New mid-price Marriotts aim for consistency as key to winning traveling public

By , Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

''Consumers have been dissatisfied at the lack of consistency in the hotel business,'' says Craig Lambert of the Marriott Corporation. ''This will be the first consistent moderate-priced chain.''

Thus he explains the reasoning behind Courtyard by Marriott, his company's entry into the midscale lodging market and an example of the controversial ''tiering'' concept.

Courtyard's target audience will be individual travelers, mainly those on business; the competition will be the mainstays of the mid-price chains: Holiday Inns, Ramada Inns, and Sheratons.

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The chain, with rooms at $35 to $55 a night, in mostly suburban locations, will hold the line on costs much the way budget inns do: by holding the line on overhead. There will be no doormen, bell service, or room service. Courtyards will have a full-service restaurant, but it will be small (about 50 seats) and have a somewhat limited menu - ''Six entrees instead of 12, for example,'' Mr. Lambert says. Conference facilities will be limited to a couple of small meeting rooms.

Five Courtyards are open so far, three in metropolitan Atlanta, one in Augusta, Ga., and one in Columbus, Ohio.

''The plan is for Marriott to operate all the Courtyard properties,'' without franchising them or contracting out their management, Lambert adds.

''At the Courtyard we feel we've met the needs the consumer has expressed; we're getting good consumer feedback that we're doing the things we've said we were going to do.''

One industry observer says, ''Chains moving up are going to have a harder time than chains moving down.'' His implication is that Marriott will do better taking its upscale name into the humbler mid-price market than the mid-price chains will in their attempts to market top-of-the-line hotels.

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