5 Brands That Go The Extra Mile

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These days, it’s hard for brands to distinguish themselves from the sea of others just like them. Today, TPG Associate Editor Emily McNutt digs into five brands that go far above and beyond, adding unique touches to enhance your travel experience.

Of the hundreds of hotels in New York, what makes the W New York Times Square different from the Andaz Wall Street? What makes dining at ABC Kitchen different from finding a place on Stone Street in the Financial District? It’s all in the details for consumers of all kinds – from those eating at three-star Michelin restaurants to those dining on a budget. Whether it’s stellar service that one-ups the competition or unique amenities that can’t be found anywhere else, there are ways brands can set themselves apart from the rest.

There are plenty of examples to choose from, but a handful really stand out — here are five brands that go the extra mile:

kimpton
The lobby at Kimpton’s Donovan House in Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of Kimpton Hotels.

Kimpton Hotels’ “Guppy Love”

If you’re traveling alone for business – or even on a leisure trip and missing the family pet – Kimpton Hotels offers a tiny creature to join you on your stay. The “Guppy Love” program gives guests the option for a companion in the form of a goldfish. The program started in 2001 and has been a huge success for the boutique hotel chain, which is based in San Francisco and has properties throughout the the US. Upon request, a goldfish will be delivered to your room, on-site meeting room or banquet hall. An employee will take care of the upkeep of the goldfish (i.e., feeding and caring for it), so all you have to do is make sure the “amenity” is serving its relaxing purpose just by being there.

Also of note, all Kimpton properties are pet friendly, so if the concept of having a goldfish in your room isn’t enough for you, you can always bring your own pet – as long as it fits through the door. In late 2014, IHG acquired Kimpton, but that didn’t impact its rewards program, as Kimpton Karma Rewards still remains its own entity within IHG. The goldfish touch is just an added bonus that makes staying at a Kimpton property an easy choice.

The Four Seasons Pavilion Japanese Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Century Park Shanghai.
The Four Seasons Pavilion Japanese Restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Century Park Shanghai. Image courtesy of IHG.

InterContinental’s At-Home Recipes

Have you ever had that one meal at a hotel’s restaurant that just stuck with you? When you went home, it’s all you could think about and you wanted one more taste. Well, IHG does something just for you. In 2011, the hotel chain announced that it would be launching the InterContinental Kitchen Cookbook iPad App, which allows readers to recreate and share simple local recipes from many of its properties across the globe.

Because IHG has so many properties both domestically and internationally, there are a number of options for you to create the meals you had on vacation from your own kitchen. The free app adds three new recipes each month, so there’s always something new to cook. It’s a nice touch for guests to feel like they’re still sitting poolside in the sun at the InterContinental Bali Resort.

The Pony Room at the Rancho Valencia. Image courtesy of Rancho Valencia.
The Pony Room at Rancho Valencia. Image courtesy of Rancho Valencia.

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

What’s a better time to drive a Porsche than when you’re on vacation? At the Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, located about 25 miles north of San Diego in Rancho Santa Fe, California, you can do just that. In 2013, the resort announced that it would be partnering with the nearby Porsche of San Diego for a test drive program that allows guests to test drive one of its luxury cars for the day throughout their stay – a 911 convertible, Panamera Hybrid or Cayenne GTS. And if it’s a good fit, the on-site Porsche-certified concierge will consult with you so you can take home your own. If anything, it’s a great perk to be able to take out a Porsche for the day and drive along the California coast, even if you do have to turn it back in at the end of the day.

The program is a great way to give guests the opportunity to take part in the full luxury experience that the resort offers. The resort itself is Southern California’s only Relais & Châteaux property and is considered one of the region’s most highly desired luxury resorts. Use your Chase Sapphire Preferred to book so you earn 2x points on travel.

Dried chilli peppers. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
Dried chilli peppers. Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Wahaca’s Chilli Seeds

We often associate end-of-meal gifts from a restaurant with Andes Chocolate Mints and fortune cookies from Chinese restaurants. However, the London-based Mexican eatery, Wahaca, is upping the game. After each meal, the chain, which has locations throughout London, Cardiff, Bristol, Manchester and Liverpool, gives customers a pack of chilli seeds to plant when they get home, giving them the option of having the same spicy and tasty food they had while dining out.

The parting gift from the restaurant to its customers after the meal is a great touch that will keep diners happy even as they’re paying the bill. There has been a Reddit thread about the seeds, and the restaurant has promoted it by featuring a video with the Wahaca Chilli Expert himself who tells customers how to best grow their chillies at home.

Travel with Black Tomato to Vietnam's Halong Bay.
Travel with Black Tomato to Vietnam’s Halong Bay. Image courtesy of Black Tomato.

Black Tomato’s Services For Your Return Home

When you leave home for a vacation, you pack your bags and don’t even think about what’s on the to-do list when you return home or the food that might expire in your refrigerator while you’re gone. Of course, the massive things that always loom when returning home are the burden of laundry and restocking a refrigerator. But, the luxury travel site, Black Tomato, which specializes in creating custom-designed travel itineraries and experiences for its customers, is doing something about that.

If you book through Black Tomato, you will receive a voucher for both take-out food and a laundry service for when you return home. That will not only be enough to make you want to continue traveling, but also to book with Black Tomato for future vacations. Unfortunately though, they can’t help you with that lingering jet lag.

Bottom Line

Whether it be that a brand offers you something while you’re there, like an in-house pet goldfish, or something for when you leave, like laundry and takeout credit, it’s the little things that leave a lasting impression in the eyes of the consumer. With these added benefits, there’s hope that even more brands will hop on board and do something that will put them ahead of the competition as far as going the extra mile.

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