Before 2018, the JW was exceptional. Good service, and they had Gen Con theming (folks in costumes, special items in the restaurants/bars).
The theming started to disappear in 2018 under new management who wanted to be more "professional." It's completely gone now. The overall service has also gone way downhill (how is that "professional"?). We had numerous issues this year, but that could be staffing issues due to the pandemic.
How are the other hotels handling Gen Con?
The Westin had a somewhat themed breakfast and dinner buffet and a few balloon dragons throughout the hotel (the dragons were actually cooler than that sounds.) I've stayed there 4 or 5 years and never had a problem with their level of service. Their bar staff wore Gen Con branded shirts, and they sold Gen Con pint mugs, one of the only locations that actually seems to still do that.
Themed businesses have taken a weird downturn in general over the last 5 years in my experience. Probably helps that several of the places most synonymous with substantial redecorating or creating special menus (RAM, Scotty's, Bee Coffee, even Claddagh) are gone.
I've noticed that as well. The staff are certainly friendly and attentive, but it does seem that they aren't catering to the convention any longer. Service was fine at Goodwood, the food good, the beer selection excellent, but it's like they aren't willing to try even a little. It was pretty jarring from going from the RAM to walking into a completely ordinary sports bar with various flavors of baseball on every television.
I was wondering if Goodwood did anything special for Gen Con. We ate there Tuesday evening, so it was not unexpected for there to be nothing, but lunch on Sunday was Pro Women's Cornhole on the TVs. I didn't know if Friday or Saturday was different.
The Hilton Garden Inn downtown was good by itself, but the outside noise made trying to sleep a major battle.
I think another part of the problem is that even if places are getting bodies in the door, there has been so much turnover in the service industry (an already high-turnover industry) that everyone is pretty much new, so even if they are at 90% staffing, many places are still operating at 70-80% efficiency (or less) since almost nobody knows what they are doing.
Had to park my own car at the Crowne Plaza since none of the valets on duty knew how to drive a manual. The only good -and it was good, not great- table service I got was at Oceanaire Seafood, which they darn well better have given how expensive they are.
Anyway, I always stay at the crowne plaza, and while it could use an update I’ve never had any problems besides the valet issue this year. I get a ground floor and have never had any issues with noise; although, that may be because my group is also staying up past midnight every night.
The JW was pretty cool a few years ago, with staff dressing up and all. It's a shame if they don't do that anymore.
I stayed at the Hyatt Regency this year. It was the first time there for me. The staff at the front desk did have themed shirts. My friends and I had a bit of trouble gaming in the bar area on Wednesday. We got a stern finger wag and we were told it was Gen Con's decision, not the hotel's. But by Saturday, all of the bar tables were full of gamers. I don't know if they changed their policy because of complaints or what.
As for the general quality of the Hyatt, my biggest problem was getting an elevator. It doesn't seem like they are equipped to handle a big influx of people so we sometimes had to wait a bit to get a ride up or down.
The elevator situation at the Embassy Suites is so legendary that my friends and I started getting rooms on like the 3rd or 4th floor to be able to easily walk down to breakfast in the morning rather than waiting for 10 minutes for an empty elevator.
I think since all the totally in for Gen Con places have closed, it will take a new place, perhaps a bit from the ICC (like the new place going in by the Fieldhouse) to go all in for Gen Con, costumes, menu and sci-fi movies, and then advertise as such to get the crowds there. Once that happens, the other places will probably notice and try to lure customers there too. Scotty's did that and I think kept the marketing on for everyone else.
I stayed at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown and they had nothing going on theme wise. They did have gamers playing in the lobby, which has some really cool tables. But outside of that, nothing.
From the hotels viewpoint, why would they go to the expense of installing theme decorations? They are already essentially sold out due to location...they don't need to attract more customers, so it's just an extra cost.
I don't think it cost the JW a cent. Employees wore their own costumes. The Gen Con specials in the bar and restaurants sold in bunches. Shrug. We liked it. I've learned that JW was an outlier. I thought most of the connected hotels did something.
Thanks for the info, folks!
They used to. In 2019, I remember that the JW really did a lot. Few costumes, but they had things like midnight food vendors in the lobby, places outside the Gen Con reserved areas for gaming, signage, etc. And other places would have people in costume.
I think this is just a bit of hangover from the sudden stoppage of general life. I don't know if next year will pick up on theming, staff cosplay, and so on, but I think that'll come back eventually. It's just too much fun for the staff of those places to do something different.
Keep in mind setting up all those decorations and themes and things not only costs money, but time and people. All things that restaurants are struggling with, especially people. "Hey, I know you've just finished working your 14th shift in 14 days, but I'm going to need you to stay another 4 hours and set up all these Gen Con decorations.." They'd lose what few employees they have left. That said, I hope when times get a bit fatter again, that some of the new places do at least dip their toes in the water, even is just starting small with changing some names on menus and putting geeky shows on the tvs.
Maybe it's because I've been to other trade shows and conventions where it doesn't seem to be expected that hotels and venues do much more than put a "Welcome xyz" and directional signs up in the lobby (which is pretty much the extent of what Crowne Plaza does), so I've never felt it was a downer or a detraction that the hotels or surrounding businesses don't "Do Stuff" for Gencon.
Even speaking as someone who obviously likes games enough to attend Gencon, when I was working in the ground-level service sector the last thing I would want to do is be expected to stay late or arrive early to hang decorations or be expected to come in with a costume or accessories that would more than likely be at my own expense.
Well I mostly agree, but there is a reason that the RAM (~2004-2010) and Scotty's (whatever its brief life was) were considered THE places to go for Gen-Con and were constantly packed accordingly, because they went above and beyond what was expected to make us feel welcomed. Hotels, yeah, they are all going to sell out anyway, so while a decoration or special keycard would be appreciated, I cannot imagine why they would go all-out.