Successful Deflagging with the help of innRoad’s Hotel Management System
Customer Story: Rocky River Inn
Customer Story: Rocky River Inn
In 2014, hotelier Jason Seter and his team made the ambitious decision to cancel their franchise agreement and deflag their hotel in favor of launching the Rocky River Inn, an independent hotel. Prior to deflagging, the process of releasing its franchise hotel brand, they analyzed the risks and advantages of continuing as a chain property versus starting fresh as an independent. Realizing the opportunities for independent hotels, they developed an extensive transition strategy, which included shifting operations to innRoad’s fully integrated, cloud-based hotel property management system (PMS) software, and began the process of creating the Rocky River Inn.
When deflagging occurs, it’s not always under the best circumstances. Poor performance and soured business relationships are some of the reasons why hotels lose their franchise brand. However, this was not the case for Jason and his team. Deflagging was a strategic decision to take advantage of existing and new opportunities as an independent hotel, rather than continue operating within a franchisor’s guidelines.
“We discussed several times the possibility of going independent over the years, but we had to wait until we had a contract window to exit the brand. We didn’t want to shock our guests or alter the experience they were used to, so we were very careful during the process. But since going independent, we have been able to implement changes gradually and we are now more the hotel we want to be instead of a clone of the big brands.”
With the Current River driving tourism from spring through early fall, nearby factories and government offices drawing business travelers year-round and a strong local reputation also fueling revenues, the hotel’s pipeline of leisure and business guests provided the stability needed to make a large-scale transition. Shedding the chain brand and launching as an independent allowed for full control of the hotel’s brand identity, customized daily operations, personalized guest experiences and greater ownership of the financial rewards realized from hands-on management.
Deflagging and selecting innRoad
Deflagging and converting a chain hotel into an independent property is a complex process. As Jason noted, every change made to existing operations had to be accounted for and handled properly to ensure a smooth transition.
“We had lots of franchise-required vendor contracts that we had to decide to keep or cancel, so that led to lots of discussions about how much to change at our hotel soon after changing the name to the Rocky River Inn. There were so many things to consider, we had a week where we just tested dozens of soaps, shampoos and lotions to make sure we were getting products that were as good as or better than what we previously offered.”
When it came to selecting new hotel PMS software, Jason knew that he wanted to move away from the costly, on-premises system required by his former franchisor. However, since deflagging meant that they’d lose the franchise’s brand awareness and marketing support, he needed software that could deliver the online marketing capabilities, as well as support the operational demands, required of a new independent hotel.
“Even with our strong local presence and referral network, we didn’t want to lose our online visibility for travelers who had no connection to the area. innRoad gave us the ability to easily connect to multiple online marketing channels and was far less expensive than our franchise system which we spent a fortune on – we once paid $15,000 for a mandatory hardware refresh. innRoad also gave us much more control of our property and amenities.”
Now in his third year of operating a deflagged independent hotel, we asked Jason to provide some insight on the differences between running a franchised hotel and independent property:
“You have to police yourselves as an independent property. You don’t have the extra set of eyes inspecting your hotel or making marketing decisions. You rely on yourself or hire and train the right people to get your property to feel right. A thing I love about being an independent hotel is that no one tells us what wall coverings to use, what brands to buy, what amenities or size of television I have to buy. It’s our decision.”
While detailing his specific experiences with innRoad, he shared some of the software’s most useful features:
Marketing channel control
“innRoad provides capabilities and flexibility that we’ve never had before. Our website has more purpose now with the ability to take direct reservations and our 3rd party channels provide more booking options. Since they’re integrated, we can easily limit reservations to our own site during busy times or open reservations to OTAs when we’re slow. We also don’t worry about overbooking anymore because everything is cloud-based and updates immediately.
Building unique guest experiences
Being able to respond automatically with email confirmations and thank you messages adds to the professional look and feel of our hotel, which is very important since we don’t want guests to think our quality has changed because we’re an independent hotel now.
Personal life flexibility and balance
On a personal note, I used to have to drive back to work at least once a week to help with the computer system, now I can do it from my couch or even on vacation like last summer. One minute I was adjusting a folio, the next putting the phone in my pocket and riding a rollercoaster with the kids.”
The launch of the Rocky River Inn is a prime example of how the independent hotel industry is evolving. Ambitious hoteliers now have access to resources, like fully integrated, cloud-based hotel PMS software, that allow them to build sustainable businesses and successfully operate outside of franchise hotel systems. As Jason noted, innRoad provides independent hotel operators with the tools to effectively capture direct and 3rd party online bookings, eliminate issues caused by a standalone on-premises PMS, streamline key administrative tasks and manage all essential hotel tasks and work streams. We wish Jason and the Rocky River Inn team continued success as they continue their journey as independent hotel operators.
Whether you’re a hotel operator who is considering operating independently or wants to improve your property’s performance, innRoad can help. Contact one of our independent hotel experts to learn more about our fully integrated, cloud-based hotel PMS software by clicking here or calling 1 (855) INNROAD today.