Motel One hotel chain How the brave millers want to conquer the world
The Motel One hotel chain has 200 million due to Corona Lost euros – and now wants to open 27 new houses. Founder Dieter Müller handed over to his son Daniel. He now wants to conquer destinations like Unusual York and London.
The Motel One on Tegernseer Landstrasse in Munich. For the first time since the Annual General Meeting in May, Dieter Müller is back in the building that also houses the headquarters of his hotel chain. At that time he gave up the chairmanship of the board of directors, now he is the chairman of the supervisory board. Müller, 67, blue suit, type of gentleman: white hair, soft voice, mischievous smile. “In the first few months I decided that I would no longer come to the Head Region of Business at all,” he says. So that the employees get used to it.
Enter Daniel Müller, the son, the successor. Check suit, light blue shirt, Ruhrpott slang. The 43-year-old would also pass as an entertainer on Mallorca. “For my employees, I’m ‘Daniel’”, he says.
So an unequal couple takes a seat in the lounge on gray designer armchairs. The elegant senior who lives at the Starnberg Undercover agent. The chummy junior who lives in Essen and commutes to Munich. And the father-son team is now declaring the double restart of the hotel chain.
Motel One was an exotic item in the market from the start. The Müllers deal with international hotel groups such as Accor or Marriott, which have their budget hotels Ibis and Moxy managed by franchisees. Motel One, on the other hand, is centrally managed, as a family business, by the Müllers. And that should pay off now, in the corona crisis. The Müllers want to react faster than the competition, build 27 new hotels and achieve their father’s goal: more than 100 hotels. And: Müller junior now wants to conquer cities like Unusual York and London and make the brand known worldwide.
How do you get the confidence that everything will go well? The Müllers lost 200 million euros and 800 employees in the corona crisis. Michael Lidl from management consultancy Treugast praises the crisis management: “The liquidity reserves that the Müllers have accumulated would have kept other entrepreneurs for burning money.” The expansion course? “A good idea.” The hotel accommodation market will grow again in the long term.
A resort invented in the underground car park
Müller senior orders a mineral water, but please not too cold. The Saarland native completed his training as a wholesale and foreign trade clerk at BMW. Then he moved to Novotel, later he built up the Astron hotel chain, sold it in 2002. He came up with the idea for Motel One in the late 1990s: optimize space, offer customers a low price, according to his theory. Müller senior then pushed partition walls together to form a hotel room in the underground car park of his Astron Hotel at the Munich trade fair. Sat down on chairs, went to bed. Let it work. He just never slept in the underground car park: “That was too cold for me.” In the end, it was 15.8 square meters. The area of all Motel One rooms today.
In 2000, Müller opened the first resort. In Offenbach. More houses were built, initially on the outskirts, and since 2006 concentrated in the inner cities. There is no restaurant, sauna, minibar or wardrobe. Motel One offers stable WiFi, a small desk and a lounge with designer furniture including a bar and supposedly 50 types of gin. With prices below 100 euros a night, Motel One attracts business people during the week. And city travelers on the weekend.
Müller alone did not scrape together the money for the capital-intensive hotel business. Investors include the holding company Proprium Capital Companions, which holds 35 percent of the shares. The remaining 65 percent is held by One Hotels & Resorts AG, in which Müller holds a third of the shares, and the family of SAP founder Dietmar Hopp holds another third; the remaining shares are distributed among smaller investors. Müller controls the voting rights.
Daniel Müller says his father did not urge him to inherit. He studied business administration globally and was “a little disoriented” after completing his studies. His father offered him an internship in a resort resort on Lake Chiemsee, which he also owns (like a second luxury hotel in Kitzbühel). Müller junior cleaned hotel rooms, stood behind the bar, at the reception, for a year: “This was the time that started the fire for me.” After working in the Accor Group, he came to Motel One in 2007. His sister Romy has nothing to do with the hotel industry. She is a geographer and lives in Switzerland.
Actually, says Dieter Müller, he wanted to stop earlier. But then the pandemic hit the world – he was needed. “At first nobody believed that used to be was happening. We were shut down overnight by government intervention. That was a huge shock. ”The hotels stayed open anyway. In April 2020, four percent of the beds were occupied. Commonplace was previously 85 percent.
At the beginning of 2021, Dieter Müller sharply criticized the corona aid. Now he says: “In retrospect, you have to say that Germany and Austria gave the best support.” The only point of criticism: the maximum limits on aid for large companies. “A clear distortion of competition compared to the small hotel companies, which more or less got the full damage reimbursed.” But at least: He has so far received about 60 million of the 200 million euros lost.
Meanwhile the number of bookings is increasing again. In September, the occupancy rate was 58 percent, and his company made a profit from 45, 50 percent, says Dieter Müller. The proportion of business travelers is 65 percent and that of vacationers 35 percent. However: As in 2020, the Müllers are also expecting a loss of around 100 million euros this year (see graphic above). The group will only reach the pre-corona level in autumn 2023.
IPO not excluded
Became that worries the Müllers: You currently have 2000 employees. You lost 800 in the crisis. And would have liked to keep it. The Discipline: In lockdown and short-time working hours, many would have thought about whether they were working in the right industry. As a result, there are now 300 vacancies. “My hope is that the industry learns that we have to pay sensibly and offer sensible working hours,” says Dieter Müller. Motel One pays 30 percent above the collective wage. Müller is a “fan of the minimum wage of twelve euros”. It costs the industry a lot of money, but it is the right way to go.
And of course: “The industry has to pass the costs on to the guest.” Motel One raised its prices in September – ten euros per night. There is already a wish for the next federal government: an optimized immigration law. “Our industry needs immigration,” says Dieter Müller.
Industry expert Michael Lidl on the restart of the hotel industry, the increasing mixing of private and professional levels – and the plans of Motel One.
The Müllers need employees for their growth. This year you opened four hotels in Germany, in Hamburg, Nuremberg, Stuttgart and Cologne. Now 27 more, half of them abroad. Brave, brave. Maybe, says Dieter Müller, but “I assume that we will continue to maintain usa on the market: We are brave and believe that we will take over one or the other resort in the coming months.”
London, where the Müllers already run a resort, is to be increasingly focused on. The latest coup: the takeover of a hotel in Unusual York. “A market that is very difficult to get into,” enthuses Daniel Müller. “They say in the USA: If you survive in Unusual York, you have a good chance of conquering the rest of the country.” While he sounds enthusiastic, his father seems slightly skeptical. “Yes, I was more likely to say that we had to do it,” says Daniel Müller. He could need a lot of money to grow. He does not rule out an IPO. That is “always a possibility for corporate financing”. But: “There are currently no plans in this direction.”
He has “learned an incredible amount” from his father. Became particularly impressed: “How he bites into things. How he takes the time to penetrate a topic and get other opinions in the process. ”Dieter Müller says:“ Let’s see how he does it: bite into exiguous print – and still not lose track of it. ”From the He gradually withdrew from day-to-day business. “The pandemic was painful in many ways. But it was easier for me to take the last step. Because I was no longer in the office, I no longer had daily contact with my employees. “
He now has a new job. The two resort hotels, which up to now have been “managed remotely”. One of them has a golf course that he likes to use. He also likes to be in his house on Mallorca and now enjoys more time for his friends. And then there is still his position as head of the supervisory board. He does not see himself as a controller, but as an advisor. His son nods. The father is “not at all” a control unit.
Became for a boss he, Daniel Müller, is? Down-to-earth, very approachable. ”And:“ Maybe sometimes too dynamic, too impatient. ”Shortly before the Müllers say goodbye, Daniel Müller speaks to two employees. He noticed a couple of boxes in the lounge that don’t belong there. He says something like: Hömma, guys, the boxes don’t look so good. He sounds like a buddy. The two employees get to work very quickly.
More on the subject: Industry expert Michael Lidl on the Restart of the industry, the increasing mixing of private and professional life – and the plans of Motel One.
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