A 40-Year Franchise Partnership

It’s hard to believe in this era of developing and flipping hotels one family would own the same property for 40 years and, perhaps more astonishingly, under the same brand. The Andreoli family of Akron, OH built the Hilton Fairlawn in 1969, and today Rennick Andreoli still owns and operates the property (as well as a hotel next door that’s under conversion from a Four Points to a Doubletree.) The hotel is the longest continually owned and operated Hilton franchise in the country.

While ownership and brand have stayed the same for four decades, the property has undergone several major transformations over the years that have enabled it to maintain its brand status and its market-leading clout in the Akron community. “We reached a crossroads in the mid-1990s,” says Andreoli. “Our franchise was up for renewal and the PIP presented to us was formidable. But rather than give up the brand, we dug down deep and made the necessary improvements.”

What followed was a string of upgrading projects that made the property one of the best Hiltons in the system, despite the fact it’s housed in a 40-year-old, mid-rise building not like most of the Hiltons built today. Among the mid-1990s improvements was a $6-million addition that houses 30 spacious and well-appointed suites, an indoor pool, fitness center and a new ballroom. More recently, the owners significantly upgraded and enlarged many of the hotel’s bathrooms. Another was The Terrace at Beau’s, a partially enclosed deck off the property’s main restaurant that quickly became a local hotspot. Business at the restaurant doubled since the opening of the Terrace earlier this year.

“This hotel has been so successful for so long because it’s been able to change with the demands and needs of its guests,” says Mike Williams, vice president of brand performance for Hilton. “And ownership is serious about taking care of guests and employees. I was at the property for its 40th anniversary celebration, and if I met one employee who’s been there 25 years or more, I met 10 of them.”

Indeed, according to General Manager Tim Winters, 40 percent of associates have been with the hotel 10 years or longer and a few almost as long as the property has been in business. Staff turnover in 2008 was an enviable 20 percent.

The adjacent property opened as a Holiday Inn and later became a Days Inn and then Four Points in 1998. “We think it makes a lot more sense to rebrand it with another Hilton flag,” says Andreoli. “Both hotels will be on one platform and one res system. The synergies make too much sense to ignore.”

Together, the two properties will have 300-plus rooms, about 25,000 square feet of meeting space and two restaurants. The economies of scale make sense, too, as the properties will share a GM, chief engineer and heads of the front office and housekeeping departments.

Hilton VP Williams believes the 40-year relationship between the Hilton Fairlawn and the brand is so unique it may never be repeated. “The day before I attended the anniversary celebration I was in Orlando for the opening of a 1,400-room Hilton and a 600-room Waldorf=Astoria,” he says. “I told those owners their achievement was special but they have a long way to go to duplicate what’s happening in Akron.”

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