Fresh approach greens and cleans HoJo Canada hotels
OAKVILLE, ON—Just a little over a year after acquiring the Canadian Master Franchise for Howard Johnson, Full House Franchise Systems president Glen Blake is proud of the progress his company has made in greening and improving the quality of the 41 HoJo hotels in Canada.
Blake credits Full House’s “fresh approach” to franchising, which consists of four fundamental concepts, one of which is raising the bar for quality. When Full House took over franchise rights for the brand on Jan. 1, 2007, Blake estimates that half the hotels in the system met the company’s A or B categories in terms of quality assurance. Now, 96 per cent meet those standards.
“This happened because of the commitment of the owners to help raise the bar for the Howard Johnson system,” Blake told CLN in an interview.
For example, at the beginning of the summer of 2007, the company announced that Howard Johnson Canada would become 100 per cent smoke free by September of that year — one of the first chains in the mid-market category to do so.
“We had a very successful partnership with Johnson Diversey, drawing on their expertise and background to develop a very detailed program of processes, procedures and chemicals to properly clean the hotel, and to convert smoking rooms to non-smoking rooms.
“They drop-shipped a box to each hotel containing procedures and policies, quality assurance requirements, cleaning products, applicators and safety equipment. Each hotel had the same things to use. Over 90 to 120 days, the properties completed the process.”
This year, Full House set another environmental target for Howard Johnson in Canada— announcing recently that all hotels would participate in the Hotel Association of Canada Green Key Eco-Rating program. “We expect all our hotels will achieve three-key plus ratings by September of this year,” Blake said.
Also on target for September 2008 is an ecofriendly program, for guest amenities and supplies. Green amenities include bath soaps and shampoos, while supplies consist of paper, tent cards, stationery, writing pads, toilet and facial tissues. Full House is working with supplier Marcam Printers of Toronto to ensure that all supplies are made from recycled and recyclable paper.
With 41 properties currently in the system, Full House has committed to six property conversions to be completed by June or July of this year—including one in Montreal and one in Quebec City. The ink has dried on commitments for two new-build properties in Montreal and Airdrie, AB as well, with openings expected by June 2009.
“We’re working on a pipeline—we’ve targeted at least six more conversions by the end of the year. We’re building our brand presence in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, Northern Ontario and Alberta,” Blake added.
Howard Johnson has always been strong in Atlantic Canada, ever since the opening of a HoJo in Moncton, NB in 1972, said Blake.
“The brand has been great for Atlantic Canada, there’s strong support for consumers in Atlantic Canada, and our fresh approach has individual owners and operators interested in our increased commitment to being environmentally friendly.”
Howard Johnsons built in Canada benefit from the company’s new prototype, unveiled earlier this year.
- The hotel is built with environmentally friendly concepts in mind—lighting, insulation and recycling are all very important.
- The design includes a new environmentally and ergonomically-friendly corporate room.
- It includes an indoor pool and waterslides, well-designed sit-down breakfast area, meeting rooms and business centre and a guest commissary.
Blake says the Canadian market is “absolutely perfect” for a well-rounded, quality mid-market franchise system that enjoys top-of-mind awareness.
The company targets secondary and tertiary markets as they are the best fit for mid-market operators, Blake added. “Howard Johnson is not necessarily a downtown hotel company. We’re in the suburbs located on major highways with easy access to corporate businesses, residential areas and shopping.” This approach has not changed substantially since the mid-1950s and 60s when founder Howard Dearing Johnson located Howard Johnson Inns on U.S. interstates I75 and I95 in strategic locations where people would stop driving for the day.
So what sets Full House and Howard Johnson apart from other franchise companies? When asked, Blake cited the fresh approach. In addition to quality, this approach includes the following:
- 100 per cent commitment to service including directors of business development who spend at least 75 per cent of their time in the field working with general managers and owners;
- the attitude that all franchisees are part of a family; and,
- a focus on revenue management concepts.
“We’ve put in a great deal of time repositioning the brand, and we have improved the quality of the product thanks to the support of our owners and operators. We’ve taken time to work with owners and operators to improve guest satisfaction scores. And in the last quarter of 2007 and the first part of 2008, we are redefining the Howard Johnson brand in an effort to regain our fair share of the corporate market. We are doing that through advertising programs with WestJet, for example. And we are back into television advertising, which will continue for the rest of 2008.”