Articles Posted in Hotel Franchise & License Agreements

Published on:

7 November 2016

Hotel Lawyer on multi-branded hotels.

Hotels with more than one brand are increasingly common, but it wasn’t always so. Although some compelling advantages are driving this trend in many situations, developers and owners should weigh the advantages against other considerations.

My partner Bob Braun is a senior member of our Global Hospitality Group® and has experience with many hundreds of hotel management and franchise agreements. Bob is also co-author of the Hotel Management Agreement & Franchise Agreement Handbook (3rd edition), and has first-hand experience with branding and management for every major traditional hotel brand, including a number of multi-branded properties. Today he explores the phenomenon in greater detail.

Dual-branded & multi-branded hotels:
Opportunities and challenges
by
Bob Braun, Hotel Lawyer

The trend of dual-branded and multi-branded hotels

Over the past few years, the popularity of multi-branded properties has exploded. Less than a decade ago, a dual-branded hotel was an oddity. Then dual branding became more common, and some properties began to use more than two brands, so “multi-branding” was born in the hotel industry. In the early days, multi-branding resulted from unique circumstances. Today, it is driven by a number of factors discussed below, and there are nearly 100 properties with multiple brands and nearly that many again in construction. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

21 September 2016

Have you noticed the explosion of new brands from hotel companies over the past few years? At JMBM, we do a lot of work with branding through license agreements, management agreements and other arrangements. So we asked my partner Bob Braun to give us some insights on what this is all about and what significance it has.

Here are Bob’s thoughts, along with some practical advice on what owners and developers should do in this situation.

Hotels – Brand Expansion or Brand Explosion?
by
Bob Braun, Hotel Lawyer

Consumer oriented companies commonly use “brand extension” to launch a new product by using an existing brand name on a new or related product, often in a different category. These companies use brand extension to leverage their existing customer base and brand loyalty to increase profits with a new product offering. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

23 November 2015

As the biggest merger in the history of the hospitality industry,  the Marriott-Starwood merger, is grabbing headlines worldwide. Most of the recent press has focused on the sheer size of the potential transaction. But in his article below, my partner and hotel lawyer Bob Braun, considers the practical impact of the merger on hotel owners, franchisees and developers. With the loss of the Starwood family of brands as an independent and significant competitive force in the industry, the merger will bring mixed blessings to stakeholders.

 

The Marriott-Starwood merger – Is bigger really better?

Impact of the merger on hotel owners, franchisees and developers

by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

The proposed merger between Marriott and Starwood will, by all accounts, create a behemoth in the hotel industry. If the merger goes through as planned, the combined company will be the world’s largest hotel company, with more than 5,500 hotels under management or franchise, 1.1 million hotel rooms around the world, 30 hotel brands and up to 75 million hotel loyalty members.

While commentators have speculated as to whether the combined entity will benefit consumers, stockholders or frequent guests, little has been said about how it could impact hotel owners, franchisees and developers currently in either of the brand families or looking to them in the future. No one will really know until after the merger (if it is, in fact consummated, and there are a variety of hurdles to closing such a complex transaction), but the JMBM Global Hospitality Group has negotiated many hundreds of franchise agreements, including agreements with virtually every major hotel brand, and we believe hotel owners should consider a few important factors:

Will Owners Have Fewer Choices? The first, and most obvious, impact on any potential owner is that the field has been reduced by a significant player. Thirty brands (31, if we include the new Grand Sheraton brand) may remain, but in fact they will be operated by a single entity, and that entity will decide on what brands will be available in a given market. Moreover, the differences between particular brands in a given price or quality segment are likely to be reduced. How long, for example, will Sheraton or Le Meridien hotels be markedly different from Marriott or Renaissance properties? Where will they be positioned relative to other brands in the new combined family?

Any hotel owner, franchisee or investor should also recognize that the Marriott-Starwood merger might only be the first of its kind. Many analysts predict that other brands will merge to create the size and influence that will allow them better to compete with the largest hotel branding company in the world. If that happens – and transactions like this seem to occur in bunches – owners will have even fewer choices.

Will Owners Have Reduced Leverage? The immediate corollary to fewer choices is reduced leverage. A hotel owner will no longer be able to create a competition between two of the largest players in the business; Marriott/Starwood is unlikely to bid against itself for management or franchise opportunities.

This challenge is likely to extend beyond just the merger of Marriott and Starwood. Other major brands – Intercontinental Hotel Group, Hilton Hotels, Hyatt Hotels to name a few – will have greater bargaining power when negotiating with owners because there will simply be fewer competing companies.

Will Hotel Companies be Less Flexible? A common concern among hotel owners is the desire for their brands to acknowledge the unique qualities of each property. While some franchised or branded businesses can achieve a high degree of uniformity, hotels are special, and hotel owners need brands to recognize that. As much as brands strive to create a consistent experience at all properties operating under the same name, local differences – whether it be location, common amenities, zoning, legal restrictions, competition or otherwise – have to be addressed. But larger companies have greater reasons to increase efficiency and reduce variations between different properties, and hotel owners may have difficulty ensuring that local needs are met.

Will New Players Step Into the Breach? At the same time, it may be possible for new, smaller and more nimble brands to make inroads in this market. If there is less differentiation between different flags, if the larger players are less flexible, the smaller players may find inroads and opportunities that are closed to them now. It’s even possible that Marriott-Starwood may choose to shed some brands, for antitrust or business reasons, giving rise to new competition.

The JMBM Global Hospitality Group® believes that hotel owners should be mindful of these concerns when considering their branding opportunities, and when negotiating with brands. Our practice focuses on leveling the playing field between brands and owners, and creating a lasting, functional relationship between them. While this merger may lead to a new set of rules for the road, we are ready to help our clients understand the new realities navigate the new landscape.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

23 June 2015

Jack Westergom, Managing Director of Manhattan Hospitality Advisors, discusses hotel operating agreements, asset management, and the RFP process in the video below.

Jack spoke with David Sudeck, a senior partner in the JMBM Global Hospitality Group®, as part of our video interview series on hotel finance and investment opportunities in 2015.

A transcript follows the video.

Jack Westergom discusses hotel operating agreements, asset management and cycles - Meet the Money®


David Sudeck: I’m David Sudeck. I’m a senior attorney with Global Hospitality Group® at Jeffer Mangels Butler & Mitchell. We’re here at the 25th Annual Meet the Money® Conference. I’m here with Jack Westergom, Managing Director of Manhattan Hospitality Advisors. Welcome.

Jack Westergom: Thank you. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

18 September 2014

Hotel Lawyer: New Uniform System of Accounts will affect your hotel management and franchise agreements. Are you ready?

Commencing January 1, 2015, the hotel industry will have a new, significantly revised set of guidelines governing accounting for hotels. That is the effective date for the recently published Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry, 11th Edition (2014) (“11th Edition”). This is just one of the many things that distinguishes hotels and the hotel industry from every other class of real estate. And the new rules will have a significant impact on a number of matters in hotel management agreements.

Here is a summary of the important changes from one of our industry friends who worked on the 11th Edition, Michelle Russo of hotelAVE.

How will the 11th edition of the Uniform System
affect your management agreement?

by
Michelle Russo, CEO, Hotel Asset Value Enhancement, Inc. (hotelAVE)

The AHLA issued the new 11th edition of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI) in July 2014.   The process took almost three years and the edition reflects the first time that ownership interests were included in the Financial Management Committee that previously comprised only operators, industry consultants, CPAs and educators.  While there are many changes from the 10th to 11th editions, this article addresses what owners and operators need to evaluate to understand the impact of the 11th edition on manager fees and performance tests.

Recommendations for Evaluating Current Agreements.

The 11th edition includes title and definition changes as well as new schedules.  For example Total Revenue is replaced with a new term called Operating Revenue.  There is also a new schedule that is reported below GOP that includes revenue not generated by the operator (including interest income, other income such as antenna lease income and cost recovery income).  You or your lawyer should determine how these changes affect base fees, incentive fees and performance tests.  Please note that these changes are effective January 1, 2015. CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

7 March 2014

Comfort letters are more important than ever as franchising continues to be a dominant form of branding hotels. As many of our recent articles have noted, there has been a sea change in the hotel world. Franchise agreements have become the dominant means of branding most hotels in the US, except for a few of the most upscale and luxury brands.

This popularity of franchising has made comfort letters more important than ever simply by the predominance of the franchise model, and lender’s desire to get certain protections that they feel comfort letters offer.

In today’s article, my partner, hotel lawyer Robert Braun, explains what comfort letters are and the kind of provisions they usually contain.

Comfort Letters – Comfort for Whom?

by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

If you are buying, building or refinancing a hotel, you’ll almost certainly be looking to a bank or other lender to finance the hotel, and when you do, you’ll need to negotiate dozens of documents, some long, some short, but all of them necessary to get your loan. In other articles, we have talked about the importance of subordination, non-disturbance and attornment agreements (SNDAs). SNDAs are used in the context of a hotel management agreement (HMA) — usually only long-term branded HMAs — to define the rights of lenders vis a vis the hotel operator in the event of the owner’s/borrower’s loan default, breach of the HMA, foreclosure by the lender or a deed-in-lieu of foreclosure.

But what about franchised hotels? Lenders who take security in a franchised property will want a “comfort letter,” an agreement between the lender and the franchisor that defines the rights of lenders and franchisors if the hotel owner defaults on its loan obligations, the franchise agreement or other related arrangements. In other words, lenders seek SNDAs to deal with their rights and obligations with respect to HMAs. They use comfort letters to deal with their rights with respect to franchise agreements.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

26 February 2014

The ascendancy of hotel franchise agreements.

Branded hotel franchise agreements continue their rise to dominance in the hotel landscape. Hotel management agreements are not dead, but the advantages of having a hotel operator independent of the brand have been widely recognized and continue to propel the franchise model. (The considerations of branding and using branded (versus independent) management are discussed at length in “When should you choose a brand for your hotel? And when should the brand manage your hotel?“)

What’s really negotiable in a franchise agreement?

The most common question we hear from clients is, “What’s really negotiable in a franchise agreement?”
Franchisees are told by the brand that the franchise agreements are not negotiable, but then they hear that someone else has been able to negotiate at least one or two contract terms. Potential franchisees don’t want to waste time chasing something they cannot get, but the contracts seem so one-sided, and they want to get as much substantive relief as they can.

Based on our experience with hundreds of hotel franchise agreements, JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® knows that there is plenty of wiggle room to get some important concessions if you know what to go for and don’t waste your effort where it won’t do any good.

One of the biggest mistakes owners make when trying to negotiate a franchise

One of the biggest mistakes we see is owners trying to negotiate the franchise terms themselves. Their lack of experience shows that they are amateurs, and the brands quickly realize that they don’t have to give much by way of concessions.

While we don’t recommend negotiating your franchise agreement without an experienced advisor, hotel lawyer Bob Braun has laid out a few areas where we have been able to help owners improve their contract terms. Depending upon your circumstances, there may be significant other opportunities.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

29 March 2013

Hotel Lawyer on branding your hotel or running it as an independent. When should you brand your hotel and when should you leave it unbranded? How do you know when the benefits justify the costs? And if you decide to brand, should you go with brand management or an independent operator? What are the considerations?

Few decisions are more important. Here is hotel lawyer, Robert Braun to share some insights garnered by our Global Hospitality Group®’s experience in helping clients with more than 1,000 hotel management agreements and franchise agreements.

To Brand or Not To Brand
(your hotel)
by
Robert E. Braun | Hotel Lawyer

Why the hotel branding and management decisions are so important

One of the first decisions in the hotel development or acquisition process can have a lasting impact on the success of the project: whether the property should be branded, and whether that brand should manage the property. The hotel’s brand will be a defining part of the profitability, image and value of the hotel, and there may be no other decision which has a greater effect on the future of the property. Similarly, the management of a hotel can enhance the value of the brand, protect the owner, or detract from the value of the hotel — by as much as a 50% swing.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

16 February 2013

Hotel Lawyer on the Pros and Cons of dual-branded hotels

Dual-branding of hotels in a single structure or complex is quite a trend in the hotel industry and has been picked up by the popular press.

The hotel lawyers in JMBM’s Global Hospitality Group® have been working on dual-branded hotels for some time, so we thought we would share some our observations on the pros and cons of this approach.

My partner, Bob Braun, has worked on many hundreds of hotel management agreements and franchise agreements, and has written this article to provide an important update on this subject.

CONTINUE READING →

Published on:

30 December 2012

Hotel Lawyer on the spike in reflagging hotels. It’s often good news for us when the business section of a major newspaper explains what is going on in the hotel sector. (And nice, too, when the paper includes a quote by yours truly.)

The topic? How and why hotel owners reflag properties. The reason for the story: the Great Recession has changed just about everything.

In the New York Times article, Dressing Up for Success, reporter Amy Zipkin says: “According to statistics from Smith Travel Research, a research firm in Henderson, Tenn., nearly 2,500 hotels were reflagged in 2011. While that represents just a 5 percent sliver of all hotel properties in the United States, it was still a 39 percent increase from 2010.”

CONTINUE READING →