Marketing, Menus, Public Relations


Zagat is Calling – Are You Ready?

You’ve set up your F&B budget for the year based on expected inflows and outflows for operating your dining establishment at the hotel in a profitable mode. However, you relied on economic trends from previous years (lean and getting leaner) and forgot to include one of your most important expenses – marketing your operation.

Marketing doesn’t have to be a hard cost expense; it can be in the form of upgrading how your staff (and personnel, overall) contribute to the image you are presenting to your end-users (guests, visitors).

Press reviews, including a barrage of current-day, socio-media communications (i..e, Facebook, Twitter, various blog forums, etc.) have an enormous impact on your hotel’s operation and profitability. The necessary interplay between a guest and the hotel staff must always be cohesively managed, yet too many F&B managers have become lax in aggressively focusing on the bottom line.

Newly remodeled or retrofitted furniture and furnishings in all the guest rooms and dining outlets, dynamic IT systems throughout the hotel, and guest-friendly kiosks throughout the public spaces may provide certain benefits towards operating efficiencies. This may all look impressive until the monthly executive meetings take place and the revenue generators just aren’t producing optimal inflows.

It’s all the little things that take place in any given hotel (with F&B operations, in particular) that make a difference and even your staff can tell the difference without looking at the spreadsheets. The staff morale may be less than optimal because no one is incentivizing them to “make a difference each day.” Most GMs have a motto (slogan) appended to every email they send out, but how often do they live up to it themselves? I bet if each employee were given a chance to literally own the problem which they may confront each day in a successful manner that takes mediocrity to superiority, they should be able to attain a share of that profitable measure. Consider setting up an incentive program for your employees and you should see a marked improvement in your bottom line. Even if it takes a staff job captain to quantify everyone’s job performance on a daily basis, it would instill improved group motivation to assist one another and go beyond their typical duties if it meant creating an outstanding day at your hotel.

Occasionally hotel management will employ mystery shoppers to evaluate various aspects of a hotel’s daily activities, including catching staff (at all levels) complaining about their jobs or other random personnel issues, even guest issues, within earshot of public spaces. As the saying goes, “these walls have ears.” Your employees need to conduct themselves in a professional manner while on the job (whether in the break room or in guest-contact areas). Cell phone conversations on private time should be conducted in more private areas and certainly not taken at all during one’s employment hours unless there’s an emergency. This may seem more like a typical nuance of the younger employees who show little regard (and respect) for the importance of the job they hold (perhaps they are just “passing thru” and have not necessarily decided this is their ultimate career path) – and speaks volumes for dissatisfaction in being at a job they do not hold very highly. Everyone (generally) starts out at the bottom and works their way to the top. They get there faster when they are productive, good listeners, and incentivized to excel because they believe in being a professional at their job. They will stand out and they will get to where they want to be if they are. Shortcomings are the cause of mediocre profitability and this may be found at all levels within the organizational chart at your hotel and restaurant.

Create a professional culture of hospitality at your hotel and demand it, don’t assume it. Set up a suggestion box for employees and you will be surprised at the overwhelming level of petty complaints from most staffers. You will see very few complimentary remarks as most people tend to think it’s not necessary, but you’d be surprised at how loud those messages reach their mark with middle- to upper-management executives. Anonymity is OK, but you should feel you can produce your John Hancock on any written statement without repercussion. It merely reflects the authenticity and valor of the inscriber. THAT person will get somewhere because he/she has the confidence in making a valid statement and can back it up with bona fide examples of what’s not working. I, personally, would be quick to challenge that worthy inscriber who submitted their actual “suggestion” to work with me on fixing what’s wrong and become part of the solution. Now you’re allowing your staff to “take ownership” within the hotel’s operations and this may involve revisiting your managerial priorities.

As generalized as this may come across, perhaps management should perform self-awareness critiques on its personnel at all levels to ensure that everyone is working towards servicing the hotel guests and the F&B operations throughout the property. Just because you have a five-star restaurant off the lobby doesn’t mean your al fresco poolside dining facility should be subpar in performance and servicing standards. You still have the same guest availing themselves of every outlet on your property, and it should employ five-star-quality employees and attitudes.

I bet you can identify a direct correlation in this scenario with some improvement to your bottom line. I know I expect this of any hospitality facility I visit because this is, indeed, what the profession possesses as its regimen: To service the guest…all the time and anywhere at the hotel.

To put it simply: If Zagat is calling, are you ready?