Saturday, April 25, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
The Club Quarters unfortunately falls into the latter category. Mix that with an economy in decline, and you have a formula for disaster. To step back for a minute, the Club Quarters is a hotel chain that operates on a membership model. Companies become members and thus are able to lodge employees in any of the thirteen prime locations. Generally, the hotels are located in prime business hubs including New York, London, and Chicago.
Club Quarters promises low rates in exchange for a lower level of service than you would typically find in a hotel. Usually there is no more than one person at the front desk and all routine transactions (check in and out) are done through computer terminals. Because the hotel is limited to business travelers, you do not have to cope with family travelers (kids screaming in the hallway, lollipops in the clothes drawers, the pool too full to fit one more person).
While in Houston, I ended up staying in the Club Quarters because it was the lowest rate I could find for a central location. Hexion, like most companies these days, has restricted travel budgets. I do not have high requirements and I take the budget limitations seriously, so I was able to find a low price at the Club Quarters on Yahoo Travel ($150 per night compared with $250 per night at other downtown hotels). Note that I did not need a Company membership, anyone who can type travel.yahoo.com can get full access.
In practice, Club Quarters falls short. Business travelers do not expect much, but demand clean, comfortable rooms in convenient locations. My room was very small and out of date. It was what I would expect from a low price European hotel. The first room I was given was right next to the elevator and the wall vibrated every time the elevator moved past. When I complained I was told that my only other choices were a room that faced a brick wall or a room that overlooked a construction site that started up a 5am. I took the brick wall. My TV did not work and the toiletries were low quality. The single towel in the room was clean, but had a big hole in the middle.
This hotel holds no attraction for business travelers unless they are looking for very low price in good locations and they are willing to sacrifice room comfort. Vacationers are better served staying at a cheap chain hotel that is a little more out of the way. I would expect that the new exciting business concept of Club Quarters will not survive long without a major rethink and a realistic reassessment of who their customer really is.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
The Flying Saucer is a small chain with about twelve locations scattered through the US. The Saucer is built around serving a huge selection of beer, most on tap. I noted a nice selection of local Texas beers (Live Oak, Shiner, Real Ale, Saint Arnold, and Southern Pine), which gives them extra points. Of those five breweries, I have only seen Shiner as far north as Columbus.
I also noticed that they had Flensburger Pilsener by the bottle. I can still hardly believe it. This beer I tried for the first time in Dortmund Germany last summer. It is a good beer, but typical of a small local brew. It comes in old fashioned bottles with flip tops. How the Flying Saucer got their hands on it I will never know.
Most of the beer I had at the Flying Saucer was new to me, though I had heard of most before. I tried the tasty Ommegang Hennepin out of Cooperstown NY, which is a strong Belgian Saison beer that went straight to my head. A local brew on the fire sale was the Southern Star Pine Belt Pale from Conroe TX, which was good but nothing special. I located an old favorite on the menu which I used to wash down the veggie pizza, Old Speckled Hen out of Jolly Old England. I tried the Shiner 100 of Shiner TX with high expectations. Sad to say it was a beer I did not bother finishing.
On Mondays all pints are $2.75 and every night there is a fire sale special at that price. Wednesday is brewery glass night so when you order the special beer, you get to keep the glass.
The Flying Saucer was very close to my hotel, so I ate there nearly every night. The food is good, though typical of bar food. Nothing to satisfy the vegan and very little for a vegetarian. They have a veggie pizza which stood out for its outstanding flavor.
The walls of the flying saucer are covered in plates. Some of the plates are china similar to what you see in flea markers. The rest are gold plates with names and dates on them. These are the plates belonging to the UFO club members who have had 200 beers (and paid $18 bucks). Seems like a small price for the semi-permanent fame of having your name on the wall.
High Five for the Flying Saucer!
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
The tunnels are open every day from 6am to 6pm. Since many parking garages are connected to the tunnels, it is entirely possible that some people never need to go outside.
In the tunnels you can find a variety of stores, including banks, barbers, convenience stores, wireless phones, and coffee shops. Most of the buildings that are connected to the tunnels have some sort of food court that is down in the tunnels, so many food options are available.