A hotel built for nomadic guests focuses on wellness

Chicago’s Selina targets remote workers and millennial/Gen Z travelers with its plant-forward menu items and zero-alcohol drinks.
zero proof cocktail
Photo courtesy of Selina; photo credit: Dustin Smallheer

Remote work became the norm during the pandemic and continues to be in demand. Now Hotel Selina in Chicago is building a brand around the trend.

Many hotels looking to survive during COVID converted meeting and guest rooms into coworking spaces to accommodate remote workers. But Selina is targeting a specific customer—the younger nomadic worker seeking a wellness experience along with an office away from home.

“We were seeing an uptick in sober establishments, along with the demand for vegan and vegetarian menus,” said Dustin Smallheer, Selina’s food and beverage director for Chicago. “Selina is a wellness-driven brand in its 83 locations across the U.S., Europe and Latin America, and we felt that non-alcoholic cocktails and plant-forward food were a good partnership for Chicago.”

At HOWM, the hotel’s in-house restaurant, the drinks list doesn’t offer “virgin anything,” said Smallheer. The carefully crafted cocktails use zero-proof spirits, including Ritual, which offers non-alcoholic tequila, whiskey and rum.

Mixing drink

Photo courtesy of Selina; photo credit: Dustin Smallheer

A popular choice is The Straight Edge, a spin on iced Irish coffee that combines cold brew, chocolate and cream with zero-proof whiskey. The Pomegranate-Thyme Margarita mixes the tequila product, pomegranate juice and fresh thyme that the kitchen smokes to provide a smoky flavor similar to mezcal. For winter, there’s a Wassail-type punch made with the zero-proof rum, cider, vanilla and cinnamon. All are stylishly garnished and presented.

“We’re not just mixing together juices,” said Smallheer. “We want to give customers a drink that has the look and feel of a real cocktail to take the stigma out of abstaining.”

On the food side, breakfast is a big draw for nomadic guests, said Smallheer, and Selina offers breakfast all day with a varied selection of food. One of the top sellers at HOWM is Shakshuka, the Middle Eastern preparation of poached eggs in a tomato-and-pepper based sauce. It’s a crossover dish that can works any time of day, he said.


Photo courtesy of Selina; photo credit: Dustin Smallheer

Grab-and-go items are also available, including acai and chia bowls, along with vegetarian and vegan breakfast burritos.

Later in the day, customers opt for items such as the silver noodle bowl with sesame tahini and roasted cauliflower with harissa and feta cream. The same feta cream is used in the best-selling chicken wrap. All are packed in eco-friendly packaging for takeout, if requested.

Plant based bowl

Photo courtesy of Selina; photo credit: Dustin Smallheer

 In addition to HOWM and the coworking space, which is equipped with phone booths and meeting rooms, Selina’s onsite features include a cafe library that doubles as an event space, a cinema room, a common kitchen and a gym. “The idea is to eliminate the barriers to entry and give people a ‘home’ for the day,” said Smallheer.

Travelers can also book a guest room and stay overnight with access to the same amenities.

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