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How Red Lion is using design to create a boutique economy brand

Red Lion Hotels Corporation is relaunching its Signature Inn brand, creating a distinctive “economy boutique” concept for conversions and adaptive-reuse properties.

NEW YORK — At the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference, Red Lion Hotels Corporation announced plans to relaunch its Signature Inn brand, creating a distinctive “economy boutique” concept for conversions and adaptive-reuse properties.
“Signature Inn is our take on integrating lifestyle branding into the economy sector,” Anna Bogler, director of interior design for Red Lion Hotel Corporation, told HOTEL MANAGEMENT at the conference. “It’s a new approach, a new way of thinking of the hotel experience and elevating what that looks like for the consumer within the economy market.”

Economy Lifestyle

Signature Inn is aiming to be “the only upper-economy brand designed to make motels enticing conversion targets,” the company said in a statement. Bogler, for her part, is eager to maintain the heritage of each building. “A lot of the opportunities that we are exploring currently have this pre-existing history and story to the building, and I think what’s going to be special about Signature Inn is really embracing and using that previous life as the foundation to strengthen each unique property, and helping them to define what the look and feel of the space will be,” she said. “I feel like each property will, on its own, have its own story, but Signature Inn will be helping them showcase that.” 

No deals have been signed for the brand as yet, Bogler acknowledged, but numerous properties are under consideration. “We have quite a few properties that want to get involved and we are evaluating what will be the best fit to have our first property,” she said. “We’re still in the process of defining how that comes together.” 

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Inspiration Standards

The new Signature Inn will not have a specific prototype, or even strict brand standards. “We don’t dictate,” Bogler said. “We don’t have strict rules, like, ‘You have to do this. It has to have this certain carpet.’” Instead, she said, the design team is developing a palette and prototypes and model rooms that can be used as design directions for owners. “We’re working with them to figure out the best features of their property, then through design-review process, helping them build out their space and making sure that at the end of the day, it reads as a Signature Inn, that there’s a consistency in that experience,” she said. “Our team here will support them to see the vision come to life.”

Red Lion has a "mood board" for Signature Inn inspiration

That is not to say, of course, that the brand will have no standards at all. “Signature Moments” will be included in all properties—but, Bogler acknowledged, those are still being defined. “It could look like anything from the lobby experience and having an extra commissary available,” she said. “It could be coming up to the front door and there’s a particular rug that’s branded that welcomes you to your room. Within the room, we’re looking at things like open closet concepts and big bright colors and patterns that are really going to help the consumer identify with the brand and their stay.” 
Red Lion is currently building a loose Signature Inn prototype at its Denver design center that, Bogler said, will include some of these Signature Moments that the company will want across the brand. But until the prototype is finished, these elements are still up in the air—and even then, the prototype will mostly exist to provide inspiration for each property.  
“It’s really about understanding our user/consumer and adding special touches to make that experience more memorable to them,” she said. “You don’t often see that in economy hotel concepts currently.”  

Value for Money 

Ultimately, Bogler said, bringing the boutique concept to the economy sector can boost customer expectations for the segment. “You don’t need high-end finishes to create an experience, just the intention put into the design elements within the space,” she said. “I feel like we can accomplish good design on a low budget.”  
The brand is also looking to provide good value for owners. The application fee for joining the brand is $20,000, and the combined flat fee for royalty and marketing is $50 per room per month.