Hotelier Profile: Sunil “Sunny” Khatri, Owner, Comfort Inn Fairfield

I have been in the hotel industry for over 20 years. I got into the industry because of my grandfather and dad. My family has owned and managed hotels and motels in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1973. Upon my graduation of San Jose State University with a BS in Management, I worked for a company as an office manager. I realized this wasn’t for me and decided I needed to get into the hotel industry. I was given an opportunity by my parents to manage an economy brand franchisee hotel—my first experience as an onsite operator, where I gained a lot of knowledge of the hospitality industry.

After that, we were able to purchase our own economy brand franchised hotel in Arizona. After some time, an opportunity surfaced in California, where I had the chance to work with my father-in-law and brother-in-law. It was my dream to have a midscale, branded hotel. This was the first and, now, we have grown to a couple of properties.

What franchises do you own/have you owned?
Comfort Inn, Quality Inn, and Best Western.

What do you think is the main thing that makes a franchised property successful?
Brand Recognition. We go to Starbucks because we like that brand of coffee. When a hotel franchise is nationally and internationally known, it makes a difference. Additionally, it’s important to make sure you are providing a great product for your customers and to make sure guests are satisfied.

What is something that is a necessary part of owning franchised properties that people often don’t consider?
Being part of a brand and making sure that the brand’s philosophy coincides with the plans and goals that you have set for your property’s success. Being part of a franchise is like being part of a family where everyone is doing their part to move the family forward. I enjoy being part of the Choice Hotels family as they are a great fit for our two properties.

What challenge have you had to overcome to get to your current position?
I moved from the Bay Area to Arizona after living in the San Francisco Bay Area all my life. Going to a different state was a challenge. We take for granted where we have lived and have built a life, but sometimes you have to view life from a different perspective. It was a great experience and gave me an opportunity to learn and improve in the hotel industry. I became a better operator and being hands on made a difference.

What do you like most about being a franchise owner?
What I like most about being a franchise owner is working with the Area Directors of both franchises my three hotels belong to. Their input and advice is key to making our hotels successful. We also have the educational resources (ChoiceU.com) provided by Choice Hotels, from which hotel operators gain knowledge about operating our hotels and stay up-to-date on brand initiatives and current hotel industry trends.

What advice do you have for aspiring franchise owners?
I would advise that you research the brand and stay current with trends going on within the hotel industry. Make sure you learn all aspects of your brand. Every day is a new learning experience in the hotel industry, which is evolving and changing daily. Keep up-to-date on these changes and embrace the future. 