As Wingate Inns looks to its 10th birthday next year, brand management realizes it's not a time for the chain to rest on its laurels.

“Everything we do is part of the brand's pursuit of excellence,” says President Keith Pierce. “About 70 of our properties (out of 160 open or under development) are at least five years old, so the timing is perfect to launch a brand enhancement program. We always need to be consistently enhancing our value proposition.”

At the chain's licensee conference last month, Pierce and his management team outlined a two-part plan, labeled the Wingate Experience, that upgrades a variety of guest services and amenities.

Phase one includes the addition of Neutrogena and Judith Jackson bath amenities; delivery of USA Today to all guestrooms in U.S. properties (the papers are currently available at front desks); and delivery of express check-out folios to occupied rooms. These items will be implemented on a chainwide basis by the end of the year.

Also part of phase one but already implemented is the addition of wireless high-speed Internet access in guest-rooms and public areas to complement wired HSIA that's been a chain standard for years.

“Guests want consistency in the delivery of high-speed access,” says Pierce, “which is why both our wired and wireless high-speed platforms throughout the chain come from one vendor, LodgeNet.”

Since phase two of the upgrading initiative is more capital-intensive, it won't be fully implemented until the end of 2006. The program focuses on three critical touch points for guest satisfaction: bed, bath and breakfast.

In the guestroom, enhancements include new pillowtop mattress sets from Sealy and Serta, upgraded pillows and higher thread count bed linens. Changes in the bathroom include a hookless shower curtain, curved shower rod, new Moen showerhead and upgraded private-label terry items. At breakfast, the chain will add egg and meat items to the offerings.

Wingate is poised to return to its pre-9/11 growth pattern of 22 to 27 new properties per year. According to Pierce, four Wingates have opened so far this year. Seventeen are under construction, including center-city properties in Manhattan and New Orleans.

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