At the desk of: Foiz Ahmed

Quadrum’s hotel head on his love of street art, breaking out his bar tray and growing his firm’s Arlo brand
By Meenal Vamburkar | April 01, 2019 09:00AM

Foiz Ahmed (Photo by Emily Assiran)

Foiz Ahmed’s path to running Quadrum Global’s hotel division started when he was 16 years old and worked as a bellhop at a Holiday Inn in his hometown, Washington, D.C. “That’s where I fell in love with the hospitality industry,” the 47-year-old executive said in his airy windowed office on the 18th floor of 261 Fifth Avenue. “I loved talking to people and not sitting in front of a desk.” Ahmed, who graduated from the University of Maryland with a business administration degree in 1994, worked for Marriott International and Hersha Hospitality Management before joining Quadrum in 2016. The private real estate investment firm, founded in 2005, now owns more than 5 million square feet of property across hotels, residential buildings and senior living facilities. Its hospitality portfolio spans more than 1.5 million square feet in New York, Chicago and Miami, and the 486-room Arlo Midtown is its biggest hotel project to date. Looking ahead, Quadrum’s hotel business will focus on growing its Arlo brand of micro hotels. “There’s no major market we’re not looking at,” Ahmed noted. But since the company can only tackle so many new cities at a time, Ahmed’s team is prioritizing Los Angeles, Denver and Seattle — growing markets with what the firm sees as the right balance of younger customers and business travelers. Down the line, Arlo may also crop up in Nashville and Austin, Ahmed said. The Quadrum hotel executive now lives on the Upper West Side with his wife and two children.

Street art

Ahmed, whose older brother was a graffiti artist, grew up with an affinity for street art. This piece — by Soho-based artist Jimmy Aponte — sits on his windowsill unframed. Art has been central to the Arlo Hotel brand, and Ahmed bought the piece about a year and a half ago when the hotel held a local art show that had roughly 50 artists’ works for sale. “It’s different from typical office art,” he said.

Jefferson globe

This small replica of the historic Jefferson Hotel in Richmond, Virginia, is encased in a glass globe and also sits on Ahmed’s windowsill. The ornament is a nod to both his profession and his marriage. His wife hails from Richmond, and the hotel, where they got married 19 years ago, was her dream venue. Ahmed has kept the memento close by in every office he’s worked in since.

Candy jars

The various candy — including Skittles, Twix and M&M’s — is Ahmed’s way of encouraging teammates and employees to stop by his office more regularly. “That was always my way of getting people to come in here,” he said, noting that approaching senior executives can be intimidating for some. “It’s become a communal outpost.” Ahmed said he goes through tons of candy every month, and the visits have encouraged fellow Quadrum employees to chat more casually at work.

Liquor Stash

Ahmed’s bar tray — which includes small bottles of tequila and whiskey — is a downsized version of a bar cart he had in a larger office at 261 Fifth, which was reconfigured for the growing company. The liquor bottles are used to commemorate his team’s biggest deals and other milestones. When he worked at public companies, the environment was much stricter, so serving drinks in the office is a tradition he started when he joined Quadrum three years ago. “It really is for when we celebrate successes,” he said.

Arlo candle

Quadrum created a custom scent for its Arlo brand, which is currently sold in the two hotels and also online as an air spray. The woodsy scent is tailored toward the chain’s “more masculine” aesthetic, Ahmed noted. This year, the hotels will start selling candles with the same scent. Given the air spray’s popularity, Quadrum has high hopes for the new product, he said.

Travel books

These three books sit on a shelf in Ahmed’s office, along with other travel-themed memorabilia. Each book, dedicated to a different city, serves as a reminder of his team’s expansion goals. “Today we’re in New York, and my aspirational cities were L.A. and Miami,” he said. Quadrum is looking at potential hotel sites in L.A. and working on rebranding the Nautilus South Beach, a 250-key hotel in Miami Beach, under its Arlo flag.