The Hotelier Edit: Hotel Zoku
Visiting Amsterdam is always a glimpse of the future of the hotel sector. The city is packed with businesses putting community, technology and sustainability at their core and completely imagining the customer experience.
Zoku Amsterdam is once such venue, providing a home base for business travelers who want to live in the city. It’s a home-office hybrid with hotel services, a relaxed place to live, work and socialise with like-minded people while getting wired into the city.
The Indepedent Hotel Show popped into the speak to the Zoku Amsterdam team to learn more about the brand’s unique approach.
Part of helping guests engage with the city during their stay, say Concept & Brand Director Veerle Donders and F&B Concept & Design Manager Sophie Visser, is recruiting the right people into a job role they called ‘Sidekicks’: people who have experience moving to Amsterdam from aborad and who know every little nook and cranny of the city.
“Our mix of Sidekicks allow for a wealth of local knowledge and understanding for people who are both here for a short period and just want to see highlights, as well as people that requires more in-depth local knowledge,” they explain. “Every resident that stays with us for more than a week, receives a “check-in chat” with our Community Manager who makes sure the resident gets tailored information based on their personal preferences as well as connecting them to our other residents, so they can explore the city together.”
With seeing and exploring the city such a major part of the Zoku Amsterdam experience, the past few years must have presented significant challenges for the business. Donders and Visser point out that, “Next to the obvious focus on hygiene and housekeeping, the most interesting shift in behaviours is the need for human connection.
“People have been locked up and isolated for such a while that they crave more intimate, personal conversations and interactions. In addition, as our main target audience is people living and working in the city from a few days to a few months, these people do not spend every single day at their local office anymore. Their need to work hybrid means that Zoku’s work facilities and co-working services in our Social Spaces have become much more important, as are our Lofts that offer both a great place to work next to being a home for them.”
As many consumers have emerged from the pandemic craving a greater sense of community, this side of Zoku Amsterdam has been evolving rapidly post pandemic.
“Community is a buzzword often used to describe the experience created by a fulltime community manager in the hotel, who organises lots of events with cool local brands,” continue Donders and Visser. “At Zoku, we found out that only organising events is not what makes our residents connect. You need to create that first connection with someone before being brave enough to show up at an event on your own.
“During the ‘check-in chats’ that our new residents get with our local community managers, the residents get to know the Community Manager as well as being introduced to the team. At the end of the chat, the community manager invites the residents to one of our frequent Zoku hosted community rituals, such as our community dinner, Friday night live music and daily “Fika” coffee breaks where they can meet like-minded locals and residents that are also new in the city. This forms a strong connection and creates memories for them beyond the standard hotel stay.
“A great guest experience is designed around people - our Zoku residents in this case. From the very start of creating the Zoku concept, we have asked our future residents what they really needed and what frustrated them when living and working abroad. In fact, we have held 150 interviews with the target audience. This gave us so much intel to work with on creating an experience that was specifically designed for them.
“The main drivers of our guest experience are a sense of community and belonging, giving our residents autonomy to choose their own experience (where Zoku adapts to them instead of them having to adapt to Zoku), a frictionless experience and a true sense of comfort. A great guest experience will look different for any hotel brand depending on who the audience is the brand focuses on. For Zoku, this is what our residents find most important.”
Another aspect of the stay that guests tend to value highly is the food & drink offering which, says Visser, is a hugely important part of encouraging guests to mingle, and nourish the body and mind.
“It’s hard enough maintaining your healthy lifestyle while being abroad, so Zoku makes it easy for you with healthy, delicious options from breakfast to dinner. In almost every culture, sharing food is a social activity and this is Zoku’s founding food and beverage philosophy. The residential atmosphere makes sure you can sit and chat with the chef. You’ll never eat alone, if you don’t want to. The Living Kitchen is designed for connecting, sharing food and stories with friends old and new, while you can slide onto one of the communal tables for a bite.”
Design is a hugely important part of encouraging guests to interact and to enjoy their stay in the Zoku Lofts, which have been designer with living and working in mind.
“We shifted the focus from the bed as the most dominant object of the space (which is the case in 99.9% of all hotel rooms), to the kitchen table,” explains Donders. “We noticed that the pandemic has put even more emphasis on being able to use hotel rooms to double as workspaces, meeting spaces, event spaces etc. and it has allowed us to be more creative in how we use our Lofts: as a home, a workspace, podcast studio, meeting room, mini-restaurant and even escape rooms.
“The importance of flexibility in design and being able to stack different business models on the same square meter are now more important than ever and this reflects back into our design evolution at Zoku.”
To conclude the conversation, Community Manager Laura Ghitoi highlights some of the eco-friendly elements of the business, telling the Independent Hotel Show: “Besides our sustainability efforts in terms of environmental impact, we are also looking at things from a social perspective. We aim to have a positive social imprint on our neighbourhood – which means we get involved in local volunteering efforts around the Plantage and Weesperstraat area, and we strive to have welcoming spaces for the locals (who can come to our rooftop for open live music every week, have a coffee or brunch with their friends in our Living Kitchen or work from our spaces)
“For Zoku, our social impact also strongly links with addressing mental health and loneliness. Many of our members are solo entrepreneurs or remote workers, so we strive to offer them a community of like-minded people to make entrepreneurship less lonely! Similar, many of our residents who stay with us more than two weeks face similar issues: they most often come without their family in a new city where they don’t know anyone – so we organise weekly events for them to help them meet new people and develop their own network in the city!”
To learn more about Zoku Amsterda, visit livezoku.com/amsterdam
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