McDonalds is this weekend opening its first Golden Arch Hotel. Located near Zurich airport, it aims to attract mainly business travellers, and marks the fast food chain's first foray into the hotel business.
Martin Huber, chief financial officer of McDonalds Switzerland, told swissinfo that the company had chosen Switzerland because the country has a strong "tradition in the hotel business".
The project is the brainchild of Urs Hammer, chief executive of McDonalds Switzerland. A graduate of the Hotel Management School in Lausanne, he said he had always dreamed of having his own hotel.
The hotel sports a curved yellow "H", much like the golden arches that identify McDonalds' fast food outlets. It cost SFr52 million ($30.2 million) to build and Hammer is confident that it will soon be turning a profit.
The Golden Arch Hotel aims to attract business travellers during the week, with families and younger customers expected to make up the majority of weekend clients.
Rooms offer some innovative features, including high-speed Internet connections, and "sit'n-sleep beds" with adjustable motorised settings. Customers can book their rooms over the Internet and check themselves in on arrival.
The hotel's interior design is the work of Hamburg designer Corinna Kretschmar, who works with Zurich-based Joenk Interior Design. She said the concept was strongly influenced by the Asian design system of Feng Shui.
Kretschmar has made use of maple floors, glass, steel and stone in her design, creating an environment which combines elements of nature and modern technology.
In the public area, a waterfall cascades over a sheet of steel, while in the spacious rooms, Feng Shui is once more in evidence through the use of curved walls and a circular shower.
The effect is somewhat spoiled by the headboards on the beds, which are in the shape of the McDonalds logo - the familiar yellow "M" that appears outside its fast food outlets the world over.
The hotel calls it a subtle reminder of the McDonalds relationship, but it seems distinctly out of place in a hotel offering a high standard of business class accommodation.
However, Huber is confident that McDonalds has achieved the right balance as far as the hotel's image is concerned.
He feels the hotel has been positioned far enough away from McDonalds to attract an upmarket clientele, but says the association is still strong enough for people to see that McDonalds remains the force behind it.
"The logo of McDonalds is a big asset but also a liability," Huber explains. "We're aiming at business people and we recognise the McDonalds image could be more of a liability than an asset."
Nevertheless, McDonalds is confident that the concept is a recipe for success. The next Golden Arch Hotel is scheduled to open in two weeks' time in canton Fribourg, and a third - to be located near Geneva's Cointrin airport - is in the planning stage.
"Let's see the results of these three hotels and then take a decision on expanding the project," said Huber.
by Tom O'Brien