Q&A with Brian De Lowe, Proper Hospitality

As it states on its website, Proper Hospitality “began as a feeling, not as an idea.” In the next couple of years, the Venice, CA-based hospitality group expects to spread these characteristically unique emotions to guests in several key markets in the U.S.

Hotel Business caught up with Brian De Lowe, Proper Hospitality’s president and co-founder, to learn more about the company’s expansion plans in the upcoming year.

Describe the ideal Proper Hospitality property. Although our current portfolio is fairly diverse—including both hotels and residences, historic renovations and new-builds—you definitely know Proper Hospitality when you see and experience it.

The first and most visible characteristic of a Proper hotel or residence is the world-class design by Kelly Wearstler. Design is of immense importance within the Proper brand identity and Kelly has been instrumental in establishing the look and feel of both the physical environments and the brand as a whole. Although there are certainly commonalities between the properties she has designed, each one is absolutely distinct—a celebration of the building, neighborhood and city it’s set in, and an exciting expression of her bold design sensibility.

The second defining characteristic of a Proper hotel or residence is its relationship to the surrounding community. Our version of a grand hotel for today’s higher-end creatives is as much for visitors as it is for the locals—and instead of offering a cookie-cutter experience, we work with our friends in each of our cities to develop location-specific concepts.

The third defining characteristic is a diverse offering of best-in-class food & beverage experiences set in memorable spaces. One example of this is our approach to rooftop bars and lounges. We recently opened Charmaine’s at San Francisco Proper, which, similar to Filifera at Hollywood Proper, is the most stunning rooftop in the whole city. And, after you soak in the next-level views and inspiring design, you have a cocktail menu designed by the guys who recently won the award for “World’s Best Cocktail Menu,” as well as a thoughtful culinary offering by a James Beard-nominated chef. That’s the type of killer combination that we go for in all of our food & beverage outlets.

What’s Proper Hospitality’s approach to F&B concepts? Just as the design tells a unique story at each of our properties, the culinary offerings are concepted to pay homage to each location’s food and beverage culture. We absorb the city’s culinary history, consider what the “Proper” dining experience would be for a person wanting to experience each city, and develop around that mindset.

What are the company’s expansion plans? Three new flagship Proper-branded hotels will be opening in the next 18 months or so. In addition to our open properties (Avalon-branded hotels in Beverly Hills and Palm Springs, CA; the Custom Hotel in L.A.; a Proper-branded residential project in Hollywood; and our first Proper-branded hotel in San Francisco), we’ll be opening the Downtown L.A. Proper Hotel in late 2018 and the Santa Monica Proper Hotel and Austin Proper Hotel & Residences in early 2019.

Beyond that, we’re looking at opportunities in great neighborhoods within creative cities throughout the U.S., focusing primarily in New York, Miami, Nashville, Seattle and Portland—places we want to spend our time and that are attractive to our customer base.

We’ve also spent time thinking about the resort market, as on our own travels, we are always on the lookout for high-end lifestyle resorts delivered in a more untraditional way. Down the line, we’ll likely grow the Proper brand outside of the city centers where our urban hotels are located (e.g., wine country, coastal California, mountain towns and the desert). And, ultimately, we envision growing in any geographic location that attracts entrepreneurs and visionaries—both domestically and internationally—as long as we do so with the right partners and at a pace that allows us to continue to be as intricately involved in every detail to make sure the end product is something special.

Proper Hospitality recently tapped Arash Azarbarzin as president/COO. What’s the executive appointment outlook for 2018? We have a lot going on—and that means we will be making several key hires over the next year to ensure that we successfully execute as we launch our new hotels. We are in a unique position because we know that in less than 18 months, we will have at least eight properties under management. This positions us to be able to bring in world-class talent throughout our organization—individuals who share our passion for this business and have a drive to get involved early with us as we create something special. At the corporate level, we expect to be creating additional executive-level positions in operations, food & beverage, strategy & financial planning, corporate finance and revenue & distribution. Additionally, we will be hiring executive teams at the property level.  

As a C-suite executive, how do you balance work and family? I got married in 2016 and my wife, Jessie, and I became parents a few months ago. Becoming a father has required that I am even more efficient with my time. My days certainly start earlier than they used to. I spend precious time with my daughter, Amelie, every morning before the workday starts. I also schedule in a date night with my wife every week and work in some yoga or other exercise as well, even if it’s just walking/biking to meetings. Balance is tough, but it’s critical to being happy and healthy, which translates to being effective. 

How do you define success? Have you achieved it? For me, success in life is about being happy, fulfilled, in love and true to my values; surrounding myself with people with whom I have deep and meaningful relationships; having a strong sense of purpose; and waking up every day feeling motivated and challenged. Success for me is more about being on that balanced path than the actual end result—so I definitely feel that I am achieving it. HB

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