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When luxury becomes lean

Munich-based entrepreneur Michael Struck explains the philosophy behind his ‘Lean Luxury’ brand, Ruby Hotels, which offers luxury lodging for less in the city centres of Vienna, Dusseldorf, Munich and Hamburg. Openings in London, Zurich, Cologne, Frankfurt and Shanghai are to come.

I travelled a great deal in my previous business life, where my responsibilities included running a group of five star hotels. On my personal travels I have always had a preference for original boutique properties, so what I wanted to do with Ruby is to combine the two, creating a hotel brand that is aimed at what I call the ‘cosmopolitan avantgarde’. These are sophisticated people looking for something experiential and for whom hotel star ratings mean less and less: they research where they want to stay by what others like them are saying, not on the basis of the number of stars.

For Ruby, that means a city centre location, service that should be at eye level and not subservient, and a sense of place that is authentic. Getting the details right is crucial. That means working with sleep scientists to get the perfect mattress cover, the right types of pillow, the right colour temperatures of lighting, etc. Then adding creative luxuries, such as a tablet pc in every room, a mobile phone for each customer, even an amplifier and an electric guitar available from reception should you want it. Introduce live music and cultural events in a happening bar, and the hotel becomes forum for people to meet.

What makes our prices lean is the clever use of space, so for instance the bar and the breakfast room and the lounge area and reception are all fundamentally the same, using lighting and re-arranging furniture to change the character according to need and time of day. Staff are multi-functional, and we have no formal check-in or check-out. There’s no room service – only a tiny minority of guests ever use it – and no in-room minibars, but a galley on every floor instead. There’s no gym, so we partner with adjacent fitness centres. We save by not having a kitchen, so our breakfast is everything of the very best quality you can find on the market that doesn’t need a chef.

The rooms are not as big as in a traditional five star hotel, but they have been re-engineered so that all the available space is visible, and clever use of lighting accentuating the extremities makes them seem just as big. Using rich textiles proper hardwoods, even true wood wall panelling, adds an additional layer of quality.

All in all, with all these measures and more, we are able to make enormous savings on overheads, and that’s why we can offer hugely attractive rates that start from just €69 a night. It’s Lean Luxury.

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