Mint House claims best hotel in New York after COVID changes hotel business – TechCrunch
What is the best rated hotel in New York? According to TripAdvisor users, this is Mint House at 70 Pine, and it’s easy to see why when you click through the photos. All over New York City, hotel rooms are essentially bento boxes, carefully constructed to hold all of the essentials. But not the Mint House rooms. Mint House rooms are virtually full apartments, and travelers have taken note of this.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way Mint House operates, and as the world begins to reopen, the company is well positioned to serve both business and leisure travelers.
Mint House launched in 2017 and raised $ 15 million in 2019 as it expanded its offering. At the time, Tige Savage, Managing Partner of Revolution Venture and Mint House Investor, described the company as follows: “Mint House is the best of a hotel without the worst of a hotel and the best of an Airbnb without the. worst of an Airbnb.
The company sets itself apart from traditional hotels by offering products that are more similar to those rented by Airbnb, but while providing functionality similar to those of a hotel. Another company called Lyric also tried to follow this line and raised $ 150 million before eventually shutting down.
Initially, Mint House targeted business travelers in secondary markets (read: not New York City). Pre-COVID Mint House rooms were primarily available in Indianapolis, Denver, Nashville, Miami and Detroit. Mint House CEO Will Lucas explained at the time that there are opportunities in these markets as homes are often worse than in major markets.
COVID has changed Mint House’s trajectory, Lucas explained in an interview with TechCrunch. At the start of the pandemic, the hospitality industry collapsed. Mint House saw occupancy rates drop from 60% to single digits, and Mint House had to reimburse customers and employees on leave. Eventually, thanks to new members of the sales team, Mint House found that their product offering was well suited to the pandemic. Displaced workers needed a place to live and work. Traveling health professionals needed a home away from home. Some university students have been excluded from student accommodation, but still required to attend school. Mint House’s apartment-like rooms presented a compelling alternative to a traditional hotel room where kitchens are often, at most, just instant coffeemakers and mini-fridges. But with Mint House rooms, guests have an in-room kitchen, living space and, more recently, a real working space.
As the pandemic set in, Mint House saw a drastic change in length of stay. Before COVID-19, the average length of stay was four nights. During COVID-19, the average length of stays was 21 nights as travelers’ needs changed. Instead of flying for a quick meeting, workers and travelers needed a place to settle in and work remotely. At the height of the pandemic, 81% of Mint House guests were working remotely.
Mint House’s key features appear to be designed specifically for social distancing, but they were in place before the pandemic. Guests do not have to check in at a reception and there is no key card. Guests can order groceries and the room will be stocked before arrival – a service rarely found outside of business-oriented hotels, but now in high demand even by vacationers. Customer service for all properties is also centralized.
While most of the hospitality industry languished throughout 2020, Mint House has seen tremendous growth. Several months after the start of the pandemic, Mint House saw occupancy rates reach new highs. In June, 84% of Mint House rooms were booked, and the company was averaging 80% over the remainder of 2020. The company doubled and increased its portfolio by over 50% in the last half of 2020 as well.
Today, almost a year after the bottom fell, Mint House is present in 24 buildings in 13 markets.
In New York, Mint House competes with giants. CEO Lucas explains.
“This year in New York, we are earning an average of 2.2 times the RevPAR (revenue per available room),” he said. “Our CompSet (competitive package, or rather, competing hotels) is an incredibly tough competition that includes two Thompson hotels, three Marriott hotels and Hilton hotels. We are number one in occupancy, number one in ADR (Average Daily Rate), and by bringing them together, we are more than double the CompSet.
Lucas believes these rankings show Mint House’s strengths and how the company is different from traditional hotel brands. And yet, Mint House has turned to executives of classic hotel brands to drive growth.
Mint House recently announced the addition of several new executives. Jim Mrha, who previously worked at Domio, Hilton, MGM Hospitality and Marriott, will be the CFO of Mint House. Paul Sacco, former chief investment officer and executive at TPG Hotels & Resorts and Starwood, has joined Mint House as director of development. Jess Berkin, another former director of hospitality at travel e-commerce startup Porter & Sail, is Mint House’s new director of marketing and communications.
“It feels like we’re about to really take off,” Lucas said with some pride.
Mint House is engaged in an aggressive growth strategy just as the world is about to reopen. The company is looking to double the number of units available and to go international, starting with London in a month and possibly South America.
Now, midway through 2021, the pandemic is receding and travel is starting to change again. Mint House sees the average stay drop from 21 nights in 2020 to around six nights. According to Lucas, the number of vacationers is growing and Mint House is seeing the return of short business stays. And then there’s the new kind of business traveler who leaves their home office to work remotely from a new location, like Miami.
Mint House straddles an interesting boundary between hotels and short-term rentals like those offered by Airbnb. On the one hand, they offer the convenience and confidence of a hotel with the style and comfort of a short-term rental. If the company can execute on its plan, and its recent executive hires should help, the company is well positioned to compete with the Hiltons and Marriott in New York City and across the United States and the world.