Some entrepreneurs are inspired to start companies because they spot unmet needs in the market: Frontdesk Co-Founder and Chief Growth Officer Jesse DePinto, for instance, saw the amateur nature of home shares but the opportunity for something better than a hotel. The company saw the need for the best of both worlds and, to tackle this challenge, it is “evolving into a 21st-century tech-enabled hospitality brand,” DePinto told PYMNTS in an interview. As a result, the company can architect all the elements of its operation from technology to process and its people from the ground up with insight from the current day.
DePinto says the company aims to serve today’s modern travelers by hosting them in urban apartment units with all the service a traveler might need “from the initial communication and marketing to the physical location and amenities and furniture.” When it comes to booking the units, the company takes a multichannel approach. “We meet the guest where they’re most comfortable,” DePinto said. The company has its own website, and it loves when repeat guests book directly as they already know about the concept. At the same time, the company advertises through other channels such as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, UrbanDoor and VRBO.
The company likes to host guests in upscale downtown apartments in an urban core with walkable neighborhoods. “For us, location is number one,” DePinto said, adding that Frontdesk is also looking for a consistent and professional high-quality experience with customers expecting at least a Class A luxury new apartment complex. The company looks to serve the 21st-century traveler, with young professionals looking to stay in cities. It has units in cities such as Charlotte, Tampa, Milwaukee and Columbus.
When it comes to partnerships, the company works with multifamily property management companies. It seeks to help them increase their occupancy and fill their vacant units. At the same time, the company creates an added amenity for long-term renters by offering its units as guest suites for residents in the buildings. Their family and friends can then stay in the apartments whenever they are in town so they, say, don’t have to sleep on the couch (or the resident that is hosting them doesn’t have to give up their bed to their guests).
For its target market, the company’s ideal customers are people who want to be in a city — those who are excited by the hustle and bustle of a downtown urban area. The company gets mostly business travelers as it has a product that tends to attract them, DePinto says, but it brings in leisure travelers as well. The target audience is harder to determine with the hybridization between real estate, hospitality, business travel and leisure travel. “It’s all just becoming travel,” DePinto said.
The offering comes as DePinto says Airbnb has changed the customer mindset for travel. “Consumers are conditioned to expect more than just a hotel,” once they started staying in other people’s apartments, condos as well as townhomes for the same price of a hotel, DePinto said. That shift pushed the boundary of what people could expect with hospitality, and created a whole new wave of travelers in the process. In the future, the company aims to provide more space as well as amenities and technology, among other plans.
Beyond Frontdesk, Mint House aims to deliver a hotel-like experience that is trusted and secure as well as built on a suite of amenities powered by technology. The company is currently in markets including Nashville, Miami, Denver, Detroit and Indianapolis, and is coming soon to San Diego and Minneapolis as of a PYMNTS report in May. Like Frontdesk, Mint House can also open up the rooms as guest suites to the rest of the tenants in the building to provide value to full-time residents as well.
And “aparthotel” company Locale, like Frontdesk, takes a multichannel approach to reservations. Consumers can book through Airbnb as well as online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Hotels.com, Expedia and Booking.com by searching for a particular property. At the same time, Locale also allows travelers to book directly through its website or via phone.
From Locale to Frontdesk, online platforms are combining technology and hotel-like service to allow travelers to stay in apartments for work or pleasure as they move about the country in the digital era.