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Hotelier Caters to Corporate Clients : Compris Spent Years Studying What Business Guests Want

June 03, 1986|JEFF ROWE | Jeff Rowe is a free-lance writer

When Compris Hotel Corp. opened the doors on its 171-room hotel in Santa Ana in mid-May, the Phoenix company encountered a problem that every hotel operator dreams about: It didn't have enough completed rooms to accommodate all the customers who appeared and it had to turn some away.

Last week, the company finished hammering nails and turning wrenches and proclaimed the grand opening of the $12.2-million hotel, the fourth in the young and growing chain that could change what American business expects when it travels.

From the desk and couch in each room to the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches offered as snacks in the evening, every detail at Compri is the result of four years of meticulous market research, a $1-million study that involved construction of a small prototype test facility that was later knocked down.

The differences at Compri hotels begin with the name, which is a variation on the French word compris, meaning "complete." To further reinforce the theme of complete service and all-inclusive price, the company logo has "Compri" in parentheses.

Peter Bidstrup, founder and chairman of the company, acknowledges that the logo sometimes puzzles people, which predictably also is part of the Compri master plan. Inquiries give the company a chance to explain its service, he said. "We've had people come off the street and ask about the name."

The company's flat rates include a full breakfast, after-work drinks and the evening snack of peanut butter sandwiches and fruit.

In its market studies, Compri found that business travelers typically do not use their hotel for either lunch or supper but do like to get a complete breakfast before leaving for work for the day. And so Compri hotels do not have formal restaurants and the large staff they require, but they do offer a breakfast buffet. Each room has two telephones, one at bedside and another at the desk, and all local calls are included in the room rate.

No Compri hotel exceeds six stories, another preference gleaned from the company's research, and the single entrance satisfies a security requirement for many women travelers.

Lobbies at Compri hotels are small and functional, and adjoin the Club, a multilevel room divided by planters into smaller conference and relaxation areas. Like everything else at Compri, this area is tailored for maximum use. It's a breakfast room in the early morning, a conference area during the day and a lounge in the evening.

Each hotel also has an exercise room with several pieces of equipment, and, in keeping with the company's devotion to practicality, the pool is long and narrow for swimming laps.

"All that is included is what the commercial traveler has told us he wants and nothing more," explained Bidstrup, who founded the company in 1984. And so, large meeting rooms, restaurants, conventions and luggage service are not part of the Compri formula.

Neither is tipping.

Larry Kantor, a hotel consultant with Pannell Kerr Foster, a Newport Beach accounting firm, calls the Compri formula "very impressive."

Compri "offers the business traveler the best of everything," said Kantor, praising the company's attention to such details as well-lighted closets and hangers that can be removed from the bar.

Compri hotels typically have space for groups as large as 40 to meet but no banquet rooms or restaurants, which often are costly facilities to maintain, Bidstrup explained.

By eliminating these labor-intensive services, Compri is able to maintain a room-to-employee ratio of four to one. A traditional hotel with restaurants, large banquet and meeting rooms, and room service might have a ratio of one to one, Bidstrup explained, and thus has significantly higher costs to pass on to the customer.

Such economies enable Compri to price its rooms at $60 in Santa Ana, for example, considerably less than rates at other area first-class hotels.

Because of the relatively low rates, Kantor predicts that Compri "will be met with a great deal of market acceptance."

In addition to Santa Ana, the company has hotels in Pleasanton, Calif., Boise, Idaho, and Lakewood, Colo., which at nine months of age is the oldest hotel in the chain. A hotel near the Ontario Airport will open June 26.

Four more Compri hotels are under construction and 22 others are planned by 1987, including hotels in Yorba Linda, San Pedro, El Segundo, Palm Springs and Rancho Bernardo. "The intent is to go national first and then international," said Bidstrup, who envisions 100 Compris around the nation by 1990.

Compri does not follow a set exterior architectural plan for its properties, preferring instead to blend its buildings into the local environment. Compri at Hutton Center, for example, follows the glass-and-concrete motif used by the surrounding office buildings, while the company's property in Washington will be a more stately "Federalist" design.

The Santa Ana hotel is jointly owned by the company and Transamerica Realty Services Inc. of San Francisco.

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