'All-Suite' Veteran Unveils Plan for 'Second Generation'

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SAN DIEGO -- A founder of the original all-suite hotel concept has ambitious growth plans for two brands that he said represent a second-generation of all-suite properties.

Samuel Hardage, who was the first franchisee of the Residence Inn brand in 1984, said his upscale Woodfin Suites and mid-scale Chase Suites brands were designed with total consumer input.

"We looked at what was available -- Residence Inns, Embassy, Guest Quarters --and found that customer needs were not being met," Hardage said.

"We spent two years doing very intensive market research, getting inside the head of the customer."

What developed from the research was a home-away-from-home and office-away-from-office product, Hardage said.

The suites are designed to be both user-friendly and reasonably priced.

They offer work areas for computer users, full kitchens, living and bedroom areas separated by large double doors, 24-hour access to a business center, free hot breakfast and free grocery shopping service.

Customers tend to be business travelers, with 80% of the business at the Woodfin and Chase properties coming from Fortune 500 companies, Hardage said. The average length of stay is five days.

There are currently six Woodfin properties in operation in California, Maryland and Ohio, and the first Chase property opened last June in Fullerton, Calif.

Hardage also operates nine Residence Inn properties.

Hardage said he hopes to build six additional Woodfin Suite properties this year, and 10 next year.

He also is looking at franchising both brands.

With operating profits that he said are among the highest in the industry, Hardage claimed his brands have attracted the interest of investors, and he has "talked to several large companies that have voiced an interest in certain strategic alliances."

Such deals will add to the growth of the brands, he added.

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