Small town America is “alive and well” as evidenced by the growth momentum of Cobblestone Hotels, which continues to expand its project pipeline and move closer toward its previously stated goal of 200 properties.
That message was delivered by Cobblestone Hotels CEO Brian Wogernese last week during the company’s annual brand conference, which took place at the Hilton Orlando Lake Buena Vista in Florida in front of nearly 250 attendees.
With the addition of some 15 hotels in 2020 and 6 hotels this year, the company’s portfolio of properties—which includes its flagship Cobblestone Hotels brand, Boarders Inn & Suites, Centerstone and Key West brands—now totals 163 properties in 29 states.
So far this year the company has opened locations in Oshkosh, WI; Pine Bluffs, WY; Little Chute, WI; and it’s poised to open hotels in Platteville, WI; Superior, WI; and Yuma, CO.
Jeremy Griesbach, president, development, put the Neenah, WI-based company’s post-pandemic growth in perspective. “We actually had a pretty darn good year in 2020 from a development standpoint. We had some great new signings last year and then it’s really kicked in this year,” he said.
Griesbach added that the company has signed deals for 8 new properties thus far in 2021. The signings thus far this year have been in Lamar, CO; Fremont, WI; Springfield, CO; Cullman, AL; De Pere, WI; Wickenburg, AZ; Upton, WY; and Lynden, WA.
“Statistically percentage wise, I’d put that up against the big brands any time,” said Griesbach, adding he is “pretty confident” the company will add several more by the end of the year.
Griesbach acknowledged the company is closing in on its goal of 200 properties with an outside chance of reaching the milestone as soon as next year. “If you think back just 12 years ago we had five locations. You know we’ve got a long way to go, but we’ve come a long way already too so it’s pretty exciting,” he said.
Wognernese, meanwhile, detailed some of the company’s marketing efforts noting that Cobblestone ran an extensive billboard campaign for the first time ever this year “knowing that people were going to be on the road.” Wogernese pointed out that the campaign generated some 75 million impressions.
He further added Cobblestone continues to maintain a strong focus on airport advertising. The company currently has ads in some 10 locations and has generated over 7 million impressions as of 2021. “We’re going to be investing more money into airport advertising going forward,” he said.
Wogernese also touted the emergence of the new Cobblestone Rewards program, which was launched just prior to the outbreak of COVID. It cost nearly $100,000 to get Cobblestone Rewards set up, according to Wogernese. He noted the company ran a promotion from July through September, which cost roughly $30,000 but brought in almost a quarter of a million dollars in revenue.
Wogernese projects that Cobblestone Rewards will generate nearly a million in revenue with some of the newer promotions that are planned. He added that the promotions come at no cost to franchisees, but the investments are all generated from Cobblestone marketing dollars.
In other marketing initiatives, the company also became the official chain of Discover, WI, and will be featured as part of John McGivern’s new Main Streets TV show set to debut in 2022.
Josie Kilgore, brand president, Cobblestone Hotels, meanwhile, noted that the company will be rolling out an increased number of PIPs [property improvement plans] as many Cobblestone Hotels are approaching the 10-year mark. “That is something in the next year we’ll be seeing more of,” she said.
Kilgore also noted the company rolled out a new coffee partnership program with Seattle’s Best for both guestrooms and public spaces, as well as Starbucks for those properties which have free-standing restaurants. Kilgore said the programs have been “well received.”