Leading a Hospitality Renaissance

 Leading a Hospitality Renaissance

The Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel offers large-scale amenities with a neighborhood feelKevin Michell As the city of Cincinnati looks to continue downtown’s growth by becoming more of a destination for conventions, hoteliers are lining up to renovate buildings in the Central Business District into trendy places to stay. But one boutique hotel—the Renaissance, a Marriott brand—has set a precedent by blending large hotel amenities with a neighborhood-driven focus on individual hospitality experiences.

Opening in the summer of 2014, the Renaissance Cincinnati Downtown Hotel was always intended to offer an exceptional staying experience while also encouraging guests to explore the city.

“What makes Renaissance unique is the neighborhood connection—it’s all about discovery,” says Rebecca Wuppermann, the hotel’s general manager. “It’s about experiencing Cincinnati and what Cincinnati’s all about,”

The Renaissance refers those who stay there to experience the many restaurants, bars, galleries and other attractions available within blocks of the hotel. And with the bulk of its guests being business travelers—many getting their first look at Cincinnati’s revitalized and resurgent center—the hotel staff has a unique opportunity to be ambassadors for the city as well as concierges.

“The Renaissance brand is all about celebrating the neighborhood, the community,” explains Jordan Adams, director of catering for the Renaissance.

It starts with the historic building the hotel inhabits at Fourth and Walnut right on the streetcar line, a building that local design and architectural firm Nelson Worldwide helped build out while preserving much of its character.

“The first three floors have a lot of the original elements of the building, including our event space,” Adams says, pointing out that the several boardrooms available to rent for meetings also have kept their original wood paneling and windows. That gives the rental space at the Renaissance—from the 700-person capacity main event space to the small meeting areas—a lot of character, which has made it a popular spot for Cincinnatians conducting business in addition to the travelers staying at the hotel.

“They’re really looking for something interesting and different and I think that sets us apart from other hotels in the downtown area,” Adams adds.

With 323 guest rooms, including 40 suites, the Renaissance has the capacity to accommodate large traveling groups such as the many professional sports teams that visit throughout the year or large corporate gatherings. The executive suites contain a full living area featuring a pullout couch with an extra half-bathroom connected, in addition to the luxurious master bathroom located next to the bedroom.

Despite the size, visitors will find a décor and atmosphere befitting of a boutique hotel, with much of the art focused on the theme of queens in honor of the Queen City and sleek, contemporary design in each of the guest rooms.

The experience of staying at the Renaissance, both inside and out, has won over a lot of fans from the visitors who have passed through over the last five years.

“We have been fortunate enough to build a strong base of guests that are extremely loyal and have been staying with us since, literally, 2014,” Wuppermann says. “I think that we have already been able to identify ourselves in the city and set us apart from others.”

But Wuppermann also points out that doesn’t mean the staff handling all aspects of guests’ experiences will rest on their laurels—there’s always work to be done to make sure guests are happy during their stay and leave thrilled with their time there.

“Our managers here are very hands-on; we’re always here, we’re always on the floor, we don’t just sit in offices all day,” Adams adds. “In the hotel world, that really sets us apart.”

While the hotel staff is always quick with a recommendation to guests for where to eat or grab a drink to unwind, the Renaissance’s first-floor bar and restaurant, D. Burnham’s, has plenty to offer both hotel guests and walk-up visitors.

The restaurant offers sizeable menus of breakfast, lunch and dinner options ranging from standard American fare to elegant European-inspired dishes like the shrimp “cargot,” burrata caprese salad and spiced lamb loin with pistachio gnocchi. Executive chef Randy Wergers is a 20-year veteran of the Cincinnati culinary scene and tries to infuse the city’s identity into the dishes at D. Burnham’s, whether that entails incorporating local dishes into the menu or sourcing ingredients from nearby suppliers.

The cuisine is accentuated by a thoughtful beverage program, featuring a robust wine list and a cocktail list featuring classics alongside inventive riffs on old favorites. The bar rotates its mixed libations seasonally, leading to refreshing options like this autumn’s Kentucky Fall Mule with cinnamon-infused bourbon, apple juice and ginger beer. Wuppermann points out that the bourbon infusions like the one used in the mule are created in-house using a Japanese cold coffee brewer.

Adams also recommends a drink or meal at D. Burnham’s for locals who want to get the Renaissance experience without staying, adding that the bar’s happy hour is a great reason to pop by and get a feel for the atmosphere and hospitality that permeates through the hotel.

Both Wuppermann and Adams want everyone to experience the same enjoyment that so many of the Renaissance’s previous guests have—whether visiting the city from far away or visiting downtown from the suburbs, the staff wants the hotel to become any guest’s home away from home.