For those who have ordered room service so many times they can name the soups du jour for every day of the week; for those trying to work with papers spread over their bed; for those who haven't had so much dirty laundry piled in a corner since college: There is another way to stay.

There are extended-stay hotels, like the one Paula Smith used when she transferred from Virginia to Atlanta this year for her job as a sales manager for a California-based golf course company."Certainly, the comfort level was high, and it was just very, very convenient," she said of the two weeks spent at a Homestead Village hotel. During a hectic relocation that included both job orientation and house-hunting, the extended-stay setting enabled her to eat meals and keep up her laundry on her own schedule and in her own way.

"It was very helpful to be able to do my own clothes. I'm very particular that way," she explained.

The extended-stay lodging business, geared to people away from home from several nights to several weeks, has become the fastest-growing segment in the hotel industry. Extended-stay rooms are expected to account for 12 percent of all hotel rooms nationwide by 2002, up from 3 percent now.

And estimates are that demand is still anywhere from four to 12 times ahead of supply.

"If you look at what people are doing today, more people get into disruptions of their lives for one reason or the other," said Thomas Oliver, chief executive officer of Bass Hotels & Resorts, which is jumping into the extended-stay business worldwide with Staybridge Suites by Holiday Inn.

Extended-stay lodgings typically offer suites with a separate bedroom or at least a sitting area, a work area with desk and dataport phone, a kitchenette with refrigerator, microwave, stove and dishwasher, an iron and ironing board, and on-site, do-it-yourself laundry. Weekly rates range from some $200 to $600 or so for upscale chains.

The chains usually cut costs with less housekeeping, less administration time because rooms aren't being turned over as often, shortened front-desk hours, and little or no food service.

The extended-stay, or temporary home, concept has been around for decades, often geared toward budget-conscious families on vacation or for people with family members facing long out-of-town hospital stays. But it has taken off in the '90s.

"Extended-stay lodging is an opportunity that is really created by changes in the way we do business in the United States," said Ken Pierce, senior vice president for marketing for Homestead Village, which began offering "corporate affordable housing" in 1992.

Such chains cater to relocating workers and their families and to companies who need to house short-term consultants or employees brought to headquarters for updated training.

With competitors targeting segments-within-the-segment of extended-stay lodging, Marriott, whose upscale Residence Inns concept dates back two decades, last year began building its own mid-priced extended-stay hotels, called TownePlace Suites by Marriott.

Among regular clients at a Homestead Village just off Interstate 85 north of Atlanta are BellSouth Corp. employees in town for training stints, federal agents here on temporary assignments, and visitors to nearby colleges. The typical stay is about 15 days, and Homestead Village offers weekly rates of $350, compared to the $100 a night charged by conventional hotels in the same area.

Homestead Village, which has 85 extended-stay properties in 20 states and another 45 under construction, is among a half-dozen extended-stay specialists based in Atlanta. Another fast-growing Atlanta-based company, Suburban Lodges of America, has 60 extended-stay hotels in suburban markets with plans for 76 more.

Atlanta itself is considered the nation's No. 1 extended-stay market now. Some 11,000 of the nation's estimated 107,000 extended-stay rooms are in the area, thanks to population growth, corporate expansions and relocations and land availability.

Bass Hotels & Resorts recently broke ground in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta for its first Staybridge Suites by Holiday Inn. It plans to have 200 extended-stay locations by 2002.

"Coming in with an excellent product and the Holiday Inn brand at this point still gives us great opportunity for tremendous success," said Oliver, who became the Atlanta-based hotel company's chief in March 1997. "It's not going to go away."


Additional Information

A fast-growing part of hotel industry

Estimates on the size of the extended-stay hotel business

Number of rooms nationally, end of 1996: 53,000

Current: 107,000

Projected growth through 2002: 80,000 new rooms per year

Percentage of national hotel room inventory: 3 percent

Projected by 2002: 12 percent

Source: Industry analysts' estimates.