Five Qs: Joseph Shurmur of The Henry

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Since being inducted into Marriott International’s Autograph Collection in 2010, The Henry in Dearborn has twice received the company’s “Americas Hotel of the Year” Award. Joseph Shurmur, the hotel’s general manager, spoke with DBusiness Daily News about the collection and what The Henry is doing to keep things fresh.

1. DDN: What is the Autograph Collection?

JS: The Autograph is “exactly like nothing else,” which is kind of the slogan for the brand. It’s a group of smaller and larger boutique hotels that have joined the Marriott brand in the luxury and lifestyle category. Currently, there are over 90 hotels, and they range from 15 rooms to 3,000 rooms. They all fall under different (experience categories), including art, history, natural retreats, and urban excitement. Each one is very different and unique. No two are the same, but they’re all part of the Marriott brand, so we have the same reservations system and travelers have the ability to gain Marriott Rewards points.

2. DDN: Which category does The Henry fall under?

JS: The arts. We partner with Park West Gallery (in Southfield) and we could be categorized as a gallery ourselves. We have artwork for sale throughout the entire hotel. It’s in every guestroom, and every floor has a different artist. And when you get off the elevator on a given floor, you will see the bio of the individual artist that is featured on that floor. We even have a small art gallery with a curator here on site.

3. DDN: What trends are you seeing in the hospitality industry?

JS: From an industry standpoint, nearly 50 percent of travelers are Millennials (those born in 1982 or later), and over the next few years, that number is going to increase. So as an operator, we’re (looking) to cater to younger generations, whether it’s unique things we do in the guest room or just rethinking how we place power cords in our layout and design.

4. DDN: What’s new at the hotel?

JS: Over the last year, we created a uniqueness committee to develop things that are just very different and unique in catering to the individual traveler. We have 12 (committee members), who are managers and entry-level ambassadors. We just kind of break the barriers and say, “Okay what do we need to do? What’s different? What’s unique? What have you seen? What have you heard?”

One of the things we’ve done is (implement) electronic menus in our restaurant. We have the ability to do daily (specials) with the tablets, so we do five to six different features that change every day. We try to stay very topical from what’s happening in the market from a seasonality standpoint. Currently, we have a strawberry promotion going on that extends from the salads to the entrees to the desserts and even to the beers.

5. DDN: What other changes will you be making down the road?

JS: Being first to market with something is unique in its own right, so we try to protect some of our new ideas until they get out there. Because, eventually, everyone is going to have tablets in their restaurants and QR codes in their guest rooms instead of the typical compendiums or guest directories. But to have it first is the key.

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