Justin Jabara, MJH’s VP of development and acquisitions, explains the company’s management and ownership expansion plans as it looks build on its 41-year history.
NEW YORK—Meyer Jabara Hotels is heading west.
With the addition of management contracts for hotels in Las Vegas and Kansas City, the Danbury, Connecticut-based company is expanding its footprint as it seizes opportunities created in part by its 41-year track record and in part by the continued strong performance cycle of the hotel industry, said Justin Jabara, VP of development and acquisitions.
“Our focus now is to push west of the Mississippi (River) again,” Jabara said during an interview at the recent 40th annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference. “That’s a function of groups and partners coming to us with great opportunities.”
Meyer Jabara Hotels
Meyer Jabara Hotels recently closed management deals for a Cambria in Las Vegas and a Hyatt House in Kansas City.
“We’re looking at what is Meyer Jabara going to be,” Jabara said. “Our focus stays the same ... having great assets, having the right partners and having the best associates and giving them the tools, the culture and the resources to be fantastic.”
With its portfolio of nearly 30 hotels concentrated on the Eastern seaboard between Boston and Florida, Meyer Jabara’s westward expansion was only a matter of time, according to the executive.
“As we look at who we’re going to be in three, five, 10 years and beyond … holding ourselves to east of Mississippi was a detriment to us because there were so many opportunities in the West,” Jabara said.
A hub-and-spoke approach in the West has it seeking more opportunities in the markets it just entered as well as in markets such as Denver, he said, where it previously had a presence years ago.
“When it comes to scaling across the United States, that is a big part of it,” Jabara said. “We look at economies of scale in those markets. Now that we’re in Las Vegas, we’re actively working on more deals there. …. It’s more efficient with our time and our travel.”
The company’s management platform is in place to handle expansion, he said, adding that things such its centralized accounting, revenue management, legal, human resources, call center, technology, risk management and purchasing platforms are all capable of handling the growth the company expects.
“Having the infrastructure is very important, especially when you’re in growth mode,” Jabara said. “Providing the right level of service to every property is essential.”
Looking in traditional spots, too
Meyer Jabara Hotels executives also will look to grow the company’s footprint in its traditional regions, where it owns and/or manages hotels ranging in size from 40 rooms to 500 rooms, he said.
“We do everything from first-tier city markets to suburban,” Jabara said. “What’s more concerning to us is the metrics of the market. We’re also very concerned of the makeup of the business that are in these markets.”
Now in its 41st year, the three-generation family-owned business maintains the same focus it’s always had, he said.
“We’re owners and operators with an ownership stake in 80% of the portfolio,” Jabara said. “We’re looking at smart growth … based on great partners, good opportunities.”
Eighty percent of the company’s pipeline is upscale select-service product, he said.
“A lot of it is ground-up because of where we are in the cycle—pricing is high, it’s tough to buy,” Jabara said.
While the company’s history includes a focus on long-term holds, it is going through a self-assessment of its portfolio to ensure it is properly positioned for the future, he said.
“The world is going to change—nobody knows when it’s going to change,” Jabara said.” We’re looking at our portfolio, and if we have something we do not want to have in the next downturn and don’t have opportunity to upgrade it ourselves, we’re selling.
“We’re looking in the mirror and saying, ‘It’s one thing to grow, but we have to make sure our portfolio is right,’” he added.
Meyer Jabara’s model is built on placing its own capital into projects that make sense, Jabara said.
“We are privately held company, and a lot of it is our money,” he said. “We are very nimble because of that.
“There is no cookie-cutter deal for us—we can do management only or we contribute equity or we buy it ourselves,” he added.
Jabara said the company’s approach comes directly from his boss, chairman Bill Meyer.
“Bill’s got the ‘no jerk rule,’” he said. “This business is very intensive, it takes a lot of time, and it’s built on relationships. It’s about who you want in your foxhole when the bullets start flying. We want to make sure we are aligned with the best partners.”
Jabara said 2018 will be a record year for the company.
“As we’ve spent this much time on development, we’ve spent twice as much on the operations side,” Jabara said. “If the platform is not the best and we don’t have the best people in the field, we’re not going to execute the mission of Meyer Jabara.
“We’ve doubled down on corporate culture,” he added. “We’ve invested in the training program … You can’t just come in and become a server—you need to be indoctrinated into our company and learn our principles. That’s our competitive edge.”
Meyer Jabara Hotels traces its history to 1977 when Bill Meyer, then the president and CEO of Servico, and Richard Jabara, the current president & CEO, teamed to form Motel Hotel Associates and purchased a Holiday Inn in Danbury, Connecticut.