During Best Western’s 2018 brand conference, executives gave more details on the new Sadie and Aiden brands, unveiled plans to launch three new prototypes for the company’s legacy brands and talked about how they manage expectations of growing their business and keeping it simple as new brands and members join.
GRAPEVINE, Texas—A week after launching two new brands, Best Western Hotels & Resorts executives spoke at their annual brand convention about how they’re taking steps to modernize three of the company’s legacy brands and are excited for the company’s growth strategy moving forward.
Best Western Hotels & Resorts has grown from a single brand in 1946 to—with the recent addition of boutique brands Sadie Hotel and Aiden Hotel launched in late September—13 brands with 4,200 hotels in more than 100 countries and territories.
And still Best Western grows, with 565 hotels in its global pipeline, which comprises 326 hotels and 30,000 rooms in North America and another 239 international projects, according to executives who spoke during the company’s 2018 brand convention.
President and CEO David Kong touted the growth opportunities of all of Best Western’s 13 brands.
He said the Executive Residency by Best Western extended-stay brand has “a huge pipeline,” and shared pipeline highlights from some of the company’s other brands.
“You look at (new-construction, boutique brands) Vib, Glo, which have 46 hotels waiting to open,” Kong said. “SureStay is an unbelievable success; by the end of this year, we’ll have 100 open in North America alone; globally, we already have 100 open. If you look at the two new brands we are launching, Aiden and Sadie, you know they are very exciting brands, and we already have a lot of interest, from our members as well as other people in the industry.”
Earlier this week, the company’s first Glo-branded hotel opened in DeSoto, Texas.
“To add to that, Best Western and Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier are in themselves very strong brands,” he said. “We have tremendous critical mass and interest as people continue to apply for those brands. And our soft brands have taken off like a rocket, too, around the world. You look at all our brands, I think all of them are growth brands, so that’s going to allow us to achieve even more scale.”
Those brands check all of the boxes for hotel guests—representing options across the “economy, upper-economy, midscale, upper-midscale, upscale and upper-upscale” chain-scale segments and types of hotels from traditional to boutique and extended-stay to soft brands, Kong said.
Differentiation, new prototypes
Ron Pohl, Best Western’s SVP and COO, said meeting the changing expectations of guests in every segment, market, demographic and travel purpose is essential. But in doing so, he added, it’s important to have “clear swim lanes between the brands.”
Partly motivated by the need to avoid consumer confusion, Best Western is poised to roll out new prototypes for its three core brands—Best Western, Best Western Plus and Best Western Premier—by the end of 2018, Pohl said.
“It’s been one of the challenges that we have had as a brand, specifically between Best Western and Best Western Plus,” he said.
In 2010, the company designated all of its member hotels as one of those three core brands.
“And through that evolution, we ended up with pretty good alignment, but there’s still a little bit of confusion between some Best Western hotels and some Best Western Plus hotels,” Pohl said.
The new prototypes will focus on differentiation, starting with identifiable brand marking and accents on the exteriors, and including furnishings, fixtures and finishes in guestrooms and public spaces that set each brand apart while being cost-efficient, he said.
It’s going to require members to recognize that a brand “can’t be everything” to everyone, Pohl said.
“We still have some hotels in (the Best Western) brand that are full-service, because they chose to be there,” Pohl said. “Well, that’s confusing to a customer who says, ‘I went into a Best Western, and it had a restaurant,’ when 90% of ours don’t. So we want to start to create that space to feel similar.”
Another focus of the new prototypes is simplicity for developers, which drives down cost of development, Pohl said.
The prototypes also take into account the shifting expectations of guests, he said. For example, with guestrooms, the current attitude is “less is more,” but the prototypes allow for some flexibility to “start from a blank canvas and … create something new and fun,” he said.
As for a rollout schedule, the prototype packets currently are being priced out, and the “expectation is by year’s end, we’ll be able to sell these,” Pohl said.
“We’ve been through four months of working through designs to come up with what we think is right. At the same time, we’re pricing out those pieces to make sure we have a cost-effective build and certainly a cost-effective public space and guestroom package.”
About the considerations at play, he said: “We look at things in inches, not in feet. When you’re designing a guestroom corridor, and it’s two inches narrower, and you’ve got four of them, and they’re 50-feet long, there’s significant savings there. And does the guest feel any different about that?”
The ‘family’ founding principle
Despite its recent growth and future plans, Best Western maintains the same family feel it was founded on 72 years ago, Kong said. Of course, it means the family reunions are getting bigger all the time.
“It’s quite amazing,” Kong said. “If you think about the fact that we have almost half our portfolio outside of North America, and yet wherever you go, whether it’s Australia, or Europe somewhere or South America, when you attend a member meeting, it’s always like a family gathering. Over the years, as we grew, we’ve always upheld that value that we are family; we’re in it together; we help one another out. When we get together, we celebrate our successes. We use the opportunity to share best practices. We have a good time together. As a family, we’ve always done that. And it’s interesting when you talk to the new members who are joining us every year; they all say they love this family feeling; that’s what they especially appreciate about Best Western.”
Maintaining that family focus is ingrained in the culture at Best Western, Kong said. Because of members like Jim Cosgrove, who with his family has owned and operated a Best Western hotel—the Best Western Plus Revere Inn & Suites in Paradise, Pennsylvania—for 40-plus years, the CEO doesn’t see that ever changing.
“We have many members like that, who are cultivating the next generation of Best Western as they grew up with this brand,” Kong said. “They know that family feeling is part of the culture of this organization. They are very interested in preserving it as well.”
Cosgrove, who also is chairman of the Best Western board of directors and is set to step down from the board after eight years, said executing that vision of the company as a family comes down to “the last mile,” which is the hotel.
“The hotels do get together quite frequently. We have a lot of meetings, conventions, regional meetings, cooperative meetings,” he said, adding that technology makes staying in touch easier. “It used to be you saw each other twice a year maybe at best. But now, I see on Facebook what’s happening back at the hotel.”
An “us against the world” mentality helps too, Cosgrove said.
“Everyone here remembers just how we started to refer business to each other,” he said. “We always were the scrappy brand. We didn’t have the resources of everybody else; we’ve always been like (car rental company) Avis, the No. 2 trying to catch up.”
Editor’s note: Best Western Hotels & Resorts paid for travel expenses and accommodations. Complete editorial control was at the discretion of the Hotel News Now editorial team; Best Western had no influence on the coverage provided.