Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What a Red Lion hotel looks like

Because we frequently recommend Red Lion as a franchise option in the eastern United States, questions frequently come up when we lay it out what kind of upgrades and/or remodeling that they look for in a franchised property.

So, we've done some image searching and collected a few samples to share here.

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Anaheim, California


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Salem, Oregon

If you wonder how we can be so fond of Red Lion if they're not paying us a commission (particularly since we're no longer big believers in hotel franchising, anyway, and bother with it at all because our clients show up with lender requirements), it's because Red Lion can accommodate properties like you see here in its system -- they look a little dated, but they still look really nice and are kept up immaculately.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Hotel for sale: Econo Lodge, Jacksonville NC



Property offering



Property website:



Asking price$2,000,000Given
Number of rooms111Given
Annual gross$622,715.55Calculated
Occupancy29%Given
ADR$53Given
Room revenue multiplier3.21Calculated

Saturday, January 28, 2017

What would happen if I accidentally left behind a $50 bill in my hotel room?

Rules vary by hotel, but if I left a loose fifty bucks in a room when I stay in one, I wouldn't count on ever seeing it again.

The policy in hotels that I run is, if a housekeeper's 'tip' is over twenty bucks, she must tell us, and turn it in. We'll let her keep twenty bucks of it, and hang on to the rest in accordance with the usual lost and found procedure (thirty days). If the guest calls with a credible story (as in, he or she names close to the correct amount of money left behind) about how he left loose cash in the room, we send a check to the guest for the total amount we found, and we take the hit on the twenty bucks ourselves and let the housekeeper keep that part (we don't want to supply an incentive to dishonesty, or a disincentive to honesty). 

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If it's in a wallet, there's no question: any indicator that it wasn't left for the housekeeper intentionally by the guest means that it all belongs to the guest. We handle it in accordance with our usual lost-and-found procedure. (With wallets and other things of obvious value, we don't wait for a call: we contact the guest.)

Back in the day, tipping the housekeeper was as to-be-expected as tipping a waitress. Large chains and franchise organizations have gotten away from it (you can still order tip envelops from a hotel supply house, but chains and franchise organizations forbid the use of them.)  Hotel owners went right along. Tips present a management challenge (disputes arise over how to divide them if more than one housekeeper services the room over several days, and any room attendant with any 'seniority' at all demands the 'right' to pick and choose what rooms she'll clean, and we'll get to some others . . .) 

What are the most overrated qualities employers look for in a job candidate?

Credit rating.

Using a credit score to assess risk of embezzlement or theft, or as a measure of 'character', is about as ignorant and irresponsible as anyone's, or any company's, hiring process gets.

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Dishonest people who are likely to steal don't care about the debts reported on their credit, anyway: if anything, they'll have very few showing because they use little credit and deal primarily in cash. Those who do steal don't do it to pay lawful debts of long standing. A debt problem of sufficiently lengthy standing to show up on a credit report is rarely the incentive or motive for someone who actually steals. When debt is the motive for theft or embezzlement, it's more likely someone who's being pressed for payment at the moment - perhaps by a bookie, loan shark, or drug dealer -  not someone who needs to pay a valid debt that's been around long enough to show up on a credit report.

Are hotel reviews more relevant in the buying process than the categorization by hotel stars?

Think of it as the difference between the Emmys and the People's Choice Awards.

The 'stars' are ratings based upon the hotel's service and amenity level - you have to have a free continental breakfast to get this many stars, you have to have a restaurant and lounge to get that many stars, you have to have room service to get one more. Michelin, AAA, and anyone else who awards 'stars' each has their own criteria re how many 'stars' to award for which set of amenities: they're their stars to give, and they make the rules and give them out as they please (Hotel rating ). If I want to develop a new 'four-star hotel', I'm going to make sure I plan ahead for my new hotel to have everything on those lists of requirements for a four-star rating.

The reviews by guests on TripAdvisor are submitted by guests (hopefully real guests, not sales staff - Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What's the best site for getting hotel reviews? ), and based on their experience staying at the hotel.

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One surprising example of divergence that we noted in developing our new economy brand (Calico Inns - Beechmont Hotels Corporation ): Red Roof Inn is an existing 'economy' brand. The last one at which I stayed, in Bethlehem, Pa., was a 'two-star' hotel - but it had a TripAdvisor bubble score of 4.0 out of 5.0. (Okay, I helped - Every town needs a 'good, $65.00 motel' . . . - but it still had four bubbles before I posted my own review. If anything, I penalized them: I gave them fives in every relevant category, but took one away on the final score for going "100% non-smoking" and not having a smoking room for me on my last trip.) 

By how much do you think corporate taxes should be lowered?

I think corporate tax rates need to be raised, not lowered. And I say this even though I am the sole individual shareholder in my company (it's partly owned by a charitable foundation), which has a corporate form of ownership . . . 

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A pair of reasons . . .

After checking out of a good hotel, what services is it reasonable to expect to use for the remainder of that day? (I checked out of the Park Hyatt today at noon, left my bags and when I retuned to collect them I sat in a reception lounge reading for a bit and I charged my phone. I was told that as I was no longer a guest I shouldn't stay long! Where would be a good place to draw the line as a recent guest and what you can and can't do.)

I can't give you a good answer (at least not in terms of present-day applicability) to that question because frankly, most hotels do not have a policy on that, nor have they ever considered one.  

Someone on the hotel staff might okay it, as a personal accommodation in the spirit of hospitality (which most hotels encourage among their staff - and I will concede based on what you tell me that the staff at the Park Hyatt that you describe was being a bit harsh). But - as you yourself noticed -  that leaves you at the mercy (or whim) of the hotel staff; which can vary not only from hotel to hotel, but between individual managers and staff members within the same hotel.  

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A hotel needs to have a policy in place for it, and frankly, most don't. (Unapologetic spam piece: now that I've seen your question, we will.) 

Why is paid internet access in hotels so shoddy?

Free internet access in a hotel is often shoddy.  Internet access is nearly always outsourced, and in many hotels, outsourced as on the cheap as possible.

And it's often outsourced to someone whose ability and enthusiasm for marketing exceeds their ability and enthusiasm for delivering a decent product that works, providing adequate bandwidth to keep up with demand, etc. 




For example, Ethostream, Choice Hotels' provider for internet, is a disease. Bandwidth is kind of thin (you get what you pay for), and every time you log in, you get that 'terms of service' screen which, once you approve the TOS, only gives you 24 hours of use before it cuts you off unexpectedly, and you have to go approve the TOS again (often having to close your browser and reopen it in the process). The TOS screen redirects you to the hotel's webpage - and provides its own address bar (like anyone's going to use that rather than the one on their own browser): apparently, this provider has a captive audience and plans to milk it for all it's worth, to the extent that it can. There's also a countdown clock on that address bar telling you how much time you have left, but most people are not going to use that address bar or even leave that screen open. And at least three or four times a week in some hotels, the switchboard lights up like a Christmas tree, with unhappy guests complaining that there's no internet, and the clerk usually has to leave the desk on autopilot (often at an inopportune time) and go reset the router.

Is there back and forth when you put company profile on AngelList or Gust?

I've had an AngelList account for some time, but I've been going over Gust for the last month or so, and this month, I'm shifting everything (which, on AngelList, doesn't amount to much anyway) there. 

(September 11 update: Done already: Page on Gust . It's almost finished, but it's going to stay that way even after I put up some more material that I know, even as I write this, that I should include, because there's always a way to make it better...)

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It's not really due to any fault on the part of AngelList. First of all, it took me awhile to figure out what the heck to do with either site in a way that answers my needs. Second, Gust is a little more 'see Spot run' user friendly, and for me, that's important. I've spent many years writing very poorly written business plans, trying to put together groups, or get individuals warmed up to something, that go nowhere. (Small wonder. Even those on Quora who like me best would  probably tell you that their biggest criticism of me is that I can be good for a lot of TLDR material, but when I get into something, I tend to get off on a bit of a roll with it . . .) 

Yet, I'm still kind of new to venture capital as it's done in real life (as opposed to trying to sell some deal to some well-to-do guy or group, who is maybe or more likely not even into making passive investments, because you don't know who else to take it to). My company, so far, is set up to sign people who already own a hotel, or who come to me wanting to develop a specific location. I have two brands, two chains that I've come up with that I'd like to develop, and need to get the hang of getting people to look at those, in locations where they'll do well. 

Is it illegal to check into a hotel under a wrong name?

It's not illegal, but we're not going to let you do it. Every guest must show an ID at check-in. (That's not a law, it's our policy, and one we feel that it would be irresponsible to not have, and to not go by. Our house, our rules. You don't have to show the ID, but if you choose not to, we're not going to rent you a room. Your choice.)

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Famous people just have someone else check in for them. As long as that someone else is actually staying in the hotel, we let them (Michael Forrest Jones' answer to How do celebrities stay in hotels under assumed names? ).

About the only law I've seen on the subject shows up in Southern states, the Carolinas in particular. Don't sign in as "Mr. and Mrs." at a hotel or motel in North Carolina unless you are in fact married to the person accompanying you: it's a violation of a statute entitled 'Occupying a Hotel Room For An Immoral Purpose'. 

As a new independent angel investor, how will I find new companies to invest in?

I can set you up with some hotels. 

For example, get onto Loopnet, and look at some Microtels. A Microtel in good condition is a good quality, if modest, mid-market hotel product. But they have historically been marketed and promoted as 'economy' properties - even in areas where they could easily command a higher rate, where the only nearby hotels and motels that charge approximately the same for a room are older and of much inferior quality. Wyndham Hotel Group is now getting away from that, but the franchisees aren't catching up.

So, Microtels tend to be undervalued.

I want to start a resort, how should I get started?

Why would anyone want to come there?

I'm not being a smart a*s: with a resort, that is the first question you have to ask, and its going to come up again and again. (Fortunately, you seem to already have some idea.)



With any hotel project, you locate your hotel near as many demand generators (office parks, interstate highway offramps, theme parks and other tourist attractions, a big regional mall, an airport if you can swing it, etc.), so you still ask that question first.

With a resort, it's all the more important. You're relying upon your location and property itself to be the demand generator (with many resorts, the only demand generator you'll have). Much of the reason people check into your facility is for the unique experience of staying at your facility, itself. So you have to ask that question first, and you have to keep asking it over and again as you're putting it together.

So...

What's the best way to show my appreciation for a hotel desk clerk that routinely upgrades me to a suite, free of charge? (I stay at a specific hotel regularly and the desk has the option to upgrade my room. They do it almost every time at no charge. I don't think it's a corporate policy to upgrade regulars; the clerks pick and choose the upgrades based on personal discretion. What's a good way to "tip" them?)

Whatever you feel might be a fair amount of severance pay for the clerk, if it happens in my barn and I find out about it later. Or at least enough to compensate him or her for the written warning and the several days off he or she is going to get -- if the clerk is new and inexperienced, and I think he or she might be salvageable with a better understanding of how the business works and the occasional issues of ethics involved, and he or she still has a job there at all.
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Upgraded and upscale rooms are priced a little higher for a reason.
We give out upgrades (Shoot, we do that more often than we rent the rooms at the full, upgraded rate.) We give out discounts. (Sometimes, I wonder why we even bother having a regular rate: see Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What is and why do hotels have a rack rate? ). But when we do, that's always done for a reason: it has to benefit the hotel in some way. An upgrade or a discount is, when given, the hotel's gift to give, not the clerk's. The clerk is only - or at least only supposed to be - acting on behalf of and in the interests of the hotel.

Turnarounds (Business): How is a declining company turned around?

I've done them before - both hotels and motion picture theatres. 

The first question you must ask is, if this failing business didn't exist, would you build it from scratch and launch it today? If the answer is 'no', it's time to deal with reality.

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Whether it's a business in itself, or a unit or location of a larger business (e.g., a chain-owned hotel, or theatre - and if you can't run one right, you can't run a chain of them doing it the same way . . .), don't bother unless resources are ample. A turnaround is basically a 'do-over' of a business venture doomed to failure. It wasn't launched - even as successfully as it might have in any better times it might have had - on a shoestring, by someone trying to milk the last five bucks out of a $3.98 investment, and it won't be turned around by such a person or in such a manner. Very few can be turned around without significant commitment of present and future resources.

Which brings us to an accounting of that few that might - and this applies to all of them, whether significant recapitalization is necessary or not:  If it's a unit or location of a larger business (or even if it isn't), you need flexibility as well as resources. I don't want to hear it about 'company policy this', or 'company policy that', or 'this is how we do/have always done things': it's your company policies and the way things have always been done, that caused - or at the very least, permitted - your operation to get into trouble to begin with

Who owns a hotel's social media accounts?

If it were my franchised hotel, and there were nothing in the franchise agreement to the contrary, I'd rename the Facebook and Twitter pages to reflect my new brand (whether the new franchise or my own brand developed in-house), see that there would be no further references to the old brand henceforth (other than a brief and to the point announcement of the flag change), keep the accounts and pages (as well as the customer data); and the departing brand and/or management company could kiss my royal, half-breed, Moravian/shanty Irish . . . (whatever) if they have any objection. 

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Any deviation from that drill would have to be specifically provided for, chapter and verse, in the old franchise agreement - if the old franchise agreement even anticipated such a thing as social media. Ethics? I honor my agreements. I might go beyond the letter of an agreement in order to honor a relationship, but franchise changes and management company changes, like divorces, frequently do not happen under the happiest of circumstances.

As a newly appointed manager at a store with mainly college students as employees (I myself am 22), how do I assert my new authority without the transition being too harsh or uncomfortable for all involved?

Don't worry about your authority. Your only concern is getting the job done. Okay, you have this store to run, you have these (however many) people to help . . .

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Stay focused on objectives, not your 'position'. Everyone can buy into objectives. No one cares, or wants to care, about anyone's position. You can walk on water without getting your feet wet and still have people not wanting to buy into your 'position' . . .

Originally appeared on Quora

What are the smartest questions ever asked by job applicants to potential employers during job interviews?

"How much can you tell me about what the person who had this job before, who I would be replacing, was like?

And I'd ask this question as early on in the process as I could get it in without sounding too aggressive or intrusive, even before the interview if I could find a way to do it. 

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One thing I noticed some time ago - and when I noticed it, I noticed that I do it myself when hiring a replacement for someone - is a tendency we all have, when replacing someone, to get someone that's different in at least one, and probably several, ways from the previous person holding that accountability. 

Why does it take so long to check in at hotels? (It seems like they should just need to swipe a credit card and maybe check your id, but the person behind the desk ends up hitting keys on the computer for 5-10 minutes sometimes. What are they doing?)

This is what the check-in screen on a typical hotel computer looks like. And on most of those, nearly all the fields are required . . .


And that's on a good system. At least it . . .

What happens to restaurant/bar tips paid on card and how/when does the money get divided out between staff?

In a hotel, there's a line item on the night audit form (and any cash reports from restaurants or bars within the hotel that get fed into it), that is either deducted from the hotel's daily deposit (which will include all cash and credit card receipts for that day), or included among a list of cash paid-outs that is itself totaled up and deducted from the hotel's daily deposit; labeled "Charge Tips". It will be equal to the sum of all server tips charged to a customer's credit card.

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This allows any tip amount due a server from a customer's check paid with a credit card to be paid, that day, from the cash drawer, without causing the daily deposits to come up short.

Originally appeared on Quora

After an interview, do potential employers send out rejections first or give out offers first?

We don't reject anyone.
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If (for example) Son of Sam (David Berkowitz ) showed up looking for a job, we'd politely take his application and file it; and it would then sit in that file for sixty days, then probably get tossed (in accordance with our policy, spelled out clearly on the form that Son of Sam filled out and signed off on, that that's how long we keep applications on file). In the meanwhile, of course, chances are that Son of Sam's application wouldn't be acted upon beyond the point of his having submitted it and our having filed it, since -- if we're accepting applications at all and a staffing need comes up -- we've usually gotten at least one application from someone who isn't Son of Sam.
(Of course, in the interest of 'equal opportunity', we take care to do that with any job application that's been around for sixty days, even some that are viable, even a few from people that we'd like to have been able to hire; if we did not have a staffing need in the meanwhile for which one of the applicants would have been a good match. Chances are, with hourly jobs, any application that's more than three weeks old was submitted by someone who has since moved on and found another job, if for no better reason than he or she had to, and couldn't sit around and wait for us to get our mess together and make a decision.)
But we're not looking to reject or to 'discriminate' against Son of Sam - or anyone else. We're looking for the person who is the best match for the job. We're not going to reject people, one by one, until we find that person. We're going to go through the pile, choose several on the basis of what we feel are the likelihood that they will be that person, and continue with the screening and selection process.

Entrepreneurs: Can I make it without business school?

Probably, but if you're at that age and you have the option, go. 

I wish I'd had the option. In my current line of work, my biggest weakness is my lack of ability to raise capital (Michael Forrest Jones' answer to Is there back and forth when you put company profile on AngelList or Gust? ). 

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But it's not just about me building hotels . . . I could have produced movies, built shopping centers, built sports arenas . . . but whatever great thing you want to achieve (even finding a cure for AIDS, or implementing a plan for making E-85 fuel mainstream in America and using sugar cane-based alcohol and decreasing our dependence on oil); if you don't have the money in your pocket, you have to get it financed. And you have to know how.  

Even if you didn't know how to carry out the AIDS research, or mix up the fuel, you can always find someone who does and bankroll the project. Business and finance can get you into everything else.

If I were putting a kid through school who wasn't sure what to do with his life (and who had no particular STEM talent), I'd encourage business school over liberal arts any day of the week.

Originally appeared on Quora

Do employers take the University of Phoenix seriously when considering an applicant's resume?

I do and I don't.
I think the University of Phoenix is one step above a scam, its courses are overpriced (I'm assuming here that they're roughly equivalent to accredited college courses available at your local comm-tech, and not 'courses' of questionable value), its accreditation certainly didn't come from the same regional accreditation agency that accredited Harvard and MIT, and I automatically question the value of any product that is far and away too reliant on aggressive sales and marketing done the way the University of Phoenix does it. (Like many sellers of big-ticket items which some might wonder if they're worth what you're being asked to spend; if they get your e-mail address, plan on some daily spam in your inbox; if they get your phone number, plan on getting repeated calls until you scream at them to not call you again, or -- more likely -- block them...)
On the other hand, I think even reputable, accredited, conventional colleges and universities have for the last 50 or so years become such a money racket that, if the Mob isn't mixed up in it, it's only because they missed what could have been the biggest opportunity for themselves since Prohibition and the illegallization of drugs. Higher education is something people have to have, and conventional, accredited colleges and universities abuse the privilege. Tuition is high (there's no way you're going to convince me that it bears any relation to the institution's actual costs, and that there isn't a lot of waste built in), the fees never end, the price of the textbooks is exorbitant - and this was all true when I was in college thirty years ago.
Now it's much worse, and the prevailing student debt burden is now a national scandal. Why shouldn't it be? The institutions know you have to have higher education, so they can name their price, have you fill out a financial aid form, clean out your pockets, clean out your parents' bank accounts, pocket the proceeds from a second mortgage on Mom and Dad's house, load you down with more student debt than would pay for a new home of your own regardless of your eventual income after you graduate - and bill the government for the rest. I wish I could rent hotel rooms to people at such prices and on such terms.

Is backstabbing a fundamental part of capitalism? (It seems that "The 48 Laws of Power" are a very effective set of tools that most mediocre minded people follow to dishonorable success, is this true? Are only a small percentage of entrepreneurs fair?)

I haven't read the book and can't comment on it. And I really can't say what percentage of entrepreneurs can be described as 'fair', because I try to deal only with those who are fair to me, deal only if I have to with those who aren't (and watch them), and don't keep a count.
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But let me share a secret with you. Capitalism is about making money, by either creating and offering something of value that people are willing to pay for, or by connecting people and setting up trade in a more efficient way that the participants are willing to pay for. It's not about power. It's not about manipulation, domination, and control. It's not about getting into bitch fights with other companies (particularly competitors) or your co-workers at the office, and 'ruining' them or 'destroying' them, as depicted on the Dallas TV series from the '80's (the J. R. Ewing character was quite the poster child for that) and several other sitcoms that have come and gone on prime time since. (Yes, I said 'sitcoms'. Well, I got a good laugh out of some of the stuff that happens in them.). It's not about politics, and it's certainly not about crappy politics, brownnosing and backstabbing. You see stuff like that frequently. But it's not what capitalism, or 'advancing in your career' if you're an 'intermural' player, is all about.

Can a hotel send guest information to the police without the guest's consent?

Laws can vary from state to state, but unless some state has a very odd privacy law, we're pretty free to share guest information with the police - all the more so if we tell the guest up front.
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Beechmont's privacy policy, in pertinent part: "We freely share any guest registration information with local, civilian law enforcement authorities upon their request for any bona-fide law enforcement purpose: generally, any public peace officer need only show us a badge and give us a name. (If they give us yours, and you are the sort of individual for whom that could be a problem, perhaps you should seek accommodations elsewhere. We do not welcome the criminal, drug or vice elements, whether local or traveling.) We share no other guest information with anyone outside the Beechmont organization without either a court order or by direction of a corporate officer (vice president or above). We keep our guest registration information on file for a minimum of one year."

Originally appeared on Quora

How many room attendants needed to clean 150 guest rooms in a hotel?

In a 150-room hotel (which is larger than the 60 to 80 rooms we recommend building in most places, and the only reason we'd plan on that many is if there were going to be meeting and banquet facilities attached) that stays pretty full, I'd plan on eleven to maybe thirteen or fourteen housekeepers.

In hotel housekeeping, there's this weird thing about the number fourteen: that's how many rooms that most housekeepers like to make per day. I've seen some who'll do 20 or more rooms, and still do a good job. 

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(Generally, it should take 30 minutes for a standard hotel room with the usual furnishings, if the guest checks out; and 15 minutes for a guest staying over. [Stephanie De La Rosa's answer to What is the average amount of time housekeeping spends per room to prepare a hotel room for a new guest? ] I allow 35 minutes for a checkout, 20 minutes for a stayover, and have the night auditor pull the housekeepers' time records and do the math on it every night. My housekeeping supervisor knows - and passes it along to all the girls - that if it takes more than that, I'm going to want to know why. I'm okay with it if they actually spent the time doing useful work that needed doing, or even if one or two of them had a bad day and things took longer than usual; but I, too, have to be able to justify my payroll costs.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

When hiring for your startup, how much does not having a college degree play into your decision?

Zip. For someone who can deliver the goods, the degree (or lack of one) is irrelevant. For someone who can't, it amounts to nothing more than a degree in "you owe me a chance because I went to college".  (Michael Forrest Jones' answer to Do employers take the University of Phoenix seriously when considering an applicant's resume? | Michael Forrest Jones' answer to What is it like to be a high school dropout?   )

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Oh, you've "proven yourself"?  Maybe you have -- to someone else. My hiring decisions are about my needs, not your pedigree or credentials.

Originally appeared on Quora

Does Bill Gates have a resume?

Probably not. (I'd be amazed if he did.)

And, would you refuse to hire him because of that?  Or if he did give you one, would anything on it make a difference in your decision to hire him? Should it?

Who would you need, or expect, to call for references?

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That's a shining example of how I consider the entire field of human resources generally dysfunctional . . . and why I don't put full pedigree information on my LinkedIn profile or spend too much time with it . . .

The information that shows up on a resume/CV (and the follow-up calls you'd make in connection with one if you had one) is a very small part of what a person -- especially a person of Bill Gates' known abilities, attributes and achievements, or a person who is similarly extraordinary in other fields -- is all about, and tells you very little about his or her capabilities. And that body of information would tell you way too much about his or her weaknesses, past mistakes, and failings, and put far and away too much emphasis on those. (Should it be held against Bill Gates that he dropped out of Harvard? After all, dropping out is bad. Especially after Daddy paid a whole lot of money to send you to Harvard! . . .)

What is my best bet to find nice hotel rooms, as opposed to "simply average" hotel rooms?

Check TripAdvisor. People on TripAdvisor are generally pretty candid about what they think of a hotel and its rooms. And while in the past, it has been criticized for giving inadequate protections to hotels from malicious reviews (by employees of competitors, or people who never stayed at a certain hotel), TripAdvisor now has enough of a critical mass of users, and generally enough safeguards in place against fraud and blackmail, that nowadays, it can be counted upon for a pretty fair description.

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I hope you don't find this answer disappointing, that you weren't counting on, say, some inside information that only people in the industry have access to to make such determinations. 

But really - we use TripAdvisor, too (often to 'spy' on each other, see what our competitors have that we need to get, what they are doing that we need to be doing) . . . It also tells us, out of all the stuff we try, what guests actually respond to.

What is the one feature, outside basic necessities like running water, that every hotel room should have?

A bed, some clean bedding, four walls, a floor, a roof, a clean bath, and a locking door. 

And then, the question becomes, do you want to be able to rent the darn thing to human beings that you wouldn't mind having as guests? Because that's what it comes down to: each person measures their own 'need'. Define essential. Whatever item you name, you might feel very uncomfortable without it, even though not that many people feel the need for it. Or you could do without it just fine, but the guy next door will suffer through his stay for lack of it. (Do you actually watch all the channels you have on your cable TV? Yet, even if one of the 'amazing TV offers' channels were eliminated, someone would complain to the cable company.)

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We once tried to come up with a hotel with bare-bones amenities, where we could rent the rooms cheap cheap. (Twitter was a new thing, then, and people seemed to like the little blue bird, so inspired by that, and the 'cheap cheap' description, we even came up with a brand for it: 'Bluebird Hotel'.) 

I mean, we were downright shameless and aggressive about it, looking for every way in the book plus a few no book would dare print, to cut costs and make it possible to rent the rooms for forty bucks a night or under.

What is a good way to start a hotel chain?

It's tricky. I'm still working on it.
Any answer I give to this one is a work in progress: for now it is going to appear discreditable on grounds that I've been trying to do just that for the last five years or so and haven't quite scored any hits (insofar as finding a taker - or more specifically, a taker that I'd really want to sell such a venture to - on grounds that you have to start with just one or two 'independent, non-franchised' hotels; but 'independent' hotels are perceived as more risky than franchised hotels). I wish I could give you a better answer on how to do it, but if you're willing to accept an answer that better illustrates how do we intend to go about it, here goes.
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First of all, ask yourself, why would anyone pick your brand, why would anyone prefer a hotel from your 'chain', and why would they remain so committed to it that they'll call you every time? And if you don't have not just one but several answers, maybe you shouldn't do it. There are many hotel chains and brands, but very few successful ones out there. If you don't have good answers to that question, your 'chain' will not grow very large or, without doing a lot of franchising, last very long. (But as I'll share with you as we continue, successful hotel franchising isn't a hotel management success or hotel brand success nowadays, it's a franchising success.)

What book should I read to learn about hotel management?

Hopefully, more than one book. 

No single person, not even I, knows enough about it to tell you everything you'd want to know. It's like asking what book you'd read to become a good automobile mechanic. Or what book would you read to beat the stock market (I picked up one a few months back about just how impossible it is to do that, or for anyone in government to regulate it without doing more harm than good, for that matter, because while everyone has little bits and pieces of information and understanding of it, no one knows enough about the whole of it to do it successfully: The Myth of the Rational Market: A History of Risk, Reward, and Delusion on Wall Street: Justin Fox: 9780060599034: Amazon.com: Books   ).

And if hotel management is something you want to get in to, you'll want to be the kind of guy who'll add something, make a contribution, of your own if you're going to build something that'll stand out from the general lot of them - otherwise, at best, you can hope to be just another guy running just another Hampton Inn. You'll also want to be the kind of person who'll walk around, see things, watch things, read through printouts of numbers that most other people would consider quite dry and boring, ask questions (and over time learn to ask the right questions), and make best possible use of the answers. Believe it or not, watching Hotel Impossible on The Travel Channel (http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-... ), and learning to make like Anthony Melchiorri, can help here. I'm a fan of the show, and I'm not ashamed even to admit that I learn things from it.

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That said . . . let's start with the basics.  Get the latest copy (or the next-to-the-latest: it's a college text and priced accordingly, and I don't like the margins that college bookstores, and publishers and other retailers of college texts, make on required texts . . .) of  Check-In Check-Out: Managing Hotel Operations (8th Edition): Gary K. Vallen, Jerome J. Vallen: 9780132059671: Amazon.com: Books (there's a 9th edition that was released in 2012, vs. 2008, but it's $110, and the only thing of serious importance that's happened since is a mortgage crisis and real estate crash that affected hotels as badly as residential mortgages; but is irrelevant to operations and management, the topics in which you show an interest and in which no major advances have occurred.)