Choice CEO to franchisees: Our future has no limits

LAS VEGAS—Choice Hotels International Inc. believes it and its franchisees can achieve anything by applying a mindset of growth to anything that comes their way—and the hospitality group laid out why at its latest brand conference. Additionally, Choice rolled out a new logo for its Comfort brands and unveiled new associate uniform options for Sleep Inn.

“As president and CEO, it’s my personal mission to help make you as successful and profitable as you can possibly be,” said Choice Hotels CEO Pat Pacious in front of a convention ballroom of more than 6,500 attendees at the Rockville, MD-based hotel group’s 64th annual convention, here.The theme of the conference was “No Limits.” “It’s imperative for me to develop the big picture, and it’s important for me to share my perspective on our business on how we’ll all continue to profit and grow—so here it is,” said the CEO.

Choice’s top executive attributes the hospitality company’s success to being bold and quick, and listening to industry trends, guests and franchisees. “We live those principles every day,” he said. More importantly, acquired knowledge is worthless without action—which is where operating with a “growth mindset” comes into play. This state of mind enables the hotel company to set bigger goals for itself and its franchisees.

“A growth mindset means we know our future has no limits,” Pacious said. “A person with a growth mindset says, ‘I can learn anything I need to know.’ They don’t give up because they’re not afraid to fail, and that means they can set bigger goals and then go out and achieve them.”

For Choice franchisees, applying a growth mindset is as simple as being open to learning something new. “Every day there are opportunities for you to apply a growth mindset: when you review your operations looking for ways to improve and when you engage with Choice’s many resources to maximize revenue and invest in your hotels,” he said. “You demonstrate a growth mindset when you adjust your business to respond to changing consumer preferences, and when you decide to build another hotel.” This particular mindset—compared to the “fixed mindset”—thrives on challenges and welcomes defeats. “Hoteliers with a growth mindset have no limits,” Pacious said. Business owners who embrace this growth mindset are expected to rise above peers.

Success stories in the past year

“Together, we opened nearly one hotel per day in the United States,” Choice’s top exec said. “Last year was our best development year since 2007. We awarded 704 franchise agreements, and two-thirds of those come from the owners in this room.”

Additionally, the hospitality company grew business delivery to its franchisees’ hotels. “On average, nearly $6 out of every $10 of revenue now comes from our proprietary channels,” he said. “Here’s another example—last year, a number of new brands were launched in the midscale and upper-midscale segments. You know what our response was? We were here first. We know these segments best, and we’re going to continue to invest in our brands.”

Then, there’s the hospitality group’s upscale segment.

“The Ascend Hotel Collection is the industry’s first upscale soft brand, and it has more hotels open than its top two competitors combined,” he said. “As for Cambria Hotels, we have multiple properties in top markets like New York City, Los Angeles and Chicago.”

Choice Hotels has nearly 45,000 upscale hotel rooms around the globe, but upscale isn’t the only segment where the hospitality group saw growth over the past year or so. “By acquiring a growing extended-stay brand, we have nearly tripled our presence in the segment,” Pacious said. “WoodSpring Suites fits perfectly into the Choice Hotels portfolio. It’s a young brand; on average, the hotels were built within the last seven years.” The global hospitality group witnessed brand growth in other segments, as well.

On brand growth, Janis Cannon, SVP of upscale brands, and Anne Smith, VP of brand management and design, provided franchisees with brand updates. “2017 was a tremendous year for adding to value proposition and strength of every Choice Hotels brand,” Cannon said. Some of the highlights: There are currently 300 Comfort properties in the pipeline; Cambria opened 10 new properties in 2017, a record; Sleep Inn has more than 400 properties worldwide, with more than 140 in the pipeline; Quality Inn has more than 1,500 hotels open, which is more than 150 properties opened in 2017; The Ascend Hotel Collection has 200 properties across the globe; and Rodeway Inn had 98 hotel openings in 2017 (the brand today has 600 properties in the system).

With regard to Choice Privileges, the hospitality group’s loyalty program, Robert McDowell, the company’s chief commercial officer, noted it took Choice eight years to land its first five million members. Last year alone, the hospitality group enrolled five million members. The loyalty program now has a total of more than 34 million members.

Choice unveils new Comfort logo 

Choice Hotels unveiled a new logo for Comfort, which features a logo in vivid orange and yellow hues, and a rich blue—to reflect the “brand’s warm and welcoming heritage and its refreshed, modern look and feel,” said Megan Brumagim, head of Comfort brands. The hospitality group redesigned its logo in an attempt to unify all three Comfort brands.

“We worked with you, our owners, to invest $2.5 billion in Comfort’s renaissance,” Pacious said. “And you know what? Together, we’re transforming our flagship brand that has been around for nearly 40 years to make sure it’s around to lead the segment for another 40 years.”

Last year, brand executives reviewed research and learned many guests felt disconnected with the old Comfort logo. For instance, many guests claimed the logo was outdated. Brand consulting and design agency Landor designed the Comfort’s new logo.

“This redesigned logo serves as a beacon for the new Comfort,” Smith said. “It’s more than a change of symbol, it’s a symbol of change.”

Comfort began its journey to transform in 2012, when it examined its properties. The brand found more than 600 properties weren’t up to standards, so Comfort exited those locations. Afterward, Comfort introduced its Move to Modern plan, an initiative focused on property upgrades. Comfort’s goal is to have all of its properties renovated and equipped with updated signage by 2020.

Properties cannot obtain signage with Comfort’s new logo until Move to Modern renovations are completed. New signage will be available to order later in the summer.

Sleep Inn unveils new uniform options

Sleep Inn uncloaked new associate uniform options at the conference. Every new uniform option uses the brand’s palette of grays and pops of purple (Sleep Inn’s signature color). The brand used smart fabrics and subtle branding for each option. Sleep Inn found its inspiration for its new uniform options in the brand’s hotel prototype design, which, according to the brand, “features a timeless yet modern aesthetic to attract guests of today and tomorrow.”

Sleep Inn franchisees at the convention began voting on the four core styles for front desk associates. To determine a final uniform package, Sleep Inn will combine voting results with beta testing this summer. The most popular uniforms will begin appearing in hotels by year’s end. The last Sleep Inn uniform update was back in 2010.

“Uniforms are yet another way the Sleep Inn brand delivers on its commitment to affordable style,” said Kristen Salotti, director of brand strategy at Choice. HB