Listen & Grow – This is the foundation of Red Roof’s future under the leadership of its new president, George Limbert

As he takes the reins of Red Roof, new president George Limbert has plans to bring the 48-year-old company to new heights.

“Red Roof is an iconic brand, and to be tapped to be at the helm of this organization—this community—that I’ve grown to love over the last eight or nine years, this is the highlight of my career,” he told Hotel Business. “I couldn’t be more excited. It’s a huge honor and deeply humbling. I’m just really excited for what the future holds.”

Limbert, who served as interim president since October 2020, had no aspirations to lead the company when he joined it as its general counsel in 2013. “Frankly, that wasn’t my goal when I started at Red Roof, but when you learn so much about the organization, you have a passion for the organization and you work with good people, it all comes together,” he said.

The new president has adopted a mantra for the company as it takes its next steps under his guidance: Listen, listen, listen, grow, grow, grow. “What Red Roof has done exceptionally well, most especially over the last 10 or so years, is listening to its guests and listening to its owners and franchisees,” Limbert said. “And so, I continue to propel off of that platform, continue to listen, but also listen to team members… We talk about the labor shortage. We don’t foresee it going away anytime soon. So we’re figuring out more efficient ways to make it easier on our owners to enhance or maintain the guest experience and, also, to make it easier for someone to clean a room.”

One of the first things that Limbert did upon taking on his new role was bring his senior team together and explore what the company means to its community. “We sat down and we said, ‘What does our company stand for? What is our vision? Where are we going?’” he said. “I took over a company that was strong, that’s been successful, so it wasn’t like we needed to re-create the wheel.”

The senior team explored the vision of Red Roof as it was originally perceived by founder Jim Trueman in 1973. “We saw that it was about giving the guest a clean, comfortable room; a great value; and exceptional customer service,” said Limbert. “That is a big piece of this puzzle. But as a senior team, what we felt what was missing was a couple of other key components. Back then we were not a franchise company. Today we are. Of course, we want to provide the best experience for our guests, but also for our franchisees, team members and communities.”

To gather a better idea of what the company can do to improve the experience for those guests, franchisees and team members, Limbert has embarked on a “Look & Listen” tour to visit every Red Rood property. [For an exclusive look at the tour, check out the sidebar on this page.]

Even before he began his Look & Listen tour, the company released a new prototype for its extended-stay HomeTowne Studios brand that made use of feedback from its franchise community. “We sharpened our pencils,” he said. “We got together as an organization. We sought out feedback from every angle and avenue, most especially from the folks who were actually operating current HomeTown Studios hotels. We redesigned, reformatted and put together a prototype that had everything that you could want from an efficiency standpoint, taking in mind the labor shortage from COVID. That has been extremely well received by our franchisees and by those in the hotel community. They’re excited about it. There’s extreme enthusiasm; people want to get on this train. They don’t want to miss out.”

Limbert reported that there are several HomeTowne Studios properties with the new prototype already under construction. “Hopefully, by early next year, we’ll have one or two built and it’ll be really exciting time to showcase these.”

A continued legacy of community service
Red Roof has had a reputation for serving the communities in which it operates, and Limbert said that will continue. “What COVID taught us is that Red Roof and our hotels are integral to our communities, and we’ve been able to promote that through our Room in Your Heart campaign,” he said. “But social corporate responsibility runs deep within this organization. We’re pleased to be in a position to give back.”

Limbert presented a check for $10,000 at this year’s AAHOA Conference in support of the work of Leuva Patidar Samaj of USA (LPS) and its Leuva Patidar Samaj of USA COVID Relief India Project 2021, which offers support for hospitals in Gujarat, India province, which have been impacted by the effects of the COVID pandemic. “We felt compelled to do something,” he said.

“A lot of our franchisees are members of this organization, and we just thought it was a great group to work with to really help make an impact.”

This summer, Red Roof worked with Canine Companions, a nonprofit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing trained assistance dogs at no charge to the recipient. Guests were able to use a special code to save on hotel stays at select Red Roof properties, with 5% of the revenue from their stay going to support the organization. This October, the company will offer the same program for breast cancer awareness.

“[Giving back] is engrained in our DNA,” said the president. “The Room in Your Heart campaign is integral to our organization, and we’ve worked with many different nonprofits in the past—United Way, Pelotonia, the Thurgood Marshall College Scholarship Fund, Freedom Alliance and Flying Horse Farms. It’s just a great opportunity to get to many different organizations and really make an impact.”

Lessons of COVID
In his role as the hotel company’s general counsel, Limbert headed up its crisis management team and was the leader of its COVID Task Force from day one of the pandemic. While Red Roof wasn’t immune from its economic effects, according to the company, it outperformed its comp set. “We were able to remain nimble and pivot very quickly during COVID-19,” he said. “We stayed the course, we shouldered and walked hand-in-hand with our franchisees during this difficult time. As a result, we were able to survive it. Our performance never got as bad as others in the industry, and we outperformed our comp set by as much as 20 points during some of the worst months of COVID.”

He said that HomeTowne Studios—as much of the extended-stay category did—performed well. “This is the only segment that grew during COVID,” said Limbert. “That was a great thing to see… The HomeTowne Studios brand continues to outperform its competitors, and it continues to grow year-over-year.”

Resiliency was also something he learned from the pandemic. “It’s the resiliency of our industry,” he said. “It’s the resiliency of the Red Roof franchisee. It’s the resiliency of our teammembers who are out there on the frontlines on a day-in and day-out basis, doing the things that people didn’t want to do during COVID—and with a smile on their faces. We’re a resilient brand, we’re a resilient industry, and that is going to propel us forward as an organization for years to come.”

A family connection to hospitality
While Limbert did not originally set out to have a career in hospitality, he has had a number of connections to it in his past.

His grandfather was a hotelier, and Limbert believes he had one of the first franchises for La Quinta in the state of Ohio. “I would go there as a child, see the hotel, see how it operated, get to stand behind the desk and watch people get checked in,” said the president. “ All those exciting things for a kid.”

While he gained a lot of knowledge about hotels and their operation when visiting his grandfather, there was another major benefit. “Anytime my grandfather would upgrade the furniture or TVs, I would get the leftovers,” he said. “My bed would come from the hotel… I thought I was the coolest kid in school because it had a remote that had a really long cord plugged into the TV. I thought I was living the life.”

While in college at The Ohio State University in Columbus, he worked full time at a Holiday Inn. At the hotel, which was on the university’s campus and is now a dormitory, he worked as a restaurant supervisor. “For two-and-a-half years. I got to see the inner workings of how hotels operate. So, it was always in the back of my mind,” said Limbert.

Interestingly enough, when he applied to become general counsel for the company in 2013, it wasn’t the first time he tried for a job with Red Roof. When he was a freshman in college—and before he got the job at the Holiday Inn—he applied for an open position at a Red Roof property in Boardman, OH, with his brother and a friend. “My friend got the job instead of me because he had some maintenance experience,” said Limbert. “So, I ended up having to work down the street at a retailer. I guess the second time is the charm.”