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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, October 7, 2008

"A Bakers Dozen" of Strategies for Hotel
Restaurant Managers

By Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS
October 7, 2008

The greatest results in life are usually attained by simple means and the exercise
of ordinary qualities. These may for the most part be summed in these two:
common-sense and perseverance
                                                             Owen Feltham, British Writer

The recent column, A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors, generated a good deal of positive feedback and comments from operators and managers, as all of us in the industry consistently work to regain our confidences and margins resulting from the negative impact of the gas price hike crisis this summer and the current global economic credit emergency.

There are limits to what individuals can accomplish, but the following are offered as common sense, high touch actions for those of us supporting our hotels in F&B outlets.

“A Bakers Dozen” of  Strategies for Hotel Restaurant Managers

1.  Be the “host” whenever possible.    Think of your favorite successful hometown independent restaurant.  The owner or manager is either the Chef or the one who is at the door – welcoming each guest individually. While many full service hotels have someone who seats guests, having the restaurant manager acting as the “host” in at least certain peak times allows the manager to be visible, to welcome and to observe the room in action.

2.  Identify who your staff should be and hire accordingly. After the hire, train the team to be #1. As was highlighted in the F&B Director strategies, training must be increased and maintained and this is critical in these days of reduced spending in restaurants.   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.

3.  Drive revenue with regular promotions.   There are all kinds of calendars and web sites that highlight ideas and ways to promote your restaurant internally and with external advertising as appropriate.  Let me suggest three very different types of approaches:              Max Hitchins of Australia, Jim Sullivan, and Bill Marvin. I have heard each of these professionals speak several times on a range of topics and their sites, links and resources offer dozens of low cost or no cost common sense ideas on driving revenue. 

4.  Update the “small touches” regularly.    Restaurants should be high touch. Use of flowers, interesting table settings, a welcoming entrance at the front door and tasteful holiday decorations can all distinguish your hotel restaurant.

5.  Merchandising.  Menus must be clean and appetizing.  Table tents should be inviting and encourage interest.  There should be specials at every meal – even if it an item from the regular menu.  Ruby Tuesday today has a memorable table tent that highlights what they view to be positive changes.  Check out their message of Mission: Quality. Passion. Pride or better yet, go look at one their restaurants. 

6.  Reasonable Care.  It may sound unusual to discuss this in restaurant management, but practicing reasonable care in food service is essential.  The late Tony Marshall shared dozens of ideas relating to care of furniture, buffet service, china , flatware, glassware and general operational practices. 

7.  Great food presentations    Great restaurants have great communication among the kitchen, serving staff and management.  Every dish should look special – there are many proven ways to make this happen at no extra cost other than training. (see #2)

8.  Overcome the “hotel restaurants are not profitable” stigma. We have all enjoyed upscale hotel restaurants that we assume are profitable.  Food costs have not been changing much the last several years and labor costs are localized.   Although gas prices have recently affected some items, careful pricing, regular specials and promotions of appropriate items can boost revenues.  Examining the other items in this list of strategies all contribute to a positive bottom line IF there is adequate volume. This means solid and regular forecasting and tying projections to hotel occupancies. It also means effective hotel restaurant managers embrace  the “pride of ownership attitude” and take corrective action as needed.

9.  Share the messages of cost containment   The people who work at our restaurants today are intelligent professionals who understand that higher costs at work lessen their opportunities for raises or other benefits.  Effective restaurant managers create a master communication plan with the chef to share logical and equitable ways for everyone to understand cost containment.

10.  Provide incentive programs    The three websites listed in #3 offer ideas for incentives for both serving staff and others.  Incentive programs should allow the extraordinary efforts by an individual to be rewarded, as well as team goals.

11. Room Service – Many full service hotels also provide this service.  This short article is not the time or place to elaborate a full plan, but there are ways to make it special that require primarily a common sense plan and a logical menu.  If there is reader interest, I will devote an entire column on the subject.

12. Professional as appropriate.   Making your restaurant different need not be a challenge, IF your restaurant consistently provides excellent customer service EVERY meal.  Casual restaurants can be just as enjoyable as upscale ones, but this all ties back to the level of professionalism that is conveyed by the restaurant manager.

13.  Thank you – come again.  Check delivery is such a small thing, yet it can be critical as it is likely the last impression.  Look back at #1 and remember the lessons of your favorite successful hometown independent restaurant.  The owner or manager is often at the door – welcoming each guest individually and saying please come again soon.  How do you say “thank you?”  (Share your best ideas and I will feature them in an upcoming column)

Feel free to share an idea at [email protected] 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 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  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.


Dr. John Hogan, CHA MHS CHE
[email protected]

Also See: A Bakers Dozen of Strategies for Hotel Food and Beverage Directors / Hotel Common Sense / John Hoganv/ September 2008
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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