Qbic, a Dutch ‘no frills chic’ hotel chain that soft-launched this week, is using innovations in design and service to offer guests a new hotel experience, and investors an efficient approach to converting vacant real estate into hotels. On the surface, the hotel’s most radical innovation is placing everything a guest might need inside a 7 square meter cube — the cubi. A cubi holds a high-quality Swedish Hästens bed, desk, flatscreen television, dvd player, designer bathroom, wireless internet and customizable, coloured mood lighting. Each room is 25 – 35 m2, empty save for the white and open cubi and a designer chair, leaving Qbic’s rooms feeling surprisingly airy. Instead of standard and deluxe options, all rooms are created equal and all have windows with a view. Other design touches include images of local attractions, attaching a sense of place to what would otherwise be pleasing but generically global design. Qbic’s other defining factor is its self-service philosophy. Convinced that low touch is a worthy alternative to expensive five-star or cheap sub-par service, Qbic applies the self-service to everything from check-in to food and beverage. Guests check in at a self-service terminal, and can buy everything from wine and candy to tampons and USB flash drives from vending machines. Room service isn’t available. A simple yet satisfactory breakfast is served at a counter adjacent to the hotel’s only other public space, the lobby / living room. Limited F&B offerings mean that the 35-room hotel can make do with a large pantry instead of the standard industrial-size hotel kitchen. From an operations point of view, the self-service concept, reduced food service and limited public spaces keep overhead low, which translates to budget prices for guests. Like an increasing number of other hotels, Qbic uses the easyJet pricing model — early birds snag a low EUR 39, with prices climbing to three or four times as much depending on demand. It’s not just operating costs that are kept low. While incorporating luxury elements like a hand-made Swedish mattress, the room’s essence, the cubi, is manufactured off-site in China. After rooms are prepped — walls painted, floors laid and a central plumbing and electricity point installed — the cubi can be placed and hooked up within a few hours. Which means Qbic is a near instant hotel, and a viable option for repurposing vacant office space for as little as 5 or 6 years. Qbic’s first hotel just opened in Amsterdam’s World Trade Center, with Antwerp (Belgium) and Maastricht (The Netherlands) to follow late 2007 or early 2008. Qbic’s founder, Paul Rinkens, aims to franchise the concept to rapidly expand to other European cities. Related: No frills chic, Indian style and New hotel includes work space for non-guests.