King George introduces Yalo, the world-class hybrid hotel concept of the future, in Ghent
From strategy and branding to interior design: King George was responsible from A to Z
Think a hotel is only for sleeping and a shop is only for shopping? Wake up, it’s 2021! The experience economy, which is growing more than ever post-COVID, challenges concept designers such as creative agency King George to push their boundaries even more. ‘We designed Yalo in the heart of Ghent, not as a hotel, nor as a restaurant or meeting venue. It’s all of that in a well-shaken hybrid cocktail that will have you begging for more. The future of hospitality is multi-purpose,’ says Nicolas Block, creative director at King George.
In a metropolis like Paris or London, it has been a trend for some time now: hotels boasting very cool restaurants and event venues that mainly attract non-guests. ‘Hotels abroad are hotspots in themselves: their décor is one to be seen, and even if you’re not an overnight guest, you are drawn to it. In Belgium, we don’t have that yet. We have very nice hotels, but no concept today stands out with a 24/7 vibe, welcoming a nice mix of locals, tourists and business people. About four years ago, when we thought up our initial plans, we decided that Yalo had to change this,’ says Nicolas.
Yalo is multi-purpose
Let’s start off with the facts. Yalo is located in the heart of Ghent on the Brabantdam, it has 92 design rooms, a bar and restaurant of 600 m2, 4 creative meeting rooms, a conference room and a rooftop boasting beautiful views of the Ghent skyline. Nicolas Block explains, ‘Following a comprehensive study of what Ghent needed, we managed to get Joris van Duffel of Urban Link on board with the idea that a hotel should be a public place and that it should be and remain the talk of town. After a few meetings, we were able to convince him not to rent out the former Braempoort shopping centre below the hotel, but to transform it into an incredibly unique hospitality concept. We know that the profitability of catering in hotel establishments in Belgium is often an issue, so we had to go all out with the concept in terms of experience and design to ensure it could be used 24/7.’ The result is a place where you can enjoy breakfast, an aperitif and dinner and a club atmosphere. And where highly original meeting rooms used during the day can host private dinner parties at night. ‘Everything at Yalo is multi-purpose, which makes it truly unique,’ Nicolas says. ‘Even the rooms have 5 furnishing concepts that are used interchangeably. They are guaranteed to keep surprising you with every visit.’
King George has already come up with many successful concepts in the hospitality sector, such as Balls & Glory, Nona Pizza and even F&B concepts for Kinepolis. ‘Yalo is the first project in which we brought everything together and that was obviously a huge challenge, especially if you know that the shape and lay-out of the existing building is not entirely adaptable,’ says Nicolas. King George also calls the interior hybrid: not merely vintage, design or luxurious, but all of that in a well-balanced mix. ‘Yalo got the typical King George treatment: unique and luxurious with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll,’ Nicolas smiles.
From A to Z
King George meticulously thought through the interior, branding and marketing from start to finish. ‘In this type of concept, everything has to be just right; you have to feel there is a common thread running through everything. Whether you are sitting at the bar, going to the bathroom, sleeping in a room, surfing the website or calling the hotel, the surprise factor should never be far away. The basic idea behind all our work was that hotel guests should no longer want to leave the hotel to eat and drink because it is so unique, and that locals will forget that Yalo is actually a hotel. Time will tell whether or not we have succeeded, but the initial reactions are very positive,’ Nicolas concludes.