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A Distinct Advantage

Veteran Mullinix Launches New Company Following Acquisition Of Two Brands

Tuesday, June 25, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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Looking to get a proverbial ‘leg up’ on some of the existing franchising brand companies through an emphasis on improved owner relations and best-in-class technology, among other things, industry veteran Patrick Mullinix has launched Advantage Hotels.

The new company initially consists of a pair of brands, Vista Inn and Select Inn, which were acquired last month from Advantis Hospitality Alliance. Mullinix, President and CEO of Advantage Hotels, explained the Advantage name as well as his vision for the Austin-based company.

“It represents that we feel we have a different advantage over other brands in the industry because of the way we look at the relationships between the franchise companies and the franchisees...It really became the cornerstone of our positioning in the industry and where we’re going to carve out our own special niche,” he said.

Mullinix, whose most recent position was with Red Lion Hotel Corporation, has some 25 years of hospitality experience, including a stint as group president of the Americas Best Value Inn brand. He touted the company’s advisory board, which includes a trio of former AAHOA Chairmen; Ramesh Surati, Dhansukh Patel and Mukesh Mowji. In addition, Steve Belmonte, the former president and CEO of Ramada Hotels, is a senior advisor and on the executive board of directors.

With four properties from Select Inn, an upper-economy midwestern brand started in Minnesota, and six from the midscale Vista Inn and Vista Inn & Suites flags with properties in Florida and Tennessee, the company’s portfolio has some 10 hotels. The brand lineup will also include the Vista Hotel flag as an upper-midscale option designed primarily for older, full-service properties. Mullinix referred to the pair of brands as being “ahead of their time” in terms of their focus on the business traveler and emphasized he got “very, very lucky” in discovering the brands.

“What I wanted to find was at least one, or possibly two brands, that had some legacy but maybe hadn’t enjoyed an enormous amount of success in the past. It really takes an ownership position to get those brands into a situation where they could be grown,” he said, adding they were “not managed well.”

Mullinix noted that despite his history of growing brands quickly at “north of 100 properties a year,” he has put forth somewhat more modest expectations for Advantage looking to add 40 to 45 hotels a year with an emphasis on quality. “It’s very controllable and it allows us to be very selective about the type of owner operator and locations we partner with to make sure that every story can be a success story for both,” he said.

The CEO noted the company has received many development inquiries already and he’s been surprised, in particular, by the number of new construction inquiries. As such, Mullinix noted that he sees a growth ratio going forward of 80 percent conversions and 20 percent new construction.

Describing the company as a true franchise services organization, Mullinix noted a major point of emphasis is its marketing services and customizable solutions. He underscored the effectiveness of property specific advertising in detailing the marketing focus.

“It will not be regional, it will not be national, but it’s going to be exactly focused on the individual property and the market they occupy. There’s where we think we can make a difference,” he said.

Mullinix detailed some additional marketing trade-up possibilities for franchisees. “We created an opportunity for them to buy up to a higher tier of advanced marketing to specifically fit their property needs. We have two tiers above our standard level and based on their needs it can be extraordinarily extensive with an array of marketing services we can deliver. It’s really like having an entire marketing department working specifically for their property,” he said.

The CEO noted that technology is another major point of differentiation for the company with “costs spiraling out of control” and extending beyond that of distribution channels.

“Technology has become a huge problem for a lot of lower or mid-tier economy property owners. It’s the cost for everything related to the technology and we see that as an opportunity for us to go create something. We can deliver a best-in-class technology package at discount pricing that alleviates that pressure and that problem that hoteliers in this sector of the industry are most concerned about,” he said.

From a personnel standpoint, Mullinix noted the company is in the process of recruiting a number of executives that he already has deep relationships with. “They’re excited as they’ve approached us and want to be part of this new growth opportunity,” he said, adding it would be a “lot of familiar sounding names and faces.”

Mullinix further added that he expects next year to add “discount hotel brokerage services” through one of its business units. “Some of our franchise owners are telling us that they’d like to have that available for the purpose of transacting and buying and selling assets,” he noted.

In describing the company’s culture, Mullinix acknowledged he urges staff members to stay true to form in how the company goes about its business. “What we do is based on trust and communication, it’s about relationships. So long as we keep that as our top priority I think we’ll be a little bit different and I hope that people remember that about our leadership and our vision,” he concluded.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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