Jon Altschuler: Landlord Lessons from the Hotel Bel-Air

Jon Altschuler

I had a business trip to Los Angeles pop up this past week. I don’t like being by myself—ever—so I needed to bring someone. And so I’m clear, I don’t like to be at a desk by myself, much less another city, so I was looking for someone to serve as a planemate, a carmate, and a roommate.

In a small firm, if you unnecessarily take a colleague, you’re seriously diminishing capacity back at the office. That’s not a good idea. I next thought of bringing my father and four-year old daughter—under the auspice that we could have a grandfather-father-daughter trip, too. But I knew we were going to be doing a lot of driving, and things would surely get explosive with that range of ages. Lamenting my situation with my wife, she volunteered to go.

The thing about my wife and travel is this: I suggest a budget of $2, she finds a place she likes that is priced at $3, and then she sells me on it by pointing out it’s regularly priced at $5. So we stayed at the Hotel Bel-Air which leads to the two-fold point of the blog.

Located on 12 sprawling acres up in the hills above Sunset Boulevard and the UCLA campus, the hotel is surrounded by homes like the ones on Lakeside Boulevard. Simply put, the area is stunning. And when we arrived in the reception area, they young attendant asked if we had stayed there before. We responded, no, but that we had stayed at its sister hotel (Beverly Hills Hotel) back in 2007. He commented that the hotel had recently completed a two-year renovation. I wondered what takes two years, and we soon found out.

Our room was great. It wasn’t big by luxury hotel standards, probably 450 square feet. The finishes were first-class, timeless, and beautiful.  The floor was stone, the ceilings were soaring and wood-planked, and there was crown molding throughout. Truth be told, the improvements were so nice, Lori and I really weren’t inclined to leave the room.

This inclination got me to thinking about tenant finishes and improvement allowances. And, more specifically, to how the owners of well-located Class B and better office buildings would likely be doing themselves a service by providing their tenants a more generous improvement allowance going forward. Improving the quality of the tenant buildouts should be a specific focus of the prudent landlord; tenants in high-quality spaces are more apt to act like my wife and me—they won’t want to leave.

The next thing I noticed was the consistency of the service by the entire staff at the hotel.  Everyone was “on,” and everyone was on all the time. From the front desk to the valet stand to the housekeepers to the maintenance staff to the wait staff, every interaction we had was engaging, down-to-earth, and incredibly pleasant.

Running a small firm, I know how important it is to get everyone in sync with an unbeatable customer service ethic. And when you do it right, as Hotel Bel-Air did last week, it resonates.

Jon Altschuler is a partner at Altschuler and Co. Contact him at [email protected]