Hotel brand franchise affiliation vs the independent alternative

It’s probably more or less impossible to 100% evaluate the benefits of one hotel brand franchise affiliation to another and also compare it to going the independent route and get it 100% right taking into account numerous aspects including perception in the market of one brand or franchise to an other.

It’s complicated, difficult, and challenging.

300 odd franchise/brand/chain management options in the market make this a real headache. Then how to decide between the one chosen as your 1st preference and going the independent route.

Yet, a certain owner I recently met, new to the UK, was more focused on asking me for advice as to “ what brand would you choose” as if I had the answer out of a hat! He liked my idea on one with the comment “ yes, I know owners who think highly of them”.

It’s not about past performance with others, it’s what best fits your unique circumstance. That circumstance being highly technical, re investment, location, positioning etc etc etc.

Assuming one has a preference, how to address the independent alternative as an option?

In the past being or not being associated with a franchise has involved, as the primary focus, understanding how much business has been or could be driven through brand reservation systems and the online presence. Trouble is one can’t estimate how much business a property could have achieved by being a stand-alone, by itself, if it was an independent for comparisons sake.

One has to also figure out the comparison in the cost of booking aspects from a brand/franchise to being an independent. How much is an owner paying for all those guest promotional programs, the advertising, and its contribution to a central reservation system? Complicated, just look at group and other business that is driven at property level and then possibly added into the affiliation reservation system count.

In brief, franchise management fees can be as a % of revenue 7% to 10%, with 9% that’s 45% of one’s net operating profit if a hotel generates a 20% NOP, which is about average.

45%!

Now lets assume 25% of one’s rooms generated business has been through the affiliation, the other 75% through the hotel’s direct efforts. Taking the 9% as above the actual bottom line effective cost of rooms achieved by affiliation association is 36%. That’s the ratio of affiliation fees paid on rooms revenue to the % of business this affiliation has in rooms income terms benefited a property.

Not cheap is it!

Where do we break even in this circumstance? How much business is needed to break even with a 9% fee cost to owner? How much additional business does this affiliation need to generate that one could not have achieved by being an independent operator?

With a 100 roomed hotel achieving 70% occupancy with a ADR of $100 the fees equate to $229,950. With a department profit of 75% that’s 3066 room nights required, or an 8.4% in real term increase in occupancy.

Brands and franchise affiliations do work, a lot has to be said for going that route, however not for all, and in my view not for many that have this relationship.

With the modern world changing, with ecommerce evolving at break neck speeds and with so many options for independent properties to take advantage of the more than 60% of hotel bookings on average influenced through the web, according to some experts, owners would do well to think through very exactly what benefits going the independent route can offer.

Greater flexibility in pricing and positioning, more precise control, more control and options to choose service levels, in design, in marketing, more influence on management, more flexible use of capital to meet positioning standards. Probably easier to sell and exist the investment. That’s a very simplified view.

For advice on the independent route and putting a business plan and operation in place to take advantage of today’s ecommerce, non franchised/chain reservation systems, putting a sales team together, and a marketing program for a stand-alone resort, that would not cost that 9% annually, contact me via mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

The hotel acquisition process simplified (Part 2)

Negotiation of the deal, BTW please see part one of the hotel acquisition process

So the bid price has been in principle accepted so we need a document outlining the project and the analysis as to what led you to that position.

This guiding paper being the foundation of the operational business plan would include,

A description of the property, the market summary and the projected market opportunities, all the financial information with the cash flow projections, financing aspects, management and brand affiliation opportunities, renovation costs and an engineering plan in general regarding future requirements related to the building .

Now the process of serious negotiations can begin, and the buyer needs to take these next steps forward with due care.

The hotel procurement terms consist of these most important aspects of a deal.

The price, the financing package including seller options, title and property condition, default aspects, an agreement on what is defined as a hotel asset (this list consists of, but is not limited to the land and property, cash, all inventories, prepaid deposits and expenses, all equipment be it fixtures fittings and all equipment, from linen to spoons to security cameras, vehicles, licenses and permits  as well as staff lists, all operational human resource records, all sales and marketing information, clients data lists, suppliers, key accounts, accounting books of record).

Numerous aspects are involved to come to an agreement to the final sales price.  Seller financing will push the price up, long payment terms will push the price up. Can a mortgage be taken over? What is the financial strength of the buyer and how quickly can the property be bought? All will influence the price.

Also a list of contingencies come into play, such as the buyer not being able to secure  financing, get the required licenses and permits to operate, achieve the deal line of due diligence completion.

The contract aspects evolve around agreeing on a non binding letter of intent, or an other option is to go straight into a binding agreement with a list of all the way outs, (for what ever reason during the due diligence process, lack of financing, unable to obtain permits etc.).

It costs more and takes longer to negotiate a binding agreement with outs, and the negative aspect of the LOI initial approach is that you are lengthening the whole process.  You are trading off wasting time with this process compared to  a gamble the due diligence results will be to your satisfaction by going straight into a non binding contract.

Letters of intent can serve good purposes when complicated transactions are being negotiated, for certain legal reasons, if a group of investors are involved.

What goes in and what does not go in these non binding letters of intent or a binding document with outs will be carefully discussed with your lawyers and all advisers. For example does the buyer want the seller to not be able to sell to any one else during and initial period, perhaps the whole due diligence period? Can this be negotiated? Is there a time line for all this process to be completed?

Probably both parties will want to be able to be able to terminate at any time without damages, and as a buyer may be spending a lot of cash during the due diligence period, then they need to have full clarification of their rights to enforce the seller to proceed with the sale.

The due diligence period incorporates the following:

  • A legal description of the property
  • All employees, name, remuneration package details, position, all benefits.
  • All engineering plans and architectural specifications will be provided
  • All insurance aspects with details of all coverage with the costs and details on all limitations
  • All inventories detailed
  • An accountant will audit the profit and loss statements
  • An audited balance sheet for the last five years will be produced
  • Capital and construction expenditure for the last five years detailed and an estimate  of  projections for expenditure required next three years
  • Details of any actual or possibly pending legal threats or litigation against the property.
  • Details of any mortgages on the property.
  • Fire, health and safety reports with an engineers report
  • Land tax and property tax applicable with proof of payment last 5 years
  • List of all supplies of services.
  • List of all tenants, rents, lease details
  • Occupancy and average rate the last three years clarified
  • Recent appraised valuation of the building
  • Reservations and deposits
  • Service contracts with third parties, with details on all issues the buyer will assume like franchises, licenses, permits, management agreements, union agreements.
  • The current operating year profit and loss statement with comparison to previous year will be ascertained to which the management will comment and add certain costs that may be missing so a true reflective NOP can be clearly determined
  • Trade names and copyrights.

Following successful completion the final purchase and sale contract is drawn up.

The content and issues outlined in this document are normally like this.

The property description, the list of assets being purchased, title and survey aspects, all licenses and permits and franchise agreements, the date of transfer,  all the financial terms with the terms of finance and information related to present trading results, the details of the due diligence with the obligations and  rights of both parties, occur and the rights and obligations of each party, closing documentation, closing expense obligations, and legal aspects.

In addition since staff are the most important ingredient of a successful business and one is buying into their expertise their needs should be very much at the forefront of the buyers mind.

The take over of the staff should evolve around the sellers officially terminating all employees on the day the property changes ownership, and then the buyer re hires them (or whoever they wish to hire) on a probationary basis. Management should by this time have a good idea on the benefits of re hiring most staff as the analysis of staff strength should be a critical component of the due diligence process. Aspects covered include staff medical records, pension and benefits, and vacation days owned.

Often a buyer will decide that all staff can bring forward their benefits and an accounting transaction is worked out. Legal advice being taken regarding assuring the buyer avoids taking over any liability issues.

The hotel closing day transactions incorporate calculation of that days property’s revenues and expenses and the physical stock take of all inventories included in the purchase price.

Once the necessary calculations have been worked out and the cash transferred the buyer is the owner!

For advice along the tricky road of hotel acquisition contact mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

Condominium hotels and resorts advice for investors (Part 3)

Have you read Part 1 and 2 regarding condominium hotels and resorts?

Following on in this true saga, the next morning on awakening you feel water on the bathroom floor and look up to see on the bathroom ceiling a water stain and dripping water. A quick call to the front office agent and you get passed onto the rental maintenance department. However you are then  passed onto the common area building maintenance department, (the strata property management company as your building has both a rental and a strata property management company and is not managed by one operating entity)!

You are becoming confused…

The strata property manager then makes it clear this is a strata issue and that the owners of the unit above will be contacted and this issue will be fixed by the strata property management company.

The strata property manager now has to ascertain the reason for this leak, and after some time and cost to the owner above concludes it was from a leaking water pipe connection to the dishwasher in the kitchen above, which backs onto their bathroom.

So you pass that information off thinking that the owner above wasn’t in the unit at the time  and why didn’t the rental management company take action on this to stop it, as they rented the unit out. Or shouldn’t they have charged the renter you think, but on asking the strata manager for an explanation so you can better understand how the system works get told that the rental management company didn’t report the issue, as they should have done, and the guests were not charged for any damage. On asking the rental management company why this happened you are told that the guest checked out before they noticed anything wrong as it was a hidden pipe problem, so they could not consider charging the renters, and anyway this was a wear and tear issue and not related to any actual direct action which could be defined as abusive by the renters, so no action would have been taken to charge the renters anyway.

You are perplexed and further confused.

Why was the leak not reported to the strata manager earlier, why did housekeeping not report the damaged ceiling in the suite below?

All this leaves you wondering why you did not have this kind of discussion with the strata property manager and the rental manager prior to purchasing the unit. You reflect that the only information you were supplied was some beautiful artistic renderings and some income projections. You leave more troubled than you were when you arrived, blaming yourself for not doing adequate due diligence on buying a second home.

Now add-on to this, how about this model being further complicated by a developer promoting it as a fractional development with 3-month segments with 4 possible owners,  and a flexible rental pool option? One owner can rent if they wish, the others may not if they do not wish to.  Yes, it happens! Anything to sell something!!

Work that one out!!

Who pays for what, is the first question one needs to ask as a buyer, then do your sums and work out the bottom line and ask yourself ‘will this be a good financial deal for me?’ It is a financial investment transaction, you are not buying into a second home, you are buying into an investment where the users of the unit will not be as caring as you, with an investment model which over the years has proven to be a risky one.

Lesson:  Owners and buyers, beware of the so-called ‘income projections’ presented by the developers and uneducated real estate agents that are totally unrealistic and that bear little or no resemblance on what the net income could possibly be. Get independent advice before buying into a condo hotel.

Lesson: Developers partner with hospitality management that knows how to get results!

Developers who want a partner to make a long term success of a project please contact Mark, and for owners, please do the due diligence!

What makes a great restaurant?

A value experience makes a great restaurant. Basic. Whether it is the pub down the road or the Italian at the Four Seasons, the food presented and the experience offered needs to offer real value. That means the more it costs the more you need to offer, from ambiance to service. The customer wants great food at a fair price and that package is what you need to produce.

The food offering should be tasty, fresh, exceptionally well cooked, something that gets those taste buds tingling, in my case I like it to be reflective of the location and culture one is in.

Creative menus, not a standard offering one can except to receive in about 75% of hotel and resort restaurants.

Consistency in the food and service quality delivery. No good great one day, appalling the next

Service, the same old motto, It’s all about people. In no particular order the service needs to be attentive but not overbearing, timely and that does not mean quick or prompt it means as the dinners wish, beverages offered and refilled with out request, personable but not over friendly and well-educated and knowledgable staff who understand the product being offered.

An experience to remember, a feel good place. You do not need to spend a fortune on decor and fixtures and interior design but what is offered needs to gel together.

New crockery and flat ware will not solve your problems!

Every table should be placed and located to best advantage in relation to the service delivery, the eye contact that each guest experiences from each chair assessed in order to make best advantage of it. How a customer feels is critical. It is also, in my opinion, the most important component by miles in which a restaurant is judged. That is part of the design process.

Simple, not really, it’s an art, especially to make an adequate profit.

See my further blogs on this most interesting topic.

Why so many underperforming hotels in Costa Rica?

One would have thought that in a country that has tourism at the top of its agenda that the industry would be a roaring success with world-class quality services all over the place with properties that have and are achieving their operating potential.

Sadly this is far from the case, and now more than ever, with a declining tourist base and an oversupply of inventory we see hotels in stress mode.

Why? Some reasons are as follow.

Lack of investment in people and education during the good times.

Poorly thought out project in the first place.

Non trained management with no eye for detail and no creative flair, same old boring offerings led by that antiquated menu.

Poor quality service, friendly generally yes, but you often get the same service at the local soda as you get in expensive restaurants.

The food offering sucks, the lack of creative flair coming out of the kitchens here in general is a real problem

Lack of investment back into the business over the years, a lack of an ongoing financial and ongoing investment plan that is pivotal to the ongoing success of the business.

No training budget, no training period.

Lack of market understanding, no idea on who the market is and what the customer base require.

Ownership and management that do not have the skills to reposition the property and adjust to different trading conditions.

Lack of awareness of how the industry world-wide has developed, how the expectations of the travelling public have changed.

Lack of value in the product offering, poor pricing strategies.

If you require a review of your hotel and advice on how to implement quality hotel management strategies and services, send an inquiry to mark@turnerlodgingco.com.