Pulling up to the historic façade of the Caption By Hyatt in Memphis, Tennessee, I’m greeted by a movie theatre-style sign that reads “Be you, see you, do you.” It couldn’t be a more fitting slogan for the debut hotel from Hyatt’s new brand, Caption By Hyatt, which is all about encouraging both staff and guests to be themselves.
On my first night at the new hotel, I witnessed a chatty server at the onsite restaurant—aptly called Talk Shop—hugging a customer, shifting the atmosphere from the typical impersonal feel of a hotel lobby to the warmth of someone’s living room. The distinctly local character is in the hotel’s best interest, if they want to appeal to travelers looking for a strong sense of place. “Everyone is allowed to be ourselves here, we’re not taking the Memphis out of the place by code switching when we talk to non-Black folks,” the Black executive sous chef, Jamaurin Wright (who goes by ‘Vino’) tells me the next day. Chef Wright proceeds to point out the local brands that Talk Shop sells in its grab-and-go bar, such as Muddy’s Bakeshop and Raw Girls Memphis.
The new hotel aims to represent the diversity of Memphis, both through the local vendors they use and the staff they hire. “Caption by Hyatt is not only a reflection of the community that we’re in, but is truly being a member of the community—we hire local, buy local, and invite our local community in,” says Nick Janysek, director of sales, marketing and events at Hyatt. That invitation to the local community is extended from the minute you walk in the door—the unique layout of the lobby forces guests to walk through Talk Shop to get to the hotel reception. “We want our guests as they enter to feel the community before they get to the welcome desk, to understand what this city is about,” explains Janysek.
Just as staff is encouraged to be themselves, so too, are guests, with, what Janysek likes to call, a choose-your-own-adventure-style stay. For tech-savvy guests who want anonymity, you can check in using your apple watch or phone (Caption By Hyatt is the first Hyatt hotel to offer mobile check-in). For travelers who prefer to meet someone upon arrival, they have a receptionist at the check-in counter for support. The effort to cater to every preference is also evident at Talk Shop, where the menu features build-your-own sandwiches and cocktails. Guests can order for pick-up through the Hyatt app or come down to order in person. As Janysek describes, “the hotel is as full service as you want or as self-service as you want, you can do everything on your own.”
Caption By Hyatt also appeals to every kind of traveler with their affordable rates—the least expensive room costs $149 per night. “Hyatt’s goal as an overall organization is to appeal to, and have brands for, everyone, no matter your likes, dislikes and economic situation,” says Janysek. In order to bring down the cost, the hotel has cut back on in-room amenities. You’ll find the essentials—a mini-fridge, televisions, bathroom toiletries—without the extras like an iron or for-purchase mini-bar.
While the rooms might be minimalistic, they don’t lack in warmth or character. The aesthetic feels universal: a mix of navy blues and bright yellows, with hexagon tiles and black iron accents. A mural in the bathroom has a distinctly local chacater with illustrations of Sun Studio, the Beale Street sign and the famous ducks known to hangout in the lobby of the Peabody Hotel. Each future Caption By Hyatt will have their own unique bathroom mural depicting the city in which its based.
You’ll also find hand-drawn art throughout the property, such as a mural in the welcome area, to reinforce the hotel’s strong sense of place. As a hotel brand aiming to be rooted in community, it makes sense that Memphis—a city with a distinct character—was the destination of choice for the first Caption By Hyatt. “Memphis is unapologetically Memphis, we are who we are and that’s what this brand is about,” explains Janysek.
The hotel pays homage to Memphis by maintaining details from the original building, which was previously the William C. Ellis & Sons Ironworks foundry. Dating back to 1879, the iron workshop was the oldest continuously operating family business in Memphis history. Today, you’ll see remnants of the building’s former life in the historic façade and the exposed brick and beams in the ballroom located between the Caption By Hyatt and its sister property, the Hyatt Centric, next door.
“One thing that Memphis does really well, is we don’t tear things down and build new,” explains Janysek. “It’s a very historic city, not only in Tennessee but in the country, from a transportation perspective, with rail, river, road and air all coming together in a central location. Staying true to that is a big part of what we do here.”
For those who want to explore the city’s storied past, Caption by Hyatt is located near many of the major sites. The National Civil Rights Museum at the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was assassinated, is within walking distance. So is the supposedly haunted bar Ernestine & Hazel’s, barbecue institution Charlie Vergos’ Rendezvous, music venue BB King’s Blues Club and old school breakfast diner The Arcade Restaurant (where Elvis famously dined). A short drive away you’ll find more music history at Stax Museum (the former soul music recording studio) and Graceland (Elvis’ estate). What was once his wife, Priscilla Presley’s go-to salon is now a local brunch hotspot, The Beauty Shop, located in the hip Overton neighborhood. So is Sunrise Memphis, where you’ll find some of the best biscuits in town.
While Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken is just a few blocks away from the hotel, you won’t miss out on local cuisine if you choose to eat the Caption by Hyatt. One of the Talk Shop cooks, Netta, came up with the idea to marinate chicken in yellow mustard before frying it and the hotel liked it so much they decided to make ‘Netta’s Fried Chicken’ a permanent menu item, not only at the Memphis Caption By Hyatt, but at future Talk Shops around the world.
You’ll see the unique fried chicken dish at the Caption By Hyatt’s next property in Shanghai, followed by Osaka, then back in Tennessee in either Chattanooga or Nashville. Building is also underway beside the Caption By Hyatt in Memphis for a new Grand Hyatt, set to open in mid-2024. With the Hyatt Centric, which opened in April 2021, connected to the Caption By Hyatt, the addition of a luxury Grand Hyatt will round out a total of 760 rooms across three Hyatt brands all in one block.