Motel 6 is a major chain of
budget motels with 1000+ locations in the
States and Canada, and is the
largest owned and operated hotel chain in North America.
The first Motel 6 in Santa Barbara,
still in operation to this day
is owned and operated by Accor
was founded in 1962 in Santa Barbara,
California, by two local building contractors, William Becker
and Paul Greene.
The partners developed a plan to build
motels with rooms at bargain rates. They decided on a USD
$6 room rate per night that would
cover building costs, land leases, mortgages, managers' salaries
and maid service, hence the company name.
Before starting Motel 6, Becker and Greene specialized in building
low-cost housing developments, and they wanted to provide an
alternative to other major hotel chains such as Holiday Inn
, whose locations were becoming
increasingly upscale in quality and price in the 1960s, after
starting out with a budget-oriented concept. Becker and Greene
spent two years formulating their business model, and searched for
ways to cut costs as much as possible: during the chain's early
years, Motel 6 emphasized itself as a "no-frills" lodging chain
with rooms featuring coin-operated black-and-white TVs
instead of the free color TVs found in the more
expensive motels, along with functional interior decor (to reduce
the time it took to clean the rooms). The first location in Santa
Barbara had no restaurant on-site, a notable difference from other
hotels of the era; most locations to this day have no on-site
dining, though there is a considerable choice of restaurants nearby
As the 1960s progressed, the Motel 6 idea became very popular in
the lodging industry and other chains began to imitate the concept,
as Motel 6 was slowly beginning to take a small share of the market
away from the traditional hotels. Becker and Green set out on an
ambitious expansion program and had 26 locations in operation by
1966. The occupancy rate by then was about 85 percent, well above
the industry average, and as a result of the overwhelming success,
Motel 6 became an attractive acquisition target. Becker and Greene
sold the chain to an investment group in 1968.
In the 1970s, the coin-operated black-and-white TVs were replaced
by free color TVs that received local over the air channels, plus
and later ESPN
at no extra cost. By the 1980s these rooms
cost 25 dollars a night nationwide. Rooms also have telephones
(with free local and toll free calls,
and long distance calls charged to a major credit card
, and cabinet
, and free wake-up calls. The
chain does not provide extras that might increase costs, like
, continental breakfasts, or
. But free coffee
is served in the morning in the lobby. In most
locations, an outdoor pool and a guest laundry are also offered.
Many Motel 6 locations now have minifridges available for an
additional daily low rate.
Motel 6 was sold to Kohlberg
in 1985, and in 1988 began its now-legendary
"We'll leave the light on for you" advertising campaign (see
A typical roadside Motel 6
Although room rates have risen with inflation, Motel 6 corporate
policy states that it will always have the lowest price of any
national chain. Depending on the particular location and season,
rooms now cost from $29 to $100 a night, on average. Prices are
typically advertised on a brightly-lit sign visible from nearby
; most of its locations are located
on or near major interstate highways.
Market share declined throughout the 1980s, in part because of
increased competition from other budget hotels. The company was
bought by the French-based Accor
in 1990. In
1991, Motel 6 purchased the Regal 8 Motel chain.
Unlike the majority of motel chains, Motel 6 allows pets, and
directly owns and operates most of its locations. However, in order
to expand more rapidly outside of its traditional Western United States
base, the chain
did start franchising
in 1994. Accor
management also took over motels that had previously been
franchised by other chains. They also began to renovate all Motel 6
rooms, sold off underperforming locations, and upgraded door locks
and other security measures systemwide. Newer properties, as well
as acquisitions, have interior corridors (some consider this as
providing more safety for the guest). Its competitors include
Budget Host, Econo Lodge
, and Super 8 Motels
Motel 6 founder William Becker died on April
, of a heart attack
. He was 85 years
Motel 6 may be best known for a series of humorous radio and
television ads featuring the folksy voice of writer and National Public Radio
, with the tagline "We'll leave
the light on for you". Produced by Dallas advertising agency
The Richards Group
, the campaign
has been running since 1988. The music in the background of the
commercials was written by Tom Faulkner
and is played on the fiddle by Milo
. The song won the 1996 Clio Award
. The campaign itself has won numerous
national and international awards, and was selected by
magazine as one of the Top 100 Advertising
Campaigns of the Twentieth Century.
A New Look
In 2007, Motel 6 undertook a systemwide renovation program that
will totally update the look and amenities of a Motel 6 room.
Features will include: modern furnishings influenced by European
and boutique hotels; flat-screen televisions; brighter paint
accents and soft goods packages; wood floors; increased storage
space; ergonomic workspace and Wi-Fi
($2.99 per day); and updated bathrooms with glass shower doors and
granite countertops. On January 30th, 2009, Motel 6 opened their
1,000th location (property #1113) in Biloxi, Mississippi, which was the first to feature this new
Since 1999, Motel 6 also operates Studio 6, a chain of extended stay hotel
that offer more
amenities and weekly rates. Studio 6
kitchen area in all its rooms, and welcomes children and pets.
Studio 6 hotels are located in 15 U.S. states and Canada. Its
competitors include Extended Stay
and Choice Hotels' Suburban Extended Stay Hotels.
In popular culture
- The band Yo La Tengo wrote and
perform a song called "From A Motel 6" that is set inside a Motel 6
room. The title may be a play on the Bob
Dylan song "From a Buick 6".
- In the
1992 Chevy Chase
film Memoirs of an
Invisible Man, the characters played by Chase and co-star
Darryl Hannah stay in a San Francisco area Motel 6 while awaiting a train.
- In the Simpsons episode
"Sideshow Bob Roberts", when
the family's house faces demolition for the construction of the
Lisa despairs that they will be forced to live in a Motel 6 which
Bart counters with the lament that Homer wouldn't be able to afford
$6 a night.
- In the Futurama episode Crimes of the Hot there is a reference to
Motel 6 when Fry exclaimed about the
Halley's comet - "Oh, my God! It's
out of ice, like some outer space Motel 6!" with responses from
Leela - "Completely out of ice?" and Bender - "This could mean the
end of the banana daiquiri as we
know it! Also, life."
- Justice Sandra Day O'Connor
made a mention of Motel 6 in her dissent regarding private property
rights in the U.S. Supreme Court's Kelo
v. City of New London decision. Justice O'Connor stated "The
specter of condemnation hangs over all property. Nothing is to
prevent the State from replacing any Motel 6 with a Ritz-Carlton,
any home with a shopping mall, or any farm with a factory."
- At Camp Nama, a secret detention,
interrogation, and torture facility run by an Army commando unit
known as Task Force 6-26, some
detainees were held in an area known as Motel 6, consisting of
crudely built plywood shacks reeking of urine and excrement.
- In Bulletproof Monk Kar used
Motel 6 as an insult to the gang leader's place.
- In the 1995 film Jumanji, Kirsten
Dunst's character, Judy, comments that she will stay at Motel 6
because her younger brother, Peter, saw a bat in the attic.
short story All That You Love Will Be
Carried Away by Stephen King
takes places exclusively at a Motel 6 near Lincoln, Nebraska.
- Motel 6 - Company History
- Ad Age Advertising Century: Top 100 Advertising