By replacing the staff with technology, the Lokal provides an interesting and private experience. It works seamlessly and makes for a special getaway
We stay in a lot of hotels, and of course that means having the convenience of friendly people whose job it is to look after you, but every so often it is nice to retreat into our own little world. Of the many hotels we have stayed in, we have had the chance to experience some novel concepts; From uniquely designed boutiques to remote resorts which incorporate once in a lifetime activities into your stay, we have seen almost everything. The Lokal however was something new even for us, and it gave us that private break we were looking for.
The first thing you should know about The Lokal is that this is a tech savvy hotel where everything is done electronically. Not once during our stay did we meet with a staff member. This is because of the ‘Invisible Service’ idea which underpins the establishment. Although this is a hotel, it feels more like a private apartment or an Airbnb rental as you have the place to yourself. This does not mean a lack of comfort or that you end up doing the work of the team for yourself however. The ‘service’ part of the concept is just as important as the ‘invisible’ bit.
Invisible Service works like this. The day before our check in we received a special code that would let us in the building and into our room. The code was unique to us and we used it instead of the traditional hotel key. This allowed us to bypass the whole check in process, with its delays and forced interaction. This was especially nice if - like us – you are arriving after a long flight and don't feel like talking to anyone in route to your bed.
With the technology we have available today, pretty much everything you need can be done electronically. The idea – true to its name is to make you feel like a local. It makes you feel like you have your own fancy apartment in the middle of Philadelphia. Because of this you won’t find much communal space or a reception desk. Instead, all the attention has gone into your room, with some very thoughtful details. Here you will find artisanal soups ready for you to heat up in the well provisioned kitchen, spa supplies in the bathroom and of course, the bar cart!
Once inside, we met the most important feature of the room. The thing which replaces the staff and makes the invisible service possible – The Ipad. This is loaded with all the apps you need to make the most of your stay – both inside the hotel and out in the city. It allows you to watch Netflix on the large TV (with Apple TV). It lets you play music through the powerful Sonos speakers. It even provides you with advice about what to do in the city through the Coral app. When you are hungry you can order groceries from it or order food from Ubereats. Don’t worry if you don’t have an account, you can use the hotels and they will bill you when you check out.
We have seen some of these features in hotels before, but to have it all together on one device, and to have it all run so smoothly that no staff are required, was something new. Don’t worry if you are one of those people who likes to ask 100 questions – I have to admit that at times I am one of those- you can still do it! Just get back on that magical device and ask your questions via email or Whatsapp – you will get a quick response.
We didn’t need the guidebook app as Philadelphia is one of our home cities. Chris grew up here and we knew what to do there. This meant that we could also appreciate just how good the Lokal’s location is. The Lokal is literally in the center of Old City, so everything is readily accessible. Right outside the front door are coffee shops, restaurants, bars and great shopping. The tourist attractions are within walking distance, as are the historic sights, where some of the USA’s most important events took place.
Design-wise, the hotel fits neatly into its surroundings. It has that East Coast city center feel that blends vintage industrial chic with modern bohemian minimalism. It was very open, had white brick walls, as well as a big leather sofa and wooden tables. The furniture and decoration matched the building perfectly, minimal and edgy with a vintage element to it. This is a style we love, and wish we could get our own apartment to look this cool! The Lokal only has six units, so this definitely counts as a boutique property. It also means that it is not just staff who you avoid, you might not see any other guests either.
The rooms have all been given names, and there are one or two bedroom options. We went for Betsy – a larger family flat. There was an awesome kids room with bunk beds which would be sure to impress children who stay, while the main section of the apartment was open plan. Aside from the TV with Netflix, the Sonos speakers and kitchen I mentioned earlier, we also had HBO and Apple TV, a washer, dryer, and air conditioning. There was a claw-foot bathtub, a comfy bed with Casper mattress and a large window which took up most of the far wall. The whole space felt artsy and cool.
We knew where to go in Philadelphia and spent some time with family and friends...but if you are a visitor, the location of the Lokal puts you right next to all the things you will want to see. Get out and stroll the streets - The Old City is perfect for this, and you’d be missing out if you don’t soak up the atmosphere on your way to the attractions. You will want to see the nearby historical sights such as Elfreth's Alley, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell. Afterward, walk down to the boardwalk at Spruce Street Harbor Park, and enjoy the sunshine with a cold beer.
After spending a few days there, we are pleased to report that the invisible service experiment is a success! They have got everything so streamlined that you won’t miss having a team on hand and instead will enjoy the privacy and independence. If you are a tourist or business person who likes new things and is comfortable with technology then this is the place to stay. It is definitely one of our new favorites, and as we visit Chris’ family regularly we are sure that we will be back.
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