A conversation with Ricky Patel, CEO, Toli Ventures
WHAT SETS YOUR INDEPENDENT HOTEL APART FROM CHAIN HOTELS OR LARGER ESTABLISHMENTS IN THE AREA?
Our independent hotel stands out from the rest due to four key elements:
- Management: We have full control and decision-making authority. We can set our own policies, make operational decisions, and tailor the hotel to its local area.
- Area-Specific Control: We tailor the business to our local clientele – not on a national level. We bring the specific city’s values and cultural aspects to each property. We like to personalize each room to bring guests different experiences during their stay. Each motel has deep roots within its local community.
- Flexibility in Pricing: We can offer a lower price point compared to local and national chains, given our franchise fee savings. We like to pass those savings on to our customer base. This builds a regular customer base.
- Innovation and Freedom: We have the freedom to innovate and adapt – offsetting franchise standardization. We can cut back costs where needed, we have to ability to select our own vendors, and build our own unique relationships with our local and national vendors.
HOW DO YOU CREATE A PERSONALIZED AND UNIQUE EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR GUESTS AT YOUR INDEPENDENT HOTEL?
Each room provides a unique experience. We can pick from customized furniture packages, lighting effects, area-specific artwork, and murals. We utilize many local mural artists that provide an experience for our guests.
HOW DO YOU APPROACH PRICING AND REVENUE MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES TO STAY COMPETITIVE AND MAXIMIZE PROFITABILITY?
My team and I approach it using various methods:
1. We utilize the OTA revenue manager, giving us an overall view of the pricing and demand for the area.
2. We utilize a subscription to our local events centers and sports arenas and track any events that may be coming to town.
3. I tend to go for a higher ADR than occupancy. Contrary to the assumption that high prices lead to “being priced out.” If area demand and demographics are there, I like to be the highest price in our comp set. This provides the customer with confidence in not only our motel but our comp set as well. While Los Angeles benefits from strong hospitality demand generators, it’s still essential to be mindful of a potential economic downtown. The current high inflation rates, continual spikes in interest rates, and local regulations all pose a risk to our industry. To address these issues, it’s vital to get involved, lessen excessive borrowing, and tighten operational control.
HOW DO YOU HANDLE GUEST FEEDBACK AND ENSURE CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT BASED ON CUSTOMER SUGGESTIONS?
We use the reputation management software, Guest Touch which provides us with real-time feedback on customer reviews. We log into our account and listen to our guests. Whether it’s a management flaw, room flaw, or housekeeping flaw, we’re proactive in educating our staff on creating an unforgettable guest experience. We’re forever learning and changing.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU HAVE FACED AS AN INDEPENDENT HOTELIER, AND HOW HAVE YOU OVERCOME THEM?
My biggest challenge has been the absence of franchisor support. The owners and managers of independent motels/hotels must often have to shoulder the responsibility of learning about local ordinances, laws, technology systems, and training programs. Having an in-depth understanding of the industry is crucial for success in the independent motel business. Networking, staying up to date on local news, using AAHOA as a resource, and local hotel/motel organizations are key elements. As a second-generation hotelier, there are important lessons and insights to learn from the previous generation. My parents, Raj and Rita Patel, involved me and my siblings at a very young age. We were engaged in housekeeping, maintenance, paperwork, the front desk, and every other aspect of running a hotel. While building our skills, our parents gave us the mindset that no job is beneath us. Roll up your sleeves, work hard, and anything and everything is achievable.
Additionally, my father-in-law, Mahandra (Mike) Patel, was an LA County Commissioner and is a current LA Sheriff Reserve, and my mother-in-law, Shasi Patel, is an active Travelodge board member and both instilled the importance and mindset of active community involvement
CAN YOU DESCRIBE ANY PARTNERSHIPS OR COLLABORATIONS WITH LOCAL BUSINESSES OR ORGANIZATIONS THAT BENEFIT BOTH YOUR HOTEL AND THE COMMUNITY?
During the past 15 years, we have continued to support numerous local nonprofit organizations, lending our assistance to further their mission statements. We are involved in assisting transitional housing services, domestic violence victims, and veterans. We provide feedback to many of these organizations, which helps keep our properties safe and provides more information on the clients of these organizations.