A Framework for Creating Welcoming Spaces
Whether you’re opening a restaurant, curating a hotel, or building an online community, every virtual and physical space thrives with a welcoming environment.
The right environment doesn't only create brand affinity but also promotes communal ties. In order to get there, follow these steps when designing your space.
Create a brand that attracts the right people. A strong brand attracts the right people as much as it repels the wrong people. 1 Hotels is a great example: everything from their Sans Serif font to the story behind their name is meant to attract sustainably-minded, luxury-loving, progressive millennials while repelling guests looking for economical hotel stays. How will your brand elements (e.g.: logo, colors, typeface, story, and values) entice your target customers?
Tell a story that pulls people in. You need descriptors that humanize your brand and compel people along for the ride. Instead of a traditional “about us” page, Moxy Hotels distances itself from their parent company Marriott and beckons guests with a “Play With Us” as it cheekily describes checking in at the front desk - which doubles as a bar. Their storytelling highlights the playful and fun experiences they want every guest to have. Great storytelling not only draws people in but sets the tone for the guest experience.
Design a space that allows people to be themselves. If you don’t think about every aspect of the design and experience, people will assume you didn't care enough. The design of a space influences how guests interact with the space and one another (e.g., the coworking spaces at the Ace Hotel). Creating a thoughtfully designed space means thinking through how guests will interact with the space and with one another.
Staff the space with people that signal the right values and welcome guests in. Who is welcoming your guests influences the energy your guests enter the space with. Consider hiring locals who promote’s the location’s vibe or hiring facilitators with the same affinities as guests (e.g. shared backgrounds or interests) so they can effortlessly make conversation. If all else fails, you can recruit fanatic guests (DC restaurant Republic Cantina recruited new hires through a series of Instagram posts, hiring on “personality” and training for the rest).
Roll out programs that align to guests' needs. The best programming can only happen once everyone is safe and ready to be vulnerable. Only on r you’ve nailed the brand, story, space, and staff, augment the experience through programming. It can include leisure activities that have an objective but don’t feel forced. Whatever you decide, it must be authentic to the brand and something guests actually value.
Given that our culture's infatuation with “community” is not going to let up any time soon, it’s important to be deliberate and thoughtful about creating an authentic Community, and that starts with a welcoming environment.