Manor Care Inc., swelling its hotel division with its second acquisition in as many months, yesterday agreed to pay $60 million for the franchising rights to the Econo Lodge and Friendship Inn chains, which include 702 motels in the United States and Canada.

The acquisition by Silver Spring-based Manor Care increases the number of hotels and motels under its corporate banner by nearly half and makes it by far the largest hotel franchisor in the nation with 2,301 properties.

In buying the budget Econo Lodge and Friendship chains from New Image Realty Inc. of Charlotte, N.C., Manor Care will be especially strong in the market for motels charging about $45 a night or less.

Manor Care's lodging subsidiary, Choice Hotels International (formerly named Quality International) already manages and franchises economy-priced motels that operate under the Quality Inn and Sleep Inn names.

In July, it paid $15 million for the rights to the 156-property Rodeway Inn system. The addition of the 608 Econo Lodges and 94 Friendship motels places about 25 percent of all motels in the economy segment under Choice's management, said Gerald W. Petitt, Choice's president.

Manor Care's deal with privately held New Image does not include the motels' real estate or other hard assets. Choice is buying the right to sell Econo Lodge and Friendship franchises to individual investors and to manage the existing motels in exchange for fees from their individual owners. Franchisees pay Choice a fee equal to about 6.5 percent of the motels' gross revenue in exchange for marketing, advertising and training and a centralized reservation operation from Choice.

Despite fears of a hotel-room glut in the United States and increased risk of a recession, Choice's chief executive, Robert Hazard, said occupancy rates in the economy-segment of the lodging industry have been growing. "If we're facing a recession, the cost-conscious corporate traveler, the senior citizen and the family vacationer are all going to be looking to trade down," he said. "They don't want to go to New York City and pay $175 a night for a room."

Hazard said it is relatively more efficient to operate a large franchise system than a smaller one, since a franchisor can manage such "back-of-the-house" services as reservations, accounting and purchasing from a central location.

Choice, which also franchises the middle-priced Comfort Inns and the upscale Clarion Hotel chains, has promoted its varied motels through ads featuring such celebrities as Vanna White and former House speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill popping out of suitcases.

None of the names of the seven brands under the company's management will be changed, Hazard said, although the economy motels will be advertised separately from the upper-market hotels.

Manor Care will use $47 million in cash and finance the balance of the purchase through its existing lines of credit, said James A. MacCutcheon, the firm's chief financial officer. "This is not an over-leveraged transaction as far as we're concerned," he said.

Chain.............Locations..............Market segment

Comfort Inns......811....................Mid-price

Econolodge........608....................Economy*

Quality Inns......503....................Mid-price

Rodeway Inns......156....................Economy

Friendship Inns....94....................Economy*

Clarion Hotels.....79....................Upscale

Sleep Inns.........50....................Economy

TOTAL...........2,301

* Franchising rights acquired yesterday