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The New Look of Comfort

The New Look of Comfort at InnVest properties, is a comprehensive makeover, with new carpeting and underpad, as well as updated wall vinyl and draperies. Old sofas and mattresses will be replaced and beds will be refreshed with Truly Yours bedding.

MISSISSAUGA, ON (Canadian Lodging News) September 3rd, 2013

It’s an important time for the Comfort brand as Choice Hotels Canada continues to execute its “improve or remove” strategy. Over the next two years, Comfort will undergo a $65-million facelift at 85 properties, and it’s already underway. It’s definitely the largest scale renovation program in the history of Choice Hotels Canada, Tim Oldfield, managing director franchise performance told CLN in an interview last month.

We’re fortunate, owners of Comfort branded assets are engaged and see value in improving the guest experience,” said Oldfield. “Specifically our largest franchisee InnVest, by the end of 2014, expects to renovate 61 hotels—approximately 30 in 2013 and the balance in 2014—at a cost of about $45 million.”

That means that more than half—58 per cent—of the 147 Comfort hotels open in Canada will be renovated by the end of 2014.

More than $750,000 will be put into each property that is scheduled for upgrades, Oldfield said.

These renovations are quite separate from the $40 million in funding Choice Hotels International president and CEO Steve Joyce announced at the brand conference in May.

That was an exciting announcement for U.S. franchisees but we’re starting from a different place in Canada,” said Oldfield. “And while the $40 million investment that Choice Hotels International is putting towards U.S. Comforts is not available to our properties, the investment that we’re talking about will significantly update the Comfort portfolio in Canada.”

By the numbers

More than 8,000 rooms will be renovated over the two year period. And while renovations have just started in earnest, the early results from the first few completions are encouraging. “We’re seeing a bump in occupancy and almost 10 per cent lift in rate,” Oldfield said.

Deciding which properties should be renovated was a collaborative process and Choice has been talking to its independent owners about their long-range plans. “We used a lot of data to help guide the process but at the core of our business are guests and frankly, their feedback set much of the course,” said Oldfield.

On the public ownership side, InnVest undertook a comprehensive review of its portfolio to identify core long-term holdings in stable markets, which showed favourable growth opportunities from capital investments,” said Oldfield. “They shared their plans with us and with only minor tweaks, we were able to enthusiastically support the plan.”

About nine years ago, InnVest took over more than 100 former Journey’s End properties, and they still have almost 80. As part of the Comfort transformation, InnVest is looking to sell 15 or 16 hotels.

Direction for the brand

Development of what Choice calls the Truly Yours Design Package was based on in-depth feedback from more than 1,500 guests and developers. Consumer research already indicated overall intent to stay at Comfort hotels nearly doubles in response to the new look. Research also indicates guests are willing to pay more on average per night compared with the current design, Oldfield noted.

Changes to the free Your Morning Breakfast program, which was a major feature of the first phase of the refresh, were made in response to the comments of more than 10,000 respondents.

Guest response has been overwhelmingly favourable of breakfast enhancements that are now available at most hotels, which include the addition of a flavoured waffle, and the new design concept’s warm and inviting look,” Oldfield said.

Types of changes depend on the hotel and at what stage they are at in the lifecycle.

For InnVest properties, this is a comprehensive makeover, with new carpeting and underpad, as well as updated wall vinyl and draperies. Old sofas and mattresses will be replaced and beds will be refreshed with Truly Yours bedding, said Oldfield. Lighting and artwork is also set to be updated, case-good hardware is being replaced, and they’re adding clothing wardrobes and new ergonomic chairs.

Guest bathrooms will include granite top vanities with new sinks, faucets, mirrors and vanity lights will be installed. “Plus, as you’d expect, we’re addressing wall vinyl, and floor tiles will be replaced, as well as the shower heads and hair dryers,” said Oldfield.

Appealing public areas

Oldfield is particularly excited about the addition of breakfast rooms to most hotels. “Typically, what you’ll see is two guest room bays knocked out to create a breakfast room adjacent to the lobby. This will be visually appealing on entry to the lobby, be a great spot for breakfast, but also have the capacity to serve as a lounge area for our guests at other times during their stay.”

The Comforts will be outfitted with the right equipment, including a breakfast counter and pantry, to provide guests with the brand’s complimentary Your Morning Breakfast. The breakfast rooms will also benefit from new flooring, wall vinyl, draperies and lighting. And guests will be able enjoy the table seating and new LCD TVs.

Lobbies will see new flooring, wall vinyl, drapes, furniture and LCD TVs. Front desks are also being refreshed to help make sure our guests feel welcome as soon as they step through the door.

Corridors will be updated with new carpeting, wall vinyl and lighting.

Sense of arrival

Choice has worked with an architect to develop a new sense of arrival for those Comforts that started life as Journey’s Ends.

This optional renovation raises the porte-cochere by four feet, adds complementary stone cladding and brightens the approach with new exterior lighting.

Choice is also suggesting some low-maintenance hardscaping for visual appeal.

At a minimum, the InnVest Comforts will see new outdoor lighting, parking lot repairs and landscaping upgrades. Some locations will also receive new signage with electronic reader boards.

The renovations are transformational for the brand,” says Oldfield. “We’re seeing some very positive early results and guest feedback is phenomenal.”

Case study: Newmarket Comfort Inn’s $1.6 million reno 

Tim Oldfield

Tim Oldfield

Managing Director Franchise Performance

Choice Hotels Canada

New Look of Comfort