By JACK WEATHERLYA whippet is a small racing dog related to the greyhound.
It seems a fitting image for MY Hospitality Investments LLC, whose top officers hail from Kosciusko, where the high school mascot is the whippet.
President and Chief Executive Chico Patel, 34, said that in the past seven years, MY Hospitality has built 35 hotels, with 22 more valued at more than $200 million under development.
Ali Bhatti, 32, who graduated two years after Patel from Kosciusko High, is chief financial officer and in-house counsel. Mike Patel, 32, Chico’s brother, handles the in-house design.
The lofty goal is to become a $1 billion company in a decade, Chico Patel said, adding that “we’re already halfway there.”
That is a long way from the first motel started by Patel’s father, Steve Patel, who opened a 38-room Days Inn in the Attala County town in 1984. The elder Patel later built two more motels before his sons took over the family business.
The MY Hospitality expansion comes amid a booming hotel market.
During 2014, U.S. 1,432 properties and 178,705 rooms were added, according to the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
And revenue per available room reached $78.67 in 2015, up from $74.28 the previous year, according to Statista. That indicator has grown steadily since a falloff to $53.57 in 2009 brought on by the recession, Statista reports.
Patel is casting one of his lots with a new Hilton brand called Tru.
He said MY Hospitality is among the first to be awarded the franchise in the South. It is the 13th brand under the Hilton flag.
Hilton Chief Executive Christopher Nassetta has been quoted as saying that he thinks “it will be our biggest brand over time.”
It has targeted the mid-level market and the rooms are expected to range from $90 to $100.
MY Hospitality projects opening a 127-room Tru by Hilton in the summer of 2017 in Ridgeland on the frontage road next to the former Fitness Lady location. An 85-room Tru will open about the same time in Meridian near Bonita Lakes Mall. Also, an 86-room Holiday Inn Express is to open at Columbus in January, Patel said.
The Mississippi-based company has been approved by Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott’s Embassy Suites and IHG, or the International Hotel Group. “A lot of people want to get into the hotel industry but they have to understand the business,” Patel said. “It’s very difficult to enter through the major franchises. They want proven operators and developers.”
“We have built a good track record over the last several years and we are looking to gradually work our way up the hotel chain,” Patel said.
Bhatti said the company chooses markets where demand is not dependent on one industry.
MY Hospitality will soon move from its offices in Pearl to a new, 4,000-square-foot headquarters on Jackson Street in Ridgeland, from which it will oversee the development of at least eight more lodgings in Mississippi in the next 12 to 15 months. Eight other properties are in the planning stage in a widespread area – Denver, Mobile, New Orleans, and Slidell, La. and Lafayette, La.
Also in the pipeline are properties in Alabama and Texas, Patel said.
Patel noted that the company is funded totally by private capital – no government incentives.
That model lends itself to its transformation into an investment firm, Bhatti said.
MY Hospitality has an in-house construction firm and an in-house design component, both of which operate at cost, Patel said.
Thus the properties produce a lot of cash flow, which has opened the door for landing major investors, he said. “We’re trying to get people high fixed returns.”
The West Coast will be the next leg of the race, with bigger properties in bigger cities on the way to becoming a national company, the chief executive said.
Michael “Doc” Terry, instructor at the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, said MY Hospitality’s timing is perfect.
The industry has been “going nuts the last three years,” Terry said in a telephone interview, adding that they were “the best three years in its history.”
Terry, who was general manager for Hilton Hotels and IHG previously, said, “Seven years ago we were stuck in the muck” of the recession.
But “money’s easy to find these days. The interest rate is low. Everything is in their favor today. We’re riding a high – probably at the peak.”
The diversification of MY Hospitality good, especially with brands such as Tru, Terry said.
MY Hospitality is in good company with its lean model. Kemmons Wilson, founder of the pioneering Holiday Inn chain in Memphis in 1952, held construction costs down thanks to a partner, Terry observed.
“It’s very, very smart. Then you quasi-syndicate by bringing in other players.”
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