As part of an effort to further reinforce what it sees as a position of leadership in terms of technology within the economy segment, Red Roof recently added Ted Hutchins as Chief Information Officer.
Hutchins brings a track record in IT strategy, management and development with experience in the hospitality sector to the New Albany, OH-based brand company. He will be responsible for establishing overall IT strategy and directing daily IT operations. Hutchins will also oversee a broad range of technological advancements for the brand with a major focus on self-service development.
Hutchins weighed in on what appealed to him about the company, which in addition to the traditional economy Red Roof brand, also has an enhanced upscale economy offering called Red Roof Plus , as well as The Red Collection, a city center soft brand.
“Fortunately, and it’s not always true when you start a new job as the head of technology, I inherited a really good, solid technology platform here,” he said.
Hutchins added that the company’s focus on its guests as well as its associates was a factor as well. “They have a corporate office that was extremely focused on the user experience and I like to work at places which value the guest and the guest experience,” he said.
Prior to joining Red Roof, Hutchins served as CIO for All Aboard Florida, overseeing its South Florida-based high speed rail system Brightline from 2014 to 2018. Hutchins also served as vp, technology at Porter Airlines from 2011 to 2014. His experience also includes AirTrain Airways, Sabre, and US Airways.
Hutchins framed the new position in reference to his extensive background. “It allowed me to broaden my horizons a little bit. The hotel piece kind of rounded out my hospitality experience,” he said.
As far as the company’s objectives going forward, Hutchins emphasized the practical aspect of any new initiatives. “We’re making sure that we are forward leaning, but not delivering technology that most of our guests won’t use,” he said, adding that simpler solutions such as having robust Wifi and giving the guests the ability to charge all their devices can not be underestimated.
Hutchins further emphasized he is mindful of the company’s price point when it comes to its technology approach. “We are in the economy tier and we recognize that with our eyes open and yes it does mean that we are not over-the-top technology providers. We’re not doing state-of-the-art, in-room touch technology with light switches and what not, but we don’t think most of our guests want that,” he said.
The CIO acknowledged that the self-service environment will be a major thrust of his focus going forward. “We’re going to be rolling some things out over the next 18 months as the guests ask for it and as our associates ask for it. But right now we’re doing a lot of studying and listening on that,” he said.
In terms of specifics, Hutchins noted that the company’s in-house systems were a major appeal for him as well. “That’s one of the great things when I was chatting with the leadership team here and thinking about joining Red Roof. We have one unified system for CRS and PMS. We own it, we develop it and support it and we advance it in house. So rather than cobble together a handful of systems we’re able to deliver a unified system and viewpoint for our associates; we have no legacy systems here. That is always an uphill battle when you come into a company,” he said.
The company was one of the first to develop a cloud-based PMS, according to Hutchins, which he noted will continue to evolve. “We have grown significantly since then. Now it’s making sure that the design and the architecture that were so thoughtfully done a couple of years ago are re-evaluated and we get ready for the next 10 years of growth,” he said.
Hutchins underscored the importance of the cloud going forward. “We see the cloud as the only way to go for a business our size and with our complexity and our needs around 24/7. As we’re growing internationally we’re growing to be more than just four time zones,” he said.
When it comes to any tech changes, Hutchins pointed out that the company has some skin in the game with roughly 120 of its more than 500 properties corporately owned, which is a point of differentiation. “They’re kind of our test kitchens or test beds. We’re able to prove a few things out before we roll it out to all the franchisees,” he said.