When was the last time you stayed in a hotel that put your work-life balance first? At Zoku hotel in Amsterdam, a revolution in business travel is taking place. There is no 9-5, no hectic commute, no waiting days on end until everyone’s free to set up a meeting, because everything you need is there: large open co-working areas, social spaces, and fully-equipped home from homes in the form of lofts.
Zoku is a concept hotel built for entrepreneurs, scale-ups and fast growing companies that is shaking up the traditional hotel model and giving guests exactly what they need to live and work in comfort. Zoku offers self-contained lofts that, instead of revolving around a bed, make a wooden kitchen table the centre of attention. After all, a table is a place for discussions, planning, entertaining, working and dining, it’s indispensable for a fledgling business.
Upstairs on the sixth floor you’ll find spacious light-filled co-working spaces with a restaurant, coffee bar, delicious snacks and bookable meeting rooms. The idea being that stepping outside of your ordinary environment can aid creativity and productivity.
Upon hearing of this quiet revolution taking place in Amsterdam’s Central Eastern district, we sent our editor to go check out Zoku and determine if this really is the future of hotels.
Is Zoku the future of hotels?
I first heard about Zoku when the concept was introduced to me as the future of hotels and I was kind of taken aback at such a bold claim. The idea behind Zoku is a place where you have everything you need, but can also personalise the space to meet your needs whatever they may be, business or pleasure.
Does it sound like it’s promising a lot? I wouldn’t blame you for thinking so, but from the moment I arrived, Zoku lived up to every single one of its promises and completely blew me away and here’s why…
Loft 112 Zoku
“Design is not what it looks like. Design is how it works.” Steve Jobs.
My loft was incredibly spacious and homey, the ceilings are high (I’m 6-foot-tall so it felt incredibly luxurious to have acres of space above my head), it’s well lit, there are plants (the low maintenance kind) in short, there’s not a whiff of stale hotel air about it!
The loft can pretty much be transformed into whatever you need it to be; make your surroundings adapt to you, not the other way around.
The king-size bed is tucked away on a higher level, leaving room for a comfortable seating area, and a large dining room table big enough to seat four. The kitchen is better equipped than my kitchen at home, including dish washer, fridge, microwave, impressive knife set, garlic crusher and a pull-out fan to stop any food smells clinging to your clothes. Beside the flat-screen TV there’s a set of pull-out stairs allowing easy access to the bed and shelving units. Below the bed is a little cubby hole with a desk, stationary, pin-board and reading lamp.
At the side of the kitchen table is a huge roll of paper, so that if you need to start brainstorming or mapping none of your ideas get lost whilst your looking for somewhere to jot them down.
The bathroom reminds you to ‘breathe, don’t sigh,’ and there’s certainly room to breathe in the double shower.
For a business traveller, I couldn’t feel more at home. In fact, you could easily live quite comfortably here for weeks: it’s an entire house in one self-contained room. Push back the stairs and there’s plenty of space for an invigorating yoga session. Need to work on your arms? Then get in a couple of pull ups whilst your dinner is cooking. Want to entertain or hold a team debrief? Huddle around the dining table and make everyone a cup of coffee from your personal espresso machine.
Co-working spaces at Zoku
A trending topic for 2017 is the idea that the world is your office and nowhere is this more evident that in the environment created by Zoku. Everyone here is good looking, hip and cool, but most of all focused. Zoku has taken the water cooler effect and applied it to every aspect of their design and attitude towards work. Collaboration and exchange are encouraged and expected.
There’s a team of three sat around a laptop editing a video ad-campaign, the girl next to me has her headphones on and a MAC the size of my TV, across from me is a long wooden table on which three Swedes are having a chance meeting, two of them having only just met but having plenty in common; “This is Birgit, she’s doing PR for that music brand I was telling you about…”
And the two guys in their late 40’s sat behind me are having a heated argument about their mission statement, “I told you John, it’s in our strategy, we’ve got to stick to it…” Before it came to fisticuffs they took the discussion to one of the comfortably decked out meeting rooms, which you can use when free or book in advance if you have a presentation.
There’s freshly filtered water with mint leaves and limes, complementing the choices of healthy food and snacks. An extensive menu offers teas from around the world, cold platters, coffee, hot chocolates and a few of Amsterdam’s choice craft beers.
Networking at Zoku
“Why do people pay $6000 to watch a TED talk in person, when you could just watch it online the next day? Because of the people you meet.” Hans Meyer, Zoku Co-founder.
I was busy instagramming some of the cool wall art when I got a message from an old colleague who wanted to meet. It turns out she knew Zoku really well as she works for a Growth Hacking start-up who had used the co-working spaces wework, just a couple of doors down. Her team had often come to Zoku for coffee meetings and lunch dates. I mention this to the staff and they tell me about a company that is launching its Amsterdam office within Zoku. They’ve rented several rooms for their staff and intend to use the co-working spaces as their office. They have everything they need here and it makes perfect sense to keep everything in one place.
Zoku’s founding principles are based around collaboration,; there’s no hierarchy, there’s no 9-5, there is just a comfortable space in which to work, places to brainstorm, places to model or try out concepts – they even have a workshop. All this, whilst having the freedom to reach over to someone on the other side of the couch and say; ‘Do you mind if I bounce an idea off you?’ – how often do you stay at a hotel that simultaneously grows your business?
Zoku’s social spaces
Overheard at Zoku: “It’s not you. It’s gin and tonic.”
The social spaces and co-working spaces surround a bustling restaurant serving up simple, honest and healthy food on long communal tables so you don’t need to worry about how big or small your group is and you can exchange ideas whilst rubbing shoulders (literally) with entrepreneurs, tech talent and future business partners.
But if you do just fancy a quiet night in, then the kitchen in your room is well-equipped enough to allow for most meals. Plus, next to the main kitchen in the restaurant is a kitted-out group kitchen where you can interact with others as you cook or make food as a team. The restaurant chefs will be nearby and are always willing to lend a hand. There’s a legend among Zoku staff about an Indian guest who once stayed at the hotel and took to the kitchen and made incredible Indian food that they then shared with everyone. I was praying something similar would happen, perhaps a nice Thai or Italian guest, but alas, there was not.
Because everyone is creative in different ways and sometimes you can be hit with inspiration when you are relaxing, playing a video game or strumming a guitar, Zoku has not neglected these channels of creativity.
In one corner of the room is a wall lined with musical instruments that are free for all to try out and start impromptu jamming sessions. Or perhaps a round of Mario Kart is more how you like to get the creative juices flowing? Or having a film on in the background? All are possible and without disturbing the other guests.
And when it’s time to clock off? There’s no shortage of things to do, you can have a drink before heading into town, or you can simply relax and not worry about having to go anywhere. There’s board game night every Thursday and often live music accompanies the serving of cheese and wine in the evenings.
Zoku’s rooftop gardens
“When you’re first thinking through an idea, it’s important not to get bogged down in complexity. Thinking simply and clearly is hard to do.” Richard Branson
You had me at rooftop. But no, really, who doesn’t love a rooftop garden to clear your head and get perspective on things? There’s plenty of space to do just that and to enjoy the greenery or smell the herb gardens that are also used to make the dishes in the kitchen so fragrant. Even though I visited in autumn and it was chilly, there were still people holding meetings outside and making the most of the sunshine whilst wrapped up.
It’s been scientifically proven that bringing the outdoors in and having access to nature is a key factor in improving cognitive function and reducing employee stress. In fact, so convincing was the evidence that companies such as Google have incorporated this into their design. Google’s HQ features indoor waterfalls, living walls, gardens, orchards and green spaces.
Zoku is no different, alongside the roof garden, the second you step off the lift there’s a greenhouse corridor brimming with ferns, palms and grasses. There’s nothing more welcoming than a jungle of plants soaking up the sunshine.
Central Eastern Amsterdam, Zoku hotel’s prime location
There’s a lot of competition for the title of ‘Venice of the North’ including cities like Stockholm, Saint Petersburg and even Birmingham… But for me there really is only one and it’s Amsterdam. In fact, I’d say Venice is the Amsterdam of the South. Because apart from its beautiful maze of canals, it has incredible architecture, a cool vibe that transcends most other European cities and many faces including the one you can present to your mother with galleries and great shopping and the entertainment side with coffee shops and sex museums. Something for everyone!
Zoku is ideally located in Amsterdam’s Central Eastern side just three stops from Centraal station, but also close to the tech and start-up hub of Amsterdam. In contrast to Amsterdam’s tight cobbled streets this area is wider and has more open spaces, with many restaurants and cafés having an industrial chic aesthetic and various start-ups calling this home.
In short, I think Zoku really could be the future of hotels. They have taken the traditional model and turned it into something that fits the millennial work style and listened to what the traveller really needs. It not only allows you more work-life balance, but it also goes that extra mile to facilitate what that balance could look like.
Ready to see what Zoku hotel could do for your business? Check out our rates for Zoku below:
Looking for more business hotel inspiration? Check out our Top 10 features of a great business hotel.