The new Knights Inn logo and bed sheet set on display at RLH Corp.’s annual conference in Las Vegas last week.

KNIGHTS INN OWNERS received an early Christmas present from the brand’s new owner, Red Lion Hotels Corp., at the company’s annual conference in Las Vegas last week. It was a new logo, part of a planned refresh for Knights Inn that some owners say is absolutely needed.

RLH Corp. acquired Knights Inn from Wyndham Hotel Group in May, and since that time a panel of owners and company executives have been working on the new look. The new logo retains the castle turret of the old design but in a cleaner, simpler style with a K inset. RLH Corp. plans to officially announce the new logo after the first of the year, so attendees of the conference in Las Vegas got an exclusive glimpse.

The response was at least gratitude for the effort.

“Anything is better than the old one,” said Amish Patel, CHO for AMP Hospitality Management in Palm Harbor, Florida. “I wouldn’t say it’s the most beautiful creation, but it’s a creation nonetheless.”

But the logo is just one of several changes for Knights Inn that have already taken place since the move from Wyndham, and which are planned for the future. It starts with communication with the franchisees, said RLH Corp.  Chief Operating Officer Gary Sims.

That requires more than just sending an e-mail

“Communication is about two-way conversations, it’s about dialogue,” Sims said. “Communication is about feedback. Without that two-way dialogue, nothing gets accomplished.”

So far, that’s what Dan Patel, Knights Inn owner from Gallipolis, Ohio, has seen from the company.

“They’re good about getting back to you,” he said. “It’s frustrating when you just have a phone number and you have to leave a message.”

RLH Corp. now has two people overseeing feedback from Knights Inn owners, he said.

Under Wyndham Knights Inn had been neglected, said Nancy Patel, owner of a Knights Inn in Corpus Christi, Texas, and a member of the brand’s owner advisory board. So far, though, she thinks the brand will turn around under RLH Corp.

“It’s not going to happen overnight,” she said. “I feel like they can really do something with this brand.”

But the brand cannot move forward without owners, and some are resisting the change. Instead, Amish and Nancy Patel say, they must embrace it.

“We are communicating with our members on a one on one basis to help them understand,” Nancy Patel said.

RLH Corp.’s access to the digital market place is “the hugest thing RLH Corp. can bring to Knights Inn,” Nancy Patel said. The new owners’ partnership with Expedia is one example. Nancy Patel said the company needs to get onboard with online markets, but that also frightens some owners, though. “They don’t want to move with the pace of what’s going on in the outside word.

The important thing is to establish consistency, Nancy Patel said. RLH Corp. has taken one step in that direction with a new sheet design for guest beds. However, some owners have been concerned about the new style’s primarily white color scheme, considering the fact that many of their guests are workers doing dirty, outside jobs.

“But they tested it,” Nancy Patel said, adding that the tests found the sheets do not require excessive laundering.

Also, Amish Patel said, they gave owners two options.

“All the major brands, everybody is going to the same scheme,” he said.

Still, Amish and Nancy Patel said they know some owners who just don’t want to invest in the new designs. That may lead to some reductions and both owners believe about 10 to 15 percent of current Knights Inn hotels will be dropped from the system for not keeping up.

“If you don’t want to spend the money, we have may have to part ways,” Amish Patel said.

Currently there is a big market for economy brand hotels, Nancy Patel said, but there’s going to be heartache for the first 18 months or so. At least RLH Corp. has been responsive to the owners’ concerns.

“We did talk about some things and they did implement some of them,” she said.

At the same time, Amish Patel said, they didn’t ram anything down the owners’ throats. “As long as they can provide what they promised, everybody will be happy,” he said. “Now they have to become true hoteliers, not just hotel owners.”

RLH Corp. also is offering some financial assistance for owners who need help funding the signage upgrades, as well as reduced monthly fees during ramp up.  However, the real key is that all owners must learn to take pride in their property and have passion about ownership.

Nancy Patel recently completed a $1 million renovation to her hotel and was recognized for her effort during the conference.

Amish Patel said he’s been through several similar transitions, so he understands that there are always growing pains. “There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.