CALGARY — Canada's first Red Roof branded hotel, the Red Roof+ & Suites Calgary Airport, will open this spring. FANS Hospitality president and CEO Alnoor Nanji a
nd Red Roof's Phil Hugh foresee it as the first of many opportunities for the Ohio-based chain in Canada.
The last five years have seen significant growth for Red Roof, as they have taken a stronger approach to the franchising mode, said Hugh, chief development officer for Red Roof Inn. “We were small in size before, but we have added 300 properties in the last five years. The next step was to go international in Brazil and Japan, and to find the right partner in Canada.”
They chose Calgary-based FANS Hospitality, which has been a well-respected management and development company three generations. “The partnership with Red Roof is exciting,” said Alnoor Nanji, president. “The fit is right; the benefits of Red Roof are incredible. Their core values are so similar and their vision for the future is great. It's about time we had a new brand in Canada.”
“We will be having a bigger conversation with FANS as we look at more centres across the country,” added Hugh. “Now we just want to get [this location] and get it right.
“With our partnership, we have set a template in the great city of Calgary at the right location. We are already looking at other properties to put the Red Roof flag on,” said Nanji.
The first location is currently operating as a Travelodge near Calgary airport, with 203 rooms, which will be converted to 150 rooms and 50 suites in its transformation to a Red Roof+ & Suites. There's a fitness room, swimming pool and conference centre, plus a full service restaurant with 200 seats. “It just fits in with the brand's competitive standards,” said Nanji.
The location in the northeastern part of Calgary is key. It's close to the airport and there is an airport shuttle. It's also not too far from the U.S. border, which is important to launching the brand in Canada.
“There are 35,000 RediCard members in Canada, and we're playing on that,” said Hugh. “I have a place in Florida and the clientele is 50 per cent Canadian. We're dog friendly, and the phone rings off the hook in October and April.”
Red Roof is looking at two brands for Canada: Red Roof+ and The Red Collection, which is in the upper midscale sector.
“I think the Canadian market will adapt very well to The Red Collection in the downtown core.” The Red Collection is Red Roof's soft brand, and will help provide Red Roof guests with a company they know in the downtowns of larger cities, resort areas and provincial capitals.
High sees Red Roof+ as being suitable for larger centres. Red Roof+ is suitable for higher barrier to entry markets, that generate higher occupancy and higher rate, so that owners can afford to offer all the amenities that go with a Plus.
Asked if he planned to expand the core Red Roof brand in Canada, he said: “We want to be opportunistic, and if the market doesn't need a Red Roof+, we will see if it is a good Red Roof market to look at.
“What's important is location, location, location, who the owner is and the care of the asset,” said Hugh, when describing the types of hotels he is looking for in The Red Collection or Red Roof+. “We're not looking for a particular asset or type, but for someone who will run our playbook.”
Red Roof prides itself in being the most consistent brand out there, said Hugh. “We are passionate about brand standards, and that's why we've had eight years as the No. 1 brand in our space.”
Asked what Red Roof can offer to owners, Hugh said, “Service, service, service. Each VP of operations is limited to a small number of hotels. When the phone rings, people can get all hands on deck. It's different — the support we give our franchisees and people on the operations team. When I came to Red Roof after 30 years in the business, I was blown away by the team here.”
Nanji is excited about the future. “We have been in the family business for more than 40 years, and now the torch is being passed on. We now have our children involved, with daughter Shaheena now involved in the company.”
Shaheena Nanji, vice-president/ director of operations at FANS, studied hospitality in Switzerland and has worked for Six Senses Resorts & Spas in Thailand, helping to transition that company to The Soneva Group. Shaheena is currently based in Calgary at the hotel that will become the first Red Roof. “She's going to be the future of the company, leading it as I have done,” Alnoor Nanji said.