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Sunny Days Ahead

- Judy Maxwell (Assistant Editor)
Sunny Days Ahead

Days Inn goes back to the drawing board to re-imagine the brand with a new prototype that provides franchisees with a consistent and uniform road map for construction and renovation…

By Jonathan Springston, AAHOA Lodging Business

When Cecil B. Day founded Days Inn in 1970, his goal was to offer the traveling public clean, safe and affordable lodging. More than 40 years later, Days Inn is a highly successful hotel brand, with more than 1,600 properties in the United States alone.

After Clyde Guinn became president of Days Inn Worldwide three years ago, he noticed a certain lack of uniformity across the Days Inn portfolio.

‘One of the things I discovered is that there were a set of standards that we built to or renovated to but there was no real plan in terms of the design,’ he said. ‘If you were looking at a Days Inn as a brand you wanted to put on an existing building, we didn't really offer you a direction or point of view. If you were renovating a hotel, we had standards we wanted you to renovate to but not a complete package.’

‘The result of that was if you walked someone into 10 different Days Inn [properties] and you didn't have a sign on the door, they wouldn't particularly know what that brand was,’ Guinn added. ‘They would know it's an economy hotel but it could be any economy hotel. There was no basis for our customers to expect anything.’

So Days Inn hired an architect and design firm to work with Wyndham Worldwide's internal design team to draw up a consistent and modern road map for construction and renovation, with much input from the brand's franchise advisory council.

The result is the first prototype in the 42-year history of Days Inn, a ‘kit of parts’ offering franchisees a uniform model to reference whether they are building from the ground up or renovating an existing property in phases. Available in four-story and seven-story versions, both floor plans allow for a fitness room and a lounge area that is adorned with contemporary furniture and a flat screen television. Guestrooms are smartly designed with an accent wall, a stylish seating nook and a sleek bedding concept that highlights the Days Inn brand’s blue and yellow signature colors.

‘We wanted to provide a concept that was refreshing to both our franchisees and our consumers,’ Guinn said. ‘In order to give our guests a revitalized hotel experience, we needed to give our franchisees a floor plan that was cost efficient and brand consistent. This design delivers on both.’

To enhance the Daybreak Breakfast experience, Guinn said the dining space will feature a common seating table, along with the traditional two-top and four-top tables and chairs.

‘They are very popular and I see this in everything from full service brands to limited service brands,’ Guinn said of the community seating concept. ‘Those common tables come in big with families, teams and big work groups. We want that to be a centerpiece as people renovate their breakfast spaces.’

Each Days Inn property will feature a welcome wall behind the front desk in order to create a uniform look in each lobby area. The brand is working with a vending company and franchisees to determine what type of food to offer in the lobby.

‘What we hope for in this design – doing vending that is more than pretzels and candy bars –  is you can have that evening meal at a very affordable price. Our franchisee gets a percentage of the vending income [and] it enriches the experience at Days,’ Guinn said. ‘Between that and the televisions in [the lobby], we are really looking to that space as an alternative to people being in their guest room.’

Guinn noted the success of Days Inn has been thanks to the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers. While the former generation is almost completely out of the travel space, the latter still travels for business and leisure.

‘We [Baby Boomers] are going to be out of the workforce in the next 10 years and have another decade of our peak leisure travel. Behind us will come Generation X and Generation Y,’ Guinn said. ‘Therein lies one of the challenges of all our franchisees: How do we continue to be relevant and offer a product that is attractive to Boomers but is relevant to Gen X and Gen Y? If we're not relevant to them and other economy brands are, that's a death spiral.’

The resulting guest room prototype Guinn described as ‘contemporary but it's not something that is exclusively looking to a Gen X or Y customer.’ While there are many electrical outlets in the new room, for example, the room would not be so modern as to scare off older travelers. 

Days Inn expects to add 80 properties to the system every year, with 8 to 12 percent of that from new builds, though Guinn hopes the percentage of new construction jumps to 20 percent over the coming decade.

‘For developers, we asked: what is going to be an attractive price point for developers? The answer turned out to be $50,000 to $55,000 per key, excluding land,’ Guinn said. ‘Two-thirds of Days Inn is solidly economy with the other third kind of in the midscale. We have urban hotels that are definitely midscale. We were constantly looping back to see what this would cost to see if we could to deliver at that point.’

‘You can do a new build today but you're probably going to have to come up with 40 percent equity. You're going to have to have a really solid banking relationship before you even get to that,’ he added. ‘Some of the loan terms are not going to be great. We're another year away from there being confidence in lending markets for hotels.’

While the brand hopes to make significant progress in the next 10 years, Days Inn is not taking an aggressive approach with franchisees on this prototype.

‘This is not something that is going to be rammed down people's throats. We're not going to say in five years everything has to look like this. It's not going to happen that way, and practically speaking, it couldn't happen that way,’ Guinn said. ‘This is meant to help [franchisees] achieve at the point in time when it is time to renovate their hotel, not because there is some deadline looming. When they do their next renovation or when you want to build a Days, we want the end product to look like this. We want you to avail yourself to our design so that you don't have to pay someone to do that.’

Guinn said Days Inn will leverage its collective strength to obtain good prices for the good and materials franchisees need for the prototype.

‘We can tell our vendors we'll be doing 10,000 to 12,000 rooms a year minimum on this just because that many hotels [will be renovating],’ Guinn said. ‘My preference is that [franchisees] do everything at one time so the capital is aging on the same schedule. From a financial point of view, that might not be possible and that's fine. Let's figure out how fast we can do something for you.’

‘In 10 years, [our hope is] we're more consistent in our look [and] more definable as a brand,’ he added. ‘This is something from the acquisition of it for the owners is really cost-efficient and there's a long life to it. To our customers, it's really compelling.’

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