SPREADING THE KIMPTON EXPERIENCE

When Mike Depatie joined Kimpton Hotel and Restaurant Group as head of real estate three-and-a-half years ago, he aimed to beef up the financing. Did he ever. Two years ago, Kimpton raised $157 million in equity to buy hotels. Will they ever.

“Over the next three years, we should grow by at least 50 percent and by the next five years, we should double the size of the company,” says Depatie, the new chief executive officer of the original boutique hotel brand. At present, there are 39 hotels and 40 restaurants in the Kimpton portfolio, including 12 properties in San Francisco, where Bill Kimpton founded his trend-setting flag in 1981.

Kimpton has a great opportunity because boutique hotels represent about one percent of the total hotel supply, says Depatie. Kimpton's target: major urban markets, their suburbs, and resort destinations. “I don't see why we wouldn't have 12 hotels in Manhattan and 12 hotels in L.A.,” he says.

Today's situation evokes the early '80s when he worked for lodging pioneer Jack DeBoer on expanding then-baby brand Residence Inn. “We were thinking about how big we thought demand was for lodging where people stayed longer than seven nights,” he says. “We figured it was one or two percent, but it was 15 percent. I don't think demand for boutique is 15 percent of supply, but I think it's a pretty big number.”

Travelers are tired of “one-size-fits-all” franchise companies that cookie-cut product, Depatie says. What counts is “consistency of experience,” as in Starbucks. Starbucks regulars expect the same drink at every outlet but they also appreciate the touches that differentiate a Seattle Starbucks from one in Milwaukee.

“We're in the business of delivering all the things you want in a hotel today,” Depatie says. “Wouldn't it be nice to be pleasantly surprised by an interesting design or a great restaurant and be engaged by the people at the front desk? We manage all our hotels and we really work hard to support that kind of culture.”

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