Talene Staab, global head of Tru by Hilton, says the brand’s pace has “definitely been incredible.” In fact, Staab says Tru has grown the largest midscale pipeline in the Americas, with 320 hotels in the works. To top it off, Tru hit its 100th opening milestone during Hilton’s 100th year. The brand also has the distinction of being the fastest brand launch in hotel industry history.
The brand now has locations in 34 states and Alberta, Canada. The 100th property to open is in Chattanooga, Tenn., and owned by Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality Group. Patel also opened the brand’s second and 98th hotels in McDonough and Atlanta, Ga., respectively, but the 100th hotel stands out to him, in particular, because it opened in his hometown. “Nothing is more special in this business than when you open a hotel in your hometown,” Patel says. “Our people mean everything to us, and it means so much more to us on a personal level than just a business investment.”
Patel continues, “I’ve been honored to be part of the early group of developers that were at the concept stage when Tru was just an idea. It’s been a wonderful journey from four or five years ago, well before the first Tru opened. It’s a great dream that many of us had, and now it’s become a reality. And not just a reality, but a successful reality.”
The Tru brand aims to be a top choice for owners through its operations, value proposition, and product refinement. While it is relatively easy to own a Tru—Staab says the properties only need one and a half acres and guestrooms are scalable in number—the brand is now well-established for owners looking to expand their portfolios.
“Owners have confidence in Hilton because they have a proven track record of helping pillar category brands,” Patel adds. “When this opportunity came for Tru to be a disruptor and pillar brand in the midscale segment—the largest segment—it’s an opportunity for larger developers like us or even smaller developers to enter tertiary markets. That confidence is important, and we’re seeing those results in the number of hotels open and in the pipeline, as well as their performance.”
Owners have assisted Staab and Hilton in the Tru brand’s fast-paced growth. Staab says, “The owner community that we’ve worked closely with has been good about making sure they’re protecting our brand integrity, even if it means compromises for them. They understand what is right for the brand, and they know that the decisions are going to make them successful. They’ve helped us check-in and make those decisions together.”
Staab explains that Tru was built with owners in mind, and those owners, as well as team members, have been “critical to the brand’s success.” She says, “As we learn along the way, our owners have been in lockstep with us, iterating and figuring out how to keep the momentum going and stay true to the Tru spirit. But what’s really been exciting is that team members are driving the owners’ momentum. The owners built these great hotels, and now the team members are bringing them to life.”
“As we learn along the way, our owners have been in lockstep with us, iterating and figuring out how to keep the momentum going and stay true to the Tru spirit.”
In addition to attracting owners and team members, Tru hopes to interest guests who have not stayed at Hilton hotels before. “When we launched, we were looking at Hampton Inn as the lowest price point of the Hilton stack. There were so many guests that couldn’t find a Hilton product at a lower price point. Reaching these new target guests is a huge priority for us. This is the answer to that,” Staab says.
As for the future of Tru, both Staab and Patel see more disruption on the horizon for the midscale segment. Staab adds, “We are curious about what traditional guests think. We’ve been excited by our guest satisfaction scores, but when the target audience comes back, the guest scores are phenomenal. That means that we’ve resonated with something different. That’s fun to watch; it means we did the right thing by creating something a little different.”