Taking it to the next level: Evolution of a company

SAN CLEMENTE, CA—Hop on Evolution Hospitality’s website, and the first thing that comes to mind may not be a management company. It’s unusual for a brand in this space to feature lifestyle photographs, favorite guiding principles and nicknames of its executives, but Evolution Hospitality’s management strategy isn’t traditional—nor is its approach to promoting company culture or inspiring its employees on another level.

Relatively new by name, Evolution Hospitality—launched in January 2011—is no stranger to the management space. “We used to say Evolution is a new name but not a new platform,” said Matt Raine, EVP of investments and business development. Members of its current team had been part of Tarsadia Hotels’ management division before the Orange County, CA-based hotel management, development and investment company restructured itself—splitting into three companies: Evolution Hospitality, T2 Development and Tarsadia Investments.

“Even to this day, we still harken back a lot to that Tarsadia heritage,” Raine said. “We think much more like an owner because we were not built as a management platform; we were built as a vehicle for a really smart hotel investor to drive real estate value.”

Attempting to tie together the new with the old, the former executive team of Tarsadia’s management division settled on the name Evolution Hospitality—the straightforward concept of being the next evolution. “We felt like Evolution was a fresh name that represented our company well,” Murphy told Hotel Business.

What makes Evolution Hospitality differ from its competition: its infrastructure. Both Murphy (aka “Murph”) and Raine (aka “Crime”) noted the significance of the management company’s platform—much of which had been established during the days of Tarsadia. “First and foremost, I would point to our in-house ad agency,” Murphy said. “Tarsadia had a small in-house marketing group that was part of the management team that we brought over. We have enhanced that significantly and renamed that group Second Wave Marketing.”

With nearly 20 employees, Second Wave supports the management company’s hotels from beginning to end—including building and coding websites; coordinating photo shoots; producing collateral, both online and print; and developing media plans.

John Murphy
Evolution Hospitality

“We use that infrastructure to not only support our branded hotels in the portfolio that may need an extra push and to give us a little extra advantage, but we use it often in our independent hotels in an effort to drive sales and outperform competitors within the set, whether those be independent or branded,” said Murphy.

Evolution Hospitality also has proprietary web-based tools developed around revenue management. These tools enable operators to assess information through a data aggregator called the Cube, “in an effort to accurately and efficiently make rate and stay change decisions based on demand conditions in the market,” he said, noting the management company’s continued efforts in developing tools for its operators.

Being a wholly owned subsidiary of Aimbridge Hospitality, Evolution Hospitality focuses on management and investment opportunities in the western states of the United States. It managed a total 40 properties in 2016, nearly a 39% jump from 2015. Total number of rooms managed increased from 6,045 in 2015 to 8,810 in 2016.

Since the April 2015 acquisition, Evolution Hospitality has been using many of its tools in tandem with Aimbridge Hospitality’s management platform. “We are encouraged and supported to continue the work we’ve always done in the way we’ve always done it,” Murphy explained. “What we really have is the same Evolution vehicle that thinks about the business in a way that has helped facilitate our growth, but we’re connected to a platform that’s supporting roughly 500 hotels now.”

Despite the acquisition, Evolution Hospitality will continue to manage all hotel opportunities in California. One of the management company’s strong suits is managing hotels in the lifestyle segment, which the company defines broadly. Types of hotels included are pure independent hotels, soft-branded hotels, boutique hotels, etc. It’s in this space where Evolution Hospitality is projecting nationwide growth (specific cities being looked into at the moment include Chicago; South Beach, FL; and Dallas).

Even though the management company’s focus nationally will be on lifestyle properties, it isn’t planning on ditching efforts with brands, including Marriott International, Hilton, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, Hard Rock Hotels, Carlson Rezidor Hotel Group and IHG—specifically in The Golden State.

“I don’t think there’s really any design to move away from brands or to lifestyle, independent and boutique,” he noted, explaining the company’s strategy. “I think we’ll continue to service hotels in California and do that very well, and I think we’ll take our tool set on the road as it relates to independent hotels and do that well also.”

As far as 2017 is concerned, growth numbers solely aren’t driving Evolution Hospitality. Collaborating with owners on asset performance and delivering results is also key. The management company recently added the 209-room Hotel Angeleno to its portfolio. The acquisition marked the first partnership between Evolution Hospitality and the property.

“We try not to take ourselves too seriously,” Murphy said. “Obviously, we take our work very seriously. We understand the responsibilities to deliver the results that the owners expect us to with the hotels, but we think there’s a way to accomplish that with not taking ourselves too seriously. We’ve created an environment that really puts our people first. We think if we take great care of our folks, they’ll be inspired to reach their full potential, and if they reach their full potential, they’re going to deliver excellent results.” HB

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