The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead Will Become A Starwood Hotel

Many people are surprised to learn that the major hotel chains only have management contracts for most of their hotels, while they’re owned by outside investment companies. Often the investment companies themselves aren’t “loyal” to one specific hotel chain. In other words, an investment company might own a Residence Inn (Marriott) in one city, a Hampton Inn (Hilton) in another, and a Holiday Inn (IHG) in another.

Once in a while hotels will rebrand, which can happen for a variety of reasons. I find it especially interesting when luxury hotels rebrand, and we just learned of one such rebranding.

As of December 1, 2017, the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead Atlanta will be rebranded as a Starwood Luxury Collection hotel. The 510-room hotel, which originally opened in the 1980s, will be called The Whitley. For those of you not familiar, the Luxury Collection is Starwood’s collection of independent luxury hotels. One common theme is that many of them (at least those that are rebranded as Luxury Collection, rather than newly built) are every so slightly past their prime. I like to describe many of the hotels as shabby chic.


Ritz-Carlton Buckhead room

The Atlanta Business Chronicle has the following details about the Ritz-Carlton’s rebranding:

A spokeswoman for Ritz-Carlton she said could not confirm that a renovation was planned for the property. “The team at the hotel is fully committed to a smooth transition over the next several months as the property continues to be managed under The Ritz-Carlton brand,” said an announcement.

Sources have said the property has become “tired” over the years and no longer represents The Ritz-Carlton brand.

Based on that, it sure sounds to me like Ritz-Carlton may be requiring the hotel to undergo a renovation in order to keep the Ritz-Carlton name, but the owner isn’t willing to spend that money, so they’re choosing to rebrand.

Another possibility is that there are two other Ritz-Carlton properties in Georgia (the Ritz-Carlton Atlanta and Ritz-Carlton Lake Oconee), while there are no Luxury Collection properties. So it could be that they see better potential being the only hotel of their brand in a city.

Personally as an elite member I’m excited about this change. Ritz-Carlton is one of the Marriott brands that doesn’t offer basic elite benefits like free breakfast. So as a Platinum member you get no breakfast benefit there, while as an SPG Platinum member you’ll receive complimentary continental breakfast once it becomes a Luxury Collection hotel.

Did anyone stay at the Ritz-Carlton Buckhead? Was the hotel in need of a refresh?

(Tip of the hat to @HH_Cash)

Comments

  1. I live in a high rise across the street from the Ritz Buckhead and stayed there on multiple occasions for a staycation with my partner. It got to the point where the bathrooms resembled a Hampton Inn and cough the service did too. It pales in comparison to the St. Regis down the street and has lost its five diamond rating the past two years.

  2. That The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta is in the market would have no bearing on this decision. Downtown Atlanta and Buckhead are two distinctive locales. It is purely a matter of ownership deciding it is not worth the investment to bring the property up to standard. The existence of a newer competitor, Mandarin Oriental (former Rosewood Buckhead), may also be a factor.

    The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead was the first Ritz-Carlton built after William B. Johnson (of Waffle House fame) acquired the old Ritz-Carlton, Boston (now Taj Boston). Before Marriott acquired The Ritz-Carlton, its corporate headquarters were actually contained within the office building adjacent to the hotel.

    It’s sad to see the cornerstone Boston and Buckhead properties both gone from the chain. It’s also sad that the old fine dining restaurants that once graced properties like this (The Dining Room) have long since closed.

  3. I stayed here at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead last September. They have an awesome staff, but sadly my original room was not what you would expect in a 5 Star property. It was worn, dirty and definitely needed a rehab. I was moved to the newly updated “spa” level which had wood floors, new bedding and amenities and did not have the mildew smell of my previous room.

  4. 2 years ago I stayed at The Ritz Carlton Seoul which had amazing service. They closed for 9 months and just reopened as a Le Meridien. The price still high though. It’s interesting that Le Meridien & The Ritz Carlton are both Marriott properties.

  5. I have lived in Buckhead since 1988, back when then Ritz Carlton Buckhead was in its prime. I stayed at the hotel in November of last year and it is showing its age, especially considering it is charging $450 a night for a basic room, I honestly think the rebranding won’t be a bad thing, but they MUST renovate the rooms if they want to stay competitive with the st Regis and Mandarin Oriental, even the Intercontinental is far superior in terms of room quality. the ritz downtown is also dated, and does not represent the brand well, Atlanta should have a ritz similar to Charlotte, Washington, D.C., or Dallas, all three are strong ultra-luxury five star hotels. I heard through the grapevine that the Ritz Downtown will eventually become a JW Marriott or possibly a Park Hyatt hotel, it will be interesting to see if this happens, I believe the Westin Peachtree Plaza and Marriott Marquis are nicer than the downtown Ritz.

  6. Something to keep in mind though is that your SPG points go a lot farther at top tier Ritz properties than they do at top tier SPG properties. A 70,000 per night Ritz property is only 23,333 SPG points, as opposed to 30,000 for a St Regis. So you’d have to decide if paying an extra 6,667 SPG points points is worth the free breakfast. 6,667 SPG points is about ~$140, so probably not worth it.

  7. Edit: I realize this is a Luxury Collection property, so it probably won’t be a category 7. Most likely a category 6. So that’s 13,333 SPG points versus 25,000.

  8. There isn’t enough premium business in Atlanta to support all of the luxury brands in the market. Luxury hotels can often go for well under $200 a night.

  9. I believe there are also tax implications to reflagging. Something like if you remodel because of the reflagging then you don’t get taxed on the remodel stuff or it’s taxed differently. I don’t remember but something like that. I’ve heard of some hotels that reflag every ten years so they can get a cheaper remodel.

  10. This property seems to have great bones………I stayed in a suite there 15 years ago before the mildew started growing…………I don’t seem to find Buckhead that attractive a location and Ritz Carlton may have come to the same conclusion considering they have a downtown property……..hell I can’t figure out why anyone would want to go to Atlanta in the first place?

  11. Stayed at the Ritz Buckhead many, many years ago after our wedding and the service and dinner in The Dining Room were superb. We stayed a few years ago for our 20th Anniversary and were upgraded to the Presidential Suite. While it was nice to have 2 rooms and 2 bathrooms, the room was incredibly outdated. There are many nicer properties in Atlanta.

  12. I have been to the Ritz Carlton Buckhead many times for dinner/drinks etc. but have never stayed there. The public areas are very nice. Not sure about the rooms though.

  13. Stayed at the hotel for a better part of a week this past April. The public areas were going through a major renovation, to the point where the lobby bar and restaurant were relegated to a conference room. Great staff but extremely slow service and very overpriced, substandard quality food.

    The rooms were extremely tired. Ended up going back to Atlanta two weeks later and had a much better stay at the Marriott down the street, to provide context on how run down the rooms have gotten.

    I disagree with Ben in that Ritz is too saturated in the market. Downtown and Buckhead are two distinct trade areas and Ritz can sustain two in the market (I live in DC where Ritz has four in the metro area) but I have to agree with the argument that it had gotten run down.

  14. I stayed there about 3 weeks ago and was very underwhelmed. The staff was outstanding without exception. They were very apologetic but not surprised when the bathroom sink flooded. The room felt like a roadside motel 6 compared to other Ritz’s or JW Marriott’s I’ve been to.

  15. The Ritz Carlton Buckhead is one of many hotels in Buckhead that have gotten “rebranded” the swissotel, hotel Nikko, rosewood mansion on peachtree have also been rebranded over the last decade.

  16. I would agree that this hotel needs a big renovation, but I’m a bit surprised at how it seems to have maintained its popularity. Despite its outdatedness, it’s always commanded a premium vis-a-vis Ritz-Carlton Atlanta. I think this hotel has probably rested on its reputation in the area for far too long.

  17. I’ll be VERY interested to see the rates this hotel charges after the re-branding. I’ve long felt that this hotel has charged absurdly high rates given the product, so it will be fascinating to see how much the disassociation with Ritz-Carlton affects the hotel’s value to guests.

  18. I stayed at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead for New Year’s Eve in a club level room, which included the overcrowded lounge for breakfast and cocktails, it was over $500 for the night and not worth it. We could have stayed at the Grand Hyatt for $200.

  19. truly the end of an era…many famous people have walk through the front doors of the ritz, and while a new era begins, it’s hard to see classic luxury as a thing of the past.

  20. People nowadays don’t want to spend a fortune for hotel rooms, when I work at the Four Seasons, 85% of our business was expense account and business meetings, we would sell a block of rooms for a deep discount to corporations, occasionally we would get a wealthy customer who wouldn’t mind spending top dollar for a suite.

  21. Many fond memories of the Buckhead Ritz Carlton, had several corporate functions there, and my daughter was married there in 1995. Goodbye old friend..

  22. I have stayed at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead property for the last 2 months, weekly from M-TR. I travel over 150 days a year and have for the past 5 years. I have to say this is one of my least favorite properties to date. Their rooms are decent but outdated. The staff is the real problem. It doesn’t feel like you get the service you would expect with a RC property. Staff are forgetful some of the front desk staff even being unfriendly. The valet gentlemen are good but whatever system they use and the people behind the desk have no idea what they’re doing. My car has been lost a few times in the past for close to 30 minutes while I’m on a strict schedule to get to work. The restaurant in the hotel just opened up and the first week in we received a tropical storm. Food wait times were upward of 2 -3 hours. You would think they’d have prepared better. One of my colleagues didn’t even receive her meal. I also have problems every few weeks with points being posted to my account. Marriott tells me it’s the hotel’s system but they don’t seem interested in fixing that or really anything for that matter. It’s really a disappointment to the brand as RC properties around the World are night and day compared to this run-down low quality service that claims that Ritz name.

  23. i called to see what the rates are at the Whitney, the first week of January 2018, a room was selling for $379 that week.

  24. Ritz Carlton is trying to re image their hotels. ritz has some great international properties, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore come to mind, but the United States properties as a whole are lackluster, New York, both lower Manhattan and Central Park and Orlando are probably the three best the company has to offer.

  25. I have been going to this property probably once a month for the past 8 years. My parents have been staying at this hotel a couple times a year for probably 30 years. The bar and restaurant area of this hotel is one of the most iconic, classic, timeless and just legendary I have ever encountered. The staff there was always the most friendly and helpful out of any other hotel I have ever been too. Many of the staff members have been working there since the hotel opened in the early 80s and you could tell it was more than just a job for the staff. They genuinely cared about every guest and their experience when visiting the property. They would remember and call you by name etc. I would definitely agree that the rooms are definitely due for an update, but the public bar areas were just timeless and iconic. When I found out they were doing a expansion / remodel of the bar / restaurant area, it made me really nervous, and after visiting today for lunch with my parents, it seems as though that it is actually much worse than my fears. They have completely ruined this iconic part of Buckhead. Its not like this place was hurting for business (at least not the bar area) as it was always packed whenever I would visit. It just looks like cheap fancy / “modern” Marriott. To me it seemed like I was visiting the cafeteria of a hospital. It just seemed very sterile to me. I had noticed a drop off in service and warmth from the staff during the renovation and I figured it was just due to having to make due in other parts of the hotel while doing the renovation. After going today, I now realize that they were aware of the change and realized the huge mistake that was being made to this property. I will miss going there and seeing countless celebrities etc. I have feeling this remodel / hotel won’t last long as their business is going to be hurting after this unless they are looking to make this a discount hotel.
    Sincerely,
    Sad Former Patron of the Ritz Buckhead

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