Families rally around each other in times of crises and in 2020, the Quest Apartment Hotels franchisee community has done just that. The company has continued its momentum with six new locations opened and even more coming in 2021.
Tell us a bit about the team spirit and the camaraderie within the Quest franchisee community that has held everybody together during the challenges of 2020?
While 2020 has been a challenging year in the accommodation sector and for Quest, we have been warmed by the unity, resilience and optimism exhibited by the franchise network. Quest has worked hard to provide clear and consistent advice to franchisees and ensure they have the resources required to navigate an incredibly complex period and see themselves through to the other side.
Positively, franchisees have mirrored the same camaraderie among themselves, leaning on one and other for guidance and friendship. It has been a stressful time for operators, but we are thankful that the nature of franchising really lends itself to such a powerful spirit of togetherness. We firmly believe our ability to emerge from this period is almost entirely contingent on the strength of our relationships with stakeholders and spirit of unity among the Quest team. Now more than ever, it’s essential we look at ourselves, not as individual operators under a brand, but as a cohesive unit which thrives as a collective.
What have been the key foundations about the Quest franchising model that has helped it weather the storms of COVID-19?
The business format franchise model which Quest Apartment Hotels is founded on provides operators with the complete resources to run profitable and efficient businesses, while delivering a consistent, high quality experience for guests at over 170 locations globally. This encompasses everything from operations, legal guidance, sales and marketing, to human resources and franchising specialist support.
Our model promotes autonomy among franchisees, allowing them to explore opportunities unique to their locations and specific business interests. For example, throughout the pandemic, many of our properties in suburban locations had significant success accommodating healthcare workers. Similarly, our properties in Western Australian found opportunity in the mining and resources sector. While our national sales team works hard year-round to secure contracts and ongoing opportunities for the network, business development managers and local sales staff play an important role sourcing opportunities at a local level.
You’ve just completed another year of openings, which is particularly impressive considering market conditions. How has the focus on suburban and regional area help to set up Quest for the post-pandemic resumption of corporate travel?
Our strategy is clear – to be where the corporate traveller needs to be, and this is suburban and regional Australia, where often there is a clear gap in the market. Take Quest Wangaratta for instance, which opened on November 9. The property fills a genuine need in the area and has therefore been applauded by the Mayor and other prominent members of the community.
While there continues to be a lot of discussion around the future of business travel, when it will return to pre-pandemic levels and how it will look, what has become self-evident over the course of 2020 is the importance of having the ability to ‘stay your way’ in a COVID-safe environment, human connection and face to face interaction.
Quest Preston is a joint venture held by some seriously experienced Quest franchisees. What are some key benefits of franchisees joining forces to amplify the success of a new property?
That’s right. Quest Preston is owned by Mark and Ky O’Shea alongside business partners Liz and Steve Galea. Collectively, the group has over 25+ years of experience in the Quest network, working in both corporate office and franchisee functions. The addition of Quest Preston to Mark & Ky’s portfolio marks the third Quest property for the couple in Melbourne’s north, meaning they now have a foothold in the area.
As a lucrative business opportunity, Quest franchises are a significant investment, so it’s not uncommon for joint ventures to occur. In fact, in the current landscape, we are seeing increased interest in the approach, as banks and individuals look for ways to de-risk their asset and set a robust framework for ongoing success.
Are there any major advantages that previous hotel industry experience provides to new franchisees, especially if people are already accustomed to Quest’s operating model?
While hospitality experience can be advantageous, Quest engages franchisees from a variety of backgrounds who have demonstrated the vitality and devotion needed to develop a business.
We use an open yet rigorous selection process which aims to provide gives parties the opportunity to understand whether the partnership is the right fit. It certainly takes an incredibly strong work ethic to operate a Quest Apartment Hotel.
A few years back, we introduced a formal program and process – The Franchisee Accelerator Program (FAP). The FAP was developed specifically to educate aspiring team members about what it takes to own a Quest franchise, matching participants with existing business owners to look at buying their own Quest property.
Quest continues to open 8-10 new properties each year on average. This growth creates opportunities for our franchisees to expand their portfolio, and new franchisees to join the network. Our franchise recruitment team is happy to speak to anyone who dreams of one day owning and operating their own hotel.
What details can you provide about the next 12 months for Quest, and what appetite is out there among the franchise community for forthcoming developments?
Quest Apartment Hotels will have opened six new properties by Christmas 2020. In New Zealand, there are an additional five properties under construction, all slated to open in 2021, while in Australia, nine agreements for lease are currently signed, with construction due to commence on all in the next 12 months. All this activity ultimately means there will be movement in the network, with both new and existing properties set to come onto the market.
We know it will be a long road back to complete recovery in the tourism sector, but we are confident that our growth strategy and apartment-style product is fit for the emerging landscape and modern traveller.
Backed by parent company and global powerhouse The Ascott Limited, it’s certainly an exciting time for the Quest brand, franchisees and those looking to join us.