From The Westin’s trademark Heavenly Bed to Sofitel’s MyBed and Sealy’s numerous high-end hotel placements, HM delves into the world of toppers and thread counts for the discerning guest.
WORDS JONATHAN PORTER
They are the most important part of the hotel room and often the most overlooked. They are where drink is taken (who sits on chairs in hotel rooms?), deals are consecrated and relationships consummated. Oh yes, and where weary travellers and business folk recharge before girding their loins and heading out into the fray for a hard day’s sightseeing, or fact finding, once more. So what do hotel managers look for in a bed?
For a G-rated interview, Sealy’s National Commercial Accounts Manager Antony Raiteri is remarkably PG13.
“The fact is that beds in hotels need high levels of durability and that durability factor is based on the antics that guests get up to in hotels,’’ Raiteri told HM.
“The fact is that people do things on beds in hotel rooms they would not do in their own homes.’’
Murray Rowbotham, Business Development Manager for Brisbane’s 2 ½-year-old Emporium Hotel, which only uses Sealy mattresses, said that the bed was the main feature of the room
“They may not turn on the TV, they may not crack the mini bar, but everyone at some stage is going to go to bed,’’ Rowbotham said.
“Our whole idea is to create an atmosphere where they feel relaxed when they are in the room. At the end of the day they are purchasing a good night’s sleep and so the bed is probably the most important feature in the room.
“We have a lot of honeymooners and people stay for all sorts of reasons, the feedback regarding the comfort of the bed, linen and pillow menu is always positive”
Emporium provides its guests with Sealy Posturepedic Dynasty Beds, he said.
“The bed itself has a very tight spring coil system which provides guests with a comfortable yet sturdy platform which is, most importantly, very good for the back,” he said.
“The bed is further enhanced by a woollen underlay which is placed on top of the bed and under the linen.
“The luxurious linen and duvet cover are 100% cotton with a very tight knit of a 250 thread count.’
“To further personalise the sleeping experience Emporium offers its guests a beautiful range of pillows from the Exquisite Sleeps Menu located on the bed.
“When a pillow is requested, housekeeping delivers the pillow to the guest’s room with red ribbon in a bow and a message to wish them a good nights rest.
“The bedding has proved so popular that not long after opening we found it necessary to place a Luxurious Bedding Menu on to the Emporium Hotel’s website for guests to order direct with hotel,” Rowbotham said.
Raiteri said Sealy was used by InterContinental Hotels, Marriott, Hyatt, Stella Group, Mirvac, Crowne Casino in Melbourne, Starwood and Four Points by Sheraton amongst others.
“We have the majority of the 4- and 5-star brands nationally and when guests check out of these hotels they are telling staff they had a great night’s sleep and hotels take a lot of notice of that kind of feedback,” Raiteri said.
“Good news travels fast in the industry and when someone who has a proven track record does something properly that is a success it permeates through the rest of the industry,” he said.
If you can’t give a guest a good night’s sleep it’s too easy for them to walk down the road and go somewhere else, Raiteri said.
“So you have only got one chance to make a first impression and the bed is that chance to make that impression,” he said.
“If they don’t get that then they will lose the chance to get return business from that client whether it’s the business traveller or the tourist traveller.’’
Raiteri said the quality of a room’s bed was a very good barometer of the success of the guest’s stay.
“If they don’t get that right it will show on the bottom line in hotel chains,” he said. “They are in the business of selling sleep. If they fail at that they are in trouble.
Raiteri said Sealy designed their beds to be used as chairs.
“We know that people won’t sit on the chair in the room,” he said. “They sit on the bed to answer the phone. They sit on the bed to put their shoes on. We build that into the integrity of the product to make sure the edge support of the product is very high quality.
So how often do beds need to be replaced?
“A replacement cycle in a hotel can vary depending on the occupancy rate,” Raiteri said. “It also depends on how well they are maintained. We use five to seven years as a benchmark but I have seen some commercial beds go in excess of seven years.
“Sealy uses a no turn, no flip technology, but it still needs to be rotated from end to end from time to time so it allows the bed to wear evenly… it is very similar to rotating the tyres on your car.
He said legs and casters need tightening from time to time.
“They don’t come loose very often but ion certain circumstances they can wear free so they need to be tightened,” he said.
Raiteri said Sealy was also Australian made, with the springs from honest carbon BlueScope Steel shaped in the company’s Brisbane plant.
“Others are claiming to be Australian made but the actual components come from overseas,” he said.
“We export from Australia to the South Pacific and we have sent product into Asia as well.
“We have been in Australia making Sealy under licence since the 1960s and we have been making beds for over 60 years,” he said.
Sealy, which employs over 500 people nationally, also has the nation’s largest test facility.
“Every product must pass minimum performance criteria before we allow it to wear the Sealy brand,” Raiteri said.
And he said all of the hotels Sealy supplies to run bed purchase programs.
“So guests can buy the bed they slept on the night before, which is a great vote of confidence,” he said.
Accommodation giant Accor, meanwhile, says it is not just about the perfect mattress, but the little extras which are essential for a superior night’s sleep.
One of the key components was the mattress topper, said Accor‘s Peter Hook.
“It’s an extra layer of luxury,” Hook said.
Sofitel’s signature MyBed has a goose down mattress topper that you gradually settle into. It seems to take about five minutes to float down and make contact with the mattress, by which time, naturally, you are sound asleep.
MyBed has been incorporated as a Sofitel signature feature across the brand’s range of worldwide hotels, including the Pacific region Sofitel properties in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Fiji and Queenstown.
Sofitel’s Rebecca Freestun said surveys had shown that hotel guests, regardless of the brand they choose, were still relatively unsatisfied when it came to the bed they slept in at their hotel away from home.
“This is why Sofitel has decided to refocus on the essence of its business – sleep – while also enabling it to honour Sofitel’s commitment to bringing its unique ‘art de vivre à la Française’ (French art of living) to its hotels around the world,” she said.
MyBed marks a break with ubiquitous style trends right from the first glance – no more low, thin futon-like mattresses.
“This is a grand return to a bed that would make our grandmothers proud: raised high, immaculate and plumped up with welcoming feathers,” she said.
“Creating MyBed meant identifying the latest technology, reviewing surveys and studies by top specialists and testing scores of materials. More than simply a new bed, MyBed ushers in a whole new concept in rest, with a guarantee of plush softness that has never before been experienced,” Freestun said.
To design MyBed, Sofitel “retro-engineered” each detail in a traditional bed. The first decision was to get rid of both the bedspread and blankets, replacing them with a down-filled comforter which is infinitely more hygienic, as it has been specially treated to resist dust and stains.
“Sofitel also wanted MyBed to have a generous size, both very long and very wide – with the idea that people are in fact bigger than in the past – and also very high, making it easier to get in and out of bed,” she said.
“Sofitel set out to choose the best possible mattress and box spring. Created exclusively for Sofitel, both are extra-thick, because that is one of the secrets of quality sleep. Between the mattress and the comforter, Sofitel also addressed an all-important component, a down featherbed, taking softness to another dimension. And, for the ultimate in comfort, Sofitel decided that MyBed would have four over-sized pillows,” Freestun said.
But Hook said a 5-star sleep experience doesn’t necessarily have to be in a 5-star hotel.
“All of Accor’s brands offer quality bedding, but there are extras added for the upscale hotel brands which enhance the bedding and comfort,” Hook said.
“The Sofitel MyBed is the ultimate in hotel bedding luxury, but business travellers are assured of a good night’s sleep at Pullman hotels with the brand’s specially designed bedding,” he said.
Likewise, Novotel and Mercure guests staying for leisure or business were provided with the same restful sleep they enjoy in their own home, he said.
“Even the economy style brands, All Seasons and Ibis, which have a philosophy of providing affordable comfort and service, ensure bedding requirements are met with the highest of standards,” he said.
Hook said Accor uses Dunlop’s Sleepmaker range because they have a selection that covers all brand standards and requirements.
“They also adhere to Australian Standards including being 100% cotton and fire retardant treated,” he said.
“Research shows that above and beyond room service and flurry bathrobes, the thing that matters most to hotel guests is a good night’s sleep.
“Guests that stay at Accor hotels can be travelling for work or pleasure so it is important that the sleep they get is the best possible,” he said.
Westin have also developed their own bed and were the first to do so, with the Westin Heavenly Bed, said Starwood spokesperson Laura Kelly.
“The importance of beds to hotel guests are found in the Westin Heavenly bed survey,” she said. “There is now a huge range in the Westin Heavenly bed products from linen, pillows, through to dog beds. You can purchase a Westin Heavenly Bed at any Westin Hotel.”
The new Westin online store features an Interactive Retail Concierge to assist with purchases, tips on making the Heavenly Bed, product suggestions based on recent purchases, and easy one-click shopping.
Visitors can purchase the iconic 10-layer Heavenly—including box spring, 13-inch pillow-top mattress, sheets, blankets, and variety of pillows—all in one click.
In addition to the new products joining the Heavenly family, shoppers can also find the brand’s beloved classic Heavenly products including signature White Tea candles and oil diffusers, the Heavenly Rollaway Bed, and Brazilian combed cotton towels and bath sheets.
“Westin jump-started the hotel-retail phenomenon in 2000 following tremendous guest feedback to the launch of the now-iconic Heavenly Bed,” Kelly said.
“More than 35 guests called within the first week, asking how they could bring the fluffy, all-white bed home; the Heavenly Bed has been Westin’s hottest seller ever since. Westin has sold more than 30,000 Heavenly Beds online and through its partnership with Nordstrom; in fact, beds account for 95% of online sales,” she said.
Jackie Porter, Resident Manager at the Surfers Paradise Marriott Hotel said beds were crucial for guest comfort and the perfect night’s sleep.
“After Marriott rolled out our new ‘Revive’ bedding package globally in 2005 the Guest Satisfaction Surveys increased dramatically in relation to the beds and guests sleeping experience,’’ Porter said.
The Surfers Paradise Marriott and the Brisbane Marriott use Dunlop and Sealy beds.
Marriott spokeswoman Laura Spiers said the group continued to receive phenomenal feedback on the ‘Revive’ bedding worldwide, so much so that they set up www.Shopmarriott.com to sell the bedding items.
“In Australia the bedding can be purchased in most hotels (however, there may be a waiting period at some hotels),” she said.
One-on-one training is important to ensure the beds are perfect for the guests.
“The beds look so inviting that the staff/associates want to jump back into the bed as they look so comfortable,” said Kathleen Counsel, Executive Housekeeper at the Brisbane Marriott Hotel.
“The bed is the focus point when a guest walks in so we want to ensure they are perfect. That is why our training places so much importance on this,” said Counsel.
“We also have a program called Make Ready Team – this is our teams who go into our rooms and strip back a minimum of four times a year completely steam cleaning every detail of the bed including mattress, base and bed-head, carpets and furnishings to ensure complete cleanliness, hygiene and to ensure that they are as allergy free as possible,” she said.
The doonas and special Marriott toppers are dry cleaned and protected, and staff perform random audits to ensure bedding and rooms adhere to the hotel’s rigorous standards.
Most Marriott hotels offer a pillow menu or are happy to supply a different pillow upon the guest request. For example, the Sydney Harbour Marriott – ‘Revive Collection’ Pillow Menu includes a European pillow made up of 30% all new pure white goose down and 70% feathers and standard pillows with half new pure white goose down and half feathers.
Other pillows include the memory form contour number, a firm pillow with a built-in neck muscle support, and a standard support boomerang pillow, ideal for sitting up in bed.