco machine is a piece of decor in and of itself.
According to Callender, with the machine’s classic look, it can be customized to fit any hotel decor, is easy to maintain and can be found in many high-end cafés, offering specialty or third-wave coffees.
“If you are looking to send a signal to your demographic that you are serious about specialty coffee, La Marzocco is one of the best signals,” Callender said.
A demographic—mostly between the ages of 25-35, Callender said—expects more of an “experience” rather than just a hotel stay, which extends to their food and beverage expectations as well. High-end and specialty coffees are making their way into the hospitality space, providing hints of culture and a sense of place.
“It [specialty coffee]has tried to tell the story of the farmer, varietal and origin in the same way that we talk about wine,” Callender said. “Enjoyment is always enhanced when knowledge and an appreciation for nuance is added to a beverage. With this knowledge and appreciation, we have also seen the quality of the coffee increase significantly as more and more people understand the story and can taste the difference in the cup.”
Daumen said that specialty coffee is a way of celebrating and appreciating every aspect of sustainably grown, ethically traded and expertly roasted and prepared coffee.
“People have been able to taste the difference between something that is well cared for and loved through all stages of its production, rather than a coffee that is essentially a caffeine delivery device,” Daumen said.
At The Durham, the team has aimed to replicate a European-style coffee shop with these machines, coupled with the social bar experience.
“Instead of the typical ‘wait in line, order a drink, move to the side to wait, get your drink and leave,’ we have tried to foster a more lively approach that encourages human-to-human interaction and communication,” Daumen said. “We will often facilitate or witness conversations between strangers who can take these chance meetings and turn them into moments of connections that break through our increasingly isolated everyday space.”
Daumen said that the machine’s—or what he refers to as a “workhorse”—design alone is a conversation piece and allows coffee professionals to dynamically and creatively utilize the full potential of the coffee.
For 91 years, La Marzocco has been committed to the entire process—from machine design to enjoyment.
“When we have customers walk up and see we have a Marzocco in the lobby, they immediately know that we aren’t messing around with our coffee,” Daumen said. “Whether or not they are familiar with the brand, the appearance of the machine alone sets the tone for a coffee experience that will be well curated by baristas who truly care about the coffee they are serving.” HB