Dispatched for out-of-town training, an enterprising employee eschewed the traditional $75-a-night room his company had booked in favor of a $37.50-a-night facility nearby. Laid out especially for traveling businesspeople who stay five or more nights, the setup didn't offer room service ($35 a day for breakfast and dinner) but did provide free breakfast, a microwave, and a fridge. Nuking his own dinners, the employee pared expenses by $350 a week.

Now that extended-stay hotels, the industry's fastest-growing sector, are moving from suburbia to downtown, accommodations aren't always so spartan -- or so cheap. But they can offer twice the space, with layouts and furnishings aimed at getting work done. All provide kitchens, hold evening get-togethers, have common meeting rooms, and proffer swimming pools, gyms, and laundry facilities. Many will do your grocery shopping, free.

Inc. recently sampled regional offerings of four chains. Here are the per-night rates for a stay of seven or more days -- the interval that usually earns a price break -- and some of the features provided.

Hawthorne Suites Hotels, 14 locations. Two-room suite: Atlanta, $105 (no extended-stay price break); Chicago, $99; Dallas, $79. Includes a desk, a copier, a snack shop, and video rental. Some have a PC and a modem jack.

Homewood Suites, 25 locations. Two-room suite: Atlanta, $85; Chicago, $79; Dallas, $84; San Jose, $105. Includes a PC, a modem jack, a fax, a copier, a convenience store, and housekeeping.

Residence Inn, 183 locations. Studio suite: Atlanta, $89; Chicago, $119; Dallas, $87; San Jose, $119. Includes housekeeping and a modem jack. Some have a PC, a copier, and a fax.

Summerfield Suites, 14 locations. Two-room suite (eight or more nights): Atlanta, $79; Chicago, $95 for one to six nights, negotiable for longer stays; San Jose, $129 (no extended-stay discount). Includes a fax, a modem jack, a copier, housekeeping, a convenience store, and video rental.

-- Researched by Phaedra Hise