What exactly is a boutique hotel?

In today’s hotel market one may well ask what exactly is a Boutique Hotel? It seems the word BOUTIQUE has been misused and marketed irresponsibly by many hotel owners and operators worldwide. Nowadays you see the word associated with 2-star Days Inn styled rooms at so-called ‘eco’ resorts where the only eco aspect to their operation is a few plastic bins for so-called separate waste disposal in the guest rooms. Both the word ‘eco’ and ’boutique’ are clearly overused and in most cases not at all relevant to the property marketing itself as being so.

So for ” boutique” some education for those in need of it.

A Boutique Hotel needs to reflect the following. Small, fashionable and independent; when lacking innovative design and stylish high quality personal operations and impeccable amenities, these small hotels are in violation of the fundamental boutique motif and are merely small. Add to what boutique should reflect in a hotel, innovative design, distinctive, individuality, flair, original, and creativity, and you can see how this word has been turned into more than rather a vague term confusing the market, and undermining those that actually achieve it.

Cool, or hip or historic, themed, marketed for business or leisure and more often than not both, the meaning is now an extension of the original boutique hotel urban properties where the key descriptive components were fashion, elegance, glamor and style. Nowadays the word transcends these earlier definitions and crosses many hotel classifications, from small to not so mall, luxury to affordable, urban to resort, chic and cool to traditional. Boutique Hotels have many sub segments.

Ignoring the attempts by chains to be boutique-ish, the W brand for example, and the Malmaison Group in the UK, boutique hotels independence has enabled owners and operators to keep at arm’s length corporate standards of the chains that more often than not hinder the creative ideas of those employees on site in supplying distinguished and personalized hospitality services to the travelers they know.  In boutique hotel operations it is much more than employees knowing each guest’s name, which in some of the so-called larger boutique hotels is an impossibility anyway.

It is in my mind more a return to traditional hotel keeping, knowing your guests and fully understanding their requirements as individual travelers and then actually delivering that service in an exceptional manner, all within an environment that has innovative design, distinctive characteristics, where individuality and flair shine through, and the whole experience to the traveler is original and creative.

Some development priorities summed up:

  • An at home feel in both size, elegance and throughout it is of a different perspective.
  • Inviting, at peace with itself, snug, social.
  • Top of the line, select and personalized. Personalized means sincere and warm.
  • Home made, hand-made, not the standard factory produced stuff. This goes not just for the set up and fit out, add to that food, beverages, paper, amenities.
  • Hello to the designer! Square foot by square foot thought through!
  • Concepts that are of quality, from design to delivery.
  • Amenities unseen near you, out of the box, from soaps, to personalized jams, cookie wraps, cocktails on arrival, smart phone, limos to the office, and the house essence.
  • And time and time, time to create, time to prepare to deliver!

For boutique hotel development planning and management that deliver on the true concept of the word, contact mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

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Hotel business plans: does your asset manager participate?

In the world of international hotel management business plans are for all purposes, most sit on shelves gathering dust as soon as they are completed, some approved by the board then handed to the banks, perhaps incorrectly compiled solely by the financial department.

In the hospitality world of hotel brand management most form an annual ritual of head office wishing to find out what their management fees will be under pressure from the CEO who is hell bent on growth, while the GM and the team put a proposal that is rather conservative knowing that some so called expert higher up will boost it up killing off any incentive to achieve it.

Some are for owners who do need the truth, some are for owners that do not need the truth, for what ever reason and they are numerous.

Some are to back up the feasibility study to obtain financing for a new project.

Some are the feasibility study (we are building it so you better tell me how much profit we will make 1st year!).

Some don’t gather dust, those created by smart business operators and owners.Some are for real.

Real ones are living documents, put together by all members of the team, from the bottom up, line item by line item for each cost center and for each market segment being part of the revenue generation plan. Everyone is in sales so everyone is involved. Everyone you ask, yes, even the pot washer.

The result is a plan that with some prodding skywards from those above is an achievable and motivational tool that the owners and operators can feel proud in achieving.

Yet how many actually make sense, and that are worked on monthly by hotel owners and management as a team, with an asset manager who has the skills to see things from a different angle to that of the management company and who is probing for opportunities to unlock value during the annual business cycle. Not all that’s for sure.

For resort management or hotel asset management that really makes a positive difference, email mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

Hotel management practices by a hotel general manager

Quality hotel management practices by a Hotel General Manager include reviewing the financial performance monthly, however it is not all about internal financial control, one must when going about an analysis of expenditure take into account what is most appropriate for that unique property and its positioning in the market place, in relation to similar ones, keeping in mind the intention is to maximize profits, not just control costs.

This is called a variance analysis, reviewing each single line expense as per the hotel system of accounts to budgeted and prior performance, together with a revenue management overview comparing the hotel’s income performance to that of the competitive set.

What sometimes is missed in this process is a check of some accounting control measures, work that needed to be done correctly by the Financial Controller and team during the month.

My list is as follows, additions are most welcome as I expand it if needed.

  • That proper bank reconciliations have been completed and no non-reconciled values are shown on the bank reconciliations.
  • That all major reconciled items are current and that all necessary steps have been taken to clear non-current reconciled items.
  • That all cash in hand and house floats have been counted at least once during the month, that differences have been fully and conclusively investigated and that appropriate accounting entry has been made in the hotel books.
  • That all trade debtor sub/ledgers reconcile with the related accounts in the general ledger.
  • That the aged balance of the trade debtors has been reviewed, that proper actions are being carried out to ensure prompt collection of outstanding balances.
  • That all disputes and litigation are properly monitored, that a review of all outstanding balances above 60 days has been carried out, and  that the monthly provision for doubtful accounts has been appropriately adjusted in accordance with the overall risk of non collection.
  • That guest ledger balances are all current.
  • That physical inventory has been carried out at least once in the month in the presence of an employee external to the store-keeping department, that all differences have been fully investigated and that appropriate accounting entry or entries have been made.
  • That any perished or obsolete item of no value has been properly written-off in the accounts.
  • That all Trade Creditors sub ledgers reconcile fully with the related accounts in the General Ledger.
  • That statements received from Creditors have been properly reconciled with the related amounts payable in the books.
  • That the aged balance of the trade creditors has been reviewed and that appropriate actions have been taken regarding long outstanding amounts.
  • That proper accruals have been made and that all balances held as accruals and prepayments are adequately supported.
  • With the exception of normal accruals and deferred items arising from cut-off procedures, that no balance of revenue or cost nature is held in the balance sheet.
  • That inter company balances have been reconciled and confirmed with the other parties.
  • That the payroll cost recorded in the general ledger reconciles with the payroll report for the month.
  • That all other balances held in the balance sheet have been properly reconciled.

After all it is all about cash collected banked with correct accounting procedures.

Hotel asset management for food and beverage

Area Directors often lack the skills set to analyze and critique a hotel’s asset management  program for food and beverage.Many just don’t have the experience or background, and many corporate food and beverage executives are more focused on bringing out group-wide programs or promotions, mostly of some meaningless importance, which could well be driven at hotel level, instead of focusing on areas where real difference can be made to an owner’s real estate asset value.

Given approximately 65% on average of full service hotels revenue comes from room sales, at around a 80% profit margin, and with that the majority of a management company’s fees , it is no wonder the focus is on the rooms department to drive profits, but this is barely partially correct.

Owner’s needs are therefore often neglected. Positioning a hotel’s food and beverage offering is critical to drive profits in both rooms and the food and beverage operation, lack of skills and ability at corporate level therefore affect profits and with that a hotel’s value is not maximized.

Lets take the UK here, and ok, some efforts at corporate level have been made by some, but let’s face it, they are few, and hotel restaurants on the whole are a dying breed. I blame corporate leaders and so called brand franchise standards.

Asset Managers are not tied to some corporate protocol and brand standard, and have the skills set to asses a food and beverage operation to bring in positive change. They can bridge the gap between owners and management, safeguarding the owner’s asset interests.

In food and beverage this is a detailed process, from understanding a hotel’s investment strategy, its type, positioning, asset hold period, and capital resources, to assessing the existing conditions, studying the hotel offering or what is termed the food and beverage program, the competitive set and local offering, doing a swot, and compiling a financial analysis.

Then produce a road map, putting it all together. For owners’ best interests.

Let’s take just the financial aspect of this process alone. No help here from external sources and industry reports, this involves knowledge and the ability to get down to the core of how the food and beverage department is operated. Scary stuff for some management companies!

An important key to this process is to breakdown the profit of each outlet within this department. Opportunities are so often lost because of management mostly just looking at the whole department’s net profit and not what outlet is drawing down profit potential within the whole department. A lazy approach at best.

I could talk all day on this, but let’s as an owner ask ourselves a few questions, in this small segment of financial analysis within this large area of expertise.

  • Do you know how each outlet is contributing to profit, that’s breaking down all costs including kitchen production cost?
  • Do you know if all your labor costs and labor production skills are in line with your average checks and service levels?
  • Do you know your group vs. transient per cover expenditure?
  • Do you know how your average check per seat compares throughout your departments, and with it the reasons and opportunities and the action plan you have to improve it?
  • Do you know your outlet loss leaders?
  • Do you have a detailed financial profile on each outlet and with that the issues and plan to improve performance?
  • Is your pricing focused on margins only, and not based around menu engineering and with that a focus on the amount you actually bank?? That’s an eye on $’s not %’s

That’s a few of many that need asking, just in the finance reality check.

For a reality check on your food and beverage department contact me at mark@turnerlodgingco.com

 

What hotel star rating do you need?

Do you know about hotel star ratings? Ok they are generally different from one county to the next, for good reason. In Austria a 4 star hotel needs to have a 4 course set menu available daily in the restaurant, in Hong Kong room sizes are smaller, that would have an impact on a North American standard rating. Hence no world wide hotel rating system exists.

Where do you really stand? More importantly where do you want to stand? What is your proposed market positioning to maximize ROI, how do you propose to get there?

Do you have an asset management plan that is geared to unlock value in balancing your star rating with what you need to be and no more?

Consider all of this!!

The following items are considered during the inspection process by that hotel inspector  

1. Guest Arrival Phase

Advertising/Media Professionalism; Reservations/Phone Assistance; Restaurant Location; Signage; Building Appearance; Parking; Valet Parking; Grounds; Entrance; Maitre d’ Stand; Coat Room; Initial Greeting; Cocktail Lounge (Location/Décor/Service); and Seating.

2. Guest Room and Bath

Living Space; Decor; Drapery; Linens; Technological Items (TV, Telephone, Ipad etc.); Minibar; Odor/Ventilation; Heating/Air Conditioning; Furniture; Beds; Walls; Closet/Storage/Drawers; Fixtures; Lighting; Floors; Housekeeping; Additional Amenities; turn-down Service; Bathroom Linens/Amenities/Physical Product; and Robes.

3. Public Spaces

Lobby/Public Spaces; Elevators; Hallways; Signage; Banquet/Meeting Space; Pay Phones/House Phones; Temperature; Public Restrooms; and Security.

4. Product/Services

Concierge/Guest Services Staff; Fitness Center/Equipment; Day Spa Equipment; Fitness Center Staff; Day Spa Staff; Fitness Center Services; Day Spa Services; Fitness Center/ Housekeeping; Day Spa Housekeeping; Business Center Equipment; Business Center Staff; Business Center Services; Gift Shop Staff; Gift Shop Services; Retail Outlets Staff; Retail Outlets Services; Laundry/Valet; Shoeshine; Newspaper Delivery; Pool Cleanliness/Safety; Pool Lounge Area; Tennis Court Conditions; Tennis Court Services; Golf Course Conditions; Golf Course Services; Beach Condition; Beach Services; Condition of Hiking/Running Trails; Skiing/Snowmobiling; Watersports Services; Watersports Equipment; Children’s Programs; and Transportation.

5. Departure

Check-out; Bill Accuracy; Baggage Handling; and Valet/Car Services.

6. Food and Beverage

Room Service Order Taking; Room Service Timeliness; Room Service Delivery; Room Service Product; Room Service Pick-up; Bar/Lounge; Primary Restaurant Rating  Secondary Restaurant Arrival; Secondary Restaurant Physical Property; Secondary Restaurant Service; Secondary Restaurant Culinary; Secondary Restaurant Beverage; and Secondary Restaurant Departure, etc etc etc!!.

Confused? So you should be.

What’s best for a property is no easy answer. What level of service and product standard will maximize your ROI? What investment plan do you have to make sound capital investment  plans that will position your hotel correctly and create or unlock asset value?

In need of help, the hard part, the implementation? Then contact us, we can help you consistently achieve your desired service and product standard that fits into your asset management and operations plan that will maximize your ROI.

Restaurant development and operations

So you want to develop and operate a restaurant. In a hotel, in a resort, a stand alone, where ever. Consider the following, and these are just the basics!

The restaurant business concept stage

  • Do you have a restaurant development check list?
  • What is your development cost estimate and timeline?
  • Do you know how to get your team together and who should be in it?
  • What will be your concept and unique positioning and branding and how are you to develop name awareness?
  • What kind of analysis of the competition will you focus on?
  • What future expansion is envisaged and how will you expand your brand awareness?
  • What suppliers are available with what product?
  • What menu will suit?
  • Do the initial figures work?

Business planning and operations

  • What legal structure suits you?
  • How deep will your market analysis be so you can ascertain the needs taking into account competitive offerings and pricing?
  • What will your management and support organization be? Do you know how to create your management structure and organization, skilled in operating one?
  • Have you done a feasibility study and are you capable of creating your detailed operational business plan?
  • Building, leasing, joint ownership, what is your development plan?
  • What professional and advisory support will be needed? Need expert advice with startup expenses and capitalization, and other startup costs and your financial plan?
  • How will you fund this? How will you fund growth?
  • How do you implement administrative and financial reporting that makes sense?

Issues to consider with the restaurant location and its actual site

  • Do you know why the real estate aspect matters?
  • Will you lease?
  • Are you knowledgeable enough to negotiate a lease with a fair rent?
  • Do you know all the design and architectural issues needed to be addressed and managed?
  • Are you skilled in compiling technical  agreements with service providers? What professional assistance is needed?
  • Are you skilled in restaurant space planning, kitchen area and adjustable space planning, or will you leave all of that to others?
  • Have you considered design aspects including the consistency of appearance, color, curb appeal, furniture, fixtures & equipment, intimacy, lighting, music, signage? What about parking, insurance, permit needs?

Menu and beverage considerations

  • What strategies are you implementing with your menu and its menu design?
  • Know what menu engineering means going into operations?
  • Who are your vendors and why, why will you purchase from whom?
  • What hygiene and food storage  standards will be implemented?
  • Can you cost out a menu, control inventories, understand what a preparation list is, calculate the cost of goods sold, and have the skills set to lead the team and your chef?
  • Do you understand the responsibilities of owning a liquor license, other liquor license considerations, knowledgeable on wines, and all other beverages?

Marketing your restaurant operation

Do you know how to create and utilize a website, direct mail and data management? Compile monthly email newsletters, identify best advertising options, make use of special events, use media releases to best advantage, write articles, make best use of the local business network, put local networking functions together, create culinary events?

Human resources

How skilled are you in the hiring process, pre-employment screenings, compilation of  the employee manual, training manual, creating the job specification and job description for each position, your service and kitchen training and development plan,  defining your service standards, initiation of incentives, payroll control, labor and employment contacts, best practice and work scheduling?

Then you have to run it, and grow it.

Where do you begin? Restaurant development and operations are complicated, need advice? For advice that works to save you from going broke, contact Mark, at least for a chat!!

Resort asset management and rooms revenue management

For most mid and smaller sized independent resorts one does not have to invest in a revenue manager to reap the rewards of applying some simple rooms revenue management  tactics to your asset management program to improve your bottom line.

This role is a key daily component of the Manager and whoever is overseeing front office operations.

It can be a bit over the top when you get involved with revenue management experts who seems hell-bent on making this process sound more complicated than it need be.

Simply put revenue management is a process of anticipating hotel occupancy and market demand and to determine how it will affect your hotel, once you can anticipate your market demand then you can correctly positioning your rates.

Firstly put your occupancy and average room rate to one side and think of your hotels revenue income per available room, this is called Rev Par. You can calculate this taking your occupancy (70%) and multiplying it by your average room rate (S$ 100), therefore the result is 0.7*100 equals $70.

Most of us know that in general terms improving ones average room rate generates more profit than just increasing ones occupancy. The added revenue generated is not subjected to operating costs associated with improving occupancy. So we need to focus on both in tandem. This is a bit is a waste of time if ones occupancy is always so low that one never has those peak and high demand periods, but lets assume you like most hotels you have some.

Please note here that lowering ones rates in general across the board to drive occupancy tends to be a fools game, only rarely will this result in improved bottom line profit. Say you increase your rev par to $72.25 by dropping your rates from $100 to US$ 85 and by some miracle that stimulates sales to 85% occupancy. A 15% drop in price has some how generated a 21% increase in rooms demand.  Not very likely. Then you take the associated operational costs, and that includes maintenance and replacements applicable for those  additional rooms sold, and guess what, you are worse off. Then you have to figure out how to get the rates back to where they where.

Revenue management simply takes advantage of increased demand periods.Take that competitors study you have just competed which will detail all your competitors pricing and ask yourself:  are my rates correctly positioned for my market, do we offer value, are we truly competitive. With that knowledge the revenue management process you apply is simply having complete knowledge of the market demand for hotel rooms for your local area and ascertaining how that will affect you property, and with that knowing what rate strategies you can apply to improve your rev par through room rate pricing. Maximizing your yield potential. The process is to create a “base” of business through a range of rates to appeal to a wide range of potential clients.

Once this base business is booked, by whatever market mix, lower rates can then be closed for sale and higher yielding rates can apply The key to successful revenue or yield management is to review advance reservations and make rate close-out decisions as often as might be necessary; generally, three times per week.

Hotels practicing revenue management gain an insight into the ebb and flow of business, knowledge of reservations booking pace, and a true understanding of factors which impact occupancy and average rate. Nothing complicated, and although there are many different strategies one can use it just boils down to good old common sense that need not be over complicated by those experts.

Larger more complicated resort hotels have far more complex revenue management  models, where some expert asset management advice will go a long way to reap better financial returns.

Contact us for assistance in creating your resort asset management plan incorporating winning revenue management strategies that will cost you far less than the financial reward you will reap.