During the 2022 My Place Convention at the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa in Manalapan, FL, My Place Hotels of America executives sat down with Hotel Business to discuss the development pipeline, how the brand performed during the pandemic and some of the biggest challenges the Aberdeen, SD-based company currently faces.
The highlight of the first day of the convention was when President/CEO Ryan Rivett announced that the company had reached an important milestone of 100 franchises sold. The numbers will continue to rise, according to Rivett, who said the company has “around 120-130 commitments today.”
Terry Kline, EVP, franchise development, said that there are 67 My Place properties currently open, with “the remainder in some phase of development. I think we’ll be in 36 states when this next group goes through the construction process and opens.”
With this group of new franchises, the brand will make its debut in Florida.
“[We’ve signed] two franchises in Northeast Florida, and there’s two pending in southwest Florida,” said Rivett. “Those should become active in the next month or so. As soon as you activate a new one in a new area, that becomes ground zero for the mushroom effect that comes with it.”
He said he’s excited about filling a hole in the northeastern region of the U.S., adding, “I said the same thing about the Southeast until this last round of franchise sales, and we dropped six or seven properties in the region. That really helps with substantiation of the brand concept when you enter a new region of the country.”
It was My Place’s resilience during the pandemic that allowed it to fill in some of the development holes across the country.
“I think that our proof of concept was really proven during that time,” said Kline. “We never had a chance before the pandemic to really prove the premise that My Place was designed to really withstand the ebbs and tides of the economy. Overall, I don’t think we expected a pandemic to be the reason, but we certainly found out that it worked well during it.”
Rivett pointed out that the smaller size of My Place hotels—64 rooms—allowed the brand to weather the uncertainty that the industry faced.
“The uncertainty is easier to manage when you’re in a smaller, more manageable vehicle,” he said. “If you take a property like [the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa] and you put it into uncertain times, you’re managing the emotions and the expectations of 400 staff members and whatever guests come through, and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of investment. For us, managing each individual franchise location, where each one has eight to 10 employees and they have a much smaller vehicle to manage, the pandemic proved the concept for us that, ‘Hey, not only are we doing well, but we’re also doing well gracefully through a bad experience.'”
Eric Myers, VP, franchise sales and development, believes that “it slingshotted us into more of a brighter picture from developers because they saw how well extended-stay did, and then they started looking into extended-stay a little more, and then our brand started popping up in front of them.”
That doesn’t mean that My Place hasn’t had to deal with other challenges. Matthew Campbell, COO, mentioned two of them: maintaining operations and maintaining quality.
“I don’t know if guests’ expectations due to the pandemic have changed, but they are more vocal about quality,” he said. “As far as maintaining staff, at brand level, we don’t have the same struggles as individual properties, but we have to make sure we’re always one step ahead—whether it’s sales, marketing, revenue management—to give the support that the hotels need.”
A major topic of discussion in the hotel industry is the lack of female owners and executives. While it was easy to see that My Place is doing its part by the number of women in the audience, there’s always more to be done.
“I’ve recently joined AHLA’s ForWard council, and I’m also going to be involved with ElevateHER at AAHOA,” said Sarah Dinger, EVP, brand management, who just an hour before participated in a panel discussion on women in hospitality. “It’s been a common discussion between Matt, Ryan and I, and we’re at a point where we need to create our own internal alliance. That’ll be a big initiative for me in the period ahead.”
Speaking of the period ahead, Rivett plans to move forward with new franchises and other new ventures for My Place.
“We’re going to continue to mature in the approach that we’ve taken and the path that we’re going on,” he said. “There isn’t a number in mind, and there isn’t a certain milestone. I’m excited to see a little bit of diversification come in with Trend Hotels & Suites, the secondary brand that we’ve created as a home for converted properties. We have no conversions in My Place and will continue with that as it’s working exceptionally well. Trend will be a little bit different and will be a new adventure for us. I look forward to that.”