One of the company values of Zoku is ‘Always BETA’ – which means that you are constantly searching for smarter solutions, learning from resident needs and testing new ideas. How would you describe your research and development methods?
“In general, we never stand still here at Zoku – even during COVID-19 times. By rolling up our sleeves and creating a coronavirus taskforce last March, we have been able to constantly innovate our concept and push the status quo of what’s possible in an ever-changing environment. We’ve taken our unique guest experience to the next level and adapted our hybrid home/office hotel concept to incorporate a new 1.5-metre way of life.
In a new ‘social distancing’ society, we believe that we can still be social while staying physically distant, and our team of Sidekicks [Zoku staff, ed.] prove this to be true. By creating an emotional service apart from just a transactional one (for instance, focusing on the welcoming process instead of just the check-in process), we can continue to create connections with our guests and maintain a top-notch level of service,” says Zoku cofounder Hans Meyer, who specialises in innovation, concept development, branding, and culture. “In regard to how our ideas and concepts are tested, we constantly analyse guest feedback in all our business functions: whether it’s for staying, working, meeting or eating. We always go right to the source when gathering this feedback and continuously work with focus groups, questionnaires, and simply just 1:1 conversation to build meaningful relationships with our residents and truly understand their wants and needs. With the help of our new General Managers, who are very well connected to their local cities and cultures, we will be able to expand upon our ‘Always BETA’ mindset internationally. Our new talents understand their local markets and constantly pick up on new trends to help us integrate within these new communities.
Although each new Zoku will have its own unique elements and features, every location will still be designed with our ultimate goal in mind: seamlessly connecting global nomads and locals with one another.”
One of the challenges in many co-working environments is building a sense of community among users. At Zoku in Amsterdam, you have a dedicated Community Manager. What community-building skills do you bring to your hotel in Copenhagen and the Woods co-working facilities?
“When living and working abroad, global nomads are surrounded by the ‘exotic’, yet can often feel bored, lonely and uninspired. Our mission is to mix like-minded individuals together under one roof, and with the help of a Community Manager we are able to do so. A strong and supportive community is the heart of who we are, and this will be mirrored in all of our future Zokus,” says Meyer. “Community is a buzzword that many use, but it doesn’t happen all by itself. It requires daily effort and constant proactivity. In order to build a supportive community, you need to listen very closely to the wants and needs of your target audience. This is exactly what we also plan to do in Copenhagen. We are hiring Community Managers for all our new Zokus so we can continue to have a dedicated person working amongst the local community and our residents and members. Integrating into a new culture can be difficult, and our Community Manager will serve as the first point of contact and local guide to help make this transition as easy as possible and to help them hit the ground running in a new city. We are lucky to have a great neighbour such as Woods to help support us in this mission of inclusivity. We have an amazing relationship with them and are looking forward to supporting one another and our neighbourhood through this partnership.”
Zoku is set for a European rollout, aiming to become an international Zoku community. What qualities are required for the perfect Zoku location? Could you imagine a Zoku Hotel in a secondary city or small town, for instance? Which other major European cities are you currently targeting – and how do the Nordic countries fit into your wider vision?
“We aim to support a global community of like-minded individuals by creating the ideal offline home base where they can thrive. The home cities of our Zokus must be a compatible hub to achieve this. There are a few key elements we keep in mind when selecting a new Zoku location: neighbourhood compatibility, convenience of transport options, and site specifications, such as mixed-use development possibilities. Hosting a mix of internationals and locals, we want to ensure all Zoku neighbourhoods are lively and are surrounded by a mix of entertainment venues, residential homes, and business properties. Convenience is also key, which is why we choose to house Zokus in central locations that are easily accessible by public and private transit options,” says Meyer’s cofounding partner, Marc Jongerius, who specialises in acquisitions, development, strategic partnerships, and finance. “We’re always on the hunt for perfect locations for future Zokus, which is why we believe in listening to the people who know and love Zoku to determine where any new Zokus should be located. These are the people from all over the world who know their hometowns way better than we do and can see if a Zoku would be a good fit. If any great possibilities come our way that match these qualities we’re looking for, we’re definitely open to discussing new possibilities and expansion options.”
citizenM, Zoku and CityHub are examples of cutting-edge new hospitality concepts now entering Copenhagen that originate in the Netherlands. In your view, what has made the Dutch hospitality sector so innovative?
“Dutch concepts tend to be innovative in nature, as an open mind and curiosity play key roles here. Like the Danes, creativity plays an important factor in our culture. Denmark is one of the world’s frontrunners in design and architecture. Sprung from the same source, it’s true that some innovative hospitality concepts were brought to life in The Netherlands. We’re very much focused on challenging the status quo in the hospitality sector by contributing to push our industry forward. And although this may be the case, we can’t do it alone. Therefore, we’ve been successfully working with Danish companies like Frandsen, Muuto and HAY (the latter being our key partner) to re-invent the apart hotel and further create a true hybrid between a home and an office, topped with hotel services,” Meyer adds. “On top of this, we do what we are good at: creating a memorable stay for our residents, while leaving everything out that is not needed. This has proved very successful for the evolution of Zoku, and under the current circumstances and constantly changing economic environment, this is what allows us to continue to excel and always stay relevant within the European and international markets,” Jongerius concludes.