According to Ron Burgett, senior vice president, development, extended stay for Choice Hotels, and Anna Scozzafava, vice president of brand strategy and operations, extended stay, the experience of the pandemic offered valuable insights about what their teams were doing right—e.g., leveraging their midscale market expertise—and ways they could improve their offerings in the extended-stay segment, including with the introduction of the Everhome Suites brand in early 2020. They described for LODGING how this response to the needs and wants of both owners and guests poise Everhome for takeoff now.
Scozzafava says the pandemic reinforced the importance and convenience of amenities offered by extended-stay hotels, including in-room kitchens/kitchenettes and guest laundry, but warns that it’s important to strike the right balance between providing modern amenities while, at the same time, maintaining the familiar look and feel of a midscale segment property—both for the benefit of guests and owners.
Everhome Suites amenities, she says, are a direct response to guest feedback on what they value in a midscale extended-stay experience. “What guests traveling for a long period of time want most is to be able to maintain their normal routine while on the road. Everhome’s customizable accommodations enable guests to adapt their environment to the way they live and work, with separate, yet flexible, areas to work and play,” she says. In addition to the fully equipped kitchens, she notes that both the studio and one-bedroom apartment-style layouts offer full-sized closets and spa-like bathrooms, with ample counter space and high-quality fixtures.
Scozzafava says the desires and concerns of investors were a major consideration in their decision to choose not a trendy, but a “timeless yet contemporary look” and to provide owner/developer support. “We have a proprietary site-modeling tool to help developers select the right location for their hotel, and our proven operating model helps keep hotels easy and affordable to run,” she explains. And to help them bring projects quickly to market in the post-pandemic environment, she adds, there are turnkey development support and flexible prototypes.
Burgett regards Everhome as a prime example of ways Choice strives to provide attractive investment opportunities. “At Choice, we’re constantly monitoring changing consumer preferences and strategically managing our portfolio to ensure we are building the brands of tomorrow with a compelling return on investment in key strategic segments,” he says.
In light of increased demand for extended-stay products in particular, he maintains, “Everhome was an effort to provide franchisees with another opportunity to capitalize on this fast-growing segment in the hotel industry and help drive returns in practically any economic environment.”
Burgett mentions several reasons institutional capital and investor are drawn to Choice’s extended-stay brands, which include WoodSpring Suites, Suburban Extended Stay Hotel, and MainStay Suites. “Our proprietary operating model helps drive consistently high margins, occupancy rates, and predictable returns in practically any economic environment.” He further notes that the extended-stay segment as a whole is generally considered “cycle-resistant and a smart investment.” He says the ongoing growth Choice has experience in recent years is in itself “proof of demand for long-term stay options in both the business and leisure markets,” adding, “Choice has nearly quadrupled the size of its extended-stay portfolio over the last five years; we awarded nearly 110 extended-stay franchise agreements in 2020 alone.”
Burgett claims interest in the new brand is high, with franchise signups mounting, and the first Everhome Suites property slated to open in 2022. “We recently met with over 25 developers in Wichita, Kansas, and toured the exciting new Everhome Suites model. To date, we have awarded multi-unit franchise agreements in the San Bernardino, Riverside, and Los Angeles Counties in California, as well as across Maryland, Texas, Montana, and West Virginia for a total of nine hotels, all of which will premiere the Everhome Suites flag. In addition, we have grown the pipeline threefold, which will result in more openings in the short horizon.” He says he expects even more demand among developers for this new product in the coming months as hotel financing starts to rebound.
Burgett stresses the value of Choice’s midscale segment expertise in general as a major advantage in creating and marketing Everhome. “Nobody knows the popular midscale segment better than Choice—the company that started it. Everhome Suites bridges our eight decades of midscale expertise with our proven extended-stay operating model. By launching a midmarket extended-stay brand, Choice and our franchisees will be able to compete in prime, midscale locations as the country returns to travel —as well as in higher RevPAR markets.”