The family—most notably brothers Charles and Robert—saw an opportunity: They could build hotels and operate them, too. They began with a Holiday Inn franchise in nearby Cape Girardeau and took on four Ramada Inns, as well. It was a learning experience. The Holiday Inn, for instance, would make money on the rooms side of the business only to lose it all on the restaurant and lounge side. But there wasn’t flexibility in the franchise contract to drop the restaurant. The experience led to the decision to operate their own hotels, starting with the Drury Inn and Suites in Sikeston. Putting their name on the hotel was a last-minute decision—on all the paperwork completed up until the property opened it was called “no-Name Hotel”—but today it’s a distinction that matters to a family that takes clear pride in owning and operating all 130 of its hotels and not franchising at all.
Family values meet real business value
The Drury family came to the hotel business by way of construction, and construction by way of plaster and tile. That history gives the company both an unfussy personality and a belief that details matter. Because the company builds, owns, and manages each of its properties, it also enjoys a degree of strategic control impossible for other brands.
Most of the time, though, the family culture of the business takes the form of easy approachability and a preference for filling leadership positions through internal promotions. “We believe it’s important to take care of the 4,000 Drury team members that have become part of our extended family,” says Drury Hotels CEO Charles Drury. The family suffered a loss in 2013 with the death of Robert Drury, CEO of Drury Southwest, and co-owner of Drury Hotels with his brother Charles.
The company tends toward a lengthy and careful hiring process, but once on board, staff and management at individual locations are encouraged to call upon the corporate office and upon each other for support and guidance whenever necessary. Career paths are clearly demarcated, and with the brand’s rapid growth, strong performers usually have plenty of opportunity to advance within or between properties.
That control gives the business the feel and culture of a family—the Drury family, specifically—and from time to time, they get some attention for it. The company made a few headlines in the early 1990s when it removed adult content as a pay-per-view option at all of its locations. In February 2013, it turned a few heads by wading into the health care reform debate. Drury challenged a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on the grounds that it violates the family’s religious freedom. In an amicus brief, the family states that the health coverage the ACA would require Drury to provide includes “life-ending ‘emergency contraception,’” and argues that as Catholics, the Drurys should not be obligated to pay for it. Pro-life advocacy group Americans United for Life filed the brief on the family’s behalf.
If there were just one thing driving Drury’s remarkable guest satisfaction scores, this “keep it in the family” approach to employee recruitment and retention would likely be it. But there really is no single thing. Instead, for this straight-shooting company, success is just a result of doing what needs to get done.
Today, the chain is continuing to expand, with a focus on remodeling historic buildings. The company is gearing up to strengthen its presence in Ohio, with a Drury Plaza expected to fill the old Cleveland School District headquarters—the first time its upscale brand will appear in the state. This summer, it will complete another adaptive reuse project, turning an old hospital in New Mexico into the Drury Plaza Hotel Santa Fe. Drury will also open its first location in Pennsylvania, converting the former Federal Reserve Building in Pittsburgh to a Drury Inn and Suites, a $30 million project expected to be completed in November 2015.