Texture & Warmth, an article released by Queensland Hotel Association reviews the fantastic transformation throughout Tingalpa Hotel’s refurbishment. Published in June 2018 – the full magazine can be read here: QHA Review
“IN THE POPULAR 1980’S FILM PRETTY WOMAN, RICHARD GERE PLAYED BUSINESS TYCOON EDWARD LEWIS WHO WAS RUTHLESS IN HIS BUSINESS DEALINGS, MAKING A LIVING FROM BUYING UP STRUGGLING”
Unlike Edward who sold off those failing companies piece by piece, the Hakfoort Group which purchased the Tingalpa Hotel in Brisbane in late 2015, prefers to turn companies around to become a success in their own right. So when the dilapidated hotel located in Brisbane’s eastern suburbs came up for sale, Hakfoort Group CEO, Albert Hakfoort saw both opportunity and potential to grow what had been a failing business. When the company purchased the hotel, it was close to receivership and quite run down.
“It was failing managerially and was heading towards administration and ultimately receivership,” Albert said. “It was badly run down from both an operational point of view and quite physically as well. No bandaids had been applied and no work had been done to the place and it was in desperate need of capital input. “But that’s not why we purchased the place, we purchased it because it was a good opportunity, we saw it as a good addition to our group, it had a lot of untapped potential,” Albert said. In addition to the rundown appearance of the hotel, Albert said it had an identity crisis because it was trying to appeal to several demographics. “The Tingalpa Hotel had evolved into this hotel that had a fantastic kids play area out the back and quite an average food business, then at the front of the hotel there was a public bar that was dominated by the TAB, so you had all these blue collar, high-vis wearing blokes that would hang out in essentially what was one-third of the hotel. “So you had this food business out the back that would attract families, and the TAB out the front and the two were forced to cross over into each other so there was this real crisis between which market it was trying to win,” explained Albert. In order to alleviate the confusion for patrons, quite a bold decision was made and the hotel removed the TAB facility altogether and focused primarily on the both family/dining and corporate markets.
“We still offer the Sky feeds, so people can come in and still watch the races, they just don’t get the odds, however we offer high-speed wifi access to our customers, we don’t charge them for it, but they can come in and use our wifi service to access their own betting accounts and watch the races all day and all night. And that has really changed the demographic of our normal punters to a younger crowd,” said Albert. In order to rectify all that was going wrong with the hotel, a refurbishment was required and so the Hakfoort Group called in hospitality architects and interior designers, Brand + Slater Architects for the design; and Unita for the construction work that transformed and ultimately unlocked Tingalpa Hotel’s full potential. Luis Nheu was one of the partners from Brand + Slater Architects who took the brief and worked on the initial design direction for the refurbishment. “Prior to the refurbishment, the Tingalpa Hotel was probably unloved and it lacked a bit of soul, it was very industrial with a lot of hard surfaces such as concrete floors, steel beams and it was very hard edged and very masculine. It lacked atmosphere both day and night, so our goal was mainly to provide the layering of the structure itself so not doing anything major with the refurbishment but mainly a layering and refreshing exercise to bring it up to the current times,” Luis said.
“The brief was to soften it up, to make it family friendly, to create the lounge into a more comfortable lounge for night and day use and to really target the female audience as well because it was very masculine before with a sports bar and TAB. “It had to be functional for both day and night and to get the best usage out of the hotel because they do a really good food trade there, the atmosphere had to complement the food that was being served while not being targeted to a certain age group. So it had to be a design to appeal to a very wide audience,” Luis said. Prior to the refurbishment, Luis said the hotel lacked texture and warmth, so texture was added by way of timber cladding while timber and colour were used to soften and warm the space. “We divided the bistro into more zones as well by way of booth seating and lighting, and then elevating the middle part to become more of an area that people can book out for groups, for more private dining, so they feel like they’re part of the venue but they still have their own space,” Luis said. “The linear booths were there from the existing fitout but they were not private enough, so basically when you’re at the venue you felt very exposed because people would walk behind you as a thoroughfare, so we gave it a screening/shelving system to really create a zone within the zone, so that patrons could feel comfortable to have dinner there and stay as long as they needed to. “High ceilings are really good for us to work with because it gives ultimate flexibility for future refurbishments, but sometimes with the wrong colour it can be very cavernous, so we darkened the ceiling to make it disappear, brought down the big feature lights over the booths that you can see with the twine and the ropes and that’s really helped to zone and create a sense of intimacy within the space,” Luis said. Another essential part of the refurbishment was the drive-through bottle shop which was converted into a function area. “The hotel we purchased had a drive-through bottle shop, but we decided to get rid of it because it wasn’t profitable, and in doing that it left us with a very large space within the front of the hotel, and as we like functions we thought we would remove it and make another function area.
“The function rooms were refurbished completely from top to bottom, they look very corporate and they really suit the environment for where we are and the type of functions we’re trying to attract. We’re not trying to attract weddings, we’re not that type of venue, but our rooms offer a good corporate meeting space, or a space to hold an 18th or 21st birthdays very well,” Albert said. For the family market, he said the children’s playground area had been completely replaced with new equipment for a safer experience while the feel and furniture of the hotel has been transformed into an inviting space for everyone to enjoy. Happy with the end result of the refurbishment project, Albert has witnessed the Tingalpa Hotel turn from rags to riches. “It’s absolutely been a success, we’ve been incrementally growing the hotel since the day we purchased it – just from doing the little things correctly.”