Like most Class A apartment portfolio owners and mangers, Tempe, Ariz.-based Trillium Residential president Lesa LaRocca dotes on her properties—from the “great room” clubhouses to the “wellness” fitness centers to the outdoor gourmet kitchens. And nothing helps LaRocca gauge resident satisfaction better than her strolls around Trillium's Arizona communities. She is known for casually chatting up residents, ensuring Trillium puts the style in lifestyle living.
On a recent tour at the 360-unit Trillium Deer Valley, LaRocca was talking with residents at the pool when a delivery man approached the gate. LaRocca was surprised when residents asked her to let the delivery man in. “It was their Chinese food,” she recalls. “They had been having so much fun that instead of heading out for the evening, they ordered dinner delivered poolside.”
Entwined with the wafting aromas of Mu Shu Pork was the distinct smell of opportunity—and LaRocca had not missed it. Previous customer service brainstorming sessions—three-hour white board events held weekly at Trillium—had covered gourmet amenities from the standpoint of in-unit and clubhouse kitchens. A subsequent meeting with property managers confirmed that residents—although eager for high-end commercial kitchen design—were just as happy to have their delicacies delivered. Indeed, when it comes to attracting and retaining lifestyle-minded residents hungry for foodie-centric services, Trillium and other progressive multifamily apartment and condo managers seem willing to put their money where the resident's mouth is.
HOTEL-STYLE AMENITIES Ubiquitous at luxury lodgings—and a mainstay of the condo hotel footprint—the delivery of prepared meals is quickly becoming a de rigueur amenity for the posh multifamily portfolio as well. Trillium, for one, aims to fill that order with Trillium Café, a poolside food and beverage service launched in conjunction with the opening of Trillium Peak, a 724-unit rental community in Phoenix.
Using handheld wireless devices to take orders, two servers will walk the pool grounds at Trillium Peak and respond to anyone raising the Trillium Café service request flag attached to chairs and chaise lounges. Residents can select from a variety of freshly prepared sandwiches, salads, and drinks, and use their community ID card to charge items directly to their rental account. At the end of the month, a line item on the rental invoice accounts for all pool-side indulgences. “Our whole premise is about connectivity and creating a genuine lifestyle that our residents cannot find anywhere else,” LaRocca says.
The company is certainly not alone. “We are seeing so much more of it,” says Brad Horner, CEO for Coldwell Banker The Condo Store, an Atlanta-based condo broker and multifamily sales and marketing consultant. “Restaurants have been an important amenity for some time for rentals and condominiums, but now it's being taken to a higher level.” Horner points to 10 Terminus Place, a 136-unit luxury condo tower developed by Atlanta-based Cousins Properties, as a prime example. Three ground-floor restaurants—Aquaknox, BrickTops, and Lola—will cook and deliver meals room service-style to Terminus residents. “You dial the concierge [and] get a great meal delivered to your door,” Horner says. “Condo hotels paved the way for this; now you are seeing it in straight condo and apartment buildings, too.”
Condo hotels originally gravitated toward gourmet deliveries as a closing device. “Dining is a really important part of the luxury decision process,” says Cyndy Salgado, vice president of Chicago-based Development Marketing Group, who oversees sales and marketing for Trump International Hotel & Tower Chicago, where residents can enjoy in-unit delivery of meals from Rebar and 16, or have chefs come into their home to prepare a meal for them and their guests. “If we did not have the food element to offer … people wouldn't have seen the lifestyle here as complete.”
QUALITY ASSURANCE For property managers donning a chef's hat for the first time, ensuring the quality of the food can be daunting. Most multifamily players offering gourmet amenities are partnering with well-established restaurants and caterers after an interview and selection process that includes taste tests with the chef. “If you want to create something in-house, it is a whole new ball game,” LaRocca explains. “It's not just the food handler's license; you also need to have specifically built and permitted facilities and a whole host of other requirements.” La-Rocca says outsourcing allows Trillium to focus on managing a “high touch” resident experience rather than trying to master an entirely different industry. “We are in the real estate business, not the restaurant business,” she says.
Trillium interviewed several companies before deciding on one provider for Trillium Café and swapped advertising for a reduction in initial cost . (The company will not reveal its partner prior to the launch.) Poolside delivery will be available only on weekends to start as Trillium refines its offerings and works out the kinks. While the company declined to reveal the cost for Trillium Café, LaRocca and company principal Dave Dewar anticipate a boost in occupancy and retention.
“As we've embraced these services, our occupancy has gone up, and our average lease length at inception is moving from nine months to 16 months,” La-Rocca says. “I don't think that is a coincidence. … I think we have finally arrived with these incredible products and professional services and amenities.”