Dining Style, Marketing, Menus, Public Relations, Special Events, Staff

Grand Opening

Headaches and Heartaches of a Grand Opening

We all know the problems associated with new hotel openings: staffing, training, opening inventories, F&B events scheduling, etc. Some of the best-laid plans, even at a five-star resort hotel, can go awry – particularly during grand openings.

As a hospitality consultant I had a request to coordinate a wedding and reception at a soon-to-open, five-star resort hotel. I was to act as liaison between the wedding couple and the Catering Department at the hotel. However, repeated calls to the new property to schedule a meeting with the new Catering Director went unreturned. My next attempt was to phone the Catering Director at another affiliated property which was coordinating all special events and media schedules prior to the transfer to the new hotel. I retained all email communications as well as notations from my many phone calls and kept a comprehensive diary of activities I was to provide for my client. The affiliated hotel took my client’s information and I was told in no uncertain terms that absolutely no events would be booked at the new property prior to January 1st (the opening was scheduled for November 10th). I asked the hotel’s coordinator to contact me should anything change; she assured me that she would.

A few months later, after booking an alternate venue, my clients and I learned that the hotel was, indeed, booking events prior to January 1; in fact, their first event was scheduled for December 15th – my client’s wedding date. We were never contacted.

Upon learning of this inconsistency, I phoned the General Manager of the new property to inquire what became of our original request to be notified of any changes respecting scheduling of events. I indicated that I had spoken with the Catering Director at one of their other properties which had been set up to coordinate any future special events to be conducted at the new property. The GM was very aloof and offered no consideration to my clients. The excuse given was simplistic and insincere; even after noting that I had scheduled a Rehearsal Dinner for 30 people in their fine dining room as well as reservations for the couple for their wedding night. It appeared to me their attitude was cavalier and unprofessional.

As an example of the hotel’s poor service standards, they neglected to provide a copy of the Rehearsal Dinner menu in advance for my client’s review, as was requested when we met in person. The hotel’s Catering Department was also to produce individual menus to be set at each place setting – this also was omitted. My clients had also requested that the wine be opened as needed, instead ALL bottles were opened and my clients were charged for two full cases when, in fact, only 14 bottles were consumed.

Our preliminary meeting with the Executive Chef and the Assistant Catering Director was detailed and included notification of certain ingredients not to be used for the entrée service, due to my client’s allergies – this, too, was neglected. I expected that the submission of my written folio (signed off by me) containing all our dinner requirements would be sufficient guidance for the Chef and staff to manage accordingly.

It would be simplistic to say that the contract from the Catering Department should have been previewed by all parties to ensure all the details were covered and transferred from my folio of directives. We had every indication that the Catering personnel would have followed their own instructions set to their contract and our own expectations from this high-end hotel were not without merit. In order to be precise about my client’s requirements, I had provided a CD containing the same information for the hotel’s guidance. It appears that select sections were either inadvertently omitted or perhaps not deemed consistent with hotel policy.

Even a modified contract for F&B services did not clearly stipulate the who, what, where and when of the specificities involved for our event. I had worked with many hotel banquet services before and had found that even with the best laid plans and intensions, omission of details and follow-up reporting were typically at the crux of problematic issues. No matter whether fault was found with the service provider or with the client, mutuality of owning the problem seems to be the more relevant solution when dealing with such experiences – and everyone becomes more vigilant on future arrangements. As a matter of fact, I have brought in additional new business to this same hotel knowing that they have fine-tuned their in-house operating procedures and, more importantly, their public relations efforts. I can now have a predictable and engaging experience with the business I bring forward. However, I would always stipulate to check (and) double-check everything that is in writing. You owe it to yourself and your clients.

Miscommunications can and do happen, even at the five-star level.