The Mob is getting back into hotels

SSTH Editorial Team | 1 Jun, 2017

The Mob, otherwise known as the Mafia, has long been associated with hotels.

For instance, the American Mafia enjoyed a special status as investors in casino hotels in Batista's Cuba of the 1950's.

There is even a Mob Museum in Las Vegas which commemorates the key role played by Mafia figures in the development of the city's massive casino hotels in the post-war era, before the resort became a sanitised family-friendly destination in the late 1980's.

Now the Mob etiquette has been attached to a new hotel concept developed by Cyril Aouizerate, the creator of the Mama Shelter brand, in which AccorHotels has acquired a 35% stake.

According to Aouizerate, who can be considered to be a 'philosopher of hospitality', Mob Hotels, is neither a concept nor a brand, but "an ethical, cooperative movement", a new hotel experience that "focuses on individual and community wellbeing, as well as on human progress".

“For me to have a hotel it is more something of a responsibility instead of just having a company,” notes Aouizerate, who adds that, “I feel more like I have a mission. I’m an entrepreneur, too, but I think we are in a world if you don’t believe what you are going to do 1000%, you have no chance to succeed.”

Mob Hotel
Photo credit:  Mob Hotels 

The Mob Hotel offers guests an open environment designed for continuous movement with its bar-restaurant, organic produce from cooperatives, food trucks and well-tended gardens.

Entertainment facilities include an outdoor cinema and a live stage. Activities from meditation to cuisine, music to books and film to workshops are designed to create lasting bonds between guests as well as to welcome locals.

The rooms are surrounded by terraced gardens and feature beds worthy of a luxury hotel.

Too 'hippy-dippy'?

The lobby is a market promoting local handicrafts and guests are greeted by two who describe their wares and offer a small arrival gift.

Check-in takes place at a rotating table in the same space with a multi-tasking staff member who is allowed to be personal and maybe even offer a brief touch on the arm to express a warm welcome.

While admittedly somewhat original for a hotel, these aspects seem a bit 'hippy dippy' and could be off-putting to some customers.

Mob Hotel
Photo credit:  Mob Hotels 

In any case, to further enhance 'the Mob experience', management invites 10 or 15 startups that benefit from a free working space at the hotel for one year along with Internet, Wi-Fi, a printer and coffee. In return, the invited entrepreneurs are asked to present their concepts to guests in an open exchange of ideas.

Again, it's not every guest who wishes to be accosted like a business angel.

In addition, every week, two or three local organic fruit and vegetable producers build stalls to meet Mob Hotel guests and neighbours.

The hotel is committed to buying a percentage of organic products for the kitchen as it encourages guests and neighbours to eat well, taste and enjoy produce from organic sources, as well as to learn how to build their own bento lunch boxes.

Mob Hotel
Photo credit:  Mob Hotels 

Some prestigious financial backers

Whatever the possible shortcomings of the Mob concept might be, it has gained the seal of approval from some well-known and visionary figures in the business and hospitality world, including Aouizerate's friend and hotel owner, Michel Reybier of La Reserve in Switzerland and France.

Planned rollout

The plan is to develop and manage eight hotels over five years in Europe and the US.

The first just opened in Paris in February by the Les Puces flea market and the second, in Lyon, France, is scheduled for May. Otherwise, hotels are under development in: Pittsburgh’s Strip District (120 rooms due for 2018); Washington, DC’s Union Market (150 rooms in 2019); and Los Angeles’ Chinatown (150 rooms in 2020). Another deal in Rome is pending.

New York too expensive

The group does not yet have a location in New York because the land is so expensive, including all the boroughs. Instead Aouizerate has opted for Washington, DC, where costs are US$180’000 to US$200’000 per key and ADR will be US$150 to US$200.

This would be in line with the so-called 'rule of a thousand' for hotel development which states that the cost of the room should be about a thousand times the ADR. 

The cost for the first hotel in Paris, including land, construction, design, etc., was €140’000 per key. Small rooms are priced from €99 to €180 and bigger rooms at around €130.

With room rates ranging from €89 to €200-plus, and staffing levels 35% less than traditional boutique hotels, turning a profit is possible, according to Aouizerate.

Owner operated for flexibility

The investment group initially plans to own and operate each hotel so as to have complete control and to be able to make changes quickly, as needed.

“When you want to create something very close to the people, you want to create a project that will have different lives,” notes Aouizerate, who adds that, “In two years, you may need a new concept in the restaurant or bar, so you need to have an obsession to change and have the capacity to do so.”


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