The hotel (a 24 hrs’/365 days’ performing orchestra)

(Jan. 2011)

(Hotels never close down; they operate 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.)

The conductor of this “orchestra” is the hotel General Manager, the players are the employees and the audiences are the hotel customers.

Like an orchestra with a good reputation, the hotel creates a sense of expectation among the general public and in particular with their customers.

Also in line with the sense of expectation, a good hotel also creates a sense of arrival, a sense of comfort, a sense of familiarity / acceptance and a sense of trust.

A good hotel starts first with committed owners then with a qualified and caring General Manager who will build a good team of people around him who will comply in full with the culture and values that they define and practise at all times.

A “good team” will create a “good hotel”, a poor team will create a poor hotel.  A lot of time should be spent in creating the culture and the values of the hotel.  But most important is the “walk the talk” and comply at all times with these values.

It is All About the Customers

Understanding the customer is the key to creating an outstanding overall guest experiences both in developing new service concepts and one-to-one interaction.

Customers’ focus must start well before a new hotel opens for business.  The basis of the hotel culture must revolve around the obsession to exceed the customers’ expectations at all times, to gain their loyalty and also to acquire new customers at all times.

Of course the hotel must have fully engaged people who are proud of what they do at all times.  Genuine and caring hospitality has to be a natural attitude from the people who deliver it.  Hospitality is a people-to-people business.

There must be constant focus on detail and quality, not only on the physical product, and we must impress the customers at all times.  You never have a second chance to make a first positive impression.

People remain the most important asset of a hotel and by ensuring a motivated team, driving service consistency, but still with the ability to surprise and delight, coupled with a keen focus on dynamic quality standards which are to be challenged and reviewed regularly, the hotel will meet the mission of delighting customers each and every time.

There is also the importance of solving arising problems on the spot.  It has been proven that a customer who has been dissatisfied in some way, but who subsequently enjoys quick recovery, will become a very loyal customer.  It is also important to remember that attracting a new customer costs much more than keeping a satisfied one.

Keeping a consistent quality is a basic requirement for building a strong brand.  And as there are other brands as well in the market, one must realize that there are clever competitors out there.  Success relies not only in staying ahead of the best of them, but also in marking the bench with a generous margin for our creativity to “wow” the customers.

The Employees’ Choice

The aim of the hotel is of course to be the employer of choice, the hotel / company must be known in the industry as a company that takes care of its people and of course with some of the bet rewards in the industry.  If you achieve this you will not only have a good team but you will have a “great team”.

It is also very important that a hotel is known to provide the opportunity to learn and grow.  When it comes to training and development programs, the hotel should not make savings in this critical area.

Regular staff opinion surveys, monthly monitor of labor turnover, group sessions, continuous employees’ activities, rewards / recognitions and others are a must for the hotel to give priorities.

The Heartbeat of the Hotel

We take them for granted; only noticing them when things don’t function as they should.  But we expect them to work, every time, anytime.  “They” are the things that make the hotel’s world go around:  the air-conditioning that works, the lights that help us to do our work, the telephone that hooks us up to the outside world, the broadband connection that keep us wired day and night, and others.

There is a vague understanding among most guests (and unfortunately among some of the hotel executives) that somehow there must be someone that makes “things” work in the hotel.  However, only when there is no water, no air-conditioning, broken lifts, power failure, out-of-order TV or phone, no flushing of toilets or when the swimming pool water starts turning green, then the issue comes into focus and the call goes out to engineering to fix the problem.

Engineering will also fix the leak at the window when it rains, repair the deck chair, touch up furniture with cigarette burn marks, clean the windows on the 20th floor, run the sewage treatment plan and manage the waste disposal compactor, maintains the visual and sound systems….. the list goes on and on in a hotel.

This is why a good operator must have a top qualified personnel in the engineering department headed by a strong person.  The “heartbeat” of a hotel is in the engineering department and this heart must be taken special care of.

Normally under engineering also comes security and this is another area of utmost importance.  It is their responsibility to provide a safe and secure place for guests and staff.

Preventive maintenance in a hotel is as important as providing a bed in the room for customers to sleep.

Energy management is also a key aspect of engineering’s role.  Computerized building management system assists in controlling and monitoring hotel operation as well as energy management.

As an example, a 700 room hotel can consume as much electricity as a village with 500 houses.  Water consumption is enormous, enough to fill 15 large pools every month.  The same hotel might have as many as 50,000 light bulbs installed and up to 200 different types are required.

Expertise and continuous staff training in maintaining the systems and using them to the best advantage to assist in running the hotel is essential.

No operators should underestimate the importance of engineering.

User Friendly Room

Hotel rooms should be first user-friendly / comfortable and secondly pretty and this means a lot of details to take care of, from the toilet seat, the location of the waste paper basket, the time to fill the bathtub for a proper bath, the noise of the running water, the efficiency of the shower drainage plus of course the pressure of the shower etc.

The sound proof of a hotel room must be of the highest standard as the hotel sells “sleep”.  The total black-out curtains also are critical as most people prefer total black-out.

Then of course comes the quality of the bed and of the linen.  There should not be any short-cut in these two very critical items.

A customer once said:  Hotel rooms offer an opportunity to escape our habits of mind.  Lying in bed in a hotel we can reflect upon our lives from a height we could not have reached in the midst of everyday business.

Rooms and bathrooms are places where customers spend most of their time when in hotels, therefore they have to be in top shape providing all the necessary amenities required for both the need of the human body and for conducting business.

Housekeeping is to be trained to be alert to customers’ behavior.  There are the messy travelers who just leave a trail of things around them and there are the tidier ones.  In general men are tidier than woman:  men just use the bed and the shower while women tend to have more things with them.

Room cleaners are a hardworking lot.  Each clean 12 to 13 rooms a day and each room takes a minimum of 25 minutes on average.  These are also people who have to work for a living, usually women who have to support a family.  They don’t do it for fun.  The operator must be sensitive to their needs.

Designers have the bad habit in continuously changing room and bathroom designs and these needs to be checked and clarified at very early stage.  “A designer’s dream is a housekeeper’s nightmare.”

Hotel operators also must pay a lot of attention in the basic supporting services i.e.:  speed of service lifts, transfer of linens, good brand cleaning equipment, etc….

Food, Glorious Food

Food & beverage is the most complicated division in the hotel.  It requires large capital expenses, large space in front and back of house and it requires people with skills to purchase, store, prepare and sell the product to a more and more discriminating and demanding clientele.

In general, the food & beverage division is the second revenue generator, after rooms, in the hotel, however the profitability and contribution to the bottom line is much less.

Normally hotels do not charge rent to their own operated restaurants.  If one will apply rent, then very few outlets will be able to show a profit.

Traditionally the hotel profitability comes from the sale of the rooms, however the service of one or multiple restaurants and bars in any star rated hotels are necessary to provide the customer the service that he requires and expects from a hotel.

In some cases restaurants are leased out to outside operators, however it is the responsibility of the hotel operator that the hotel guests are provided with 24 hours’ room service, a top quality breakfast and availability of meals at any time during the day.

Every customers that walk in any hotel restaurant has its own likes & dislikes and preferences, therefore it is very hard to please everyone every time.  This is why the food & beverage is the most complicated division.

Market changes and the economic environment dictate the business pulse and, to a certain extent, the investment required to be competitive and provide the service that the customer expects.

Proper quality standards have to be set and complied in full starting from the design, the layout, the furniture, the storages, the preparation-kitchen area, the service and most importantly the hygiene and quality of food served.

Selecting the right food concept for any outlet has to be based on the needs and requirements of the customers first, then on the existing and future competition.  As hoteliers we have to recognize that international travelers normally will not go without their own country / region food for more than 2-3 days, therefore before committing to a special concept proper study is to be made.

Also it is important to follow the trends, i.e.: healthy, non-fat food, do not use products with trans fat, do not use MSG, use fresh products as much as possible, hot food to be served hot, cold food to be served cold and of course have to be competitive with pricing and give value for money to the customers.

Other Members of the Performing Orchestra

The hotel is like a “small town” and it has multiple facilities & services that normally the customers don’t see.  The pulse of the hotel is behind the scene like the telephone operators, the purchasing department, the laundry, all the engineering functions, the finance division, the cost control, the cleaners, the window washers, etc….

These are all part of the “performing orchestra” and the hotel General Manager, as the conductor, must assure that all players are well trained, have the right equipment, the right attitude and most importantly they all play to the same tune.