For the July cover story of Lodging, I spoke with Red Roof Inn President Andrew Alexander and CEO of Accor North America, Motel 6 and Studio 6, Olivier Poirot about how economy brands are repositioning themselves. Midscale properties also are in refresh mode. Choice Hotels International’s Sleep Inn brand, which competes in the lower-mid tier of the midscale segment, has been a new construction brand since 1988. In that time, Sleep Inn has only had a couple of major prototypes and a handful of different interior design packages, says Mike Varner, senior director of brand planning and management.
When a significant number of properties began hitting the 10-year mark and older, he continues, the company saw a brand-wide opportunity to update or renovate its hotels, and become more competitive in the market.
Last year, field-based project managers visited nearly 400 hotels in the Sleep Inn system to provide design-related action plans for each property. (These are used in harmony with formal PIPs.) The Sleep Inn renovation package is a mandatory program; most properties will have public spaces completed by the end of 2012, and guestrooms by the end of 2014.
Since the brand announced its new look and feel one year ago at Choice’s annual convention, 21 existing Sleep Inn properties have either opened or renovated with the new interior designs. And on June 13, the Sleep Inn brand announced its first franchised property to open to the public featuring the entirely new prototype and design. The Sleep Inn & Suites hotel of Norton, Kan., showcases the brand’s complete prototype throughout its interior and exterior design.
Although the economic environment is still tough, Varner says overall
interest in the refresh is high and gaining momentum. “We have an
exciting future in front of us,” he says. “Owner response is really
positive to the new design.”
Choice partnered with Gensler in 2009 to design a low-cost, high-impact prototype for the refresh that would position the Sleep Inn brand in its market segment as attractive and appealing to guests, while allowing franchisees to get a stronger value proposition for their “sleep” investment. Varner says they are targeting a broad audience of travelers, and plan to maintain Sleep Inn’s nearly even mix of leisure and business travelers. The biggest change is psychographic, he says, as they are targeting guests who are more forward looking and design-conscious.
Varner stresses that the refresh also includes changes to the breakfast program, uniforms, key cards, do not disturb signs, website, and other aspects that will reflect the brand’s new direction. He calls the new look and feel “simply stylish," one that's not over the top and appeals to a wide variety of people. He adds that Sleep Inn still offers amenities that are familiar to loyal guests, such as morning breakfast, high speed Internet, and oversized showers. “The atmosphere that surrounds them feels more comfortable,” Varner says, “and that’s what it’s all about.”
— Megan Sullivan, Managing Editor, Lodging