Competitive analysis, a hotel asset management tool too often overlooked

If you are managing a football team a competitive analysis is one of the first things a manager does on the Monday before a match on the weekend,

Their strengths and their weaknesses, you assess your opportunities to beat them. If you want to be better than others then you need to understand them and know about them, simple stuff.

In the resort hotel management world why is it that the simple yet time-consuming effort to know your competitors better than they know themselves so you can deliver strategies to beat them are so often overlooked?

This aspect of your hotel business plan should form a major part of your strategy. You will be surprised at how little hotel owners and management teams understand what their competitors are doing and what their weaknesses and strengths are, and therefore they lack the knowledge needed to create winning business plans.

This is where the role of the hotel asset manager comes to the forefront, and where we can help.

Firstly one’s ability to take a customer from your competition is based on that customer’s perception of your hotel’s value in their mind’s eye, their perception of you and your product as compared to the competition. It’s all very simple.

The higher a prospective customer perceives you, then you become closer to creating a competitive advantage. It’s the competitive advantage factor.

What can you do?

You need to know how your offerings in total compare to theirs.  How they compare favorably and non favorably.

Start on their website, and surf the web compiling all the info you can find. Visit your competitive set, get to know there product as well as your own. Ask your customers. You will then start to understand how your services and value pricing compare. Use common sense in your approach to information gathering and much will be revealed.

So now what? Well now it comes to a self assessment, where are you better and where do you need to improve? Questions to ask yourself is how are we going to get the correct message out about our strengths, how are we to improve on our weaknesses so they become strengths.

It’s part of putting together a hotel asset management plan that is unique to your investment, that meets your investment horizon. For example one that balances a capital expenditure program redefining a use of space with service and product enhancement strategies, unlocking value.

For expert advice and professional guidance on how you can go about understanding and utilizing your competitive advantage, how you can turn your weaknesses into strengths, and how you can unlock value you never knew you could achieve, ask  mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

 

What makes a great hotel

My top 10 of what makes a great hotel from the shortest to the longest of what hotel owners, management companies and asset managers should focus on.

  • Cleanliness
  • Feel at home
  • Service is friendly
  • Great use of space
  • Design reflects the location
  • Everything offered is great value
  • You feel great sitting in the restaurant
  • Tasty fresh food which reflects the location
  • User friendly technology, you can read instructions
  • The booking process on their web site does not involve having to figure out why there are variations on price on the same room for the same night.

To discuss your top ten as an owner, and how we can be of assistance in making your hotel or your planned hotel project in the top 10, and how we can offer resort management services that stand out from the crowd, email mark@turnerlodgingco.com.

Why inspect a hotel room after it is cleaned

On a recent hotel visit this question was asked by two resort hotel owner’s to the management as they reviewed the half yearly payroll report. “The maids do the cleaning, can’t they can check it,” Yes indeed they can and should, as they work along a structured room cleaning process. But take a look at this sample of a hotel room inspection checklist, from a hotel I managed many years ago, and you get the picture. Expect the maid to get it right 100% of the time? When they have another 13 rooms to clean? or 18 in some cases!! Here is a basic checklist; housekeeping department s can create their own along these lines.

THE ROOM

a)         Guest Room Door: are the seadbolt and chain lock in working order?  Does the peephole close automatically?  Is the door free of fingerprints and dust?  Is the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign on the inside handle?

b)         Entry Light and Ceiling Fixture. Are they clean and functional?

c)         Carpet. Are the edges and under the bed clean?

d)        Walls. Does it need re-painting or re-glue?

e)         Windows. Glass, ledges and sills all clean? Are the drapes and blackout lining hanging properly? Checked the drape pulls and window latches? For windows with shutter doors, are they dust free?

f)        Beds. Are all the bedding items arranged correctly?

g)         Ceilings. Any cracks, bubbles or cobwebs?

h)         Furniture. Polished? Arranged according to set layout?

i)         Drawers. Are guest amenities supplied in the right quantity and displayed in the correct position? For check-out rooms, check for any items left by previous guests.

j)         Upholstered Furniture. Vacuum or spot-cleaing required?

k)          Pictures and Mirrors. Frames dusted, mirrors straight, no streaks on the mirror?

l)          Telephones. Cleaned the mouthpiece?  Face plate placed correctly?

m)         Lamps. Are the lamp shades clean? Switches work?  All electrical cords neatly coiled up.

n)          Television and Radio. Check the time on the radio. Ensure that the time is correct. Set the alarm on off-position at 12:00 p.m.

o)        Wastebasket. Clean with new liner.

p)         Closet. Dust-free? Number of hangers correct? Extra pillow (where applicable) provide?  Room safe working? All other miscellaneous items are in place, such as clothes brush, shoe horn, shopping bag. etc..

q)         Air conditioner. Is the thermostat set correctly?

r)         Light switches. No finger marks and not broken.

s)         Balconies and Terraces. Ensure exterior light fixtures are working, furnishings are dust-free, floor and handrails are clean.

t)         Potted Plants. Ensure proper care is given.

u)         In-room Minibar. Is it fully stocked? Check expiration dates of food items. Set glassware and supplies to standards. The ice bucket is filled with ice for check-ins.

v)         Coffee Makers. Is it clean? Coffee and condiments must be replenished.

THE BATHROOM

a)         Walls. Are the tiles clean and in good condition? Grouting okay?

b)         Bathtub. Chrome and soap dish clean?  Stopper and shower head in good condition? Faucet is in “tub” position (not shower). Vent above the tub clean?

c)         Shower Stall. Check grouting, tiles, drain, chrome fixtures, soap dishes, proper amenity placement, doors and frame.

d)        Basin. Is the sink clean? Chrome fixtures and counter top clean? Mirror has no spots or streaks? Light is working. Sink stopper is clean. Pipes under sink area are free of dust.

e)         Vanity Top. Free of stains. Check amenity placement. In occupied rooms, ensure the guest toiletries are placed neatly.  Glassware must be clean and free of spots.

f)         Toilet. Check toilet seat and hinges and cover. Is it flushing properly?  Toilet seat bumpers are in place, not leaking or dripping water.

g)         Floor. No hairs. Ensure wastebasket is clean and with liner. Scale is clean and functional, with cover if applicable. Rug is placed in proper position. Inspect vanity stool. Check base boards.

h)         Door. Lock and door handle are in working condition, free of fingerprints. Robe hook and door frame are clean. Inspect full length mirror for cleanliness.

i)          Electrical Outlets. Clean? No cracks?

j)          Shower Rod. Clean and polished. Shower curtain and linen clean and all the hooks are in place.

k)         Supplies. Correctly positioned?

l)          Maintenance Requests. Report any maintenance issues.

m)        Ceilings. Check if vents are clean and free of dust, cracks, or smudges.

n)         Terry Linens. Pay particular attention to the quality of the terry linens.

o)         Make-Up Mirror. Clean and free of dust or spots.  Light bulb is working properly and in off position.

Cost effective? Makes good business sense? You bet it does, and those in hotel management that skip this process to save on payroll they will pay the consequences.

Resort hotel development and what is involved

Developing a hotel? New to resort hotel development? As you figure out where to start and as you contemplate the results of the hotel feasibility study, here are a list of basic issues you need to have in place.

If you have not had a market study done by the way get one done, at the very least this should be done by a professional, not the local real estate agent down the road who sold you this lot with the line ‘great spot to build a resort’.

Get you team together. Yes I mention this as it is not uncommon for those who are inexperienced to not realize the amount of team members which are required to kickoff a successful hotel project. Architect, surveyor, builders and engineers,  interior designer, a hotel consultant to assist you with general input and management and brands options, landscape specialist,  someone experienced in kitchen design plans (not the supplier on his own),  special systems experts in communication, security and the like.

Get your permits in order. Environmental and local municipal issues.

Get your finance in order; realize that you need cash to get this off the ground.

Get your development budget tied down and in order, and get advice on this from experts. Realize that base building costs are a smaller than you expect % of the total build out costs.

Get your management team decided on and contracted? Who will manage this hotel?

Educate yourself, get advice, and if all of the above are in place you will have a good chance of success.

So build out is occurring now, what do you have to do to open a hotel?

Management have to figure out how to overcome numerous challenges along the way to opening.

With conflicting interests from numerous parties it is an interesting and challenging profession.

Consider the balancing act!

Your client and or owner who happens to be a local real estate developer wants to sit in the main restaurant to host his potential real estate clients a week after the chef is hired while construction in the kitchen is ongoing, the financier and developer are eager to get guests in the door before the hotel is completed, the hired team needs to be educated, trained, trained and trained again.

Where will the staff and management team come from? How to get the local community  onside? Will the operating concepts and the pricing strategy actually work? Are we on budget with pre-opening and construction costs? Where will we buy our products and equipment? How secure and safe will this place be? What is our image and marketing position? Where will our guests come from? Who will oversee the defects management of construction/ Will we need to take over the property from construction before defects are rectified/ Can the chef actually cook as the owner appointed him/her and we didn’t test his/her skills during the recruitment drive? Will the staff housing be ready? What will be our environmental friendly practices? How do I keep the owners happy. How do I now persuade head office or/and the owner the 1st years budget was too optimistic?

One can go on and on.

Successful hotel development and opening management requires a feel for where one is at as the circumstances change daily, the uncanny ability to figure out the timing issues and kind of worm one’s way through all the obstacles.

Summary

As your resort hotel management team, business adviser or development consultant we will help you avoid all the opening pitfalls. Proven and tested, our experience in opening or re-launching resort hotels is extensive and almost all took place in ‘hardship’ isolated locations where one has to think outside of the box.

 

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.

Resort hotel menus and what one can do with breads!

Resort owner’s and hotel management companies, please make sure you enable your chefs to surprise and delight with the bread offerings. If more hotels provided adequate bakery sections in their kitchen and if chefs were motivated to learn to produce, look at what surprises could be in store!

Breakfast breads:  Sri Lankan coconut breakfast bread, spelt breakfast bread, berry bannock, Scottish oatcakes.
Filled breads:  Georgian cheese boat breads, Potato-and-herb-filled bread.
Sweet breads: Aromatic festive bread, Date-bread morsels, Apricot and almond bread, Norwegian wrapping bread, Sweet bread rings, Buckwheat honey country bread.
Savory breads: Bulgur bread, Olive ladder bread, Uighur nan with cumin and onion, Three-colour focaccia, Pizza with rosemary and garlic, Lamb and tomato breads.
Mildly spiced breads: Ethiopian spice bread, Moroccan anise bread, Aromatic festive bread, Thyme bread, Afghan snowshoe naan, Fenugreek corn bread.
Strongly spiced breads: Chile bread, Xichuan pepper bread, Rajasthani salt and spice bread, Fresh coriander, Ginger, and Chile crepes.
Great breads for snacking: High-tech crackers, Sardinian parchment bread, Pueblo sunflower seed breads.
Crisp breads: Norwegian crispbread, Sardinian parchment bread, High-tech crackers, Crisp lentil wafers.
Flat loaves for slicing: Ethiopian spice bread, Tibetan barley skillet bread, Apricot and Almond read.
Breads used as wrappers: Bejing pancakes, Wheat-flour tortillas, Fresh rice papers, Norwegian wrapping bread, Rice and black lentil crepes, Fresh coriander, Ginger and chile crepes.
Bread used for scooping: Soft whole wheat skillet breads, Deep-fried whole wheat breads with cumin, Blue corn tortillas, Corn tortillas.
Breads used as a “Sponge” for other flavours: Ethiopian sponge breads, Rice and black lentil crepes, Fresh coriander, Ginger and Chile crepes.
Breads for dunking in soup: Afghan home-style naan, Moroccan anise bread, Ethiopian spice bread, Olive ladder bread, San’a sorghum breads, Apricot and almond bread.
Breads for appetizers: Pizza with rosemary and garlic, Lamb and tomato breads, Three-colour focaccia, Olive ladder bread, Georgian cheese-filled quick bread.
Best breads for beginners: Pita, soft whole wheat skillet breads, high-tech crackers.
Breads made using an interesting technique: Ethiopian sponge breads, Rice and black lentil crepes, Flung and folded griddle breads, Hunza sprouted wheat breads, Lacy coconut milk pancakes, Pebbled Persian bread.
Breads using a soured dough: Rice and black lentil crepes, Paperthin lavash, Turcoman sourdough bread.
Breads to make with children: High-tech crackers, Pizza with rosemary and garlic, Berry bannock.
Flatbread “classics”: Pita, Corn tortillas, Afghan snowshoe naan, Paperthin lavash, Soft whole wheat skillet breads.
Yeast-free flatbreads: (A small selection) Soft whole wheat skillet breads, High-tech crackers, Sardinian parchment bread, Bulgur bread, Hunza sprouted wheat breads, Unyeasted date rounds.
Wheat-free flatbreads: (A small selection). Ethiopian sponge bread, Rice and black lentil crepes, Fresh rice papers, Corn tortillas, Rye hardtack rings, Scottish oatcakes, Lacy coconut milk pancakes, Finnish barley bread.

Mouth watering! Taste bud tingling! But how often do we even see them in hotel restaurants?

Contact Mark for help with your hotel food and beverage department, pre-opening or operation phase.

Value-added design in hotel development

Hotel development critical processes: value design, value engineering, value life cycle, what do they mean?

Value-added design is a process through the stages of the use of space program.

A project’s viability can be truly reflected after profound but minor economies. In the ‘Art of the Deal’ developer Donald Trump cited using three hinges on each ball room door, instead of four, thereby saving 25% of  installation and material costs.

The process, although based around common sense, requires an experienced development team, who can justify the use of all space as it relates to the unique market concept of the hotel.

Firstly they need to answer the questions, ‘is the space essential?’ and ‘how best do we use it?’

Value engineering involves the architects, engineers, manufacturers presenting a cost-benefit-analysis of the maintenance, reliability, durability of all major materials, systems and equipment being considered. Obvious aspects are hot water systems, elevators, air conditioning, communications, floor finishes, and kitchen equipment; this process also involves a life-cycle cost analysis estimating energy replacement and maintenance costs. The developer is then educated in the selection process. This takes time and perseverance, but the long-term viability of the hotel is often defined at this stage. Operating profits for years to come are defined, and a project manager experienced in the hotel field is an invaluable asset to this process.

Building safety codes, systems for exit due to smoke and fire, and fire resistance of construction elements, from doors in 3 hours walls, roofs, windows, to kitchen hoods, all need to be taken into consideration.

Obviously, cost management needs an effective and efficient system of control. Work scheduling, material and labour, technical aspects, quality standard control measures, all need to be monitored in detail so that any budget overruns can be managed well in advance.

It is in the planning stage that the major costs are reduced, the stage where the hoteliers, architects, interior designers, suppliers, lighting and acoustic consultants, etc., create value-design, which is then supported by value-engineering.

 

Resort hotel staff retention

At all times and even more now that the world economies are mixed or struggling retaining trained hotel employees at all levels is essential because of the obvious need to exceed the expectations of our guests. Let us assume those expectations are known.

The cost to the owner, the disruption to consistency of service staff delivery cannot be under estimated. One could add to that a list of associated costs to a management company.

To inspire and retain that motivation each employee brought to the work place on his or her first day it is not all about how much compensation and benefits one pays ( although this is certainly a major issue in poorer countries like Malawi where day-to-day survival comes first in most people’s minds), it is about creating and retaining an atmosphere where each person feels appreciated, retaining the team spirit and that requires capable and caring business practices and strong leadership skills.

Some points with questions for leaders to answer.

What ever culture, or to put it another way, what ever the way of life a company operates should be developed from within over time to reflect the goals and particular characteristics of the long-term needs of a company. Questions to ask are is your culture clear? No doubt it is service orientated, but do new prospects understand it and will they buy into that culture, do they fit, are they service oriented? Being a right fit results in a happy and hopefully appreciated person. Message, during the hiring process expose your culture and hire right.

Is the total compensation fair? Is it truly competitive for the skills that individual brings to the company in that location? Try to create a balanced (and incentivized where ever possible) package, and that means other aspects such as retirement plans as suit your location. Does it incorporate bonuses geared to clear performance goals which can be very clearly determined as having been achieved or not during the annual employee performance review? Is this process clearly defined and discussed during the hiring process? As an employer do you dictate the goals to be achieved or is this a two-way discussion so the content can be fine tuned and improved on? Performance-based plans should be designed very carefully to make certain that everyone is motivated to strengthen the business as appropriate to their contributions.

Common sense prevails that ensuring everyone is appreciated for their contribution should be top of the list once the hiring process is completed.

Are all your employees at what ever level encouraged to make suggestions to their immediate superior. Is that idea just brushed off? Is that idea used when suitable? Are you still operating in the dark ages where the culture is very much top down and the employees feel they are being dictated to and bossed around.

Does your organization dictate corporate policy from the board room, are you like one UK hotel management company that insists on incentive plans being approved annually during the annual business plan process?

What employee recognition programs do you have? To the General Manager and then down. As an owner how does your organization thank people, and how often do you thank someone for a job well done? Hand written notes, hotel wide recognition, hotel group recognition, is it done consistently? You don’t have to lavish prizes and small gifts all time, a simple note of appreciation works wonders.

How as a leader do you express pride and appreciation in the numerous ways ones employees exceed your expectations? Do you use employees bios within trade web sites, face book, twitter and the like? Lets say it again and again, people who feel appreciated and valued are more loyal yet how many leaders actually go out of their way to utilize this simple human touch on a regular basis?

No excuse on this one, costs can be controlled, but each employee should have a professional development program including inter department training exposure geared to their career aspirations. A win for long-term staff retention.

There are many others, one being an owners responsibility to invest in adequate  equipment for each person to do their job. That means from cooking utensils to lap tops. A sensible and ongoing capital reinvestment plan, part of a hotel asset management plan.

As experienced operators we can see within an HR audit where opportunities to unlock value exists, it a part of the whole hotel management business plan and the asset management plan.

Hotel development coordination

Who does what in the hotel development coordination process, from the design, construction, purchasing and installation of a new hotel?

What budget category, estimated by whom, designed by whom, contracted by whom, purchased by whom, installed by whom, approved by whom, signed off and controlled by whom?

Where does one start!

Take these areas of responsibility; general construction, furniture, art work, flooring, wall coverings, ceiling finishes, doors, lighting, mechanical, electrical, life safety, security systems, elevators, TVs, music systems, telephones and systems, audio visual, food service, laundry, housekeeping , maintenance related, shelving, office equipments, recreational equipment, window coverings, shower curtains, mirrors, accessories, bedspreads linen, mattresses, terry, uniforms, table ware, kitchen utensils, working inventories, signage, landscaping, roadways and pathways.

Then add-on to that all the team members involved such as the architect, acoustical  consultant, audio-visual consultant, construction estimator, civil engineer, elevator consultant, fire protection consultant, graphic artist, general contractor, interior designer, food service consultant, laundry consultant, landscape artist, lighting consultant, millwork contractor, mechanical engineer, hotel operators purchasing department, systems consultant, structural engineer. Add to that also the owner and developer, perhaps even a real estate agent, the hotel consultant and the hotel manager.

No wonder mistakes happen, items are forgotten, duplications arise, budgets get screwed up, owners get frustrated, delay overruns occur, development costs are strained.

For advice in resort hotel development, contact Mark Turner who has been involved with 9 ore opening and development projects worldwide, and whose hospitality business advisory services are customized to serve independent hotel owners and developers in Central America, the Caribbean, Asia, Africa and southern Europe.