THE GROUP OF developers in Georgia were the first to break ground on a Tru by Hilton, and last week after 15 months of construction, they were the third in the U.S. to open the new midscale chain hotel.
After a soft opening in June, owners of the Tru by Hilton in McDonough, Georgia, its staff and officials from Hilton Worldwide, on July 13 celebrated the 98-room, four-story hotel.
Present on the humid summer evening in the Atlanta suburb were development partners Pete Patel of RevPar Hotels; Bobby Patel of Diamond Investment Group; and Aman Patel and Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality Group.
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When Hilton Worldwide first unveiled its newest brand in January 2016, one of its selling points was the relatively low cost of development, around $85,000 a key. However, the increased cost of construction has upped the level of investment to closer to $90,000 a room. Aman Patel also noted the FF&E cost more than expected.
Still, the operation is lean a one, with about a dozen employees, and a simple breakfast bar where the build-your-own buffet is aimed at keeping the F&B costs low.
Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Tru, has said the brand concept is “back to basics” for U.S. travelers.
Mitch Patel said the key to growing the Tru brand to scale lies in keeping with the midscale mindset for both owners and guests. “We have to be careful and stick with what we want,” he said, cautioning against adding more amenities and design elements. “Keep in mind who the customer is. This is a midscale hotel. It’s not a Hampton; it’s not even a Fairfield.”
Mitch was among the group of Asian American hoteliers that advised Hilton Worldwide during the development of the new brand.
Hilton is aiming squarely at the Asian American hotel owner community in launching and growing the brand. Almost all the 425 hotels for which it has agreements are owned by Asian Americans.
Tru’s competition comes from such brands as Sleep Inn, a brand Choice Hotels International has revived through simple design and basic amenities. The cost to build a Sleep Inn aligns with Tru. InterContinental Hotels Group is about to get in the midscale game with a brand it expects to unveil in the fall. The footprint of the hotel and the cost to build aligns with the Tru concept.
Travelers seem to want to give Tru a try. Pete Patel said occupancy ramped up quickly when the doors opened in June. The hotel is adjacent to RevPar Hotels’ Hampton Inn, sharing the same entrance and parking lot. Hampton sent some of its overflow to Tru, and guests of Hampton can see into Tru’s glass-front lobby. It is filled with sunlight, vibrantly decorated, technology focused and community-oriented with different seating groups. The combination has proven to be a draw, said Pete.
“The lobby makes a big impression,” said Aman. He estimated occupancy at around 66 percent, noting they will know more about the business results in a month.
“It will take time for travelers to know what a Tru hotel is,” said Pete.
Mitch said the goal right now it to introduce Tru to travelers. “It will take time for the concept to catch on. The rooms are smaller and the lobby is unlike anything else in the market.” He likened the startup to Starbucks, which gave America something it did not know it wanted.
“We are actually programming the customer,” Mitch said, “and introducing them to a new midscale concept.”
Online reviews are positive, with travelers giving thumbs up to guest service; cleanliness; the bathroom (shower, no tub); comfortable bed; the TV; and, most of all, the many outlets in the guest room. A guest noted the Wi-Fi signal is stronger than at other Hilton-branded hotels.
One business traveler said he would stay at the hotel for one or two nights, but stay at a higher chain scale for longer trips. The comment is on the mark, for that is the Tru idea.