LOS ANGELES — Nearly four years after selling off its hotel brands and management platform to Accor, lifestyle hospitality pioneer SBE is jumping back into hotels in a big way.
And SBE isn’t doing it alone.
The company’s new hotel concept is being launched with the backing of Grammy-winning entertainer Marc Anthony, whom SBE announced as an equity partner in early January, and Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, a joint partner on the brand.
SBE and Wyndham unveiled details on the concept, which is being developed under the working title of Project HQ Hotels & Residences, on Jan. 22, billing the joint venture as a “smart lifestyle” concept.
“It’s a four-star, approachable lifestyle product,” Sam Nazarian, SBE’s founder and CEO, told Travel Weekly during the Americas Lodging Investment Summit here last month. “The consumers we’re trying to capture are consumers who are not connecting with traditional hospitality, [including] millennials, Gen Z and some other subsets that we’ve identified.”
In addition to a more accessible price point, each Project HQ property promises travelers access to a mix of culinary, nightlife and wellness components as well as an attractive city-center location. Nazarian said the concept will compete against brands like CitizenM and Marriott International’s Moxy.
Project HQ is also being positioned as a “smart” proposition for owners and developers. The concept is designed to be conversion-friendly and easily scalable, with more flexible brand standards. Its plans also include a branded residential offering.
Owners will be able to tap into SBE’s extensive portfolio of premium food and beverage brands, such as Umami Burger and sushi concept Krispy Rice, as well as leverage the company’s existing relationships with celebrity chefs such as Masaharu Morimoto and influencers like Matt Stonie.
“The F&B will be in line with the ADR, which I think is a new perspective for us,” said Nazarian. “I’d never previously put an Umami Burger in one of our hotels, but now, if a Katsuya is too expensive, [an owner] can put in a Krispy Rice or a Casa Dani by Dani Garcia. It’s really about democratizing the food and [reducing] the build-out costs.”
The Project HQ pipeline includes plans for four to five properties in Europe and the Middle East, two to three in the Caribbean and five in the U.S., with a few of the Middle East projects and one Caribbean project slated to include a residential component.
“We’re starting to really focus around college campuses, as well,” Nazarian told Travel Weekly sister publication Hotel Investment Today, adding that the pipeline is about half domestic, half international and the goal is to have roughly 50 hotels operating by 2029, which he called “a conservative number.”
What SBE’s partners bring
That ability to quickly scale will be driven in part by Wyndham, which is expected to significantly expand Project HQ’s reach. Under the partnership, Project HQ hotels will be part of Wyndham’s Registry Collection Hotels portfolio, with the new brand also set to participate in the 105-million-member Wyndham Rewards loyalty program.
When it comes to reach, SBE’s partnership with Anthony is also expected to have a significant impact.
“His level of connectivity to generations of communities, not just in Latin America but globally, and his instincts as an entrepreneur are unparalleled,” said Nazarian, adding that Anthony is especially adept at understanding that the Latin American consumer is far from monolithic.
“We hope we can capture a portion of his audience and give them a home for travel and environments that they actually relate to, not just things like Taco Tuesdays, which is what a lot of U.S. brands unfortunately do, and which isn’t fair,” Nazarian said. “He will tell you that Argentineans, for example, are very different from Peruvians, so it’s important that we segment that properly and gain that loyalty.”
Anthony, meanwhile, has described his foray into the hotel space as “fascinating.”
“It’s an art in its own way,” Anthony told Hotel Investment. “There’s so much to do. There’s so much to learn. And I’m not just sitting here because I’m the face of something. I have a seat at the table.”