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Lessons from the Field
A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry
By Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE, September 29, 2008

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"A Bakers Dozen" of Strategies for Hotel
Food and Beverage Directors

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By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
September 29, 2008

While I continue to believe that many things in our industry and lives can be accomplished faster and better, I also still agree with the front page story of the December 26, 2005 Chicago Tribune that offered a most interesting headline: 

DOES ANYONE HAVE TIME TO THINK ANYMORE?

In today’s frenzy paced period of cell phones, i-pods, text messaging, palm pilots and blackberry hand held devices that keep many people accessible and responding well beyond the ten hour workday, one wonders about the value of free “think” time any longer. 
Over the past 2 years, I looked to find the time to “think” and came to an important realization. As much as we want improved processes and product, we also need to remember that we must keep the foundations of our efforts and our successes strong and vital.

To that end, the “Bakers Dozen” of Strategies series was contemplated and launched.  It has been gratifying that the “Bakers Dozen Strategies” for various teams in hotels has been well received – in fact, the topics submitted in each of the past several quarters have frequently been in the MOST READ for several online services. 

My sincere thanks are extended to those who have agreed with the concept of keeping the fundamentals of our efforts intact and our successes strong and vital.

As a reminder of why the use of the term BAKERS DOZEN, we often see a top ten list of ideas.  The phrase "bakers dozen" arose when bakers started giving away an extra loaf with every dozen purchased to make sure the total weight of bread sold complied with the strict Weights and Measures Regulations which came into force at the time. Since then, the number thirteen has been referred to as "a baker's dozen". 

The initial columns offered strategies for:

Following is A Bakers Dozen” of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors

Food and Beverage Directors often have the largest number of departments to work with in full service hotels and the most diversity in areas.  While all of their departments relate to F&B Service, the range of talents, tasks and personalities is immense, requiring effecting Directors to have a sense of “just right or just in time” follow through , as well as a  high level of personal dependability, strong communication  and organizational skills. 

A suggested listing of those skills follows:

1. Organizes, directs and organizes the activities of the Food & Beverage departments in all areas.   In full service hotels, this includes: Banquets set up, Catering Service, Kitchen and all Culinary, Lounges, Restaurants, Room Service and supporting areas, such as vending or potential off site service.  F&B Directors today must establish themselves as the team leader, with a high level of energy and motivation.  This focus greatly improves the potential for success and of meeting the company’s goals and values.

2. Creates aggressive but realistic annual budgets for all Hotel Food & Beverage operations.     This means detailed forecasting, planning and directing the entire Hotel Food & Beverage departments to meet the daily operational needs. This includes selection and ongoing evaluation of current suppliers, vendors and contracts as needed.

3. Maintains the highest standards of food and beverage quality, service and marketing to maximize profits through "outstanding" customer service.    This is a two sided task.  First, it means establishing Food & Beverage SOPs (standard operating procedures) and keeping all F&B job descriptions current.  If affiliated with a brand, it means regular review of the current brand SOPs, recognizing potential gaps and developing corrective actions if need be. Second, it means ongoing evaluation of customer satisfaction in each of the individual outlets, including catering and banquet service. If there is a measurable swing or change in demand, customer dissatisfaction, or variables in the competitive marketplace, this could mean recommending to senior management possible options to meet those changes, including new operating and/or marketing practices.

4.  Develops restaurant, lounge and catering concepts and plans to support those areas.  This activity means working with the chef, restaurant and lounge managers in the creation and merchandising of attractive menu designs to attract a predetermined customer market.  It also means linking and working with those people with the appropriate marketing team to build accountability and reality in the active promotion of the F&B areas.

5. Hires, trains, oversees, develops, disciplines and counsels all food and beverage management team members according to hotel and/or company protocols and procedures. This includes mentoring high potential department heads and team members to grow internal leaders and to ensure their growth within the hotel and/or company.  It also involves providing a  positive work environment via incentives, support, empowerment and professional development for all staff as appropriate 

6. Proactively strives to build positive working relationships through teamwork and clear communication as a member of the hotel executive committee.     F&B Directors have one of the largest staffs in any full service hotel and should be a regular Manager on Duty.  The F&B Director can also lend a sense of stability and knowledge to other departments, as F&B is so much a part of full service hotels.

7. Offers a strategic point of view by continuously developing the F&B services and incorporating it into every phase of the guest experience.  Effective F&B Directors consistently strive for continuous improvement while delivering high levels of professionalism. Measurable results orientation with an emphasis on both individual and team accountability is essential. Analytical and expedient approaches to problem solving usually result in win/win solutions.

8.  Proactively participates in the comprehensive catering sales and marketing efforts.  Every individual hotel and management company has slightly different ways of coordinating marketing, but the F&B Director should be involved in the promotional efforts of the hotel relating to F& B areas. 

9.  Implements effective controls of food, beverage and labor costs among all Food and Beverage departments and monitor the food and beverage budget to ensure efficient operations. This means scheduled and detailed reviews of your income statements, cash flow position and market analysis reports monthly.  All management companies have audits to their financial books, but you as a successful F&B Director must understand what is facing the General Managers and owners.  As an effective F&B Director, you can help yourself and others by understanding a system of checks and balances.   Note variances in food cost margins, payroll dollars and percentages, receivables and market swings regularly and make adjustments.  Proactive managers are those who successfully master this.

10. Training must be maintained and increased.   In good times, many hotels claim to be “too busy” to train. When revenues are flat or declining, cutting ongoing training to “save money” will really cost more as it will drive the good staff to consider leaving and the loyal customers to the competition because it appears you don’t care.   The expression holds true that the only thing wore than an untrained staff that leaves is an untrained staff that stays to service your customers. If one looks at the crisis facing many of the casual dining chains in 2008, it becomes evident how important each and every customer is made to feel.  Satisfaction does NOT mean loyalty – we need to build customer loyalty and training is the key.

11. Take the professional expectations provided to you from ownership and or Management Company and share them clearly with all staff.  Make those expectations understood, explain the value and rationale to all staff and be certain these expectations can be measured fairly. This means making certain that both your Food and Beverage managers and their staff are properly trained on brand and company standards and expectations. 

12. Know, care for and respect your staff.   Use a meaningful staff feedback or survey system to “audit” the people values who keep your F&B outlets and hotels successful. You expect your staff to know and care for their customers. Remember that your staff is a “customer” of effective F&B Directors. Successful operators will tell you that their success has been substantially based on recruiting and keeping long term staff – that is building staff and then guest loyalty by knowing and caring for the people who meet and greet their guests. 

13. Prepare yourself to perform effectively under different levels of pressure and volume. Today’s effective F&B Director is self-motivated, likely a high achiever, well organized and detail oriented professional.  These skills are learned and earned, which means ongoing professional development and continuous learning.  Effective F&B Directors need to be innovative thinkers, who can convince others to move thoughts to actions with speed as appropriate. 



Feel free to share an idea at johnjhogan@yahoo.com anytime or contact me regarding consulting, customized workshops or speaking engagements.  Autographed copies of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES can be obtained from THE ROOMS CHRONICLE  www.roomschronicle.com and other industry sources. 

All rights reserved by John Hogan.   This column may be included in an upcoming book on hotel management.

John Hogan’s professional experience includes over 35 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He holds a number of industry certifications and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism, as well as operational and marketing awards from international brands.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor at three different colleges and universities over a 20 year period, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independent hotels.  He was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He joined Best Western International in spring of 2000, where over the next 8 years he created and developed a blended learning system as the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for the world’s largest hotel chain. 

He has served on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity and as brand liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.  He has conducted an estimated 3,100 workshops and seminars in his career.  He served as senior vice president for a client in a specialty hotel brand for six years.

He has published more than 350 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – a COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available from a range of industry sources and AMAZON.com.  He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing his 2nd book based on his dissertation –     The Top 100 People of All Time Who Most Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.

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Contact:

Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
johnjhogan@yahoo.com

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Also See: My Definition of Hospitality. What’s Yours? / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
Principles for Success as a Hotel Manager: 6 Observations on Finding and Employing Problem Solvers / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Action Steps to Succeed in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / September 2008
10 Hotel Sales Mistakes to Avoid in Today’s Competitive Marketplace / Dr. John Hogan / August 2008
Ways to Identify and Build Repeat Guests / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Maintaining Relationships Throughout the Organization / Dr John Hogan / August 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part four: Communicating with Clarity and Candor / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part three: Using your management style effectively / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager - Part Two: Motivating the Team / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008
Principles for Success As a Hotel Manager Part One: Understanding the Organization / Dr. John Hogan / July 2008 
Updating Hotel Marketing and Sales Strategies Mid Year NOW Is Essential / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Don’t Underestimate the Impact of the Hotel Sales Office / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
Factors for Successful Interviewing Potential Hotel Sales Candidates / Dr. John Hogan / June 2008
The Importance of Meaningful Sales Team Job Descriptions / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
For Hotels with Limited Service, Fewer than 100 Rooms - How Do You Determine if You Need a Person Dedicated to Selling / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Extending Your Sales Team or Make Travel Agents A Regular Part of Your Sales Programs / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Finding Business Leads Can Be Easier Than You Think / Dr. John Hogan / May 2008
Understanding the Differences Between Marketing and Sales / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
Identifying Your Customers / Lessons from the Field A Common Sense Approach to Success in the Hospitality Industry / Dr. John Hogan / April 2008
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