RLH Corp. goes ‘back to basics’ in 2020 plan

The properties are located in Redding and Eureka, Calif., and were wold to affiliates of the same buyer.
As of Sept. 30, RLH Corp. had 1,186 hotels with 75,700 rooms in its portfolio, including the Red Lion Hotel Redding (Calif.). Photo credit: Red Lion Hotels Corp.

RLH Corp. unveiled its strategic plan to go “back to basics” in 2020 with a renewed commitment to franchisees and an emphasis on growth. In the coming months, the company said it will focus on the evaluation and implementation of “common sense” brand standards which focus on return on investment for owners; amplifying marketing spend to increase brand contribution; targeted campaigns with input from franchisees; and digital enhancements and expansion.

The company has come up with the acronym R.O.A.R.—Recruit, Onboard, Add value and Retain—to summarize its corporate efforts. “R.O.A.R is vital to our effort of heading back to basics in 2020,” John Russell, RLHC’S interim CEO, said in a statement. “This approach will help reinforce the foundation of the RLH Corporation business, show a commitment to strengthening bonds with our franchisees and partners, and amplify the company’s growth opportunities.”

Franchisee relationship-building with an increase in owner engagement will be the primary focus of the company’s approach. The plan will rely heavily on the overhaul and addition of operational and marketing programs. To begin with, the company’s franchise operations team plans to spend more time in the field, increasing the number of town hall meetings in the U.S. 50 percent over 2019. RLHC also is working on refining the brand advisory board program to enhance the franchisee role in the decisions that impact the brands.

The company also plans to expand its digital and targeted marketing program in 2020, primarily in local and regional markets, putting a larger focus on community engagement and franchisee revenue sources, with the intent to increase contribution to owners. The company expects aggressive regional market penetration also will help drive lodging development.

“We are taking a close look at further infiltration of geographic markets that are most important for our various brands, as well as the guests who continue to show loyalty to our brands and franchisees,” Harry Sladich, EVP of franchise development, said in a statement. “We are confident this will create new opportunities with existing franchisees and will lead to relationships beyond our current RLHC family.”

To further support and engage with franchisees this year, the RLHC Women in Leadership and Learning program in partnership with AAHOA, will invite female franchisees, property leaders and affiliates to quarterly leadership-development courses. “The company is committed to empowering women in the hospitality business, providing inspiration and a support network as well as learning and personal growth opportunities,” Amanda Marcello, SVP of brand strategy, said in a statement. “It is crucial to our success that we offer the rising stars in our industry the space to grow and learn.”

The strategic plan comes months after the company’s former president/CEO, Greg Mount, resigned the same day RLHC released its Q3 2019 report. Speaking in a statement at the time, Robert Wolfe, then board chairman, said, “The board recognizes the operational performance of the company has not progressed as anticipated. Action was necessary, starting with a search for a new CEO.” The company has yet to announce a permanent CEO.