AHL INSIDER

Jess Berkin

Head of Brand at Mint House is changing the way we stay in cities

Jess Berkin

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Jess Berkin was one of those cool kids we see trotting around the world with adventurous parents. And hers made sure to include her in fun parties and nice hotel experiences. Growing up in different countries, Jess developed a taste for travel and hospitality quite early, and all her career moves followed that direction. Today, Jess is the Head of Brand for Mint House, a pioneering solution for a new kind of stay in prime downtown locations around the U.S. 

Jess chatted to A Hotel Life’s Editor-in-Chief Tansy Kaschak about her vision for Mint House, the day-to-day of a brand leader, and the importance of bringing more diversity to the industry. She looks back to all the strong leaders and managers she had over the years and is committed to finding new opportunities to empower her team and to helping to clear paths for them to shine and do what they’re most passionate about. In her words, “at the end of the day, you have to love what you do and be fulfilled by that.”

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Tansy Kaschak: There are a lot of women working in the hospitality industry, but still very few in leadership roles. It is important to have more female voices to pave the way and inspire others to dream and know what is possible. So, Jess, let’s start with your journey. What do you do, and how did you get here? 

Jess Berkin: I agree with you that it’s essential to shine a light on what female leaders are doing. Hospitality has been part of my life since my earliest memories as I lived and traveled with my parents around the world. When I started working, I was hired at a luxury travel PR firm in New York and eventually moved into hotel companies. 

I have grown to not only appreciate hotels but to understand how they work. And I am deeply passionate about building brands and creating experiences that conjure an emotional connection for the guest because I share in that emotional connection. I was drawn to this role at Mint House because I could help create something new in an industry ripe for innovation.

Mint House Miami - Downtown
Mint House Miami - Downtown

Tansy: What is your day-to-day? Many people are curious about what a brand director does — it’s such an appealing role. It is creative and has a lot of power over how a company shows up in the world. 

Jess: The brand team is responsible for the development, management, and marketing of the brand, which includes public relations, social and digital, partnerships, graphic design, creative services, and interior design. We partner with every team across the organization from operations to real estate and sales to product to ensure we build and communicate the same identity. 

We work cross-collaboratively with other parts of the business, and we get insights from guests, the market, and that real boots-on-the-ground experience to help define what it is that we’re trying to build — whether it is manifesting physically in an apartment, digitally through technology, or verbally through how we speak to guests. 

Tansy: How do you balance the creative aspects and the more practical, hands-on parts of your work?

Jess: That is a great question. It is a real left-brain/right-brain type of role. There is a push-pull of leading with creativity while being grounded by analytics and insights. My gut instinct is to lead with big ideas and creativity, but I’ve learned over the years and in various roles to give the same, if not more, attention to the consumer insights and to the data. Ultimately, you can’t create a successful brand without the analytics, and you can’t execute creative guest experiences — no matter how amazing they are — without hotel operations. It’s a true partnership.

Mint House - Louisville
Mint House - Louisville

Tansy: How would you define Mint House in a nutshell? Who is your guest?

Jess: We’re a tech-enabled residential hospitality company, which means we offer spacious, apartment-style accommodations across 15 U.S. cities today and much more to come. Our apartments are thoughtfully designed with full kitchens, expansive living areas, and connected dedicated workspaces.

They are in prime downtown locations and are meant to offer a new kind of stay that is smarter and more comfortable than a traditional hotel while still delivering on personalized service, consistency, and thoughtful amenities that travelers have come to expect today and are table stakes with any kind of travel or hospitality concept.

We call our guests the ‘new nomads’. It is a riff on digital nomad, a term we’re all familiar with — it’s somebody who inhabits a post-cubicle world, takes meetings virtually, and is not bound to a desk or even to a city. Whether they’re at their home office or company office, whether they’re traveling for work or fun, what they ultimately expect is effortless experiences in these inspired environments.

They want seamless service and connected tech — to plug in, charge up, and be in a thoughtfully designed space and might not be interested in the bells and whistles. They appreciate service, but only when they need it.

What the pandemic has taught us — and this was already happening pre-COVID — is that, ultimately, it’s all about flexibility. You should be able to stay for two nights or two months and do what you need to do.

Our spaces are shoppable and curated by location, so our guests get to have an unparalleled retail experience and convenience that extends beyond their stay.

We want to transform the traditional hotel model by creating this new category of accommodations that we believe is fundamentally changing the way we live, work, and play away from home.

Tansy: What do you identify as the most future-forward aspects of Mint House?

Jess: We spend a lot of time integrating tech into the guest experience — and even our building owners and developer partners benefit from the efficiencies. We built our technology ourselves, and it is one of the biggest differentiators for the brand.

One of our most innovative programs is ‘Stock Your Stay’ — a pre-order, pre-arrival grocery service to order groceries via a dedicated microsite 24 hours before your stay. We have noise monitoring systems to ensure we are good neighbors within the residential buildings where we operate and have intelligent thermostats that track apartment temperatures and humidity levels to ensure optimal energy consumption. This year, with the new release of the next version of our app, you’ll be able to preset your thermostat before you arrive.

We’re trying to have that intuitive service exceed the actual four walls of the hotel and touch pre-arrival as much as we can so that you can drop in and get on with your life.

Tansy: How are environmental sensitivity and social responsibility part of the Mint House ecosystem?

Jess: We’re dedicated to making sure that we do our part to be as energy-efficient and sustainable as possible: We use bulk amenities and will send zero soap waste to landfills by the end of the year. We’ve reduced single-use plastic waste by 50% and have a goal to have zero single-use plastic waste by the end of 2023.

We produce on average 23% fewer CO2 emissions daily than a traditional mid-scale hotel and 56% less CO2 emissions than an upscale hotel with food and beverage waste and conference space. And we do not have the food waste of a running kitchen.

Jess and family in St. Simons Island
Jess and family in St. Simons Island
Jess in Milan
Jess in Milan

Tansy:  What’s your vision for Mint House?

Jess: We are growing, but we’re still relatively small and nimble and able to test and figure out what works and what people want. We want to be sure about our offering as we go along. The vision, ultimately, is to be the leader of this new category that we call residential hospitality. We want to be the brand that you seek out for travel because you can do what you need to do and have the space to do it — and never feel like you don’t belong, or you’re not cool enough, or that you have to be of a specific demographic or income level. We’re inclusive, and we’re well priced.

Tansy: What inspires you the most in the travel industry today?

Jess: I’m inspired by visibility into and celebration of local cultures. We can all agree travel broadens our worldview and, personally, it helps me appreciate the world around me and others.

What inspires me most about hotels is their ability to deliver what you need even before you need it. We look at those upper-upscale luxury and lifestyle players that do it so well and let them influence us from a design and services amenities point of view. But we also look at up-and-coming direct-to-consumer companies that have captured market share with loyal customer bases because they’re fresh, modern, and smart. When I think about Mint House, we’re a hybrid of those two things.

Tansy: If you had the day off today, where would you be?

Jess: I love this question. People who know me will laugh when they read this, but I’d catch an Orangetheory class because I go every day and do it without fail. Then I’d probably indulge in some form of self-care, so a great lunch, some shopping, and a manicure before picking my kids up from school. I have two little kids, so if I had one little pocket of a day, I’d probably spend it on myself.

This interview has been edited from the original conversation for brevity and clarity.

Learn more about Mint House here

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