LAS VEGAS — The Knights Inn logo hadn't been updated since 1981, and one of RLHC's first moves after taking over the brand from Wyndham Hotel Group is to give the brand image a whole new look.
Last year, RLHC added 340 Knights Inns to the system, including 33 in Canada. One of the other things the company did was to recreate an advisory board for Knights Inn, including Ken Patel owner of Knights Inn, Huntsville, Ont. “I have called every single Knights Inn owner,” said Harry Sladich, executive vice president, Franchise Operations and Sales at the RLHC conference held in Las Vegas last month.
“At the core of our success is the power of our brands. And the new Knights Inn logo is drop dead sexy, said Gary Sims, RLHC's new COO. “The old logo had been around since the '80s, and we've brought it into the future.”
“The logo needed a refresh — stuck where it was for so long. We have a new logo and consumer message, as the value-seeking tier has become more and more competitive,” said Amanda Marcello, senior vice-president, Brand Strategy.
“We see a lot of potential for the brand as we transition it. We're happy with the owner response to the updated bed and room aesthetic, and our buying power and programs,” she added.
“The previous ownership thought limited service didn't need the same bells and whistles, and revenue management systems were not offered,” said Sims.
Knights Inn also has new bedding, thanks to Sobel Westex, which looked at reducing costs and updating the look by decluttering the bed. “Whites are coming back with hints of colour. The Knights Inn bed has a touch of purple,” said Walter Pelaez, CEO of Sobel Westex, adding that housekeepers can make the beds more quickly.
“With 340 hotels, Knights Inn was more recognizable than ABVI,” said Greg Mount, president and CEO of RLHC. “Knights Inns now have Franchise Easy, an online reputation management system for similar types of brands. They rely heavily on on online reputation to evaluate performance. Right now, guests are looking for a good bed, TV, Wi-Fi, and coffee. Images of hotels with duvet covers are hideous. We have photoshopped in our bed topping with the purple pillow. If they don't fix it and want to remain the the system, they will not do well.”
At the conference, CLN sat down with Jolene Reid, RLHC's senior director, business development for Canada, to talk about Knights Inns in Canada. Reid, based out of Halifax, N.S., has been working with RHLC for just over a year. Asked about Knights Inn expansion in Canada, she said: “We'll go where the deal makes sense and where the owner gets it. We have no geographical goals.
“There are plans to reinvigorate and everyone is rallying behind the Knights Inn brand. There is a lot of opportunity for that brand in particular. I have had quite a few inquiries about Knights Inn — it's a growing brand with a new vision. It's straightforward, with no heavy PIP costs.”
There are Knights Inns from Corner Brook, N.L. to Nanaimo, B.C. Reid says Knights Inn is a conversion brand, and she doesn't see it as a new build.
“With the dollar the way it is, we've noticed some trading going back and forth [between Canada and the U.S.]. Canada is seen as a safe market.
Asked about her next steps, Reid say she is excited to continue with growth goals; that the company has overcome hurdles and is ready to expand. “History is in the making for RLHC and friends in Canada.”
Canada's first Red Lion comes to Abbotsford
Canada's first Red Lion Inn, a 30-room hotel conversion from Travelodge, goes live on Jan. 20. “It was a very straightforward conversion, adding a few signature items such as 35″ screens and a chalkboard wall,” said Reid. The manager is Sarjit (Sarge) Dosanjh. The owner is Kirk Pankey of Lagundi Hospitality based in Washington.
“The pipeline is happy with it,” said Reid. “We're setting the stage for growth now that we are legally able to have that brand in Canada.