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Aberdeen, South Dakota Group Uses Super 8 Experience to
 Start Up New Hotel Chain - Settle Inn & Suites

By Scott Waltman, American News, Aberdeen, S.D.McClatchy-Tribune Business News

July 18, 2006 -- One motel chain started in Aberdeen already has properties from coast to coast and in Canada and China.

Now, a group of Aberdeen businessmen is trying to recapture what worked so well for Super 8.

The first Settle Inn opened in Kaukauna, Wis., in 1992 and was owned by Dave Graf of Aberdeen. Since, six others have been built. Now, work is beginning on franchising the chain. In other words, Settle Inn is ready to grow.

Terry Kline of Aberdeen said the goal is for Settle Inn to grow to 20 or 25 motels in the relatively near future. That will allow the chain to make a name and reputation for itself in hopes of expanding nationwide. Kline said it's not important that Settle Inns open quickly or that there be, for example, 50 or 100 locations in five years.

Kline worked for Super 8 and then Cendant, the company that eventually bought Super 8, for 18 years. He retired about two years ago and now hopes to use some of what he learned in that career to help build Settle Inn.

Graf also worked for Super 8. So did others now involved with franchising the new competitive chain, including Jon Hoffman of Aberdeen.

Kline said Settle Inn is working to develop new motels in Appleton, Green Bay and Oshkosh, Wis. And, he said, the company is working on acquiring some properties in the Chicago area and converting them to Settle Inns.

Tim O'Connor handles Settle Inn's marketing from Wisconsin. He said Settle Inns are mid-level motels, something better than an economy Motel 6, but not as nice as a more upscale Marriot. The average room rate is $62 per night, and most properties have between 70 and 100 rooms. They will all serve expanded continental breakfasts with waffles but won't be attached to restaurants and lounges.

The Settle Inn chain will have two tiers. A regular Settle Inn will have general rooms and perhaps some suites. Settle Inn & Suites will have pools and a certain number of suites.

Kline said as Super 8/Cendant grew, the nature of the large business made it harder for the people who owned the motels to comply with franchise standards. He said he hopes Settle Inn's simple and fair franchise agreements help the chain become successful.

Instead of setting unrealistic requirements for motel owners, Kline said a good relationship between Settle Inn owners and the people they sell franchises to will be more important.

Franchises will cost $25,000. That's a pretty low fee in the motel/hotel industry, Kline said.

The American Association of Franchisees & Dealers, which scores chains of all industries for how fair their franchise agreements are, recently accredited Settle Inn.

The Settle Inn agreement earned a nearly perfect 99.3 percent conformity against American Association of Franchisees & Dealers standards, the highest conformity ever achieved by a Fair Franchising Seal applicant, according to a release.

Brendan Watters, Settle Inn chief executive officer, bought the chain from Graf about a year ago. Graf still has a stake in ownership and is still a member of the board of directors.

Aberdeen, Chicago and the Omaha, Neb., area will form a triangle from which Settle Inn will grow, Kline said. Settle Inns along Interstates 29 and 80, which intersect in Omaha, will probably become more common. Kline said there will likely eventually be a Settle Inn in Aberdeen and more than just the Grand Forks, N.D., location throughout the Dakotas.

As that happens, Kline and the others will continue to draw on the lessons they learned while working for the other Aberdeen motel chain.

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Copyright (c) 2006, American News, Aberdeen, S.D.

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