After a three-year licensing dispute over the Shoney’s Inn brand name, Boomerang Hotels was given permission by the Tennessee appellate courts to go ahead with a relaunch of the iconic hotel brand. Last month, Boomerang, the parent company of GuestHouse International and Settle Inn, announced the relaunch of the brand and CEO Brendan Watters says that a relaunch was always its intention. The legal battle has been taking place since 2007 when Boomerang was sued by the owners of the Shoney’s Inn restaurant chain. Now that the dispute has been settled, what’s next for the brand as the hotel company begins to pursue franchisees? Recently, Watters outlined a plan for the relaunch in an announcement, saying that the company would like to add 10 or more properties a year in the southeastern United States. Recently, Watters spoke with Lodging Editor Len Vermillion about the company’s plans for the relaunch.
1. Len Vermillion: Why did you decide to bring Shoney’s Inn back, and why is now a good time to bring it back?
Brendan Watters: From the time we acquired the brand, we have always wanted to bring Shoney’s Inn back to market. It was just an “unfortunate legal circumstance” that led to this four-year delay. We wanted to add a quality economy brand to our midscale market GuestHouse International and Settle Inn brands and what could be better than a brand that has historically enjoyed such wonderful name recognition. We really only recently received the green light from the Tennessee appellate courts.
2. LV: How do you plan to roll out the brand again? Is there a time frame for the relaunch?
BW: We launched the brand officially on Monday, Jan. 3, 2011. We are focusing on its roots in the Southeast and in the economy-lodging segment. However, we will look at all markets where this brand makes sense for the owner. We do anticipate having as many as 10 additional properties coming on line this year.
Our new consumer brand website (along the same lines as our recently enhanced GuestHouse and Settle Inn websites) will be released by early February.
We have already received four applications that are currently under review and consideration for approval.
3. LV: Shoney’s Inn is an iconic brand name. What do you think will be different about the brand this time, if anything?
BW: Quite frankly, us, and our common sense, back-to-basics approach to franchising. We love the name and the brand history surrounding it. From our inception, we have always had a focus on the hotelier and we intend to be true to the great role that Shoney’s Inn once had in the economy lodging sector.
Guests who are familiar with the brand have certain expectations. We will work to enable our franchisees to meet these expectations within the market segment and to build their customer base accordingly, alongside of our other two brands.
4. LV: Boomerang operates on what is often referred to as “friendly” franchise agreements. Can you explain what is meant by that and the benefits of such agreements?
BW: It gets back to what we believe in both as hoteliers and as a franchisor. We understand that if a property makes money, then we, as the franchisor, will also have the opportunity to be successful. We make every effort to put ourselves in the shoes of the owner and to ask the question: what is right for each hotel, in each market and in each brand segment, at this point in the economic cycle? Friendly, to us, means fair, balanced, entrepreneurial, and focused on doing what is right for the owner. We like to think of our brands as having national appeal, but we also understand that the owner of the hotel is the person who has the most to lose.