AmericInn Poised for Growth Beyond Midwest

AmericInn, under the leadership of new CEO Paul Kirwin, looks to become a household name in more than just the Upper Midwest. The mid-priced limited-service brand has 220 properties open across 22 states, but the vast majority are located in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, the Dakotas and northern Illinois. Kirwin is armed with industry veteran Ron Burgett as his new executive vice president of development, the backing of parent company Northcott Hospitality and fresh strategies to build the brand's identity and footprint.

Kirwin, who took the helm last month as part of the succession plan to replace the retiring Arnold Angeloni, says the first wave of growth will begin in the Mountain Northwest and by extending the belt beyond its current portfolio. The big change will be the avenue for growth: AmericInn, to this point, has been all new construction, but with financing all but impossible, conversions will now be considered, and pursued.

“Over last two years the team had been getting lots of requests and we've done a couple as tests,” says Kirwin, who was hired last May as president and chief operating officer for the Minnesota-based Northcott Hospitality after spending 25 years with nearby Carlson Hotels. “(Current) franchisees have been quite supportive.” Burgett said both Holiday Inn Express and Hampton Inn locations make good conversion possibilities. As part of his development team, Burgett will double the national sales force in the next 90 days.

Kirwin says their goal is to grow 10 to 15 percent each year, and that Northcott will help that along by potential company-owned purchases and conversions. Northcott owns six AmericInn locations now and Kirwin says that could grow by three to five, although the ultimate goal is “more of a short-term hold and sell to an existing franchisee. I don't imagine the owned-portfolio to be more than seven to 10.” Northcott also has a management company that operates 26 of the 220 current properties.

On the consumer side, the brand will focus on building its identity as “America's welcoming neighbor,” Kirwin said. “We want to take care of you like a good neighbor.” AmericInn's brand promise has always been “renew, relax and recharge” and that won't change, but Kirwin says they'll enhance that through an emphasis on the service and personal side of the brand.

Although new construction may be at a standstill now, AmericInn is also preparing for a second stage of growth. Kirwin says a new prototype—“more contemporary, smaller footprint, more rooms”—will be unveiled in the second quarter of this year. Also coming this year are significant improvements to the company's infrastructure with a new data warehouse, property management system and an improved electronic loyalty program.

For Kirwin, his task with AmericInn is not unfamiliar. At Carlson he built a very similar brand, Country Inns & Suites, from eight locations to more than 400 during his tenure. The same can be said for Burgett, whose 13 years with Choice were spent growing limited-service and midscale brands like Comfort Inn and Quality Inns & Suites.

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