Research shows that there’s only one way to move forward for every crisis: investing in innovation. And there’s no doubt: hospitality – and related industries – face a crisis.
As economist Paul Romer famously remarked: “a crisis is a terrible thing to waste.” Longtime hospitality and lifestyle trend-watchers John Ashworth and Regina Connell agreed, and decided to team up to meet the challenge of reinventing hospitality head on.
In late spring, 2020, the two established a new hospitality strategy and brand development studio – called Collaboratory – inside Bull Stockwell Allen, Ashworth’s award-winning hospitality architecture and interiors firm based in San Francisco.
Connell and Ashworth’s partnership has its roots in the pre-COVID-19 era, when they began exploring ways to take hospitality of all forms to the next level. Both had noticed that the prevailing hospitality strategies were growing tired, particularly the focus on experiential travel, which was becoming formulaic at the same time as it was causing over-touristing and environmental issues.
During and post-pandemic, the need is even greater. “Now is the time”, said Connell, a long-time strategy and brand expert, “for the hospitality industry to reinvent itself and create a new kind of value for a changed marketplace and guest. Going back to the “old normal” just won’t be an option. It’s very painful, but it’s also the right time to think invention and reinvention. It will be an excellent opportunity for established hoteliers and smart investors and entrepreneurs alike to take the industry where it needs to go next.”
Collaboratory seeks out and synthesizes the best thinking and ideas from a range of sectors to create new-to-the-world hospitality and lifestyle brands and refine and elevate existing ones. The goal: to create memorable and transformative guest experiences that inspire rave reviews and deep loyalty. The studio weaves a deep focus on the guest experience with brand and storytelling, creating elevated concepts expressed through tight integration of architecture, interiors, vibe, design, service, and programming.
So far, Collaboratory and Bull Stockwell Allen have created two offerings to help hospitality navigate this new future: Proactive Evolution – to help hoteliers through the short and medium terms, and Hospitality Reinvented: Creating New Value for a Disrupted Industry – a primer on the key insights brands and innovators will need to embrace as they build for the future.
“We’re excited to be creating this opportunity for our clients,” said Ashworth. “We see this as the evolution of Bull Stockwell Allen with its 50-year heritage in recreation hospitality. Integrating strategy, planning, architecture, and brand under the larger Bull Stockwell Allen banner feels like what the world needs now: smart thinking and execution that makes a difference for our clients, their guests, and really, the world at large. In our experience, there’s always such a close relationship between strategy and brand and design and service that it makes perfect sense to provide those services to clients as well. We believe this will create a much stronger offering, all the way around.”
As its name implies, Collaboratory is designed to bring together disparate ideas and disciplines to create new ways of envisioning the evolution of hospitality. Tightly integrated with Bull Stockwell Allen’s core architectural and interiors studios, it also draws from an external collective of thinkers and doers from the worlds of food and drink, design, retail, hospitality, fashion, culture, sustainability, technology, social enterprise, and the arts.
Connell grew up around storied Asian hospitality brands known for impeccable service, developed her strategy, brand, and experiential skills at Apple, Booz, Landor, and Heath, and has advised companies ranging from megabrands Starwood, LEGO, and Nike to boutique lifestyle brands such as Guittard, Good Eggs, Fyrn, and East Fork. ”We believe that hospitality is in a unique position to unlock human greatness and not just through inspiration or discovery, or by bringing together people, or providing a room for the night. It can do more, mean more – and become more resilient. We want to help that evolution.”