Michael Baier has an extraordinary career in hospitality and is a forerunner for change in the industry. Currently the general manager of Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco, he knows that the success of a hotel today is centered on enhancing guest experience through surpassing the individualized expectations of each customer. And at Stanford Court, they manage this experience as an art. To underscore this objective, locality is placed front and center. Michael shows that incorporating local brands, local artists, and local companies is essential to tell the story of the city and give a unique insider experience. Daylighted had the great pleasure of interviewing him.
How has the guest experience for the hospitality industry changed?
Michael: When I started it was all about consistency and standards. The industry wanted the whole experience to be familiar whether you are checking-in to a hotel in France or in San Francisco. They wanted you to feel the same no matter where you were. It was all very scripted. Today, the idea of the guest experience and the desire of the guests have completely shifted. Guests desire a more unique and locally immersive experience. They want to feel the uniqueness of the geography.
How is Stanford Court Hotel adapting to all these changes?
Michael: Everything that we have done has been completely centered on the “present”. Everywhere you turn at Stanford Court, we try to give guests a peak or a glimpse into the local life of San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. That is expressed through everything from the hand soap we use in our bathrooms to the Levi’s we have for our staff uniforms, the ingredients we use in our food and beverage are local, etc. Every time we can, we make sure to provide the guests not only with a local product but the story that goes along with it. And with everything we talk about, we try to talk about the lesser known. So, when we are talking about the cable cars, we’re going to talk about the F line. That is a trolley line that no one outside of people from here have heard about but, it is of equally historic significance. Those are stories that we want to tell.
The Stanfordt Court Hotel Lobby and Reception Desk
How have analytics or data impacted the guest experience?
Michael: There were absolutely no analytic aspects back then. Today you have tools that seek out data on guests through social media and their background, so you know the guest before they even arrive- what sports team they like, what kind of food they like, where they’ve been, etc. Stanford Court utilizes those tools to varying degrees because we want to exceed the guests’ expectations. That’s our goal.
What kind personality does Stanford Court Hotel have?
Michael: We want the hotel to sort of mimic what it might feel like to work in a high tech headquarters in our region. We want to appear not overly structured. We’re never going to give our front desk agents a script to read from. We’re going to tell them there are certain things you must cover at check-in with each guest but we’re not going to tell them how to say it or what words to use. We want to be casual yet warm and friendly. We just want to make people feel at home but through a San Francisco experience.
What are the unique guest experiences that Stanford Court Hotel offers to give guests an idea of where to go in San Francisco?
Michael: For every well-known historic attraction in San Francisco, there are a hundred things that people have never heard of. Those are the stories we want to tell because most visitors coming to San Francisco have been here before. San Francisco has one of the highest repeat visitor rate of any city in the world. It’s like going to Paris and, you’ve been there before so you’ve already seen the Eiffel Tower and common tourist attractions, so what’s next on the list? You came back because you liked it, so what else can we show you that you haven’t seen yet? What other stories can we tell? That’s what we are trying to do.
What role does art play in this experience?
Michael: Art plays a huge role in San Francisco. It is everywhere you go, everywhere you look from the architecture to everything in between. There’s a rich history of art in the Bay Area and we want to make sure that we capture that and give guests something unique to look at. If we’re going to do art or music, it’s all going to be local. Art fits in that way. We want to show off the famous along with the lesser known. We have works of art from famous artists and we have works of art from people that we have found through our own personal interactions in the city.
What did you have in Stanford Court Hotel before Daylighted installations?
Michael: Before we had the Daylighted installations, we had three plasma screens that were oriented portrait versus the typical landscape. They were looped into a system where we could upload images or display meeting rooms. The three screens showed different elements of a specific neighborhood in San Francisco and the idea was to show their stories. They were not designed to constantly change. They would only change once an hour. The idea was for guests to notice that the images were different right now than they were maybe this morning when they got up.
Why did you decide to shift to Daylighted?
Michael: Daylighted was intriguing and we felt like it would be a great fit for us as soon as we learned the concept. Part of our immersive local story is always trying to use local companies and local talent. We’re also a tech haven because that is one of our local signature industries. We are at the center of the technology universe in this region. Daylighted filled those three buckets: it filled the art bucket, it filled the technology bucket, and it filled the local company bucket. It was one of those few things in the hotel industry that was such a great fit because it fulfilled so many of our desires in one package. We love how we can customize the art shows. We can ask Daylighted to just display things from local artists or we can ask them to just display content that features our region. We love how flexible it is and our guests really enjoy it as well.
The Daylighted Installation at The Stanford Court Hotel - Credits: Lucas Fladzinki
What kind of value Daylighted adds to Stanford Court Hotel?
Michael: It’s easy. It’s another “wow” moment. We want our guests to discover things they have never seen before and this is one of those things. Every hotel, every business, is struggling to have a unique identity, at least we are, and so it’s great because it takes people by surprise.