Independent hotels don’t have a brand to set standards for them and must go it alone. To ease the process, indie hoteliers suggest making standards measurable, including regularly reviewing guest feedback in staff meetings.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Branded hotels have many resources when it comes to setting standards for everything from housekeeping procedures to front-desk protocol to food-and-beverage menus. But this is a larger issue for independent properties, which often must create and enforce their own standards.
“It is a challenge, and independent owners and investors may not have an extensive background of being hoteliers,” said Scott Samuels, founder and CEO of Overland Park, Kansas-based Horizon Hospitality. “They need to bring in GMs who have a background with brands and understand these operating procedures.”
Nick Knight, GM at the 144-room Trumbull & Porter Hotel in Detroit, agreed. Knight's background is working with franchised branded hotels and he said he used that knowledge to help craft standards for his independent property.
"I took what I saw works well in other hotels and put our own boots on the ground to create what makes sense for our hotel," Knight said.
For instance, the Trumbull & Porter Hotel conducts pre-shift meetings each day for the different departments. There are also weekly manager meetings with the 10 different managers to review what happened the prior week and to plan ahead for the coming week.
Quarterly meetings are also held with all of the hotel’s 75 employees. Knight said he helped develop standards in maintenance, F&B and other areas for the hotel.
“Our quarterly meetings celebrate successes and go through any negative trends or issues, based on the standards we have established,” he said. “Having reviews like this are very important as a way to enforce and maintain whatever standards you have established at your independent hotel.”
Knight said one of the great advantages of an independent property is the freedom to adapt and develop new standards and procedures at will.
For instance, the Trumbull & Porter Hotel has a courtyard that hosts entertainment including bands, a movie series and poetry readings. It is connected to the hotel’s restaurant and guests can eat and drink while they watch a movie or listen to music
“We are known as the ‘artists’ hotel’ in our area, and as an independent, we have the flexibility to try out new things and offer a variety of cultural events,” Knight said. “We have used our image to help form our standards, and that is something very important for independents to keep in mind.”
A personal touch
Similarly, standards can also revolve around a hotel’s customer base and audience, said Tim DeGroot, GM at the 43-room El Cordova Hotel in Coronado, California. The hotel strives to have a more personal and intimate level of service to its guests, who are mostly families, DeGroot said. As part of this goal, the property is enacting a standard that each guest will receive a pre-arrival phone call a week before their stay, which will being in March.
The El Cordova Hotel also has standards in place for check-in procedures. For a more of a personal touch, DeGroot said each guest is escorted to their guestroom.
“Our guests are mostly families, and they want to know where everything is at the property and they want to know about the area; we tell them that when (we) escort them to their room,” DeGroot said. “You want to create procedures that suit your guests and their needs.”
Independents should also create standards with feedback from leaders in the property’s various departments, according to Mark Fischer, GM at the 208-room Hotel Viking in Newport, Rhode Island. His hotel has an executive team of six senior leaders who helped create the standards for their particular departments, such as F&B, front desk and housekeeping.
Each department meets monthly to review standards and make sure they are working and are on target, he added.
The hotel also tests their standards from the guest point of view, Fischer said. Each quarter, a "secret shopper" from outside of the property stays at the Viking to experience the property and offer feedback to management. He suggested that independents do some variation of this.
"Stay in touch with your different departments, with regular meetings and coaching to your staff, to make sure your standards are being met," he said.
Additionally, collecting feedback from regular customers will help you know if your standards are up to par or if you need to change and adjust them, said Colin Ross, GM at the 146-room Carlsbad by the Sea Hotel in Carlsbad, California.
One way to do so is by creating a loyalty program of your own, Ross said.
"Having this loyal customer base is very important for an independent property for many reasons; it is an excellent way to engage your guests," he said.