‘Secret sauce’ balances basics with dash of innovation
‘Secret sauce’ balances basics with dash of innovation
10 MARCH 2020 9:00 AM

The secret to hotel management success might not be as complicated as you think.

These are exciting times in the hotel business. Hotel management professionals have access to innovative and increasingly powerful new tools and technology, as well as vast amounts of new information about their guests and the granular details of their own operations. The promise of new efficiencies and new opportunities is alluring.

But in the rush to take big leaps forward, some hotel management professionals have taken a step back. Because at a time when there is an extraordinary flow of new ideas and new technologies, it’s all too easy to lose sight of timeless hospitality fundamentals.

It’s important to recognize that the most consistently successful hotel management companies are those that understand how to play the long game: how to stay open to new ideas while maintaining a ruthless and unwavering focus on hospitality basics.

Maintaining a concentrated and continuous commitment to the fundamentals can be harder than it seems amidst the cacophony and chaos of a surge in innovation. But it’s increasingly essential. Because you can’t integrate big new ideas and you can’t move on to the next level unless you have a strong and durable foundation to build on. Hoteliers need to focus more than ever on what matters most: personal attention, great service, memorable experiences, thoughtful efficiencies and a strong professional culture.

The industry is so fragmented and competitive, and there is so much that goes into managing a modern-day hotel property. Social media today is an essential tool. But if you’re spending more time worrying about your Instagram feed than about how to feed your guests, you’re doing it wrong. It’s a very real challenge for hotel management professionals to decide where and how to spend a finite amount of time and resources. How do you make those decisions? How do you get back to hospitality business basics in the age of innovation?

Beware of information overload
As the business has become more complex, competing priorities can crowd limited operational bandwidth. Service tools have gotten so complicated and so comprehensive, that it’s (all too) easy to spend more time analyzing the service you provide than actually providing it. Digging into the minutiae about what room a guest stayed in and how many towels they used is all well and good. But how much does that matter in relation to a warm greeting and a friendly and responsive service experience? We have access to every second of guest movement, preferences and detailed analytics—but if the feel at the highest level of the hospitality experience is misaligned, none of that matters. Make sure you aren’t getting distracted by the data and losing sight of the deliverables.

Emphasize core values
One of the most effective ways to maintain focus on what matters is to make sure you emphasize what matters to you. Your core values are an anchor that can keep your management company securely moored in the turbulent tides of change. Continuity, consistency and commitment all have real value—to owners and guests alike. In an age of disruptive change, what is your constant? Where is your center?

Don’t spin your wheels
Going back to basics does not mean stagnating or living in the past. It’s exactly the opposite. It’s about the ability to evolve and adapt to new economic, technological and sociological realities without losing sight of key priorities—and deploying your resources accordingly. Just to be crystal clear, technology matters. Information can be extraordinarily valuable in helping hotels deliver personalized and outstanding service. But at its core, hospitality is about people. Spending time with them. Treating them well. Making them comfortable. FaceTime is no substitute for face time.

Tune out the noise
In today’s world, where every business process is clamoring for space in your brain and your business and increasingly precious time in your day-to-day schedule, how do you achieve clarity on what really matters? How do you separate the signal from the noise? Tuning out the noise means resolutely focusing on how make the most efficient and effective use of your time and resources. Your core values can be a helpful filter, as can repeatedly asking and answering the simple-but-critical question: What matters most? The value of any action should be evaluated in the context of that answer. Businesses that last aren’t built on decisions that are made for the short term. They have shown that they know not only how to tune out—but how to dial in.

Maintain an ROI mindset
If your housekeeping manager is working shifts in the laundry room in an attempt to cut labor, is that really the best use of his or her time? Is saving $10/hour by cutting a laundry attendant worth the potential loss of $300/room x 10 every day for the next year because your cleanliness scores went down due to lack of on-the-floor oversight? There is an ROI on behavior and resource allocation, and evaluating costs and consequences through that lens is critically important. Similarly, you could spend hours at your desk as the GM analyzing how guests feel about the position of the heating vents on the fourth floor, or you can spend that time with your team. The basics have to come first. There are only so many hours in the day, and every employee should be making the highest and best use of that time.

Another undervalued ROI difference-maker is devoting resources to building and maintaining a strong and connected team. Hotel management leaders increasingly understand that sustained success requires substantial and ongoing investment in their relationships with their people. Understanding—and addressing—their priorities and preferences, goals and ambitions is critically important.

Understand the secret sauce
I’d really like to sound like a genius and tell you there’s some secret sauce to hotel management excellence. But there isn’t. The reality is that this isn’t rocket science, it’s Hospitality 101. The biggest and most dramatic turnarounds we’ve been a part of have been built on a business plan focused on great guest service, smart direct selling to key demos and markets, and implementing new operational efficiencies with efficient labor management and steady leadership. In other words: the basics.

So don’t overcomplicate things. Too many new positions, new departments and new initiatives inevitably leads to make-work projects and inefficiencies. There are too many hotel management companies these days that are all gloss and no texture: more buzzwords than bottom lines. Make that ruthless and relentless focus on the basics a part of your culture. Emphasize it. Reinforce it. If you can successfully instill that into your professional DNA, you’re less likely to let the next big thing distract you from the only thing that really matters.

Chris Green is president and CEO of Chesapeake Hospitality and brings more than a quarter century of successful hospitality operations experience to Chesapeake's corporate team, including nearly a decade in the field at various Chesapeake-managed properties. He is responsible for all field operations of the Chesapeake managed estate, a portfolio of properties that continues to evolve to reflect the contours of a changing marketplace. Under Green’s leadership, Chesapeake has demonstrated a proven ability to deliver industry-leading financial results across a wide range of markets and hospitality concepts. Green understands how to balance a property’s long-term strategic vision with the practical immediacy of day-to-day operational demands, and he takes a leading role in actively managing, improving and protecting every asset.

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  • Peter Kartanos March 10, 2020 7:12 PM Reply

    Great read.

  • Donna March 11, 2020 5:37 AM Reply

    Great stuff

  • Patti March 11, 2020 8:03 AM Reply

    Awesome story and more hotel management companies need to read and take heed of this!

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