Centerstone Franchisee Praises Vimana for New Infrastructure, Support, Low Fees and More
Myron Salz, owner of the Centerstone Plaza Hotel in Rochester, Minn., says switching flags was the best move he ever made; Anticipates other owners will follow suit in near future
Birmingham, Ala. -- Franchising isn't easy. Hoteliers often share war stories about the struggles they are facing with oppressive franchisors, including high fees, long term contracts, unreasonable mandates and liquidated damage claims. Today, Myron Salz, owner of the Centerstone Plaza Hotel Soldier Field, located at 401 Sixth St. S.W. in Rochester, Minn., is telling a different tale. Since rebranding the former Best Western Hotel to a Vimana Franchise Systems product, the proprietor of 18 years says his passion for hospitality is back. Salz said the Centerstone brand is proving to be a lifeline for travelers, especially those visiting the Mayo Clinic and attending youth sporting events. It's also providing a boost to his bottom line. He attributes the radically-enhanced infrastructure of franchise support services that was introduced in January as a driving force for success today, and into the future.
Q: What struggles were you facing prior to rebranding as a Centerstone Plaza Hotel?
A: When I purchased the Best Western Hotel Rochester in 1999, business was good for many years. Then, nearing the end of our contract term, the mandates were becoming so prohibitive that it was becoming impossible to meet the needs of our Mayo Clinic guests, many of whom are patients, or family of patients. We needed to make a change.
Q: How did you discover Vimana Franchise Systems?
A: My wife, Michelle, and I began looking at other franchise options. At first, all we found was more of the same; long-term contracts, high fees, etc. Then we read an article about Vimana. Each time we did an online search for the company name, we learned more about Steve Belmonte, the CEO and brain trust behind the brand. In the hospitality business for more than 40 years, Mr. Belmonte's reputation preceded him. He is passionate about hospitality, and he is a huge advocate for fair franchising.
I sent Mr. Belmonte an email, and within an hour, Michelle and I were participating in a conference call with him and his team. The Vimana Franchise System philosophy mirrors that of my company, Macks LLC, and our management company, Stoneridge, so we were immediately off to the races. The relationship has been awesome. Vimana makes decisions alongside us, not for us, and those decisions have one goal – to make the brand better. We were impressed with Vimana from our first conversation, and we will never look back.
Q: What do you think about the new infrastructure services being offered to the franchise?
A: Even before the new infrastructure rolled out in January – which includes a Central Reservation System, Global Loyalty Club Program, Revenue Management Program, Cloud-based PMS, Preferred OTA Agreements and so much more – we were eager to get rolling because Vimana was so excited about the program. When Mr. Belmonte says something is a good move, it usually is. We trust him because he has proven time again that he knows what he's doing.
The new booking engine, combined with the new Constellation CRS, is designed to improve our hotel's online presence with the OTAs. If you don't think your hotel needs to worry about its Internet presence and being found via Google Search and others, think again. Today, our online presence is enhanced, and the new booking capability is a big improvement. Our hotel is easy to find, we have a great location, and we are the best value for the traveler's dollar. Already many of the Mayo Clinic guests – who now make up 90 to 95 percent of our occupancy – are telling us that they just found our hotel and they are so glad they did. These new technologies and services are impacting many lives.
The new Global Loyalty Club is a huge improvement as well. Rochester is big in attracting regional, state and national youth sports groups. Whether its baseball, basketball, hockey, swimming or lacrosse, there is usually a tournament held here somewhere on weekends. The more often the Centerstone Plaza Hotel Soldier Field is selected as the accommodation of choice for families, the more loyalty rewards they earn. Previously, we gave discounts on our own rooms to our frequent guests. Today, we are enabling them to use free-stays at upwards of 20,000 worldwide hotels. Giving guests more choices drives loyalty. In just three short months, Vimana has provided more value to our hotel than all the years combined with Best Western.
Q: What other new programs are you looking forward to implementing?
A: Becoming part of a purchasing network is going to be wonderful; I am a firm believer that there is strength in numbers. Although I would like to think that I can negotiate good deals on my own, sometimes money is left on the table. Through this new program, I can sleep at night knowing that Vimana has my back. By watching out for my top line it is driving revenue to my bottom line. Down the road, as the Mayo Clinic grows, they will be bringing a lot of new corporate business to town. When that happens, the new Worldwide Sales Department will be instrumental in driving guests to our door. Having a Worldwide Sales Department means we won't have to be reactive to the market; Vimana has already been proactive and has the tools in place when demand arises.
Q: Why should other franchisees consider switching to Vimana Franchise Systems?
A: If you are a savvy hotel owner, you would have already switched to Vimana. Where other companies stipulate five- to 10-year contract terms, Vimana will offer rolling three-year windows, and their fees are lowest in the industry. A lot of franchise companies sing a good song when they are trying to get your business, but somewhere down the road the mentality changes and all you hear is one sour note after another. I applaud Steve Belmonte for fighting the good fight for fair franchising. The small fee we are paying to Vimana is being met with tangible returns. Our previous franchise could care less that we are amid the Mayo Clinic market. Vimana, on the other hand, really wants to get involved. Instead of cramming a PIP list down my throat, they support our marketing and renovation recommendations.
Several hotel owners are telling me they are envious of our decision to switch to Vimana. From all indications, they plan to follow in our footsteps as soon as their existing franchise agreements end. Like us, they want a voice in how they can better serve their guests. No hotel is one size fits all, and Vimana gets that.
For more information on Vimana Franchise Systems, visit www.vimanafs.com.
About Vimana Franchise Systems LLC
Vimana Franchise Systems LLC is a hotel franchise company which owns Centerstone Inns, Centerstone Hotels, and Centerstone Plaza Hotels, a mid-tier to upper mid-tier three segment franchise designed to create a fair and cost-effective model for hotel owners. Vimana also owns Key West Inns, Key West Hotels, and Key West Resorts, an economy friendly brand in a three-tier segment giving hotel owners the right fit for their product. The newest addition to the Vimana franchise is the Independent Options by Vimana, a solution for independent hotels looking to keep their name but desiring soft brand benefits. Vimana Franchise Systems is operated by industry veteran and CEO, Steve Belmonte. For more information on Vimana Franchise Systems LLC, visit www.VimanaFS.com, by phone at 407-654-5540 or email [email protected]