Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 21 July 2017
It's long been on my bucket list to visit the beaches of Normandy and experience just a sliver of what our fathers and grandfathers went through on June 6, 1944. Coupled with some fine cuisine including exquisite wine and delicious camembert cheeses as well as a few walkabouts through picturesque Northern French towns and other historic sites, this would make for an unforgettable summer vacation.Talking over this dream in conversation, it became apparent that many of my friends and colleagues have similar ambitions or have already completed such a journey. And I'd imagine that you or your friends are in the same boat. In fact, while touring the D-Day Invasion locales may represent the pinnacle of war tourism, it is hardly an anomaly insofar as popular travel motivations.Just consider how much war history is out there and how much effort has been put into preserving these locations and offering guests a fun yet meaningful trip. There are WWII battle sites scattered all over the globe as well as many other museums like the USS Midway in San Diego that I recently visited and the USS Intrepid docked in New York City or even the far more somber museums in Warsaw and those places dedicated to retelling the Holocaust. Then there are the WWI battle sites in such locations as Eastern France or Belgium where, as a patriotic Canadian, one of my previous holidays in this region compelled me to include a daytrip to Vimy Ridge. Plus, Civil War battle sites continue to be prominent attractions for those of us here who prefer to travel domestically.In short, this list is exhaustive and worldwide. Even though in an ideal world there would be no war, the sad fact is that such violent events have taken place throughout our past and it is important that we continue to visit them so that we can act more sensibly in the future. Hence, as I see it, war tourism is not only a worthy pastime but a vital part of every traveler's journey of self-discovery.For you as the avid hotelier, though, such excursions tie perfectly into the concept of local authentic experiences wherein you strive to not only service a guest's accommodation needs but also provide them with something they can't quite get anywhere else. If your property is next to or within a reasonable drive from an attraction of this sort, it is definitely worth promoting on your website and other collateral materials or going a step further by arranging for group tours.While the latter of these two endeavors is significantly harder to set up as it entails partnering with other businesses or negotiating deals with local vendors, the former, including putting up the necessary information on your website, can be completed properly inside of a week. Given that the degree of difficulty is low, there's no reason why you shouldn't be advertising all the possible experiences that a guest might have once they've checked in at your hotel.Describing them on your hotel or listing their availability in a brochure can even work nearer to the top of the sales funnel whereby the multitude of regional attractions may convince a customer to choose your property or a competitor down the road. More likely, however, it will come down to how you package these with other activities into preplanned itineraries that give peace of mind to incoming travelers who won't want to do all this legwork.Let me give you two examples that show how this war tourism packaging might work with differing levels of flexibility. The key message from both is that such attractions are a good way to offer a change of pace from other pursuits.First and close to home are the many quaint inns in Toronto's neighboring viticulture zone, Niagara-on-the-Lake. While it's perfunctory for these hotels to offer wine tours and other gourmand experiences, a few have started to point out that their grounds are within a ten-minute drive of Fort George, a colonial stronghold that can be explored through-and-through inside of two hours. While guided tours are still rare, front desk clerks should be adequately trained to keep this site - as well as all the other non-wine-related activities - on the backs of their minds just in case they are asked by meandering guests to offer some variety to their epicurean-centric itineraries.Second pertains to my month-long sojourn to Japan happening later this fall. As part of a larger tour group, the main stops are Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka. But I specifically chose this operator because its schedule included full-day excursions to both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If I were to venture out on my own in a country where the language was completely foreign, not only would I mostly likely only travel to one of the two places but I would also not get nearly as much out of it as I would with a guide.Even though this last comment is less about hotels than specific tour operators, understanding these types of travel motivations will nonetheless help you in crafting experiences that will greatly benefit those people who are staying with you. It's all about creating lasting memories to propel guest satisfaction further skyward, and if setting up war tourism programs is possible for your location then it's definitely worth pursuing.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HotelsMag on June 6, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 17 July 2017
Hotel renovations are a necessary dread of our industry in order to keep apace with the constantly giving decor trends, star rating requirements and technological advancements. They are also stressful and frustrating. Having gone through dozens of this large-scale projects over the past four decades, I was able to navigate the treacherous waters of my own apartment's scope creep by following a general guideline of these twelve tips.1. Define your objectives. Be as specific as possible, and make sure that these are written and approved by your ownership group. My mistake this time around was that my vision was very different than that of my spouse which resulted in serious cost overruns and time delays.2. Timetables are split in thirds. Whatever you are proposing, figure one third of your time will be spent planning, another third in the actual work and the final third in quality control. Do not underestimate any one of these segments.3. Budgets never last for more than the time they were created. There are more ways for costs to overrun than you can count. I thought our planning was generous but we ended up about 25% over budget, and that includes several areas of great cost savings. It's natural to use a renovation to augment deep cleaning, upholstery renewal, upgraded security systems, LED conversions and any other new technologies. It all adds up!4. What's behind the walls? Our condo is only 15 years old, so there were no crazy surprises like what you would find in a century building. Nevertheless, we discovered significant shortfalls in wiring, plumbing and HVAC that all needed to be corrected before we could begin. Of course, these resulted in more cost increases and time delays, but the lesson here is to thoroughly inspect the state of affairs 'under the hood' before finalizing the scope and budget.5. Hire a great general contractor. Simply put, you have a hotel to run, not a construction site. Don't even think of doing both simultaneously. You need someone who will manage the project on your behalf. The GC became my single point of contact for the project, helping streamline communication and saving me time. He collected all my notes and disseminated them to the multitude of tradesmen onsite. He also fed back issues and prevented potential solutions.6. Let everyone know your deadline. In a residential move, this is straightforward; the closing date of your home's sale dictates the project's drop-dead completion date. While this gave us six months of overlap, the GC understood the final month was set aside for moving. With no secrets, the work was accomplished in the set timeframe. As a senior manager, you put decide what the maximum tolerable length of agony is that your property can endure before irreparable damage is done to its occupancy and reputation.7. You cannot walk away. In order to keep everything on track, I visited the jobsite at least twice a week, in addition to a weekly GC meeting. Apart from the obvious status reports, there were always new items and unexpected issues. The devil is in the details, and you won't discover those details unless you are periodically on the ground with the troops. To note one example, we did not specify the location of the thermostat. Without any direction, the HVAC folks placed it in what they thought was the optimal position, which did not take into consideration the high headboard which would have covered it. Good thing I was there to catch this before it was too late.8. Document all change orders. We kept a running tally sheet of over-change that we requested. While this did not lead to any real cost savings, at least we understood the detailed reasons for the overages. This approach will come in very handy when ownership needs to understand your budget predicament or to reconcile excesses.9. Create a positive work environment. I'm fussy about coffee. So too is my Italian, Portuguese, Lebanese and Turkish workforce. I knew that if I did not provide great coffee, one junior team member would be tasked on a continual Starbucks run. A hundred-dollar Nespresso machine plus lots of capsules turned out to be a wise investment. (As additional learning, the decaf capsules were never touched.)10. What ifs are expensive. Want to move a door, reposition a switch or add a dimmer? Most GCs will never say no. Just about anything can be built or modified; it is merely a matter of time and materials. So, be careful as to what you ask for, as your whimsical idea may be converted into reality but at a price too hefty to properly bear.11. Take lots of before photos. Try to image the best angles and where you stood so that you can replicate them exactly with the new look. The before-and-after comparisons may help you explain your cost overruns to your owners.12. Say thank you to your team. I didn't hire painters, carpenters, electricians, plumbers or HVAC specialists. I hired craftsmen who take great pride in their work. It's probably a small job to them, but clearly very important to me. Such professionals will feel similar pride in their work done to refurbish your hotel. No matter what the project is or the size of your property, it costs nothing to say thank you in person or by email, and it will always be appreciated.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in eHotelier on Wednesday, March 22, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 14 July 2017
For those whose knowledge of Montreal is limited, a short history lesson is mandated. The province of Quebec, including Montreal, is predominantly French-speaking. Yet, there is a distinct Anglophone culture in this its largest city which steadfastly had maintained a strong influence over the province through political appointments and strong financial influence. This led to a mini-rebellion (quite significant in a Canadian context) in the late 1970s, ultimately culminating in a vote to separate from Canada in 1995 with the yes votes losing by less than a percentage point. Today, through a stream of legislation, both the city and the Ritz Montreal are truly bilingual. Those 'Anglo traditions' which the Ritz has nurtured for a century now blend seamlessly and form just a portion of its wider target audience.But history alone does not make a hotel, and the property closed its doors for several years to make way for a top-to-bottom renovation. In January 2013, after consuming over $250 million in capital, a new slimmed down Ritz-Carlton Montreal with 129 guestrooms and 45 private residences opened. Superficially, the property maintained its traditional exterior, lobby and oval-shaped ballroom. The original restaurant was expanded in seating and renamed Maison Boulud after a partnership with the famous Parisian chef, Daniel Boulud. Under the skin, there was very little if any of the old property that remained.Despite the name, the property is not managed by The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company. It is affiliated from a marketing perspective and half of the ownership is held within the Torianni family. Taking the helm as CEO and general manager is Andrew Torianni. A self-proclaimed 'hotel brat', his father Marco retired from the Coiffure Hotel du Rhone Geneve in 2012. Andrew owes his deep knowledge of the hotel business to a 24/7/365 infusion, having lived on property for most of his years.On a recent visit to the hotel, I had an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Torianni in the Bar Boulud to discuss not only the property, but more importantly his perspectives on the state of the hotel industry.What are your thoughts on the sharing economy?You have to look at the accommodations industry a little like television. In the past, there were just a few channels. Now, with cable and satellite, there are many more options for the viewer. It took awhile for the TV networks to adjust, as they had to up their game with not only better content in general, but also productions that targeted at specific market segments. The same holds true for the accommodations industry. Where we now have many more products, including Airbnb, we need to understand how to make our products focused at specific market segments. Be clear in the definition of your target guest, then narrowcast your product and message to those audiences accordingly.Do you expect to see any business lost to Airbnb in the luxury segment?In a word, no. There are three aspects of hotels that Airbnb cannot duplicate. First and foremost, it is service. A hotel without it is really an oxymoron; it simply cannot exist, especially at the luxury level. The second is a vibrant lobby. We tend to underestimate the strategic feeling of camaraderie that comes from guests' interactions within. The third is food. Guests want great food, not just quick-serve equivalents. With these priorities well-established, a good hotel can weather this sharing economy storm.The Ritz has an older, well-established Anglo-Montreal client base. Yet, as I sit here, I'm estimating the average age of the patrons to be mostly in their 20s and 30s.This has been a critical focus for us. We retained the Palm Court off the lobby, and it still serves a traditional tea just as Cesar Ritz initiated in 1913. But next door is the Maison Boulud which breaks the mold. Here, we find an open kitchen with high top tables that seat a dozen, thereby encouraging a younger audience. Today at Maison Boulud, it is hard to tell if a patron is French or English speaking. The two societies often blend together, which at first seems incongruous yet somehow in our setting it works.Speaking of youthful audiences, how can a hotel best approach the millennial market?Think food! While it is probably incorrect to lump millennials into a single segment, one commonality is their focus on food, not just in terms of consumption but rather from the standpoint of experiences. Think of each meal as an Instagram or Facebook impression. Follow this and you will undoubtedly be successful.I see the pond. Where are the ducks?(Smiling) It's still a little bit too cold. They'll be here eventually, as they have been for the past hundred years.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on June 2, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 10 July 2017
No trip to San Diego is complete without a trip to CV-41, also known as the USS Midway, the largest ship in the world until 1955. The carrier was since decommissioned in 1992 and has been turned into a floating museum. As basically an entire town in a boat, the sheer size of this craft defies imagination. Touring her decks and viewing the wide variety of aircraft and exhibits can easily take a full day. Not having a military background, I was in total awe and full of admiration all those who had boarded this great vessel and served in the Navy.A tour of the Midway is not complete, though, without listening to the living history provided by the many docents who willingly share their experiences. While the information they provided clearly reflected the life on the ship, significant parallels can nevertheless be formed with the vast array of activities in our world of hospitality. Here are several that I gleaned.1.Expertise is not necessarily coming from the top-down. Landing an airplane on an aircraft carrier is as difficult as they come. The coordination of this feat required an entire team of crew members, each tasked with specific duties to fulfill an orchestral procedure to ensure that each jet made it down safely. The movies make it seem as if the pilots were in control of everything, but the fact is that they were following the exact requirements radioed to them by servicemen of much lower ranks who guided each plane to catch a deck pendant (cable) stretched across the runway.From this, the hotel implication is fairly straightforward. Listen to your restaurant servers, housekeepers, bell staff and front desk clerks. Chances are that they have a better pulse on what's going on than you do, or at least a fresh perspective with insights that can vastly improve operational efficiency.2. Critiques are vital to continuous improvement. After every landing, there was always a complete debriefing session. All pilots attended and watched video replays of their approaches. Senior, more experienced pilots provided the grades, posted for everyone in the group to see. The experience was probably gut-wrenching for those flying, but ultimately they recognized that all share in the responsibility for each other's success and the quest for continual improvement.From this, you can inquire about the last time your departmental managers met with their teams to discuss performance, not to be negative but to search for the best way to achieve guest satisfaction.3. The same position for extended periods breeds complacency. The 'Air Boss' directed all aspects of the flight deck operations while the 'Mini Boss' was his assistant and in training for the job. What was surprising was that the length of time in the position of Air Boss was 12 months, with the Mini Boss assuming then his role. If you think of the many years of experience necessary to get to this leadership position, it seems contradictory to see such an early departure. Yet, the feeling was that those who spend too long in the boss's chair will become complacent, potentially leading to shortcuts on procedures.So think for a moment about how long is too long in any hotelier position? Will your team leaders continue to grow and thereby improve performance? Or should they be shuffled laterally into new roles to strengthen their overall wherewithal through cross-training and new perspectives?4. Safety is everyone's priority. High octane jet fuel, live ammunition, fast-moving aircraft and inordinately loud noises do not make good company without strict rules focusing first and foremost on safety. Everyone on board was fully trained and retrained on these procedures including first aid and evacuation protocols. Moreover, regular drills reinforced this knowledge.As it concerns you, your fellow managers and your associates, the lesson is that safety is just as important in a hotel as an aircraft carrier. It's everyone's business. How are you managing safety training with your team? And is it enough?(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in Hotels Magazine on May 23, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 7 July 2017
Of course, this all relates to technology - putting your internal curriculum onto an online portal, thereby enabling e-learning. It works because it fosters an environment of microlearning - that is, allowing your team to learn at their own pace and in bite-sized, modular chunks, both of which are better for knowledge retention over the classical intensive and condensed period of instruction. Additionally, by putting your curriculum online, it frees up your supervisors' time as well as allows associates to explore other aspects of your operations that are beyond their current job description but nonetheless a subject of interest for prospective lateral promotions.While it may seem too good to be true, obstacles present themselves during the implementation process and in getting your team to adjust to the new system. And these growing pains are most evident than in the housekeeping department.Likened to the last holdout against the invasion of purely technological processes, your housekeepers are now prone to disruptions on nearly all fronts. Training manuals can be put online or plugged into motion-capture performance tracking stations for new employees to quickly learn the basics before job shadowing begins in earnest. New mobile-centric software platforms offer real-time synchronization to streamline internal communication, shift priorities on the fly and appease the current demand for 24/7 room readiness to the point where the morning lineup is all but obsolete. And then there are engineering firms working to build robots that can fold laundry and clean rooms, thus eliminating the need for human housekeepers altogether, but this is still at least a few decades away from practicality.Additionally, you must consider the health and safety of your housekeeping team. Unlike most other desk jobs, theirs is one of physical rigor, lending itself to a much higher risk of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) as well as everything that results from that - lowered team motivation, erratic staff scheduling and long-term disability payouts to cite three.While it's a much more straightforward line of thought between how technology can benefit your property from a training perspective, there are also significant implications for how it can be utilized to also boost the wellbeing of your team. Firstly, most contemporary SOP training modules teach the proper techniques which minimize injury. Next, there are now platforms with dedicated ergonomic curriculums so that your housekeepers can get in the habit of using the correct muscles for any given cleaning-related task.This is but a quick overview of how technology can work to propel your team into the 21st century and I would highly recommend you investigate your options. I've purposely left this article company agnostic for brevity's sake, but if you'd like the names of a few to help get you started, email me and we'll discuss what will work best for your specific hotel.
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 5 July 2017
Here's a simple test to see if your morning foodservice is staid. Order breakfast in your own restaurant and take a picture of what's served on the plate. Now, go to any Denny's - or any other well-known diner of this ilk - and order their Grand Slam or equivalent. This meal delivers a plethora of plate-filling carbs and all at a very reasonable price. If your plate looks similar to this, then it's time to seriously rethink your approach.Remember, Denny's price is well under ten bucks including coffee. That's the baseline your customers have in the back of their minds - one that's been imprinted through countless visits to various fast food outlets. Of course, your price is going to be higher and so too should your presentation, albeit there's no guarantee that the quality will necessarily be better.Breakfast is a critical part of your operations and can drive home a great hotel experience by letting guests start their day on the right foot. Limited-service properties recognize its importance in attracting rooms revenue by including it in the rate. Even the QSR sector has identified breakfast as universally appealing with many franchises extending availability hours from traditional mornings to day-round. Now it's your turn to rethink this meal.Creativity Equals ReengineeringReengineering your breakfast menu is not an onerous proposition. As breakfast generally delivers a high margin, your team has a lot of latitude in what you can create.Let's start with a staple - oatmeal. I encourage you to challenge your approach to this basic breakfast option. Does the presentation look visually appealing? Is it popping with a variety of colors? Does its smell titillate the nostrils and immediately make the stomach rumble? Can you differentiate your oatmeal from another property's dish of a similar name?The opportunity is making every dish your own. Creativity delivers memorability which equals greater meal satisfaction and ultimately revenues. For example, here's a photo I took with my iPhone just last week at a local diner in Toronto called Portland Variety. A little bit of a chef's knife and positioning of a fruit garnish turns a plain oatmeal bowl into a genuine selfie moment! If a downtown diner can do this, why can't you?(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on May 5, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 3 July 2017
Thinking of all the hours that are spent by hotel managers and public relations agencies in preparing this material is mortifying, especially since 99% of these well-crafted pieces of literature will be trashed without the recipient ever getting beyond the headline. What a waste! Moving forward, as the general manager or director of communications, you must find a way to get a better return on your PR investments.When public relations works, it is a fantastic use of your financial resources. Too bad that most of the materials that get distributed so badly misses the mark. To this end, here are ten pointers that will greatly improve your PR news release program's efficacy.1. Work to a strategy, not a tactical plan. Your PR strategy should be based upon your product, services or people. Anyone who believes that a strategy is to distribute materials monthly, independent of content, has the cart before the horse!2. Each release must make sense to the reader. Assume nothing. The reader may not know where your property is located relative to geographic reference points or the unique selling points of what makes your hotel great. Similarly, don't even assume the reader knows the name of your property or its affiliation.3. The headline is more important than all the content that follows. Read the headline. If it does not encourage the reader to continue, hold the release until it does. Funny, catchy, poignant, witty, racy, current, political, timely or historic headlines - all can work when done right so try a few and torture test them with your internal test.4. A visual is critical. The saying, 'an image is worth a thousand words' rings true. Readers are far more interested in looking at the photo and will have a higher propensity to read what you have to say, particularly when the picture has a caption. However, more is not necessarily better. For example, a recently received release from a tourism bureau had ten different photos as well as text to accompany each. A single visual has meaning; multiples rarely enhance the communications.5. Brevity please! No one wants to read a 500-word editorial. No one has time! If the recipient is interested, he or she will respond to you for more information. Give them enough to whet their appetites. You have no need to distribute the entire story at once. As the top record for this week, I received a 1,837-word release. Is the sender seriously expecting anyone to read all of this? Would you?6. Personalize if you can. I am far more apt to look at an email if it starts with, 'Dear Larry' than one that has no personal introduction. Program your system accordingly.7. What are the next steps? Photos should have a download link and credits identified. A source for more information should include both a phone number and an email. If there is a FAM opportunity, then that too should be specified. Include general website links but also specific addresses to pages containing the most pertinent information.8. Vanity releases are annoying. Sorry, announcing the promotion of the assistant's assistant to the director of marketing is not a news release. In my mind, the only personnel that are worthy of a news release are the appointment of a general manager and the executive chef. Like the boy who cried wolf, choose your broadcasts wisely.9. Creativity counts. A snappy headline, great photo and a few paragraphs of well-written text is all that is needed. Sounds easy, but often this requires a lot more work than the usual regurgitation of the 'blather'.10. Encourage your PR agency to focus on results (quality) rather than quantity. I know your agency wants to demonstrate that they are working for you. They believe that sending out materials regularly will justify their fees. If you are hoodwinked by that tactic, then maybe they are not even charging you enough!(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in HOTELS Magazine on May 2, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 29 June 2017
I'm mystified, or should I say confused. Perhaps you can help me solve this conundrum...In most annual budget processes, hotel managers go into immaculate detail on spreadsheets for such line items as capital for renovations, expense allocations for operations, personnel, and sales and marketing. Yet rarely is there a section, nay more than a single row devoted to training or any of its other more elaborate forms such as 'service culture development', 'associate engagement', 'team improvement' or 'guest experience enhancement'. If we are truly in the hospitality industry, why do we neglect the fundamental service function that is our namesake?Giving more thought to your internal service R&D also means you are working to substantially distinguish your hotel when more extravagant facility upgrades are far outside of budgetary scope. Through continuous technological installations and judicious procurement, most limited-service properties now have quiet HVAC, comfortable beds and ample bathroom facilities. With the gap in physical product presentation narrowing, service thus becomes the all-important critical business differentiator. This is good news for the property owner, as service improvements rarely require any form of extensive upfront capital and often have limited cost, mostly allocated to salary for proficient associate instructors and lost training time.Understanding The Guest Experience HierarchyIn 1943, Abraham Maslow published his theory of the hierarchy of needs, and his psychology theory has profound applications to the hospitality industry. As his treatise identified five sets of specific individual needs, let's apply each to how your guests approach an accommodation and how each subsequent level adds further needs that are only important once all predecessors have been satisfied.Physiological Needs. This level denotes the physical accommodations your property delivers - a comfortable night's sleep, a functioning washroom for proper hygiene, essential beverages like water and sustenance (note that this is different from 'food' and 'cuisine'). Also included here would be housekeeping as it relates back to maintaining sanitary conditions, thus explaining why flaws in this area so easily draw the scorn of guests. Nowadays, free high-speed WiFi is teetering on being a part of these bare necessities given how reliant we all are on internet connectivity for communications, our jobs, information access, directions and even payments.Safety Needs. More than just a doorlatch, safety means that you provide as stress-free an environment as possible. For instance, guests should not be woken by rowdy people in the room next door. They should not encounter unsavory characters in your lobby as the security presence is both apparent and effective. Guests should be reassured that their cars are not vandalized in the parking lot. Finally, living in the digital age means that their personal data and credit card information is not willingly shared with third parties and that you have done your due diligence to ward off hackers.Social Needs. This is the first category where service really comes into play, especially when you take into account that the other common name for this level is 'love and belonging'. The focus is the reassurance that the guest's decision to choose your property was a wise one when compared to every other hotel in your comp set, whereby not only are you attending to visitors' personal needs but providing for them in a friendly manner. Included here are operational line staff positions like the bellhop, valet parking attendants, concierge and front desk clerks - basically anyone whose primary function is to interact and help customers in any way that's beyond the scope of physiological and safety needs. For many properties, the mandatory concept of service necessary to fulfill this level is specifically detailed in SOP manuals as well as an innate characteristic that is prescreened during the interview process. In any case, these skills are trainable and can be measured against quantifiable standards.Esteem Needs. This fourth echelon of service is where personalization starts to play a part. A typical example of this is a loyalty program, where habitues are given a preferred status, often with separate check-in, upgraded amenities and additional onsite privileges. For example, your staff should address guests by name when they pick up the in-room phone to call for restaurant reservations. The general manager might also compose a handwritten note on arrival with a welcome refreshment. Recognition of a birthday, anniversary or major lifecycle event also falls in this category. Lastly, food rears its magnificent head again as providing a fine dining experience above and beyond merely refilling one's energy stores is a sharp demonstration of respect for your patrons.Self-Actualization Needs. Representing the pinnacle of service, this classification does not necessarily mean significant added expense for the operator, but it does require time for mastery. Self-actualization implies that our operations are delivering a memorable experience as well as one that enriches a guest's life in some meaningful way. It could be as simple as providing the recipe for a dish that the guest remarked as exceptional in the restaurant - that is, education. Or likewise, it could mean providing a sample of the dry rub the chef uses for the main course so visitors can better understand how individual ingredients contribute to a greater whole. This could also be a facility tour of the property, an invitation to an event held on-property, passing along some information about a hard-to-secure local activity or simply having a lengthy discussion with a corporate group about what else the staff can do to make their retreat go off without a hitch.Satisfying The Guest Experience HierarchySelf-actualization is where you want to be, delivery of which typically results in lifelong memories, extreme levels of positive sentiments and unswerving loyalty. Naturally, commentary on Yelp, TripAdvisor and other third-party review sites reflects these achievements with exuberant and exceptionally compelling appraisals which will definitely help to convert future guests.Think of these levels as building blocks, though. Remember, focusing on any higher level within the hierarchy while letting any of the lower levels slip will result in failure. Your restaurant could be performing excellently, for instance, but if your housekeeping is sloppy, the front desk agents are surly or the air conditioning is noisy, all value-adds will be for naught.The question then is how do you build your service program beyond what's standardized to satisfy the top three levels of this pyramid? It starts by nurturing a culture of guest-focused service as well as the approach taken by your HR team in hiring. There is no such thing as a college course that motivates an individual to be oriented towards a life of service. In addition to this challenge, a good general manager must establish an identifiable service culture that is reinforced through an ongoing commitment to staff empowerment so that each little opportunity to deepen the guest experience is never lost.Exemplifying The Guest Experience HierarchyGreat examples of service are easy to recall because they are immensely memorable. They serve as beacons in a sea of hotel service mediocrity for you to learn from, though and so here are a dozen personal examples (presented alphabetically).Upon remarking positively to a waitress about a cocktail at the bar of Fairmont Le Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City, I was given a copy of the recipe with additional handwritten note with specific instructions from one of the bartenders.Fogo Island Inn in Newfoundland invited my wife to don an apron and learn how to prepare fish in several different ways. While she did not cook the night's dinner, I am confident that that she has shared and embellished her experience with every one of her friends to the point where they likely now believe she was the sous-chef!At the Four Seasons Hotel Gresham Palace in Budapest, we were looking for dinner reservations and were invited to a private wine tasting dinner taking place that evening. Understanding nothing in Hungarian, the staff quickly printed an English version of the tasting menu. Given the strength of the pours, I am glad we only had to go upstairs to retire.The boutique Hazelton Hotel in my hometown of Toronto offered a curated tour of its extensive in-house art collection. They also have an art concierge program that assists with visits to museums and local art galleries.When I asked the doorman for a taxi one rainy night at The Lanesborough in London, he instead summoned a standby car service to take us to the theatre and the same car was waiting for me when the play ended with the driver cheerily offering an umbrella.Arriving early at the Montage Kapalua Bay in Maui, we joined a lei making class with the property's resident Hawaiian ambassador, spending about an hour learning this art form as well as capitalizing upon her extensive local knowledge, all while boozy drinks were served.For many years, Ojai Valley Inn & Spa near Santa Barbara ran a monthly learning program for guests with examples of curriculum including tea tasting, readings by local authors, hands-on flower arrangements and annotated back-of-house tours.When I failed to make a reservation for high tea at The Peninsula Hotel Hong Kong, the receptionist sensed my disappointment and took us to a second level balcony bar that normally does not provide this beverage service. The traditional wait staff from the tea room then served us without any additional delay, all while we soaked in the spectacular view of the city.The signature restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton Toronto, called TOCA, has its own cheese cave and encourages guests to participate in tastings of its delectable house-aged fromage. While guests expand their cheese vocabulary, the restaurant in turn boosts its revenue per cover.Not having a restaurant, The Spectator Hotel in Charleston provides breakfast room service. Rather than just having the expected delivery cart, the waiter personally serves breakfast to you, providing butler-level attention to detail that also includes detailed assistance in planning your day's itinerary.After I left my credit card at the St. Julian Hotel & Spa in Boulder, Colorado, I received a call on my cell phone while on route to the Denver airport. A member of their team was already driving out to meet me so that I could meet my scheduled flight departure without any delay.I casually let it slip that my wife and I were celebrating our anniversary while staying at the Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong and planning to dine at its main restaurant, Lung King Heen. Not only did we get a special complimentary dessert, but our selections for the evening were also printed into a folded card and presented to us at the end of the dinner with our names and the anniversary date. Many years later, we still cherish this keepsake.Looking To The Future Of Guest ServiceWith few exceptions, these examples did not increase expenses in any significant way but in many cases they increased revenue and certainly loyalty. Guests do not necessarily expect self-actualization service to be free, though obviously, to avoid negative surprises, charges should be properly identified in advance.The more you know about a guest, the better your service delivery and the more opportunities to incorporate self-actualizing opportunities. Start by taking advantage of the guest memorandum section of your PMS, denoted under the banner of customer relationship management (CRM). Encourage your staff to add information that can be used for future visits. If you are part of a loyalty program, review the additional customer data that is made available in advance. For those operating with higher ADRs, assign a staff member to review social media, in particular LinkedIn, to glean additional information and help build this database.Another corollary of technological innovation is that alternative lodging providers (Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and so on) have made service delivery an even higher priority for hotels. More than ever, a guest's ability to remember any property in particular is based less on physical facilities and more on personal staff interaction. It's all about getting close to the customer.In this regard, further technology upgrades can certainly help. Electronic advance check-in can be used as a platform to learn and anticipate your guests' needs. As almost all your guests carry smartphones, cost-effective mobile apps can also be deployed to enhance your customers' stay in various ways. Use your daily meetings to identify local activities that may be of interest and to discuss arriving guests' individual requirements. Refer to data from your social media monitoring tools to reinforce successes and identify further opportunities.Successful service delivery is still a hands-on, ongoing effort for all team members, though. Ignore it at your own peril, or embrace it and be rewarded by improved ADRs and occupancies.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Today's Hotelier on April 1, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 26 June 2017
Now, however, this term has been retrofitted to account for the 21st century trend of people wanting to publicly signal their alleged altruism through the purchase of green or sustainable products. Although it's a relatively recent phenomenon, conspicuous conservation is definitely one that you should embrace. While there are some lucrative marketing angles, the bottom line is that engaging in activities that are environmentally friendly will ultimately help our planet and potentially save you quite a bit of cash in the process.Even though your back-of-house upgrades are where the true impacts will likely be realized - sometimes well into the seven-digit range in cost savings - your guests won't see these efforts nor will they want to read a descriptive pamphlet to that effect. Going green to be seen means that, in tandem with what you do behind the scenes, you make guests feel good about their choice in hotels and about themselves. And this harks back to a fundamental tenet of hospitality - positively affecting our customers.Three immediate examples that come to mind are placing a vegetable garden near a well-trafficked pathway for all guests to see (thus drastically reducing the food miles on certain ingredients), installing keycard-controlled lighting systems and instituting some form of housekeeping opt-out or in-room towel recycling program. Technology is also helping in the front-of-house with, for instance, several inventive temperature control systems that not only have intricate behavior tracking systems but also integrate with a smart television so guests can monitor or change their settings in a fun, dynamic interface.While I wouldn't go so far as to say that many consumers would specifically seek out the most environmentally friendly property in a chosen destination ahead of other considerations like price and location or change their travel plans to stay at only LEED-certified hotels, conspicuous conservation will definitely play a role in how guests interpret your brand.By being seen as a company that cares about the environment, you will endure customers to your side and you will be viewed as a 'modern' hotel. This is done through visible onsite efforts such as those mentioned above as well as through digital means like allocating a new section on the website. It's all part of the bigger picture to give a fresh context to your brand story, and then letting everything together act as a passive marketing tool.Even with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from my former life nearly five decades ago, my raison d'etre since then has been hospitality marketing. Although the above offers a rudimentary proof of how conspicuous conservation will work to indirectly boost sales, I've recruited a colleague of mine, Jim Gieselman of Emeritus Consulting, an energy efficiency consultant who I know through my involvement with Cayuga Hospitality Consultants, to offer some additional words of wisdom.Part of what Jim does is to simplify the subject matter so that all senior managers can get on the same page and decide upon the next steps. For this, he uses baseball terms, wherein it's best to approach conspicuous conservation and sustainability in terms of singles and doubles rather than home runs. In other words, while upgrading to new thermostats and smart TVs requires a significant and often untenable capex, there are dozens of other low hanging fruit that you can address first then reinvest those savings into large-scale environment ventures.As an aside, because baseball is awesome, one should always express matters analogously through this sport, even in the dead of winter. With regard to singles and doubles, any team manager who has studied sabermetrics will always value RBIs over home runs.An example that Jim gave here relates to the difference between installing new OLED bulbs throughout your meeting space as opposed to training your staff to check that the lights are turned off when a ballroom is not in use. The former is an obvious environmentally friendly grand slam with huge payoffs in subsequent years both in terms of direct monetary savings as well as subtly boosting the moods of those guests who frequent these halls. But the latter - training your team to help shave off a few burn hours every day - is a project that you can start tomorrow without any budgetary squeezing or loan procurements.Jim also stressed that conspicuous conservation is not a task that's solely for your engineering and marketing teams to figure out, and then relate to the customer. It is something that must be embraced by all departments, including top management. Recalling those fancy thermostats currently on your hotel's wish list, an interim solution is to train your housekeepers to set units to a higher and less energy-draining temperature after guests have checked out, and then coordinate with front desk so that this is lowered to a comfortable level for new arrivals.Similar efforts can be made companywide, so long as it affords the guest some degree of involvement in order for them to openly express their affinity for the environment. With the opportunity for cost savings and a boost to your property's marketability, what are you waiting for?
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 23 June 2017
Most hoteliers are aware of this in a general sense, but it is the execution where we often stumble. The expected welcome refreshment is a bottle of wine, a small cheese tray, a fruit place, crackers, cookies or any combination of the five. Nowadays, though, you must look beyond the perfunctory and truly own this aspect of the guest experience if you are to make a lasting impression.While I can't speak for your specific hotel and what might work for your budget, logistics and locale, the best I can do is recount several of the more remarkable instances of this that I've encountered over the years wondering the globe. Hopefully one of these can inspire you. In no particular order, they are:1. Montage Laguna Beach swapped the traditional cheeseboard for custom-made sweets and delicacies specially prepared by the pastry chef.2. Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris eschewed the bottle of house red for chilled champagne and macaroons along with Perrier for those who might not fancy a libation at that particular moment.3. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island improvised with a similar tactic when, in the midst of 30degC+ heat and high humidity, they popped a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and gave every guest in the long front desk lineup a complimentary glass, making the wait the last thing on their minds.4. COMO Metropolitan Bangkok offered fresh tropical fruit with bottled water, but it was the focus on presentation that separated this hotel with all food meticulously arranged on banana leaves.5. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa offered a range of welcome gifts where, during my last visit, I settled on a bucket of four Coronas and a plate of nachos.Although these five are all luxury properties, there are nonetheless learnings for all. What doesn't work well is offering anything that a customer would expect to find in the minibar. That is, a bona fide VIP welcome must exude a sense of place for the property or the region as well as personalization (gender, age, group dynamic, past preferences).Outside of F&B, there are examples of handouts that also work, especially with regard to children where there is always a risk of snack disapproval from the parents due to allergies or other dietary restrictions. For instance, I have seen guidebooks to the local area, coloring books with crayons, custom stickers and air spinner toys, all intended to temporarily calm toddlers so the parents can focus on checking in.The key throughout, whether you are planning to offer a well-tailored refreshment or something else, is to pleasantly surprise your incoming guests and garner a fantastic first impression.
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 14 June 2017
No matter the time of year or how well your occupancy figures look for the quarter at hand, the prep and planning for next year's marketing budget is never too far away. Undoubtedly, it will include the usual spattering of KPIs established at the start of the fiscal period, which will be scrutinized and massaged to death until all senior executives are happy.This process makes me yawn. Not that it doesn't work, but it can take up too much time which would be better allocated elsewhere. How about a different approach?Here are six questions that I am encouraging you - as a general manager, owner or other senior team manager - to ask your sales and marketing team right away and in advance of the plan's development for next year. These questions are not necessarily the easiest and will probably require some data analysis. But, the work done in the process will be worth it given the potential return on financial investment. Obviously, involving your revenue management team would also serve you well.1. Can we look at our business for the past year on the basis of net ADR? Chiefly, we need to understand the impact of OTAs on our revenue. In other words, for each source segment (OTAs, direct online leisure sales, group sales) look at room sales and rates net of cost. Then trend the data over the past three years. Now, what can we do to improve those segments that give us the higher net yields and the best overall margins?2. How do our programs stack up against the competition? Examine our comp set's sales and marketing programs over the past year. Identify strengths and weaknesses that we can exploit. There may be many, but you may only have the resources to effectively act upon a select few. Hence, start by developing two or three specific programs that can be implemented in the new year that will positively impact our business as a direct result of these initiatives.3. What plans are being put in place in the immediate term to help offset our low season? The goal here is to think well ahead of time, and get the operations running smoothly before the low season actually hits. For example, in the Northeastern US, most hotels will experience lower occupancies from January through until Easter. Yet, despite knowing these months in advance, typically little is done until a few weeks prior. Planning needs to begin a full season before. New initiatives should be trial-tested during higher occupancy periods so that the process can be refined and so word of mouth can build.4. What would it take to double our wedding business? Aggressive, yes, but also an area of growth for many hotels near and far. Moreover, shoulder season weddings and winter weddings are becoming much more common nowadays, allowing you to capitalize on this trend. So, who would we gain market share from? What distinguishes our weddings? What plan would we put in place now, and at what cost, to deliver this result?5. How are we specifically addressing the changing population dynamics? Aging boomers have bucks to spend on leisure travel. They are just itching at the fingerprints as they hover their mice above the 'Book Now' button, browsing the internet for a property that empathizes with their specific demands and communicates in language they understand. Moreover, how are we introducing our properties to millennial travelers who may not even know that we exist? How is our brand going to cut through the noise of the hundreds of seemingly new hotel brands facing the modern consumer?6. If I gave you a 25% increase in spending, what would you do? And importantly, what would be the result from this spending increase? Next, if I cut 25% of spending, what would you cut and what would our revenue loss be? These sorts of hypotheticals help reveal where your biggest growth opportunities are as well as what expenditures aren't entirely necessary.For too long, marketing folks have relied upon third-party partners to deliver returns, especially in the digital realm. Let's see if they can provide new marketing strategies and tactics that put some spark back into the annual planning cycle. These six are certainly a start!
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 13 June 2017
As today is Valentine's Day, it is my absolute delight to interview my sister Marcia who happens to be the Director of Insight for Mintel Food and Drink (www.mintel.com). With offices all over Europe, Asia and North America, Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency, and my sister's specific area of expertise happens to be chocolate.What a delicious job! She's here today to give us the inside scoop on all the latest trends and developments in this sweet industry so that you, as the ever-innovative hotelier, can find a way to use this decadent food to help differentiate your F&B offerings.Tell us about how you became the foremost worldwide expert on chocolate.First of all, I am certainly not the foremost worldwide expert on chocolate, but I do love the stuff!Just a bit of brotherly boasting. Go on...As part of my job as Director of Insight for Mintel's Food and Drink division, I focus on chocolate confectionery from many angles - from raw ingredient to finished product. We track product launches in countries around the world, as well as market sizes for the world's top chocolate countries. We also have consumer panels in a dozen countries who provide us with their opinions and attitudes towards chocolate confectionery in addition to, as you can imagine, a wide number of other products.I have been following the industry for Mintel for over a decade. It has been fascinating to track the growth of premium chocolate and to watch the way we are starting to learn more about cocoa and chocolate. I see the evolution as following a similar path to coffee. It used to be that coffee was just coffee, and then people began to learn more about the coffee beans. All of a sudden, 'coffee' wasn't good enough anymore; people wanted Sumatran or Kona. The same thing is happening in chocolate as premium and 'sourced' cocoa - for example, cocoa from Saint Lucia or Sao Tome - becomes more popular and more desirable than plain old chocolateWhat are the 'next big things' for the chocolate industry on a macro-scale?One thing we are seeing is a growing interest in 'Dark Milk' chocolate. The products have a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate but they are not as harsh or strong tasting as many of the dark chocolate products on the market. For example, typical milk chocolate has about 25% cocoa content, while most dark chocolate is about 70% cocoa. Dark Milk is about 45-50% cocoa and has some added dairy ingredients that round out the taste and mouthfeel. These products deliver a stronger cocoa punch than milk chocolate without the harsh or bitter notes of dark chocolate.As I mentioned above, there is also a growing interest in 'sourced' cocoa and cocoa content. People like to know where the cocoa is coming from and they want to know how 'dark' and intense the experience will be. Moreover, there is now more cocoa from the New World on the market than ever before, which ironic because cocoa originated in the New World, but more than 70% of the world's current cocoa comes from Africa, especially Cote d'Ivoire.The third thing to look out for is the growing interest in organic cocoa. This may turn out to be a challenge going forward as there is currently not enough organic cocoa in the world to satisfy those who want to 'eat organic', so we will be watching to see how this plays out.Flavors like chocolate-hazelnut will always be a classic, but are there any new or more obscure chocolate combinations that are gaining popularity?The majority of chocolate on the market has no specific flavor other than chocolate! But you are right that hazelnut is the second most popular flavor after plain chocolate. Other trending flavors we are tracking include:Coconut which has been given a strong health halo in the past yearSo-called 'superfruits' such as blueberry and acaiHerbs and botanicals such as lavender and roseSweet and savory combinations such as chili and chocolate, salt and chocolate and, particularly in the US, bacon and chocolateSmoked flavors with chocolate such as smoked salt or smoked caramelDoes preference in chocolate flavors vary by region?Yes, there are definitely some profound regional differences! For instance, in Japan, which has a really innovative chocolate industry by the way, we see sweet flavor profile vegetables like squash or potato with and chocolate as well as matcha green tea with chocolate. Italian and French consumers prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, while Germans prefer milk over dark. In Eastern Europe, there is a strong preference for alcoholic beverages as flavoring for chocolate.What are boutique chocolatiers doing nowadays to differentiate their chocolate offerings?We are seeing great creativity in packaging, with 'clean' labels that make it clear that the ingredients are 'sourced' and that there is nothing in the way of additives or preservatives. There are also tastings or flights of chocolates now being offered so that consumers can sample, taste and compare different types of chocolate all at once.Do you have any suggestions for hotels?Again, consumers have become more sophisticated in their chocolate knowledge, and hotels may want to ensure that the chocolate they comp their guests is high quality. Even if it is their own brand, properties should be clear to display cocoa content and sourcing on the packaging. Given the extent to which food allergies and sensitivities are an issue, clean labeling is also important.Given that today is Valentine's Day, what specific tips would you offer a restaurant that's looking to boost its romantic appeal via improved chocolate offerings?Perhaps a special chocolate souvenir that couples could take home with them after a romantic evening. Two small champagne truffles in an attractive box delivered along with the bill at the end of the meal or at checkout would provide an attractive 'last bite' reminder of the hotel for when the couple got home.Be honest: who makes the best chocolate in the world?I am always asked this question and it is really hard to answer! I have tasted hundreds of chocolate brands and I have come to the conclusion that the best chocolate in the world is the one that I want another bite of!(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on Tuesday, February 14)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 12 June 2017
Hence, for many GMs, one of the largest items on the 2017 marketing budget is likely the development of a new website, or at the very least a refurbishment of the current one to show newcomers that there's something new to get excited about. This can come in the form of new interfaces or layout schemes, pages, offers, events, exciting visuals, plugins, iframes - whatever it takes to boost the user experience (UX) and keep customers engaged.I say this taking into full account that for many of you, the website is something beyond your control, as dictated by the corporate overlords of your brand. For you, while you may control the actual content on the specific portion of the brand.com that's relevant to your property, you likely don't have control over such top-level features as the UX or theme.In any case, whether you are an independent or semi-independent with your own vanity URL or part of a larger group with only limited control over your brand.com, there is still much to be conscious of before you greenlight any web-related project. For this, it's wise to take a step back and view your website as only one part of a much larger picture. And to help you along, I've listed five 'big picture' questions that you should ask your marketing team before proceeding with any expenditure.1. What is the single, underlying purpose of your website?Or, to put another way, how does our current site fail to meet the current requirements for your brand identify or for how online consumer behavior has progressed? Does it lead with stunning visuals that both tell your hotel's story and give a strong sense of place? How will it grow your business?For instance, if your site is not built responsively - that is, automatically configuring to mobile - then by all means make haste and get a new one underway immediately. Mobile isn't the future; mobile is now and it is everything. Bolting on a mobile-ready format is not easy to do, and you don't want to create a 'Frankenstein' in the process. However, if the site works great on mobile (try it yourself to confirm and note any UX deficiencies), then and only then should you investigate further enhancements. 2. How much is the new website going to cost, both now and ongoing?With so many diverse and fully mature layout theme generators available nowadays to help create a reasonably good looking website from scratch and manage via a user-friendly CMS, your first thought might be that getting set up is both relatively easy and cheap. While this is partially true, it is nonetheless very naive thinking.Developing a website that is both functional and attractive is no simple task. While the functionality aspect has been somewhat commoditized of late given the versatility of plugins and your chosen CMS platform, every hotel's business needs are slightly different, and so additional programming resources will always be needed above what was outlined in the quote for your shiny new website.Furthermore, things break and third-party software needs to be upgraded. How are you going to account for those additional coding hours? Managing a website and all the social networks connected to it is now a full-time job. Do you have someone onsite who is proficient with the CMS and can handle all the day-to-day updates, or will you have to farm this out too?As to the latter point on visual appeal, I liken this to an arms race in that you must compare yourself to your most proximal competitors as well as those far away. Look for how design standards are shifting, and make sure that you are always ahead of the curve. Moreover, developing a website that truly stands out these days takes a lot of time and a lot of resources.3. How will the new site improve direct bookings?Building off of the first question, this is a critical task towards effectively growing your business. Ideally, you want all your bookings to come through your reservation hotline or your website rather than a third party. So, how specifically will the new website convince people to book at your property instead of one of your competitors? How will it create a seamless booking process so that they prefer your interface over, say, that of an OTA?Properly answering these questions is no small undertaking. It requires a thorough understanding of how everything from social media and mobile-specific behavior to your channel mix and how customers are finding your website. In other words, getting people to book direct has a lot involved with it than just upgrading some graphics and copy on your brand.com's homepage.Tying this back in website development, it's vital to ask how the site will integrate all the other channels and allow for coordinated changes to reflect those made further up in the consumer travel research and purchasing funnels. While I previously stated that attractiveness is important, substance trumps style. If a website isn't built with any underlying CMS controls or code to track, say, search engine ad conversions or remarketing, then this will be a mandatory, and quite substantial, cost for later on down the road. As budget is concerned, should you need to sacrifice a bit of razzle-dazzle to ensure that you are 'all good under the hood' then so be it.4. How will the new site improve the UX?The UX covers everything a user sees and can potentially interact with from the moment they enter to the moment they leave your site. You want this experience to be frictionless, intuitive, meaningful and captivating. As a broad primary goal, you want future guests to be able to easily find every single bit of information necessary for their stay on there and not accessible in some convoluted way.For a second goal, you want the UX to be dynamic, interactive and visually stimulating to the point where customers actually remember what your website is like. Barring a full UX audit which is always an option for those with serious budgets and time to boot, simplicity rules the day. Have everything accessible from the homepage and opt for clean, brisk text with speedily loading images.Given the aforesaid point about accessibility and that a typical single property site can cost between $20,000 to $65,000, would you be better off compromising on a few design features and pushing that surplus into content creation instead? In other words, UX is only as good as the people who are visiting your site, and if it isn't updated frequently then usership will drop. If all your upcoming events, blog articles and promotions can't be readily communicated to your audience, what incentive will they have for being recurrent visitors? Clearly, a balance must be struck between the upfront design costs and those allocated for continual 'renovations', and this is something your DoSM must figure out before moving forward.Taking all this into account will take some time as there are many cases where a new site is fully justified for the ongoing success of a hotel. But remember, the goal is not vanity, but revenue. So, be sure that you first comprehend all the hidden costs so that you don't dip into the red and that you don't stray from your key objectives.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in Hotels Magazine on December 2, 2016).
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 10 June 2017
While most of us in hospitality focus our efforts on finding ways to enhance our guests' comfort (and make more revenues!), we can only do so in an environment where both safety and security are assured. We often take the role of our security department for granted. After all, this is a department where reports stating 'nothing has happened' are considered the norm, and management tends to respond to incidents versus the status quo.It is also hard to measure the performance of the security department when assessments are largely binary. How do you know if team members are meeting your needs when the expectation is that 'nothing has happened'?Irving "Bulla" Eastman knows. As Senior Director Safety and Security for Aqua-Aston Hospitality, he works to ensure the safety and security for the group's nearly 50 hotels and resorts across the Hawaiian Islands and on the US mainland. I had an opportunity to meet with Bulla at a tourism conference in Hawaii to ask him a few questions. It is rare to find a security director willing to talk so effusively, so I was eager to proceed.How has the role of safety and security personnel changed in the wake of modern terrorism?Both the management team and its security officers have had to adjust policies and procedures to be prepared for today's challenges. This includes training, implementation and coordination of information provided by the Department of Homeland Security.What sort of ongoing training do you provide for staff?Security officers are now required by law in the State of Hawaii to be licensed. As licensed security officers, individuals are required to successfully complete a minimum of 8 hours of classroom instruction before they start service, and a minimum of 4 hours of classroom instruction biennially covering topics such as the legal limitations on the actions of guards, access control, safety, fire detection, emergency response, homeland security issues and procedures, techniques of observation and reporting of incidents, the fundamentals of patrolling, professional ethics, and professional image and aloha training.What are the fundamentals that every hotel should employ in this department?An understanding that the safety of our guests and employees is the primary responsibility of everyone. This principle extends to every aspect of operations, including not only the obvious threats, such as robberies, fire, assaults and the like, but also the prevention of 'slip and falls', minding youngsters around the pool or even the storage of cleaning chemicals. Next, add onto this planning for potential situations, such as natural disasters or external threats.How do you balance security with guests who just want to have fun on vacation?The easiest way we explain this to our guests, especially in a resort climate, is that we welcome them to 'our home' and hope they enjoy their stay as if it were 'their home'. We want them to feel comfortable, relaxed, safe and secure. In the same breath, we ask them to treat our home like they would their own home and to be mindful of others. Anything that compromises the safety and the security of the property or guests should not be tolerated.How do you ensure safety is the first rule in management of a hotel or resort?The buy-in has to start at the top with your CEO, then down to the property GM, and ultimately with all of the staff. Additionally, you need a 'Safety Champion' or a person who is genuinely focused on the documentation of all of the policies and procedures. We also have risk management consultants who act as 'mystery shoppers'. They do walkthroughs of each property twice a year, during which they ask employees a variety of questions regarding safety. As examples, we may ask if they know what PPE (personal protective equipment) is, or where the location of the eye wash stations and SDS (safety data sheets) are at their property.How can a hotel or resort be prepared for a crisis?Management companies must have a written manual with detailed procedures for each specific property, covering everything from a theft or a fire to a bomb threat, tsunami or hurricane.Do you think hotels understand crisis communications versus crisis management?There is a fine line, but a correlative one, between the two. To successfully manage a crisis, preparation before a situation arises is necessary. Crisis communication is managing the flow of information leading up to, during and after a crisis from the management company to its guests, vendors, employees and the general public.(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in eHotelier on December 8, 2016).
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 5 June 2017
Product placement has been part of the Hollywood scene for decades as savvy producers must find ever-creative ways to squeeze every ounce of profit out of their films - something that looks especially worthwhile when such brands are willing to pay upfront and thereby offset the usual cashflow issues of movie production. After all, if the script doesn't specify the specific type of automobile being driven, smartphone adjacent to the name actor's ear or beverage being consumed, why not earn some decent bucks in the process?More recently, hoteliers have started to realize that hotels can offer perfect symmetry with many brands that want trial from their target audience, especially when those brand's key demographics match that of a property's guests. Examples abound and now that you are fully aware that this is a going trend, no doubt you'll spot this everywhere.Notably, in the luxury car category, BMW, Lexus and Mercedes Benz have all established programs where their vehicles are offered to hotels for guest use. Or how about a Land Rover Driving School at an East Coast resort? I've seen these partnerships displayed prominently on hotel websites - while I may not know much about the property, a complimentary use of a classy auto has a tremendously positive halo whether I actually take them up on the offer or not.Outside of the automobile world, partnerships with local retailers can transcend short-term promotions to include ongoing discounts and personal shopping arrangements. For example, Le Printemps department store has a relationship with Raffles Le Royal Monceau in Paris whereby hotel guests receive a 10% discount, personal shopper assistance and same day delivery service for their purchases.The nuance comes in deciding what truly is product placement versus just a supplier substitution for one brand or another. To help you discern which is which, here is a set of rules on the issue of developing these brand partnerships.Brand substitution should augment your property's guest offering. Substituting Coke for Pepsi products (I'm neutral on both) is really a price proposition with your local distributor and has nothing to do with your guest. I am fairly confident that you will not lose any guests because of your selection for one or the other.Look for brands that mirror your guests' needs then take it up a notch. Most everyone drives, so offering better - that is, premium price - vehicles for visitors to enjoy during their stays makes strategic sense. The quality of the brand should therefore deliver a positive 'halo' to your property.Differentiate your property. Do your homework. If your comp set has one brand, select another. Creating the relationship is just the start; it must be a win-win for both parties. Remember that you are getting the product for guest use. Hence, expect that you will have to provide all necessary information - such as the data resulting from a specific product's onsite use - back to the selected partner.Expect a lot of upfront time investment. Any relationship has the usual myriad of paperwork. No one is going to drop off half a million dollars' worth of steel and rubber under your porte-cochere without a full-fledged contractual agreement. Factor at least a year from idea to on-property execution.Don't expect immediate measurable results. The overall goal is to value-add your guest relationship through product differentiation, whatever that product may be. Rarely do programs of this nature lead to trackable revenue gains with direct accountability and ROI. As an offset to this rather nebulous aspect of product placement, there may be little to no investment in capital or expense.It's all about the guest! Sorry, but that Ferrari is not for your personal use on weekends. Treat these goodies with respect.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on Tuesday, April 4, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 2 June 2017
There seems to be no clear definition for luxury. Looking for some clarity in the dictionary, the word 'luxury' come from Old French luxurie and the Latin luxuria or luxus, meaning excess. In other words, something that is luxurious is an inessential - a desirable item that is more than basic but not a necessity.In keeping with this definition, the basics of our product/service offerings are definitely not luxuries. These include cleanliness both for rooms and public areas, free and fast wifi, comfortable beds, sufficient amenities, generous hot water for showers, enough towels, quiet HVAC, good lighting for all needs, entertainment facilities, and security. These are the minimum expectation. Don't confuse delivering any of these elements with the providing of a luxury for your guests.The first and obvious step towards attaining bona fide luxury status is to seek quality - better furnishings and fabrics as a start - to better differentiate your hotel. While these are CAPEX decisions, quality can also be found in smaller items such as room amenities. But beyond this, let's look beyond the mere concept of quality to try and define luxury for hoteliers with these five aspirations or status markers.The Right Technology. The luxury guest anticipates easy and fast internet access for all of his or her devices. Increasingly, the expectation is for a tablet device in-room that controls most functions such as exploring room service menus and learning more about the local area. But technology is so much more. It now involves advanced in-room controls, smart thermostats, televisions that record your preferences and tools that can automate turndown service or front desk coordination.Authenticity. You can go to visit Paris in Las Vegas or you can go to Paris, France. One is a facsimile; the other is real. The same comparison applies to your property. Luxury means wholly embodying the real thing. As an example, think room decor with real paintings, photographs or lithographs on the walls, not cheap reproductions.Attention To Detail. A fresh flower in a bud vase can go a long way. Folding towels in a unique arrangement will make guests pause and delight in the little things. In-room umbrellas seems so logical and yet it's a rarity because we are more concerned with theft than providing for the four seasons. Housekeeping tying up loose computer recharger cords will make people feel loved. Newspapers delivered in a fabric sleeve show that you always go out of your way to give your best. Each of these items individually seems inconsequential but when added together they provide a lasting, holistic luxury impression.Personalization. When in a luxury property, guests expect staff to recognize them and address them by their name. Handwritten notes upon arrival are traditional while an electronic, taped welcome message on the telephone is simply unacceptable. Above all, dedicated effort is put towards remembering customers' preferences because luxury brands are confident enough to assume that their guests will be returning.A Positive Surprise. The welcome bottle of wine along with a fruit or cheese plate sets the tone for an outstanding stay. In a similar fashion, your restaurant should always offer diners an amuse bouche, but luxury hotels go a step further in that each complimentary snack is a personal expression of the chefs' craft and the servers are equally passionate in describing all the details of its creation. The overall idea is to provide something extra that is both appreciated yet unanticipated, and with all the bells and whistles befitting a first-class brand.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on April 24, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 31 May 2017
Why is it that this one markup grinds guests' gears more than almost everything else? Perhaps the wording of 'unmistakably exorbitant' offers a clue.When a commoditized item like bottled water, is commonly understood to be sold at a certain base price - let's say $1 for 300ml for simplicity's case - then any inflated price that's paid forward to the customer will be instantly discernable. And when you charge, say, seven bucks for what generally costs only one in the supermarket, then it is builds distrust in guests' minds."This is a blatant rip off! What else are they marking up to pad their pretentious wallets? What other tricks are they pulling to price gouge me? What are they hiding?" These are not the sorts of questions that you want running through your customers' minds. It's not a healthy start to a good relationship and it's just bad business.Think about it even further. What does such a tremendously large price tag for bottled water say about your property, and importantly, about your sense of hospitality? Moreover, this one singular markup can become a reflection of all other prices for any good or service sold at your hotel. That is, bottled water price gouging may instill the idea in guests' minds that your abode is needlessly expensive, so much so that it hinders said customers from dining at your restaurants, visiting your spa or setting foot in your gift shop.Besides this deleterious psychological effect, I do indeed understand the rationale from a return on costs perspective. There is a solid argument for affixing a huge price tag on that oversized bottle of water to make up your margins on other costs. Still, though, stop thinking like your hotel's accountant and start thinking like a hotelier - someone that cares about your guests and treats them like they are at home.In other words, stop being pennywise and pound foolish! Being stingy about small expenditures such as water will ultimately cost you in the long run when it comes to the more important matters such as overall guest ratings. In this particular case, you may indeed get some small returns, but what are you losing in return?Here's a thought. Take that bottle, remove the price tag altogether and replace it with a tag that simply says, "Our home is your home. Thank you for staying with us. Please enjoy this with our compliments. Sincerely, (name) General Manager; or (name) Executive Housekeeper."Now, with this tag in place, ask yourself how guests will feel. It sets a good pace for the rest of their stay with you. Moreover, it dispels any concerns they might have had about price gouging elsewhere, thus helping nudge them towards using your restaurant and other amenities. Next, these good vibes may translate to tips for the housekeeper - that is, a morale boost for your frontline - as well as a sure-fire increase to your online review scores.I was reminded by several veteran hoteliers that success in our business is measured in thousands of small increments. This freebie is just one suggestion that is will go a long towards winning the hearts and minds of your guests.And as a final aside, if you are completely intransigent when it comes to pro bono features like this, then at the very least consider dropping the price to something that isn't as obvious. This applies to economy and limited-service providers as well as though luxury properties where guests can afford the expensive water bottles. Just because they 'can' doesn't mean they 'should', so please stop this practice before it damages your hotel's reputation any further.
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 29 May 2017
Even those select service, limited service and all other hotels that primarily cater to the business crowd have largely escaped the direct impact on their occupancies and ADRs from this rapidly burgeoning section, it is only a matter of time before the alternative lodging industry starts to influence every hospitality establishment in every corner of the earth and becomes a direct competitor for your property.On its most fundamental level, the sharing economy is changing the way consumers think about travel and how to go about reserving accommodations. So, like any new product added to your neighborhood, you must arm yourself with a thorough understanding of its strengths and weaknesses if you are to survive. For simplicity's sake, we will narrow our discussion of the sharing economy to only Airbnb, which is the largest and most immediate in terms of impact for this new set of hospitality operators.Understanding Sharing Economy Behavior Via UberStarting out as a niche taxi service reliant on smartphone geolocation technology, Uber is now far more than just a trendy accessory for millennials living in San Francisco or Brooklyn. Founded in 2009, it has already expanded to over 300 territories globally with a $66 billion (CNBC June 2016) valuation to boot. Even with an abundance of controversy pertaining to its usurious surge pricing at peak periods or its purported disregard for user data privacy, the fact remains that the company is now a household name across multiple demographics and many see it as an outright industry usurper.Its business model offers the quintessential example of modern social currency whereby users can rate drivers and vice versa. But even with this extra layer of transparency, the reason for using Uber for all your transportation needs is that the company makes it too easy to even bother considering any other method. Once you've downloaded the app, you are two taps away from having a car at your door. No need to tell the driver where you're going; it's already plugged into his or her GPS. And no money or tip need be passed along at the end of ride because the system already has your credit card information.The vehicle for hire industry clearly underestimated Uber by not immediately adapting to this newer, simpler paradigm of mobile-based transactions. The old guard's response has been quite vocal - such as car horn protests in front of city hall - as they are seeing the value of their taxi licenses evaporate. But Uber is so entrenched now that there is no possible way consumers will accept regressing to the previous and slower practice of hailing a cab off the street or calling ahead, and then exchanging cash at the end of the trip. Uber has already won, whether the taxi companies know it or not.Airbnb Is The Uber-Equivalent For The Accommodations WorldLike most other alternative lodging providers, Airbnb is following the Uber model, and clearly making inroads into every aspect of hospitality. Starting out as a room-sharing service for backpackers or those looking for esoteric accommodation experiences, Airbnb is now completely mainstream. As more listings come online, the doors are opening for more travelers to find something they want, even in sectors previously deemed off-limits like business travel or the ultra-luxury market. In doing so, Airbnb is well on its way to supplanting its 'millennials only' image and becoming an accommodations distributor for every single person on the planet.Similar to Uber, there's been pushback and indeed Airbnb has been forced to comply with new regulations, largely resulting from its impact to the real estate market and less so to hospitality. Municipalities have started to realize that shortages of rental accommodations can adversely affect local businesses. Every time a rental unit is transferred to short-term use versus long-term availability, it reduces the gross residential rental vacancy rate. In many cities, these rates are already near zero, thereby increasing the cost of living and decreasing the desirability of the location for commerce. In the long run, this means lost jobs.Here's how local governments have already responded:In several counties on New York's Long Island, a minimum one month's stay is required. Anyone advertising or listing on Airbnb (or an equivalent) is required to have a registration permit number assigned following a detailed property inspection.In parts of Miami, a minimum six-month stay is now mandatory. Those offering anything less than that breadth are subject to significant fines.Ontario courts have said that condominium management groups have the rights to ban Airbnb and its peers for all units within their jurisdiction. The judgement suggested a four-month minimum stay requirement. This ruling is also thought to provide jurisprudence across Canada, except for the province of Quebec.Airbnb is cooperating with recent decisions in San Francisco, New Orleans and New York City that restrict property utilization.To Airbnb's credit, they are compliant with all legal requirements. Make no mistake, it is a well-run, well managed and highly professional firm with no intention of breaking any laws. It will collect fees on behalf of any level of government and duly supply data for tax purposes. Even though Airbnb is fighting these restrictions in court, the company wholeheartedly acquiesces to authorities because it knows that the longer it remains in operation, the more travelers will covert to using its platform instead of traditional hotels.The Basis for Airbnb's Success Is Its WebsiteI know you love your branded website, and I suspect that you've spent thousands on it. Frankly, though, it pales in comparison to Airbnb. Not only does it have a booking engine that shows you all upfront costs, but it also fluidly integrates comments from its own users - again, social currency. The commentary and descriptions of the rooms being sold read like a storybook by people who truly care. They are not just selling; they are trying to make your travel more exciting. Moreover, their presentation is seamless on mobile, tablet or a laptop computer.Unlike when you try to make travel plans via the traditional route, Airbnb is a 'one stop shop'. When you are contemplating booking a room, you don't research your options through some third-party review agency such as TripAdvisor, but directly with members within the Airbnb community, constituted of both the users as well as the purveyors of the product. This provides a level of confidence in the buying decision that is very difficult to match. The site even reports on how long it took for the buyer to post the rating. Confidence is reassured at every step of the sales funnel.Ever visit a city for the first time and not sure where you are staying relative to where you want to visit? Airbnb integrates a map functionality directly into every search that's as easy to use as Google Maps. You can see all participating properties and instantly select based on location and availability. This makes the interface both logical and intuitive. You'll end up searching the full range of accommodations just for the fun of it, especially when you browse in the thousand-plus-per-night range.Lastly, Airbnb has effective pricing transparency which reveals the complete rate breakdown of guestroom charge, cleaning fees, taxes and commission. We all like to feel as thought we are getting a bargain and with Airbnb you see the net price along with all add-ons. Just imagine if your own hotel's booking engine showed the net rate, then the housekeeping fee and the third-party commission.Airbnb Has Inroads EverywhereYes, you can still find some low-end rooms or shared lodgings. In fact, the low to middle ranges - the supposed 'bottom feeder' customers - comprise a good portion of what's out there. But Airbnb's listings also stretch up to multi-bedroom homes and into some of the world's most exclusive locations.It is its premium segments that will eventually encroach upon the established hotel market. If a cardinal rule of the upper echelon of travel involves the creation of vibrant and exceptional experiences for guests, then Airbnb has this in spades. Not part of a branded property, each selection is unique, conveying the personal stylings of each individual homeowner or renter.Along these lines, consider the baby boomer market. Airbnb might be a table name for them, but for many it still holds the perception as a couch-surfing enterprise. As this demographic looks for more profound experiential vacations to satiate its extra free time made possible by retirement, Airbnb offers a badge-generating and bragging rights alternative to hotels. In other words, why stay where everyone else has stayed?What Should You Do?First and foremost, study Airbnb's website as well as every alternative lodging inscribed in the opening paragraph. Learn all you can about these operators in a general sense and, more specifically, the properties that are being offered in your vicinity. Make observations about the positives and negatives of each website's user experience. Understand the price points that you are competing against and see where you stand. I am not advocating that you change your pricing structure or your amenity packaging. Rather, I am encouraging you to understand these new sharing economy competitors, treating them with the same respect and acknowledgement as other properties in your comp set.Second, take a good, hard look at your own website. Try to understand how the interface 'talks' to your audience and the convenience factor. See how friendly it is to use and navigate as well as how many clicks it takes from arrival to confirmation of booking. Torture test it on a mobile device. Additionally, ask the same from your web agency. Encourage them to learn from Airbnb and make recommendations as to how you can enhance your site's profile and sociability. Then run, don't walk, to properly fund the necessary work to make your site's user experience friendlier.Third, work with your local hotel association. The goal is to create a fair and level playing field for everyone - identical taxes paid by both guests and hosts, and the same inspections for health and safety. Importantly, it also means that commercial Airbnb operators need to comply with any licenses, workplace standards and other requirements that your hotel operation must follow such as OSHA or ADA. Remember, you're not arguing for some sort of tax reduction or special favor, only equal treatment for every business in the accommodations sector.Fourth, actively monitor possible changes to the municipal or state code. When community hearings are scheduled, ensure that the hotel sector is effectively represented. If this means attending yourself, so be it! You might even consider becoming more media active by finding a local spokesperson. Talk about the role of the traditional hospitality industry in supporting local commerce and social activity. Be sure to identify the total number of jobs from all properties in your comp set, how these support the local community and the impact of additional competition. If prompted, argue for minimum stay requirements of at least a week.Much as the Uber example has demonstrated, the sharing economy and all hospitality enterprises following its paradigm are not going away. They are only bound to grow. Hoteliers are used to competition, but it must be fair. It behooves us all to recognize our responsibility to ensure the sharing economy's full compliance before irreversible damage is done.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Today's Hotelier on March 1, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 26 May 2017
Handwritten notes are an excellent way to build a rapport with guests - this we should all be well-familiar with by now. But they can also be counterproductive if done wrong.Looking back, there was nothing out of the ordinary on that flight. As expected, the business class meal was just above cafeteria-basic while the wine was barely palatable. Yet, this one simple act transformed a seemingly mundane journey into something remarkable. Thus, this note which could have been more easily relayed through a quick chat was successful in elevating the bar just a touch.Moreover, one of my first acts upon landing was to photograph and repost this note through social media. I was flabbergasted to see the tremendous outpouring of enthusiasm from my friends and followers. While my own personal network's reach is limited, it is not hard to image the resultant multiplier effect.Most luxury properties already use handwritten notes to welcome guests. I've spoken to many general managers who wholeheartedly believe in this practice as it helps engender a personal relationship between the property and guest. How true!Conversely, I've also experienced an individual's signature on a tip envelope resting beside. To me this approach instinctively conjures up a negative response akin to begging. I know that this gut reaction is incorrect and the housekeeper probably deserves a gratuity for his or her hard work. Maybe it is the presence of the tip envelope which makes this note seemingly ingenuine.Recalling all my experiences with handwritten notes as it relates to hospitality has led me to create the following basic rule for handwritten notes.AcceptableHandwritten notes can be given to guests by anyone who does not expect any sort of financial reward for their work. This would include all senior staff, departmental heads, accounting, engineering and human resources. I would also include concierge, reception and front desk clerks in this list. Guests receiving handwritten notes from these staff members and managers will not feel any obligation to compensate the individual in response. It is meant to be a token of appreciation with no intent of necessary follow-up actions on behalf of the customer.UnacceptableHandwritten notes should rarely be sent by those who, through the normal course of business activity, recognize gratuities as an important part of their compensation. This includes housekeepers, waiters, pool attendants, maitres d'hotel, doormen and bell staff. The exception would be a situation where the guest needs to be alerted by a specific item that necessitates this form of notification. Again, handwritten notes are meant to be a nice touch, but not a medium through which to spark an ongoing conversation.These are just my thoughts on this topic. I'm interested in your position. How do you see handwritten notes being incorporated into your team's service culture?(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, originally published in Hotels Magazine on Tuesday, March 14, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 25 May 2017
Knowing how profound a role bread has played throughout the course of civilization, still to this day nothing sets the stage for a great meal better than a freshly prepared loaf. The smell of baked bread and the satisfaction of physically handling its chewy texture are both as communal as they are primal.Yet, for many hoteliers, bread is given mere 'lip service' rather than the 'lip-smacking service' that it justly deserves! The days of the basket with stale or even four-plus-hours-old bread with near frozen, prepackaged tinfoil pats of butter or olive oil - heaven forbid you use margarine - should be eradicated from our collective memory banks. Bread is life. Even nowadays with the celiac suffers, gluten intolerance and all manner of Paleo or no carb diets, bread can still make or break overall meal satisfaction. To do anything less than set the stage for a magnificent experience by denigrating your bread service as a second fiddle is a significant faux pas. And, frankly, where else can you do something special for a buck or two per guest?Fortunately, I am not alone in this thought. Many hoteliers are giving their chefs the opportunity to both experiment and invest a substantial amount of time and resources in their bread offerings. As such, I've been fortunate enough to ask a host of F&B professionals about their approach to bread service.Mathieu Lavallee, Executive Pastry Chef at ARIA Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, provided some insight. He has instituted unique bread programs for each of the property's signature restaurants. According to Chef Lavallee, "Bread service is unique in that there is no real ingredient costs, just labor. Yet, this does not mean that we should pay any less interest in it. We are fortunate to manage all of our needs from a single in-house bakery. First and foremost, recognize that this is a fragile good. You have only a few hours from baking to serving. After that, the product quality is unacceptable, particularly in our desert conditions where moisture loss is a major factor."Ulrich Krauer, General Manager of the Halekulani Hotel in Honolulu echoed this when he remarked, "Our bread service is just that - a service. At La Mer, our signature dining establishment, we distribute bread butler-style with three or four different offerings. Bread is heated in our ovens just minutes before presentation and served with a locally churned butter. In Orchids, our casual upscale restaurant, we contrast this with a more traditional bread basket accompanied with the butter, Hawaiian salt and an 18-year-old balsamic vinegar."Daniel Bruce, Executive Chef of the Boston Harbor Hotel, noted, "In keeping with our vineyard-to-table theme, we offer table service of churned local butter topped with a smoked salt as well as olive oils sourced from around the world. The servers describe the presented oil and its source while doing the bread service. Our bread includes a potato roll, a blueberry-brown bread and semolina, all with a New England tie-in."David Viviano, Executive Chef at Cane & Canoe at the Montage Kapalua Bay, stated, "Our offerings feature two products that are baked fresh daily. First, we highlight local Molokai sweet purple potatoes to make crispy yet chewy rolls. They are first rolled by hand then sauteed in butter and finished in the oven. The additional offering is an Italian-style focaccia accented with premium olive oil. Our bread is served with whipped butter and topped with Hawaiian sea salt. We often alternate between ulu hummus and taro pesto for extra accompaniments. Ulu and taro are both 'canoe' crops of Hawaii in that Polynesian settlers brought them over when they settled here. Ulu, also known as breadfruit, grows on large perennial trees. In this preparation, it is steamed and turned into hummus. Taro is a root vegetable and a staple of Hawaiian cuisine where we use the luau leaves to make pesto."Chris Schaefer, Corporate Director of Restaurants for Noble House Hotels & Resorts, has a different take on the topic. While he leaves the bread service up to the individual properties' discretion, he was clear in pointing out that, "From a corporate level, we have been pushing properties towards either offering bread as a menu item and charging for it, or at the very least asking the guests if they would even like bread. The purpose of the latter is that we are seeing so much bread coming back from the table uneaten and there was just so much waste with all the gluten-free and anti-carbs dietary stuff going on. Despite the logic of giving bread service its just dues, I have been surprised at the number of tables that actually refuse bread outright."As you can probably already tell from the above statements, bread is hardly just bread anymore. All of the properties and chefs mentioned have put their hearts into the breads they offer guests as well as their accompaniments. While increasing the freshness or improving your ingredient sourcing is a good start, you must also consider the types of butter, salt, pepper, oil, olives, vinegars and anything else that might augment this first course.Moreover, you must consider the last statement about modern trend in foregoing bread altogether. This is not something you can ignore. In my mind, your opinions are to either make your bread service so exceptional and tantalizing that no one would ever refuse it or you yield to this demand by offering a no carb alternative for the amuse bouche. Examples of the latter might include a selection of olives, a bowl of mixed nuts or a small palate cleanser - let your chefs get creative and I'm sure they will find a solution that is both tasty and representative of your locale.Here are examples of the bread services discussed so that you can also see how they are visually differentiated their bread service through creative food presentation.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HOTELS Magazine on April 14, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 22 May 2017
In fact, the future of screen technology is everywhere, pervading every point of interaction that a consumer has with your hotel. And the more you work to undo the antiquated notion that TVs are only for bedrooms, you will end up discovering new opportunities right under your nose to enhance the guest experience and drive revenues.To help our grasp of what this future means for your hotel, I interviewed Fred Crespo, Director of Technology & Business Development at Samsung Electronics. Before we jumped in to any science fiction forecasts, we first discussed how smart televisions have now overtaken regular TV sales and what that means for the evolution of the in-room viewing experience.Smart TVs are more than just eliminating the top box and any other screen accessories. As a now democratized piece of technology, they can drastically improve a room's functionality through the integration and automation of such things as lighting, the drapes, climate controls, alarms, room billing, streaming services and even the do not disturb sign. Many of these will also help you eliminate paper and realize substantial energy consumption savings. One of the latest drives with smart TVs is to reduce forced obsolescence so you no longer must replace your sets every three years - a task accomplished with internal firmware that is adaptable to future content needs as well as the ever-increasing bandwidth requirements. Lastly, automation and integration are working to drive down the cost of delivery of, for instance, in-room movie rentals so that they are more closely aligned with the consumer benchmark, thus leading to fewer perceptions of price gouging, heightened consumption and, ultimately, increased consumer satisfaction.Moving away from the centerpiece screen but still staying with the guestroom, there are many other opportunities to enhance the guest experience through the clever deployment of electronic replacements. Imagine a small digital picture frame on the nightstand that syncs with an individual's social media so that an image or slideshow of this person's family can be on display to make the room feel that much more like home. Next, try to visualize yourself brushing your teeth in front of the bathroom mirror, only your Instagram feed was cycling through on the top row while the bottom row showed the weather and the news. There are now several ways to subtly layer these types of information over portrait mirrors without being intrusive, and they also present yet another vector by which to display some hotel messaging or showcase a few features that guests may enjoy.Exiting the guestroom, there are numerous instances where digital signage can now be deployed in such a way that they are both bespoke to every individual guest and sync with in-room activities or preferences. You need only think of every touch point from the time visitors arrive at a hotel to the time they leave.Electronic signage can act as a sense of place enhancement via impressive art displays, to answer questions about check-in prior to talking directly with a clerk at the front desk or even to guide people from the elevator corridor to their specific rooms - this last one being particularly useful for buildings with massive floor plans. In essence, what we are seeing is a complete convergence of in-room screens with on-property signage, especially when you next throw into the mix outdoor patchwork screens that are extremely durable and cold to the touch. At the most recent Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas (CES 2017), LG unveiled their 'Wallpaper TVs' which deliver reasonable resolution for large diameter screens that are only a few millimeters thick and are capable of being plastered onto glass surfaces or exterior cement.This is but scratching the surface in terms of how you might go about upgrading your hotel with new devices that enhance the guest experience through augmented technological engagement - a trait that is in demand for the ever-budget-conscious millennials. What's great about our industry in particular is that we have the CapEx budget for incremental installations of this nature - albeit spread over several years - so it would be wise to at least be receptive to what an arrangement of integrated screens and devices can do to continually improve your property over the long-term. Think of these multinational conglomerates like Samsung, LG, Panasonic, Sony or Philips less so as low cost vendors and more so as premium tech partners, ensuring that you collectively arrive at the best solution to meet your hotel's unique needs.And in terms of what's on the horizon for 2017, Fred wrapped up our chat by emphasizing that this year will see evolutionary steps but not revolutionary ones. While virtual reality - the current talk of the town - is still a decade away from universal applicability, smart TVs are now a mature product, meaning that everyone is focused on operational efficiency, mobile integration and user interface enhancements. Thus, don't expect anything game-changing in the immediate future, so use this 'lull' to strategize about how the current slate of adaptive screen technologies can work for you.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in eHotelier on January 30, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 17 May 2017
It is my absolute delight to interview my sister Marcia who happens to be the Director of Insight for Mintel Food and Drink (www.mintel.com). With offices all over Europe, Asia and North America, Mintel is the world's leading market intelligence agency, and my sister's specific area of expertise happens to be chocolate.What a delicious job! She's here today to give us the inside scoop on all the latest trends and developments in this sweet industry so that you, as the ever-innovative hotelier, can find a way to use this decadent food to help differentiate your F&B offerings.Tell us about how you became the foremost worldwide expert on chocolate.First of all, I am certainly not the foremost worldwide expert on chocolate, but I do love the stuff!Just a bit of brotherly boasting. Go on...As part of my job as Director of Insight for Mintel's Food and Drink division, I focus on chocolate confectionery from many angles - from raw ingredient to finished product. We track product launches in countries around the world, as well as market sizes for the world's top chocolate countries. We also have consumer panels in a dozen countries who provide us with their opinions and attitudes towards chocolate confectionery in addition to, as you can imagine, a wide number of other products.I have been following the industry for Mintel for over a decade. It has been fascinating to track the growth of premium chocolate and to watch the way we are starting to learn more about cocoa and chocolate. I see the evolution as following a similar path to coffee. It used to be that coffee was just coffee, and then people began to learn more about the coffee beans. All of a sudden, 'coffee' wasn't good enough anymore; people wanted Sumatran or Kona. The same thing is happening in chocolate as premium and 'sourced' cocoa - for example, cocoa from Saint Lucia or Sao Tome - becomes more popular and more desirable than plain old chocolateWhat are the 'next big things' for the chocolate industry on a macro-scale?One thing we are seeing is a growing interest in 'Dark Milk' chocolate. The products have a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate but they are not as harsh or strong tasting as many of the dark chocolate products on the market. For example, typical milk chocolate has about 25% cocoa content, while most dark chocolate is about 70% cocoa. Dark Milk is about 45-50% cocoa and has some added dairy ingredients that round out the taste and mouthfeel. These products deliver a stronger cocoa punch than milk chocolate without the harsh or bitter notes of dark chocolate.As I mentioned above, there is also a growing interest in 'sourced' cocoa and cocoa content. People like to know where the cocoa is coming from and they want to know how 'dark' and intense the experience will be. Moreover, there is now more cocoa from the New World on the market than ever before, which ironic because cocoa originated in the New World, but more than 70% of the world's current cocoa comes from Africa, especially Cote d'Ivoire.The third thing to look out for is the growing interest in organic cocoa. This may turn out to be a challenge going forward as there is currently not enough organic cocoa in the world to satisfy those who want to 'eat organic', so we will be watching to see how this plays out.Flavors like chocolate-hazelnut will always be a classic, but are there any new or more obscure chocolate combinations that are gaining popularity?The majority of chocolate on the market has no specific flavor other than chocolate! But you are right that hazelnut is the second most popular flavor after plain chocolate. Other trending flavors we are tracking include:Coconut which has been given a strong health halo in the past yearSo-called 'superfruits' such as blueberry and acaiHerbs and botanicals such as lavender and roseSweet and savory combinations such as chili and chocolate, salt and chocolate and, particularly in the US, bacon and chocolateSmoked flavors with chocolate such as smoked salt or smoked caramelDoes preference in chocolate flavors vary by region?Yes, there are definitely some profound regional differences! For instance, in Japan, which has a really innovative chocolate industry by the way, we see sweet flavor profile vegetables like squash or potato with and chocolate as well as matcha green tea with chocolate. Italian and French consumers prefer dark chocolate over milk chocolate, while Germans prefer milk over dark. In Eastern Europe, there is a strong preference for alcoholic beverages as flavoring for chocolate.What are boutique chocolatiers doing nowadays to differentiate their chocolate offerings?We are seeing great creativity in packaging, with 'clean' labels that make it clear that the ingredients are 'sourced' and that there is nothing in the way of additives or preservatives. There are also tastings or flights of chocolates now being offered so that consumers can sample, taste and compare different types of chocolate all at once.Do you have any suggestions for hotels?Again, consumers have become more sophisticated in their chocolate knowledge, and hotels may want to ensure that the chocolate they comp their guests is high quality. Even if it is their own brand, properties should be clear to display cocoa content and sourcing on the packaging. Given the extent to which food allergies and sensitivities are an issue, clean labeling is also important.What specific tips would you offer a restaurant that's looking to boost its romantic appeal via improved chocolate offerings?Perhaps a special chocolate souvenir that couples could take home with them after a romantic evening. Two small champagne truffles in an attractive box delivered along with the bill at the end of the meal or at checkout would provide an attractive 'last bite' reminder of the hotel for when the couple got home.Be honest: who makes the best chocolate in the world?I am always asked this question and it is really hard to answer! I have tasted hundreds of chocolate brands and I have come to the conclusion that the best chocolate in the world is the one that I want another bite of!
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 12 May 2017
Every hotelier knows that housekeeping is a vital aspect of any property's operations. All it takes is just one look at an online review site to see just how sensitive guests are to errors in this regard. Even though we all know how important the role of the housekeeper is, seldom do we managers know how to actually do what they do so that we can truly empathize with the issues they encounter on a daily basis.I decided to change that this past month by spending a day working alongside (shadowing, really) an experienced team member of a luxury hotel property. I was asked not to reveal the name of the property nor the housekeeping staff member who I will refer to as Donna (obviously not her real name). Nursing a single malt as I write this, my back is still aching and I remain in awe of her capabilities.To be blunt, slackers need not apply. Housekeeping is not an occupation for those who are unfit. The day's mission was to obtain 13 room 'credits' (where a suite is either 1.5 or 2 credits), half being departure rooms with the balance as continuations. In one regular shift, this gave Donna about 20 minutes per room.With her fully-laden housekeeping cart, HotSOS handheld and determination to meet the commitment of the corporate 'perfect' mandate, we dove in for our first room which was prioritized for an early arrival. It was what Donna described as lightly used. The single guest had departed in the wee hours of the morning, probably to catch a flight. Most of the room appeared unused, yet Donna meticulously checked most every aspect, bending and contorting her body under furniture just to be sure. She recommended that she has seen just about everything, adding after opening the bar fridge, "Even a set of false teeth in here." Thank goodness that wasn't this time!To clean the bathroom, restock amenities, vacuum the carpet, change the linens and inspect the entire room took about 15 minutes. It was a thoroughly practiced routine of constant movement and well-honed techniques to hasten the process. As Donna went through her routine, she also trained me on how to make a bed, clean a shower, and check for wear and tear. The ease in which this was done was impressive.As our day continued, I was given the chance to actually assist. It's taken me nearly 40 years of working in the hospitality industry to finally know how to make proper 'hotel corners' on bed linens and to consistently wrap towels in order to deliver a perfect fold. Of note, I was not allowed to perform the more rigorous tasks such as glass or counter cleaning, which I suspect was due to the risk of damaging myself rather than the property because these jobs can be quite strenuous on the joints and they open the hotel up to certain liability issues.While the initial guestroom on our housekeeping round was relatively straightforward, others were daunting. The 20-minute target per room was uniform, but the workflow anything but. In particular, one nasty room took nearly double the time allocation, and that was still with all hands on deck, brushing, scrubbing and disinfecting practically uninterrupted for 40 minutes. After first observing this room's condition, I questioned how anyone could have lived like that. Donna was nonplussed, shrugging it off and remarking that she had seen much worse before diving right in to her brisk pace of methodically cleansing this sty.One observation was immediately clear from all this - housekeeping can be quite demanding on the body. It is difficult to master in order to keep the times down and it can take a toll when it comes to the heightened risk for employee injuries.When was the last time you sincerely thanked a housekeeper for a job that is both physically and mentally challenging? Moreover, when was the last time you shadowed a housekeeper? Put this high on your to-do list as understanding their plight will help you to better find solutions that will make their jobs easier or safer, increase their morale and, ultimately, improve room cleanliness so that guest satisfaction also gets a boost.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in eHotelier on February 24, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 10 May 2017
Practically, though, you hardly have the time to attend more than five of these events each year, and a 'divide and conquer' approach would work even better. That is, by sending various associates and senior executive team members in your place, the learnings and career development is spread across the entirety of your team so that you can all grow together as a pseudo-familial and highly ingenuous unit. And in the modern workplace, team engagement and ongoing training is a tremendous factor towards keeping your brightest employees from jumping ship, thus leaving budget for these outings is critical lest you lose your star performers.The two most pertinent questions then are what shows to go to and who to send where. The shows worth attending will depend on your specific situation, but please recognize that it is both a privilege to go and learn as well as a burden in terms of expenses and lost productivity. As for answering the second question, to be as blunt as possible and oblivious of any internal property politics, the people who should go to these events are the ones who sign the checks - owners, asset managers, general managers, managing directors, resort managers, operations directors, directors of sales and marketing, and any other senior executive.For niche conferences dealing with specific topics, other positions may be more appropriate for attendance, so it is a matter that must be treated on a case-by-case basis. To help explain my rationale for why the top brass should plan to go, let's look at one example for a show that I've long held in high regard - HITEC.Your first thought for an electronics convention like this is probably that you should send your IT manager so that you can let techies talk tech, trusting that your team member will adequately discern which systems and hardware will seamlessly integrate with your current operations for minimal costs. However, technology is so embedded in our guests' daily lives these days that it is no longer a case of what's easiest to apply and far more about what will most effectively improve the guest experience, whether it be a boost to your online interface, onsite features or customer preference tracking (otherwise known as customer relationship management or CRM).Having a deeper understanding of how technology can now be leveraged to heighten the end-to-end guest experience - and thereby increase revenues-- is now a critical skill for every senior manager. A convention is not only a good place to recruit vendors who can help in this mission, but also a time to bring your team leaders up to speed. Hence, the job of attending conferences that can educate on this matter simply cannot be delegated to those middle-rung team members who aren't thoroughly versed in how any expenditure will serve the big picture.This isn't to say that a person from the IT department can't also attend as an auxiliary support in order to ask the more technical questions, but given how inherently flexible new software and hardware are, these inquiries can often be more efficiently resolved through a series of follow-up phone calls once a top-level decision has been made as to where to devote the coming year's resources. That's just HITEC, and undoubtedly other conferences and conventions can be given a similar rationale for why the captains of the ship - or those who have the ambition to one day become a captain - need to attend.One other prominent North American example worth noting is HX: The Hotel Experience (formerly the International Hotel Motel and Restaurant Show) which takes place every November in Manhattan. This tradeshow is a monster in scope, and definitely requires a 'divide and conquer' approach to see it all. Although exhibits here run the gamut of hard and soft goods to appliances, engineering equipment and even accessories for HR with lots to learn at each booth, due to its size you might want to go in with a wish list that takes into account the specific desires of all department heads pooled beforehand so you are not overwhelmed by the vendors that have a low relevancy to your immediate operational goals. Yet another symposium that's high on my list is ALIS (American Lodging Investment Summit), which, by its name alone, it should be quite explicit as to who should go.In any case, this all presupposes the fact that you have allocated budget for attending conferences including airfare, hotel rooms, rental cars and entrance fees. So maybe the first question you should ask is whether or not you can afford to go in the first place. If not, why not? Continual learning is an important aspect of your job and there's no better place to grasp new industry concepts than at a conference or tradeshow with your peers.
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 8 May 2017
Beam me up, Scotty! The original television series Star Trek ran 79 episodes in the late 1960s. After being canceled due to poor ratings, it was revived and has since spawned a slew of popular TV shows coupled with 13 high-budget movies as well as a barrage of novels, comics and other ancillary IP. To this day, thousands call themselves 'Trekkies' with the remarkable ability to regurgitate every line from those original episodes.Most everyone, Trekkie or not, knows Captain James T. Kirk, the fearless leader of the Starship Enterprise. Played by William Shatner, Captain Kirk was known for his remarkable capability of keeping the ship and its seemingly hundreds of crew members safe as the ship hurtled through the galaxy and faced impossible odds. To me as a pre-teen, this was heady stuff!But what does this have to do with the world of hospitality? And what can we learn from the good captain and his crew?The captain is always the captain. Kirk has a very capable first officer in Commander Spock, played by the late Leonard Nimoy. While Spock perennially states the facts and makes recommendations, Kirk is always the one to make the decision. Implication for hoteliers: It is the GM's responsibility to patiently listen to advise as any senior management team will be filled with some very bright individuals, but ultimately it is the captain that runs the ship.The captain relies upon his crew for all manner of advise as well as execution. Kirk does not take the steering and throttle controls - that's Zulu's responsibility. Similarly, Scotty runs the engine room while Uhura handles communications. Everyone has a specific area of expertise where they are most knowledgeable and where they can work the fastest. Implication for hoteliers: Hire the best that you can. Set their goals and don't interfere with their ability to deliver results or micromanage which can be detrimental to both morale as well as your time. This takes trust, but once you've developed it, your ship will fly!Requests from Starfleet command are usually challenging, illogical or both. Kirk never questions the directive. However, he often adds what best would be described as personal interpretation. Implication for hoteliers: Think of requests from corporate offices or owners as mandates that must be met in order for your individual ship to effectively fit into a much bigger picture. However, as senior managers you will have some degree of latitude in the delivery and in fact many brands will encourage a degree of individual expression.Security is always a critical issue. Klingons seem to appear everywhere. They are often adept at slipping in through the transporter or, failing that, attempting a breach through brute force. Then add to that all the other weird and alien dangers the Enterprise happens upon and it's a miracle that the ship hasn't been blown to smithereens. Implication for hoteliers: Think of those trying to breach your software's database security as Klingons. They show no mercy and they will try to get around your defenses any way they can, attacking you without warning at just a sniff of weakness. In this day and age of ransomware and PCI compliance, your own survival is at stake and so this should be treated as a priority.Not every episode of Star Trek was focused on their overall mission. Those who recall the show will happily recall the episode entitled, "The Trouble with Tribbles." The plot was centered around these titular fur balls eating all the wheat the crew was transporting, but the actors had a hard time staying sufficiently serious to complete their lines. Even though it was a silly experience for all involved, behind the scenes it helped cement the camaraderie amongst the key players who would eventually carry that positivity forward to every interview and sci-fi convention, thereby boosting fans' appreciation for the characters as well as the franchise. Implications for hoteliers: Remember to dedicate time for team building that is either offsite or away from the daily routine as this is imperative for fostering the bonds that will transform your employees into family.I would certainly be interested in any other parallels that you may be able to draw. And for those who are Trekkies, I hope that you live long and prosper!(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in HotelsMag on March 10, 2017)
Hotel Mogel Consulting Limited - 5 May 2017
With the success of online review sites, including the behemoth that is TripAdvisor, it's all too easy to surmise that their growth was primarily because of how they aggregated hotels and cross-linked to OTA booking engines. However, we must also stomach the fact that it's our own fault that these channels proliferated. We gave these watchdogs an abundance of meat to chew on because our properties were rife with unchecked service errors. These sites gave angry customers a place to vent.Eventually we woke up, realized we had created a monstrously powerful beast, then attempted to rein it in by cordially replying to online complaints as well as by (shocker) remedying the underlying problems. But quick fixes are a far cry from correcting this fundamental shift in consumer behavior.Hotels have always had comment cards and customer satisfaction surveys but somewhere along the lines guests lost faith that this time-honored system produced real change. And so, customers migrated to third-party websites where their grievances were not only visible to managers but also to other potential guests, thereby greatly enhancing accountability for the property to actually do something. Nowadays, the de facto voice for a property's legitimacy is its online reviews - fed by millions of new entries every week while only a paltry percentage of guests bother with the comment cards.Undoubtedly you have a social media management procedure already in place for how to respond to negative online reviews that involves a well-written answer as well as some degree of onsite coordination to ensure that any issues don't come up again. That's the hope at least, although the latter action may still require a ton of retraining in order to make it stick.Taking this one step further, though, it's time to close the feedback loop by assuring guests that they can indeed trust the survey system and that their complaints will be taken heart when speaking directly to the hotel staff. Very difficult to achieve, this will have the added benefit of further reducing the number of negative online reviews because guests will bring them to hotels privately instead of immediately posting their woes on the internet. Moreover, opening up a confidential dialogue - or even better, an in-person one - may bring to light further issues that a guest would not otherwise describe within a harried online critique.The first step to rebuilding the old system is to ensure that it's functioning as well as convenient for guests. Where can guests fill out these surveys? Are they available in guestrooms and easy to find online? Are visitors cued to act by front desk clerks at checkout? Do you send a visually pleasing thank you email that prompts guests to fill out these forms as well as stressing how valuable their feedback is?Next, who collects and records the results? Who distributed these tabulated criticisms to the person who will take action? How are you rewarding those frontline staffers who perform at their best to help eliminate negative reviews and thereby incentivize more employees to follow suit? Finally, which individual acts as the enforcer to ensure that everyone else is doing his or her duties effectively as well as quickly? On that last point, it's one thing to have a functional comment card distribution system in place with appropriate follow-up; it's a whole other to have this set up so that feedback is met with near-instantaneous results.If you can't confidently answer all these questions, how can you expect guests to change their behavior? The process of posting an online review is so easy that the only way we stand a chance at bringing guests over to our camp is if our method is better or if we offer some sort of additional incentive.Above all, we are talking about improving the quality of guest service delivery. But how are you to know what your customers consider to be your faults without a public and efficient feedback system in place? Hence, whatever corrective actions you take to not only fix specific issues but also to enhance the underlying process by which we address those shortcomings will serve the ultimate goal of increasing guest satisfaction, online review scores, return visits, word of mouth and revenues.(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on March 28, 2017)