In hotel development and operations, the long-term success of your hotel depends on selecting the right people for the job.
At this year’s annual Hunter Hotel Investment Conference in Atlanta, LBA Hospitality had the chance to connect with other industry professionals to discuss what is going on in today’s economy. We exchanged ideas and even concerns about industry trends.
- Video: LBA Hospitality President Beau Benton talks with Hotel News Now about his company’s development plans
Since bottoming out in 2009, the U.S. hospitality industry has been on the upswing. However, we know that growth can’t go on forever. For that reason, I would say that cautious optimism was the overriding tone at the conference.
Concerns about development costs, new hotel supply, wage growth and the shortage of qualified employees was offset by a belief that the Trump administration will bring less regulation and provide tax relief that could help drive our industry. I believe that there are innovative and proven strategies that can be beneficial no matter the operating environment.
Find the right people
At the end of the day, it all comes down to people. Whether it is in the development phase or in the operating phase, selecting the right people will drive the long-term success of your business. Whether it is our internal development program or assisting one of our third-party owners in development, we know that selecting the right contractor is the first key step.
And, with today’s skilled labor shortage, this is even more critical than ever. Having developed 50 hotels and opened dozens more for other owners, our pre-opening team is integral to helping owners make decisions throughout the process that will be beneficial for the long term.
The final key is in recruiting and retaining the operations team. It can take years to recover from a poor opening. Training the staff so the hotel is ready to take care of guests from day one will ensure that your asset reaches its full potential as quickly as possible.
A new and more innovative strategy is the development of the dual-branded property. For years, developers would cluster hotels in close proximity, with each hotel having its own amenities and back offices. Today, developers—and now brands—are embracing the concept of dual-branded properties.
We developed the first dual-branded Hampton Inn & Suites/Home2 Suites in Huntsville, Alabama, in 2013, and will be opening two additional dual-branded properties later this year. We believe that this concept allows for you to market to multiple segments for one hotel. By combining amenities, you can provide a better experience for the guest than might otherwise be available in a single property. Finally, the cost efficiency of one back-of-house can prove very valuable, especially as growth slows or declines.
Whether in good times or bad, we look for ways to drive ancillary service revenue. One of these areas is food-and-beverage.
It is critical to focus on your local market and develop your branded concept around the need. While most limited-service properties aren’t widely regarded for their F&B options, that does not have to be the case. At our Hilton Garden Inn, in Charleston, South Carolina, our hotel chef was recently selected to participate in the 2017 Charleston Food + Wine Festival. The chef was recognized with this honor due to his stellar reputation built by exceptional service at a hotel property.
Some hotel restaurants may find it difficult to retain guests in-house for a full dinner, but through creative specials you can capture guests for drinks and appetizers before they depart the hotel for a full meal.
We have found that the key to driving successful profit margins in both good and bad economic times is consistent control. Operating with clear standards and labor models that are able to flex with increased or decreased occupancy, will allow you to deliver a consistent guest experience. We know that this consistent positive experience will ensure that guests return, and will keep your hotel operating at a healthy level for years to come.
Since joining LBA Hospitality in 2005, Beau Benton has played a vital role in expanding the hotel management organization’s footprint from 27 to more than 65 hotels over the past decade. Benton has served in the roles of Chief Financial Officer and Chief Operating Officer, assuming his role as President in 2012. As President, Benton spearheads the company’s growth, which includes doubling the number of hotels represented by the company, maintaining a strong development program by developing and opening 26 Marriott and Hilton hotels, and overseeing the company’s transition from an owner/manager platform to that of a third-party management entity.
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