What is the highest rated hotel in New York City? According to Tripadvisor users, this Mint House is at 70 Pine, and it’s easy to see why when you click through the photos. All over NYC, hotel rooms are essentially bento boxes, built with all the essential bits in mind. But not the rooms of the Mint House. The Mint House rooms are virtually full apartments, and travelers have taken notice.
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way Mint House operates, and as the world begins to reopen, the company is well positioned to serve business and pleasure travelers alike.
Mint House launched in 2017 and raised $15M in 2019 as it expanded its offering. At the time, Tyge Savage, managing partner at Revolution Ventures and Mint House investor, described the company this way: “The Mint House is the best hotel in a hotel that doesn’t have the worst hotel and the best of an Airbnb without the best of an Airbnb. is.”
The company differs from traditional hotels by offering products similar to those offered by Airbnb for rental, but still offers the same features as a hotel. Another company called Lyrica also tried to follow the line, and raised $150m before eventually closing.
Initially, Mint House targeted business travelers in secondary markets (read: not New York City). Pre-Covid Mint House rooms were primarily available in Indianapolis, Denver, Nashville, Miami and Detroit. Mint House CEO Will Lucas explained at the time that there were opportunities in these markets because housing is often poor compared to major markets.
COVID changed the trajectory of Mint House, Lucas explained in an interview with ClearTips. At the start of the pandemic, the hospitality industry collapsed. Mint House saw occupancy rates drop from 60% to single digits, and Mint House had to back customers and furlough employees. Eventually, through new sales team members, Mint House found that their product offering was appropriate for the pandemic. Displaced workers needed a place to live and work. Traveling health care professionals need a home away from home. Some university students were kicked out of student housing but still required to attend school. Rooms like Mint House apartments present a compelling alternative to traditional hotel rooms, where kitchens are, often, just an instant coffee pot and a mini-fridge. But with Mint House rooms, guests have access to in-room kitchens, living space, and, recently increasing in importance, a real workspace.
As the pandemic settled, the Mint House saw a drastic change in the length of stay. Before COVID-19, the average length of stay was four nights. During COVID-19, the average length of stay was 21 nights as travellers’ needs changed. Instead of flying in for a quick meeting, workers and passengers needed a place to work and work remotely. During the peak of the pandemic, 81% of Mint House guests were working remotely.
The key features of Mint House seem to have been built for the purpose of social distancing, but they existed before the pandemic. Guests are not required to check in from the front desk and there are no key cards. Guests can order groceries, and rooms will be stocked prior to arrival – a service rarely found outside business-focused hotels, but now in demand with leisure travelers as well. Customer service is also centralized for all properties.
While most of the hospitality industry languished throughout 2020, Mint House saw spectacular growth. Several months into the pandemic, the Mint House saw occupancy rates reach new highs. As of June, 84% of Mint House rooms were booked, and the company booked an average of 80% compared to the rest of 2020. The company also grew its portfolio by over 50% in the last half of 2020.
Today, nearly a year later, Mint House is in 24 buildings in 13 markets.
In New York City, the Mint House is competing with the giants. CEO Lucas explains.
“This year, in New York City, we’re earning an average of 2.2 times revpar (revenue per available room),” he said. “Our Compet (Competitive Set, or rather, Competitive Hotel) is an incredibly formidable competition that includes two Thompson Hotels, three Marriott Hotels and the Hilton Hotel. We are number one in occupancy, number one in ADR (average daily rate) , and putting them together, we are more than twice the compset.
Lucas believes that these rankings show the strengths of Mint House and how the company differs from traditional hospitality brands. And yet, the Mint House turned to executives from classic hospitality brands to fuel growth.
Mint House recently announced the addition of several new executives. Jim Mirha, who previously worked at Domio, Hilton, MGM Hospitality and Marriott, will serve as Mint House’s CFO. Paul Sacco, a former investment officer and executive at TPG Hotels & Resorts and Starwood, has joined Mint House as Chief Development Officer. Jess Burkin, another former hospitality executive at travel e-commerce startup Porter & Sell, is Mint House’s new marketing and communications executive.
“Looks like we’re about to have a really blast,” Lucas said with a bit of pride.
As the world is about to reopen, Mint House is engaged in an aggressive growth strategy. The company is looking to double the number of units available and go international, starting with London in a month and eventually in South America.
Now, halfway through 2021, the pandemic is easing, and travel is starting to change again. Mint House is seeing an average drop of stays from 21 nights to around six nights in 2020. According to Lucas, leisure travelers are on the rise, and the Mint House is seeing a return to small business stays. And then there are the new types of business travelers who leave their home office to work remotely from a new location like Miami.
Mint House straddles an interesting line between hotels and short-term rentals offered by Airbnb. On the one hand, they offer the convenience and confidence you find in a hotel with the style and comfort of a short-term rental. If the company can execute its plan and its recent executive staff should help, the company is well suited to compete with Hiltons and Marriotts in NYC and across the states and the world.