What used to be Philadelphia's Four Seasons hotel is going to reopen in November as the city's first deluxe Hilton Worldwide property, but guests might not realize it's a Hilton at all.
That's because the hotel, owned by Maryland real estate trust Host Hotels & Resorts, is being rebranding with a fresh name - the Logan - to emphasize its Philadelphia Logan Square location rather than its connection to the hospitality giant.
Through an increasingly prevalent hospitality industry practice called "soft branding," hotel operators are staking out independent identities while relying on the reservation networks, loyalty programs, and other perks offered by big hotel companies.
Other examples include the Algonquin Hotel Times Square in New York, part of Marriott's Autograph Collection, and San Francisco's Palace Hotel, a member of Starwood's Luxury Collection.
The Logan, scheduled for renovation before opening, is part of the Hilton's year-old Curio Collection brand, which also includes hotels in Buenos Aires, Argentina; Las Vegas; and Cupertino, Calif. It will be Philadelphia's first soft-branded hotel.
"They're having an independent nameplate but having a brand engine under the hood," said Chekitan Dev, a marketing professor at Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. "The soft brand gives you a little more room to be more local. You don't have to have the same cookie-cutter amenities."
The Logan will be decorated with artwork by Philadelphia painters and sculptors, and its hotel restaurant - a steakhouse called Urban Farmer - will feature dishes prepared with local ingredients, said Walter Isenberg, president and chief executive of Sage Hospitality, the hotel's operator.
Crews soon will begin tearing out the gold-and-red interior left behind by the traditional Four Seasons, which vacated the 357-room hotel on Saturday after nearly 32 years there, Isenberg said in an interview Tuesday, when the property's new identity was unveiled.
In its place, the Sage will install an interior decor with primary colors that gives off a contemporary vibe, he said, stressing that the Logan's identity will be independent from the Hilton brand.
"We want to plug into that network of a really well-known international brand and plug into their reservation system, but have the freedom to create a really great luxury independent hotel," said Isenberg, whose Denver company controls 75 hotels in 26 states.
The Logan will be Sage's first Philadelphia hotel. It also will be Hilton's first highest-end hotel entry into the city, Dianna Vaughan, who heads the Curio brand for Hilton, said in an e-mail response to questions.
"While we have a strong presence in the market, we're always looking to expand our presence," she said. "Curio - A Collection by Hilton - is in the four- to five-star category and will be able to serve a guest demographic we haven't been able to in the past."
Vaughan said the company was conscious of the Four Seasons' legacy at the property but expected the new hotel's unique identity and local flavor to transcend those ties.
The Four Seasons itself is scheduled to reopen in 2017 as a 222-room hotel on the top 12 floors of the 59-story Comcast Innovation and Technology Center now under construction.
Peter Tyson, a vice president at industry-tracker PKF Consulting, said Hilton likely considered something self-branded for the former Four Seasons property but concluded that the independent route would be more lucrative for that site.
"They think there's enough uniqueness to the Four Seasons location and certainly reputation in the market as being an upscale hotel, where they thought they could do better with a boutique-y kind of operation than they could with a standard Hilton," he said.