SCOTTSDALE, AZ—VIPs, C-suite execs and other special guests are invited to belly up to the bar at the W Scottsdale in Arizona for craft cocktails poured by GM David Cronin.
The brand’s W Insider will contact VIP guests and loyal SPG members prior to arrival and invite them for cocktails and conversation.
“We were looking for a way to connect in a social environment with our most valued customers,” he said. “While many hotels offer samples, we wanted to create an experience, and that starts with the GM doing the mixing… Combine that with the cocktail culture at W Hotels and we had a winner. We get to hear personal stories and seize on opportunities to recognize guests that are here to celebrate a milestone.”
Behind the bar, Cronin will focus on his passion for hospitality and the diversity the business brings for the newly launched W Scottsdale Social Club.
“There is a huge interest from customers in what goes on behind the scenes—the W brand and what makes us different,” he said. “The hour is like a blank canvas that we paint illustrating the experiences that we have to offer.”
The exclusivity of the program is an interesting twist. Cronin sees this as just one way to shake up the traditional happy hour.
“It’s easy to give away free drinks, especially at a very activated lifestyle hotel. The key is to create an experience and make that connection with our customers. People are craving an experience,” he explained.
No stranger behind the bar, Cronin has been making drinks since high school. He’s earned a few mixology awards, too. His personal favorites are the classics: margarita, mojito with a twist, cosmo, and others.
“Yes, we start earlier in Ireland. As a student in Germany, I paid the rent by bartending,” he said. “I had the pleasure of working with some amazing people like Helge Fechner—who has claimed over 25 titles worldwide for his cocktails—and Fatih Akerdem, bar chef at the Arabella Grand Hotel in 1992 when I was the night manager.”
As part of the Social Club, each week, Cronin will do one signature cocktail. There’s also beer and wine, but it is the cocktail that is the star of the show.
“The drinks are mixed to appeal to a broader audience, so even a non-gin drinker enjoys our spin on a gin fizz,” he said. “We utilize a lot of local ingredients especially the citrus that Arizona is famed for and pay close attention to the garnish. Some examples are the torched grapefruit wedges or dehydrated blood orange wheels.”
According to Cronin, the program is already off to a great start. It’s about making connections and strengthening guests’ loyalty.
“Last night, I met a lady and her husband on their fourth stay with us. She had worked for some major beverage publications so there was a real connection,” he said. “Our W Insiders also attend the events and spend the hour making local recommendations. The program has also energized our talent, having seen the impact it has on guests. This alone is ROI enough for me.”
The Social Club keeps things fresh by changing the location weekly, holding events outside, in suites and poolside to give repeat customers an opportunity to see the various spaces in the hotel.
“Future plans include setting up a pop-up bar in the hotel lifts. Think about that as an experience. The program gives us a chance to make some amazing connections. Our managers send a handwritten note with an amenity the next day,” he said. “The program has also allowed us to test new ideas like ‘drunken donuts,’ guided bike tours and boot camp on the Wet deck as part of our Fuel series. W is such an amazing brand that the hour also gives us a great opportunity to explain the brand and what makes us different, including our passion points.”