Vista Inns' Better Idea

Ramesh Gokal thinks he has a better idea for hotel franchising. The one-time head of Knights Inn is now president and CEO of a reformulated Vista Inn brand that stretches the definition of fair franchising. In addition to a string of licensee-friendly philosophies, the four-year-old mid-market brand recently unveiled a no-strings-attached performance guarantee that promises owners a full refund on their royalty payments if Vista doesn't deliver a mutually agreed upon level of reservations.

“Many brands offer some sort of guarantee or windows to exit their system, but most of those programs have onerous qualifiers the hotel owners must meet in order to exercise their exit,” says Gokal. “Our philosophy is decidedly different in that we simply give our customers their money back it we don't perform up to their expectations.”

Gokal hopes to grow the chain from its current 10 properties to 50 by the end of the year and to 400 by 2013.

Among its franchising philosophies is a hands-off approach to standards, inspections and property improvement plans. “Our job isn't to mandate,” says Executive VP Kelly Harvel. “Instead of dictating to our customers about what they must do, we encourage willing participation in well-defined parameters of accountability.”

Vista's franchise services team visits properties frequently to help owners improve service levels and to plan and execute local marketing programs.

The chain develops what it calls a CUSTOMERized franchise program for each new property that joins the system. The program includes a series of mutual commitments that both franchisee and franchisor sign before the agreement is executed.

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