Starting small has led to big success for Minute Suites LLC, and now the company that offers tiny traveler’s havens at the Atlanta airport has begun what its leaders hope will be a nationwide growth spurt.
Minute Suites opened its doors last November in Hartsfield-Jackson‘s Concourse B, sub-leasing 725 square feet with a welcome desk and five seven-by-eight-foot rooms. At $30 for the first hour and $7.50 for each 15-minute period thereafter, the spaces provide a quiet, private escape from the bustle of the world’s busiest airport.
Each suite is outfitted with a pull-out daybed sofa, a work desk with a networked PC and a flush-mounted 32-inch high-definition television that doubles as the computer’s monitor with a click of a remote control. The suites have individual thermostats and are equipped with adjustable speaker systems that drown out ambient sound. Even with the system powered off, jet-engine roars were barely audible.
The amenities and swanky decor are bonuses, but customer research has shown that travelers’ main desire is to nap with privacy. Although the facility is open 24 hours a day and has a nightly rate (from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m.) of $120, the average stay is just under two hours, said Daniel Solomon, the company’s CEO and co-founder.
With 9 million passengers walking through Concourse B each year, Minute Suites has had no trouble filling capacity, Mr. Solomon said.
“We were showing that we were turning away hundreds of people,” he told GlobalAtlanta.
Not wanting to leave revenue on the table, Minute Suites considered opening a second location in Concourse E, the airport’s main hub for international flights.
Mr. Solomon and his landlord, Business Traveler Services Inc., found that the available spaces weren’t designed for concessions. The permitting process and construction would’ve been “outrageously expensive,” he said.
The company is still seeking more space at the airport and hopes to be included in Business Traveler Services’ bid for a spot in Hartsfield’s new international terminal, which is slated to open in 2012, Mr. Solomon said.
In the meantime, the company is gradually introducing the concept at other airports. This month Minute Suites signed a sub-lease for a location at Philadelphia International Airport, its first outside of Atlanta. Twice as large as the one at Hartsfield by square footage, it will include 12 suites and two computer workstation when it opens early next year.
The concept has caught on because it offers a product that fills a “Maslownian-based need” for privacy and security, Mr. Solomon said.
That was especially true for Kristin Shaw, who has used Minute Suites more than once as a quiet, clean place to nurse her young son, Torin.
“It’s so difficult to find a place when you have a baby,” Ms. Shaw, who moved to Austin, Texas, but retained her job as marketing manager for SITA‘s North American operations in Atlanta. The Swiss company provides information technology and research for the air transport industry.
Ms. Shaw doesn’t use Minute Suites for naps, but she enjoys the privacy.
“It’s kind of like you feel like you have your own little pod. It’s very quiet, very private and the service is great,” she said. When she left Torin’s stuffed pig in the room, the staff sent it to her in the mail, she said.
Mr. Solomon developed the idea for Minute Suites with Iowa-based opthamologists Lisa and Amir Arbisser. At the outset, they considered combining an airport rest spot with exercise facilities. They also thought about serving natural foods. None of those options made the cut.
That’s not to say Minute Suites isn’t working on its offerings. The company is adding iPod docks in the Philadelphia suites. The new workstations at that location will give passersby a chance to check email for a small fee. But the core product – what the company calls “the traveler’s retreat” – will remain the same, Mr. Solomon said.
International passengers will play an important role in the Minute Suites business model, especially as the company expands to more airports. Foreign travelers make up a little over 10 percent of Hartsfield’s total passenger traffic each year, but they can have eight- to 10-hour layovers, Mr. Solomon said.
“We believe that the international traveler holds a lot of promise because they tend to have longer layovers and longer check-in times,” he said. That was the allure of Concourse E and the root of the company’s desire for a presence in the international terminal.
Minute Suites isn’t alone in the pod hotel business, but the company is confident it can compete.
As more Minute Suites facilities open around the country, Mr. Solomon envisions the inaugural Atlanta location becoming a “Minute Suites University” where new staffers will receive training. Currently the company has 12 guest attendants in Atlanta, 11 of which have been educated at Georgia State University‘s Cecil B. Day School of Hospitality Administration. Three of the 11 are graduates, while the rest are current students.
For more information, visit www.minutesuites.com.