All dogs allowed: How this luxury hotel is standing out in Nashville’s crowded field

By   – Editorial Intern, Nashville Business Journal

Amid an amenities battle between Nashville’s newest luxury hotels, with pillow menus and special yoga sessions and rooftop bars each quirkier than the next, there is Sasha.

Sasha is a unique hotel greeter. She is very friendly and children especially love her. If you give her a treat she will perform special duties, like ringing a gold bell or rolling on her belly. She really likes it when you scratch behind her ears.

As “resident pet ambassador,” Sasha, a black and brown mixed-breed rescue pup, might be Bobby Hotel’s not-so-secret, secret weapon.

Downtown’s Bobby Hotel opened in April, arriving in a market jam packed with luxury hotels. Noelle, an upscale boutique hotel, opened down the street a few months earlier. A Kimpton Aertson Hotel opened in Midtown last summer. Thompson Hotel opened in 2016, Omni Nashville Hotel opened in 2013, etc.

The competition has gotten stiffer in Nashville’s hospitality industry, but no one wants to lower their rates, so hotels are doing anything they can to differentiate themselves, Bobby Hotel General Manager Avi Niego said. Sasha just happens to do that for Bobby.

“A lot of people hide behind amenities, but we think good service is knowing who your guests are,” Niego said. “The kids and families love Sasha. It’s a good advantage.”

It doesn’t stop at the door. Bobby offers all kinds of pet amenities, including a special gourmet menu for dogs, made with fresh ingredients cooked up by Executive Chef Jeff Axline, formerly of Brooklyn Athletic Club in Houston. The menu is in all of the rooms and can be served anywhere in the hotel where dogs are permitted. This mainly excludes pups and their snacks from the hotel’s main dining venue, The Tavern at Bobby, and the pool area, but pets are allowed in the rooftop lounge. There are five options, which cost $8 each.

A spokesperson said about one to two dog food orders come in per day.

“I was surprised,” Niego said. “Quite a few have ordered [from the menu]. The kitchen is never surprised when a [dog menu] order comes through.”

Bobby has dog treats and toys in every room for sale in the mini bar. There’s also a red towel with Sasha’s face printed on it that guests can take home for a $25 fee, with all proceeds going to County Road Animal Shelter, where Sasha was rescued.

Around 3 to 6 percent of guests bring a pet, and staying pet friendly is a good strategy, Niego said: It attracts families who don’t want to leave their dog at home while they vacation. It allows lone business travelers to bring their furry companions. It maintains a homey feel and it’s raised the hotel’s profile.

Despite garnering attention for spoiling fluffy friends with chicken and potato hash or salmon risotto, you won’t find anything about Bobby’s pet amenities on the hotel’s website.

“We didn’t do it for publicity,” Niego said. “There’s a lot in the hotel we leave for discovery.”

Sasha roams around the front lobby, making friends, doing tricks. She never wanders too far though. She’s very well trained, Niego said. The staff adopted her a few months before the hotel opened. She has her own living quarters inside the hotel, but she’s built a special relationship with the director of the front office, who frequently takes her home, Niego said.

“As a general manager coming in I asked myself, ‘What do I want the overall feeling to be when you walk in here?’” Niego said. “And the feeling is family. You want it to feel like family.”

 

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