When it comes to Tennessee Valley's hospitality industry, the trend is more.
This growth, says Barry White, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Convention & Visitors Bureau, has a lot to do with the economy. Banks want to loan money; people want to invest.
And why not invest in a place like Chattanooga?
"Chattanooga has tremendous appeal," White says. "I think a lot of it is our beautiful natural resources, and the ability to get out and enjoy those is very convenient. Our visitor industry has been steadily inclining for years. We're a popular place for young people and for retirees." White predicts even more growth for the future.
"Chattanooga is the economic center of the region," he says. "Growth trends happen here first, then they spread throughout the region."
Here is a look at three local hospitality growth trends that are shaping the city and beyond.
Downtown boutique hotels
The revitalization of the iconic Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel, which began in 2014, helped lay the tracks for downtown's recent boom in boutique hotels. In 2018, 10 hotel project were proposed, under construction or opened in downtown Chattanooga, six of which called themselves "boutique."
A boutique hotel is characterized as a small, stylish urban hotel. Last year, of the six planned, two were completed.
The Edwin Hotel opened on Walnut Street last September, overlooking the city's redeveloped waterfront and art district. The five-story building features 90 hotel rooms, a ground-floor restaurant known as the Whitebird and a rooftop bar known as the Whiskey Thief. The bellhops wear suspenders, bow ties and wool caps. The walls are covered exclusively with local art.
Then, in November, the Moxy Hotel opened on the corner of Market and King streets, designed with millennials in mind. The four-story, 108-room hotel features a communal first-floor media room, complete with a 65-inch TV. Crew members wear jeans and t-shirts. The check-in is a bar, where guests receive a welcome cocktail before they receive a room key.
The other four boutique hotels will have locations at Fraizer Avenue, W. Sixth Street, Chestnut Street and Broad Street, and are slated to open in 2019.
Hamilton Place new-to-Chattanooga franchises
The Cheesecake Factory, a California-based restaurant featuring a 21-page, 250-item menu, is a decadent reflection of Chattanooga's trend for more options. Its varied menu includes pasta, pizza, burgers, steaks and more than 30 different flavors of cheesecake.
The popular eatery opened in December in the former Sears store at the mall, and it's in good company with a number of other new-to-Chattanooga restaurant chains.
Dave & Buster's, an eatery and entertainment complex, is currently under construction in the parking lot adjacent to new The Cheesecake Factory. The Dallas, Texas-based company serves up food, beverages and arcade, which includes cutting-edge interactive games and simulators. The site, slated to open in 2020, will be the the third Dave & Buster's in Tennessee.
In addition to these corporate giants, in 2018, Hamilton Place also added smaller, new-to-Chattanooga franchises such as Birmingham, Alabama-based Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q and Lexington, Kentucky-based Drake's. The multimillion-dollar re-development of Hamilton Place, which also includes new clothing stores, is its biggest revamp in three decades.
The goal, according to Stephen Lebovitz, chief executive officer of mall operator CBL Properties, is to transform Hamilton Place into a dynamic, suburban town center, making it "the premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination in the Chattanooga market."
Ooltewah homegrown eateries
While downtown Chattanooga continues to embrace small, locally-owned restaurants, brewpubs and cafes, the appetite for these homegrown spots has spread beyond the city center.
In 2018, Ooltewah's Cambridge Square added three local eateries to the trendy, mixed-use community space. In October, Davis Wayne's, an upscale meat-and-three, was opened by two local restaurateurs, who also own Chattanooga-based Dipped Fresh Catering. This summer, 1885 Grill and Tavern, an award-winning Chattanooga restaurant, will bring its locally-inspired southern coastal cuisine to Cambridge Square. And family-owned and operated Fulin's Asian Cuisine is also scheduled to open in 2019, specializing in Chinese-Japanese fusion fare, with vegan and gluten-free options.
The new spots will join Cambridge Square's ever-expanding directory of retail and restaurants, which now includes more than 30 businesses.