CHAMPION HOTELS OF Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, has made a lot of history since Champak Patel founded the family business more than 30 years ago. This month, the prolific hotel developer and owner notched another score in his belt with the opening of the first Tru by Hilton.
The 86-room midscale property’s other claim to fame is it’s the 5,000th branded Hilton hotel in the world.
Champ Patel, his family, business partners and investors, Hilton executives and other Asian American hoteliers will attend a grand opening celebration tomorrow morning. Champion Hotels broke ground for the hotel near the Will Rogers International Airport in Oklahoma City just a year ago.
Patel and several other Asian American hoteliers who have successfully developed and managed other Hilton franchised hotels advised the company as it engineered and designed the midscale brand, which Hilton launched in January 2016.
The cost to build and manage a Tru had to be reasonable so owners could generate healthy net operating income and realize a return on their investment. The 98-room prototype costs $88,000 to $90,000 a key to build, said Alexandra Jaritz, global head of Tru for Hilton.
The development price tag has increased since the brand rollout, reflecting a national trend that has seen costs jump by an average of 10 percent for commercial construction over the past year.
It takes about a year to build a Tru. The ADR goal ranges from $95 to $100. The Oklahoma City Tru’s ADR is $105. It sits along a main road lined with other hotels in upper midscale to upscale price segments. Motorists just 1,000 feet away on Interstate 40 have an unobstructed view of the four-story hotel and its sign.
The brand’s owner advisers were among the first to sign letters of intent to build a Tru hotel, all of them committing to more than one. Champion Hotels is building 16.
Other advisers, including Mitch Patel of Vision Hospitality Group in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Al Patel of Baywood Hotels of Greenbelt, Maryland, will soon open their first Tru hotels. Vision partnered with investors to be the first to break ground on a Tru in March 2016 in McDonough, Georgia; and Baywood will soon open the first adaptive reuse Tru in San Antonio, Texas.
Jaritz said of the more than 400 franchising deals in process, almost all are new construction. Although Hilton will consider a proposed adaptive reuse, Tru is not a conversion brand. Its design standard is too strict, said Jaritz.
In advance of Wednesday’s ribbon cutting, Jaritz and Phil Cordell, head of focused service and Hampton Inn at Hilton, today gave a media tour of the hotel, explaining the intentions behind the design concept and brand standards aimed at making a Tru hotel affordable to build and operate.
A four-story Tru hotel can be constructed on one acre. It has two room types – a 231-square-foot king and a 340-square-foot double. The rooms are about a third smaller than those at a Hampton Inn, said Cordell.
“We have tried to be really smart about using every square inch of space,” Jaritz said.
All guestroom baths have showers and no tubs. Jaritz noted Hilton-commissioned studies showed travelers, including families with children, prefer a shower when staying at a midscale hotel. The bathrooms have bulk toiletries such as liquid soap and shampoo in dispensers – another cost savings for owners.
Other things missing from the guestroom are a dresser, a desk and a closet – FF&E most transient customers do not use. The double rooms have a chair with a fold-out desktop and the hotel lobby offers numerous table-top options, including cubbies in a “work zone.”
The room has an area with hooks and a rod with hangers, a small table and a mini fridge. Missing is the in-room coffee maker. Jaritz said Hilton research revealed guests would rather opt out on that amenity in exchange for premium-grade brew available in the lobby 24/7. The mini fridge remains a guest must-have, however, so it’s a standard for every room.
Also standard is luxury vinyl tile flooring that is easy to clean. The brand has three design packages, mostly differing in the level of color – from vibrant to more subdued basic hues.
The rooms have recessed overhead lighting, pendant, table top and wall mounted lamps. Coupled with a wide window that allows in a generous amount of natural light, the features eliminate a guest “pain point” with midscale hotels that have dimly lit rooms, Jaritz said.
Each room also has 14 electrical outlets, allowing guests to plug in multiple devices.
The lobby is a wide open area with a circular front desk, a small market pantry, a breakfast zone, socializing and game areas and a business center tucked into the work zone. Breakfast standards include oatmeal in kettles, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, cereal, pastries and breads. The toppings bar is extensive, allowing guests to build some creative breakfasts while reducing food waste for the owner.
Also standard is a fitness room with a wall-mounted screen that guests can view workout programs or download them to their smart phones.
An ice and water station with disposable ice buckets and refillable bottles is next to the fitness area, eliminating a vending and ice machine on every floor.
The Oklahoma City Tru has an outdoor patio area, a design option that is not mandatory. Other choices available to owners are the size of the porte-cochere, an indoor or outdoor pool and a guest laundry.