By FRANK SWERTLOW
You suddenly discover that you’re locked out of your 12-bedroom Tudor on Beverly Glen, and need a locksmith in a hurry.
Or perhaps the bidet in Buffy’s room has sprung a leak.
Or maybe you’re craving a chocolate-filled brioche along with your espresso in the morning.
Who do you call? Where can you get all of these services at the touch of a direct-dial button?
The Beverly Hilton, of course. That is, as long as you’re a Beverly Hills resident.
Merv Griffin, the owner of the Hilton, is said to be in the process of creating an innovative program that would be a sort of takeout service for hotel amenities. Among the services, according to sources familiar with the plan, are plumbing, locksmiths, food and possibly housekeeping.
The services would be provided by the hotel’s existing staff members, who could be hired on an outcall basis by city residents. The Beverly Hilton has locksmiths on staff, as well as plumbers, housekeepers and a full catering staff.
The proposed service is being called the Bev Club and, if implemented, it would be the first of its kind in the Los Angeles area. It is not known what fees, if any, would be charged for membership in the club or for services rendered. Griffin and hotel officials declined to discuss the idea, which, they said, is still in the planning stages.
But one source said there will be a meeting this week with advertising executives from McCann-Erickson Los Angeles to discuss ways to market the idea. McCann is also the advertising agency for the city of Beverly Hills.
If the plan moves ahead, it would be the latest step by the entrepreneurial Griffin, who had been living at the Hilton until recently, to revitalize his hotel and create new revenue streams. A year ago, the entertainer-businessman introduced the Coconut Club, a weekend big-band concept for swing dancing that has become a favorite of local residents.
Richard Rosenzweig, president of the Beverly Hills Chamber of Commerce, called the service plan “healthy competition” for the city’s service sector. “The Hilton is not going to knock people out. He’ll probably use the skills of the local merchants anyway.”
Rosenzweig said he was delighted by the concept. “People in the community will love this,” he said, “and he has the perfect clients. It also adds to the uniqueness and overall image of Beverly Hills. This just polishes the apple.”
Reaction was mixed among rival hoteliers.
“Merv is always coming up with something,” said Peter O’Colmain, vice president and general manager of the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.
O’Colmain said he would not embark on a similar program. Staffing would be a major problem and expense. “I don’t know what would happen if six people called at the same time needing a plumber,” he said.
Hotel analysts agree there are pluses and minuses to the plan. The Beverly Hilton is a well-recognized brand name, which would provide a marketing boost to any new business activity, according to Jim Burba, senior managing director of the Newport Beach consulting firm, Insignia/ESG Hotel Partners Inc., who said it makes sense to leverage the hotel’s brand in other areas.
Further, the hotel already has a large staff that may not be fully utilized. Why not find other profitable ways to use them?
“A hotel is a fully functioning city, and you have all these services available throughout the day,” Burba said. “Packaging and selling them to a consumer is a very clever idea.”
But there are logistical problems that could make the concept unworkable, according to Chuck Nester, president of the Santa Barbara hotel management and brokerage firm Brown Hotel Group.
“The liability issues are incredible,” he said. “You have employees off the premises. What if something happens criminally or accidentally? What if the plumber runs over Mr. Smith in his driveway? What’s (Griffin) going to do, send over the gardener to dig his grave?”