Choice Hotels International, Inc. recently announced that its Suburban Extended Stay Hotel brand has been relaunched as Suburban Studios. Ron Burgett, senior vice president of development for extended-stay brands, and Anna Scozzafava, vice president of extended-stay brands, spoke with LODGING at the 2022 Hunter Hotel Investment Conference about the brand’s new venture and Suburban’s commitment to providing travelers with simple accommodations while offering hotel owners the opportunity to reposition their property into the economy extended-stay segment.
What kind of reaction have you received regarding the news of your rebranding Suburban Extended Stay Hotel as Suburban Studios?
Scozzafava: The extended-stay segment—and, in particular, economy extended stay—has really been exploding. We’ve seen a lot of opportunities and way more demand than there is supply available in the market. Some developers don’t necessarily want to build new construction hotels, or the cost may be prohibitive, but they may have existing assets in well-performing extended-stay markets. What they need is a way to turn that hotel into an extended stay.
We spent time with specialized architects looking at taking a typical hotel room and making a streamlined, turnkey approach where you could put a kitchen into a room, and that’s really what the guest wants from an extended-stay perspective. We came up with the concept of a “kitchen-in-a-box.” Basically, there’s a fridge, cabinets, a microwave, a hot plate, a sink, and it fits on any wet wall. It’s actually a very simple process, cost-effective, and efficient way to convert a hotel into an extended stay.
Burgett: Suburban’s been around a long time. It was actually the first extended-stay brand at Choice. Our franchisees have always been happy, but we decided this year to give it a kick in the butt and do something different with that brand—change the logo and make it more modern.
Do you plan on having conversions into this brand?
Scozzafava: Absolutely. We have 70 open Suburbans today, so they will all be getting a visual identity refresh. We have 27 in the pipeline. We’re excited. It’s already got some great momentum.
Burgett: A lot of our WoodSpring owners are looking at it closely. And we’re going into markets where we know there’s no extended stay properties and saying, “Take this box and turn it into a studio.” It’s a very tight, efficient apartment. And I think that’s going t hit a home run in the economy extended-stay market.
How long do you think it will take for the hotels you currently have open to be updated?
Scozzafava: It’s going to be a multi-year approach because we want to make sure that we’re allowing for the investments to arrive in phases. I think signage will probably be the first visual aspect that you’ll see from the outside. A lot of the owners are very excited to get a new, modern, fresh take. So, we kept Suburban but turned it into Suburban Studios. And the new logo is a little bit of a nod to the legacy logo. There are a lot of vendors who have already asked, “When can we do it?” We’ve already got two with the refresh going up already. I don’t think it’ll take that long to see some of that refresh actually happen.
The big news is Suburban Studios, but how are your other brands doing?
Scozzafava: We’ve seen a tremendous amount of performance and growth with WoodSpring in the economy segment. We have over 300 open right now. We broke ground on over 30 last year, and we anticipate that number to grow again this year. MainStay has taken off from a conversion standpoint in the midscale segments. We closed on our largest transaction just a year ago where we brought 15 MainStays into the fold. They got a fresh identity in 2019 with new signage, and a new visual identity. I think close to 60-70 percent of the brand is done. MainStay is at 100 right now, so we’ve grown that brand tremendously as well.
We have some exciting news regarding Everhome Suites. Our first one will open later this year. And we just broke ground on our second one in Newnan, Georgia. We signed 17 Evehomes last year. New construction in this environment obviously shows the strength of our other extended-stay brands in general. But to do 17 in tough times coming out of COVID? We’re proud of that.