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Lokal Hotel: a review of “invisible service”, a trend that may be here to stay

I once explained the concept of Airbnb to some Gen-X co-workers. They were appalled by the idea. I argued with them – “It’s just like when you rent a beach house for the week with your family!” They weren’t having it. “You guys are the Uber generation,” one told me. “You’re always getting in each other’s’ cars, sleeping in each other’s beds.” Touché.

I’m a millennial, but I haven’t fully crossed over to the Airbnb side. I still enjoy knowing where my sheets and towels came from, especially when only staying somewhere for a short period of time. Enter compromise: the new concept of “invisible service”. This type of hotel – a hybrid of a hotel and an Airbnb – was made for millennials.

Photo courtesy of Hotels.com

Lokal is one such hotel in Philadelphia.  Aptly named, it attempts to merge the comforts of home with the luxury of a hotel. Hidden in the heart of old city, you’d walk right by it if you didn’t know it was there. (My Uber drive almost drove right by as well.) A friend of mine lives on the same block and didn’t know it was there.

Their website states, “The inspiration for the Lokal concept came from how we like to travel. We want to stay in design-driven boutique hotels in the heart of residential neighborhoods and feel like we are staying like a local, rather than a tourist.” This defines not only me, but this blog, so I was excited to try it out. Lokal neighborhood guide

The day before my arrival I was sent an email that contained instructions on how to get into the building: a code to be typed into the keypad and an additional code for getting into my room. There is no front desk or concierge, just a door that enters into what feels like an urban apartment building (and yes, I was on a third-floor walkup).

Lokal Hotel - Philadelphia

Lokal Hotel - Philadelphia
My room at Lokal

When I first walked in I felt like I wanted a glass of wine and to have friends over. This is what the modern traveler is seeking in alternative lodging – a sense of home, while away. Complete with a Sonos sound system, an iPad filled with service apps, and a bar cart (including cocktail recipes!) – I really did feel like I had the luxuries of home.

Lokal bar cart
My bar cart – complete with cocktail recipes
Philly magazines
Local magazines on the coffee table make you feel at home

The rooms are named for the city itself – “Ben”, “Betsy”, “Billy”. I was in “Will”, named for the Fresh Prince whom was “West Philadelphia, born and raised”. Each room is adorably decorated by the design company Jersey Ice Cream Co. and I found myself admiring the kitchen and taking notes for my next renovation.

The kitchen in my room "Will" at Lokal

There’s also a printed guide of neighborhood restaurants and things to see. They even divided breakfast spots by cuisine which is perfect for me, because I’m usually on the hunt for a breakfast sandwich in the morning…

Lokal neighborhood guide
Lokal neighborhood guide

From a business perspective, I was filled with questions for the owner – What kind of investment did this require? How many calls a day do you get about the TV not working or the water pressure being too low? Who comes back to change all the access codes and how often? Do you ever mix them up? Aren’t those logo-branded coat hangers expensive? Do you count them after every stay and charge guests if one goes missing? I suppose these are all things that are working out, because they just opened a second location in New Jersey.

This is definitely not a hotel to recommend to your technology-challenged parents or your friend that likes being waited on and calling room service. My parents are still a bit confused why this is considered a “hotel.” But millennials are also known for our insatiable desire to travel, so it’s not our fault we found cheaper (and more comfortable) ways to do it. We may be unwilling to settle down, but that’s because we’ve found comfort in everyday life, wherever that may take us.

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  1. Thanks so much for the thorough review guys! It’s nice when our guests really get what we were trying to accomplish and so happy you enjoyed the stay!

    I figured I go ahead and answer your questions:
    – It was a big investment. Buildings are not cheap on that street and this one was in bad shape. We tore it apart, rebuilt it and spared no expense on the interiors…
    – We actually get very few calls about things not working. Between people just being familiar with most of the things and detailed instructions in the rooms, most people figure it all out. This is a bit surprising to us as well, but welcome!
    – We change all the access codes remotely and daily. It’s not too bad.
    – I’m sure we’ve mixed codes up, so we always have backup emergency codes for people in case they can’t get in. We have a call service cover our phones while we sleep with these emergency codes and instructions. So if you’ve had a bit to drink and come back to your room at 3AM, someone is a phone call away to help you get back in!
    – The coat hangers are from IKEA! Ssshhh. Don’t tell anyone! We have a branding iron in our office with a few of our logos that can be switched out. That’s how we branded the leather in room guide book as well!
    – We don’t count them so much. We don’t mind people grabbing one because they love the brand. We do count the robes!!
    – Come back to our Fishtown location next year. It’s going up now!

    While we are definitely geared towards millennial ways of living and traveling, we are not millennials ourselves and have a lot of older guests who love their stays here and seem to have no problems with the tech. Many of our guests seem to really like the privacy aspect of it and we’ve done some pretty big favors for our “pickier guests” to make sure they are as satisfied with their stay here compared to any other luxury brand hotel…

    1. Thanks, Chad! And thanks so much for answering my questions! You guys really have a good system down, and it seems to be working. Very cool concept, and I’m excited to see your other locations come to life!

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