PATRICK PACIOUS KNOWS which side of Choice Hotels International’s bread is buttered. Asian Americans hold most of the franchisers’ brand licenses. So, it is fitting that Pacious marked his first day as CEO of Choice today by signing two franchise deals with a member of the Indian American hotelier community.

Jayesh “Jay” Patel, founder of Athena Hospitality Group in Nashville, inked agreements to build a Cambria Hotel in Nashville and a Comfort Inn & Suites in New Orleans.

Pacious assumed his new role as CEO Steve Joyce exited the company today. Joyce was to serve as CEO until the end of this year, but he cut the transition short when he accepted a job as CEO of DineEquity Inc. The company’s board of directors and Joyce had been working on a CEO-succession plan for the past year.

Pacious joined Choice 12 years ago and worked his way up the corporate ladder. He was chief operating officer last year when the company added president to his title.

Patel shares a similar story in his climb to success in the U.S. hotel industry. The Cambria deal represents Patel’s entry into the industry’s upscale segment.

Patel grew up in the hotel industry and started his own business, Athena Hospitality Group in Nashville, when he was 23 years old.

He has had a longtime relationship with Choice Hotels, owning its branded properties across economy, midscale and upper midscale segments for 20 years. In 2013, he was given the company’s Premier Legacy award in honor of the business relationship.

Patel’s history with Choice demonstrates the opportunities franchisees have to grow their businesses both in scale and segments with Choice Hotels, said Choice in a statement.

“As customer demand increases and our brands grow, it’s vitally important franchisees grow with us and help us fortify Choice Hotels. Jay is truly a member of the Choice family, and the perfect example of an owner that started with us and continues to expand his portfolio,” said Pacious.

“I am thrilled to start my tenure as CEO by signing these franchise agreements for the Cambria and Comfort brands. It reinforces my commitment to stay focused on franchisee profitability and work with them to continue to fuel our strong development pipeline, especially our momentum in the upscale segment and our strong core brands.”

Athena Hospitality owns six open Choice properties, with another five hotels under development. Its portfolio of open properties includes Comfort Inns in Antioch (Nashville), Tennessee, Lima, Ohio and Zachary, Louisiana; a Comfort Suites in Nashville; a MainStay Suites in Brentwood, Tennessee; and a Quality Inn in Franklin, Tennessee.

“After having worked with Choice Hotels for many years, it truly is an honor to take part in this momentous occasion,” said Patel. “Choice offers a tremendous value proposition to franchisees and equips us with the tools and resources to be successful.”

The Cambria Hotel Nashville International Airport is set to open in 2019, the 124-room property will be in a business park and neighbor such companies as Dex Imaging, Apria Healthcare and the headquarters of Bridgestone Americas. The hotel is also a short drive from downtown Nashville.

The Comfort Inn & Suites – New Orleans Arts District is a 104-room hotel with 40 suites and three floors. The Arts District sits next to the Central Business District of the city and is walkable to many tourist attractions, including the French Quarter, Mercedes Superdome, National WWII Museum, Convention Center, Harrah’s Casino and Cruise Port.