AmericInn Focuses on Quality, not Quantity

Q&A with Ron Burgett, Northcott Hospitality EVP

Last year the AmericInn brand added 10 hotels, giving it a current total of 223 properties. That’s double its 2010 growth and two-thirds of the growth planned — 15 — for 2012. Adding hotels isn’t just about getting bigger, but rather high-quality conversions and well-planned new construction that enhance the company’s goals, says Ron Burgett, EVP of Northcott Hospitality, AmericInn’s parent company.

AmericInn is a Midwestern midscale chain with hotels in 22 states. Most of its hotels — 146 — are concentrated in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa. The company is building presence in surrounding states.

What has your growth looked like?
We signed 10 new contracts in 2011. Of those two were new construction, which is unheard of in the mid-market right now. We still continue to focus heavily on new construction. Our goal for the company in 2012 is to do 15. We see 15 as pretty solidly.

Not long ago you projected 25 hotels in 2011 and 30 in 2012. What happened?
We scaled back bit from a few years ago as we tightened our rules for conversions. We have really focused on quality properties, which limits the number of properties we consider. We’ve shortened our short-term goals for long-term gain. We look at a lot of hotels, and we turn down more than we take. That’s a strategic focus that we take, to really focus on the quality of the brand. When new construction does come back we’ll be ready for it.

Where will growth be focused?
We will maintain our strategic development efforts on a national scale, however with our overwhelming Midwest dominance; we expect to continue to see our greatest strength in the central portion of the U.S.

We’re actually looking at three things. Half of what we do will be conversions, properties that join as a franchisee. We have a couple of strong applications right now. Another 40% will be new construction. And, we will add ourselves. We’ll build one and we’re finalizing a site right now to do a new construction. Property development will remain in the Midwest.

How are you building brand awareness?
We continue to target developers. We’re putting our brand in front of quality operators. We’re targeting competitors who are looking for new flags. Our catchphrase is “Relax, now you have a new option.” When you’re leaving a brand it’s always a tough time, especially if you’re losing strong brand awareness. Then, you want to go to a brand with strong reputation, strong value.

What must new operators do?
There are always brand identity items. We have a unique breakfast program. That usually requires a remodel of the lobby breakfast area into a social space. We require flat screens, newer case goods, accent walls, basically what others require. We’re finding that those attracted to our brand have already done a lot of that work.

What consumer does the property appeal to?
We’re solidly midscale. AmericInn appeals to someone looking for a good social experience. We have half leisure and half corporate [business]. That’s because we have a large meeting space, large lobby. We have large pools. Our family business continues to be strong even in these tough times.

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AmericInn Poised for Growth Beyond Midwest

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