Posts Tagged ‘ F&B Management

Method to the Madness, Part II, Hotel Eating & Drinking Concepts

Great restaurants and bars are about passion and joy and excitement and culinary wonder. Right? But that’s after they open. Getting there? Another matter.

In March, Part I of this series about developing hotel restaurant and bar concepts discussed determining the criteria that a new concept must meet in order to be successful. At GVC we use a 7-part “methodology” to create a concept. It’s not rocket science, right? Or maybe it’s more difficult than rocket science, since thousands upon thousands of very experienced and bright folks have failed at it, one time or another. An outline of the seven steps methodology can be found at the GVC web site. Here I’ll go into a bit more detail.

The Second Step of this Methodology is Anything but a Tea Party!

While Part I is largely strategic, Part II gets into the “hard work” – it’s certainly no “tea party”. A thorough exploration of the “internal” side of the status quo is required. This includes an examination of the hotel brand, the hotel customer, the facility and its operations. While this blog pertains to a hotel that is already operating, much of what follows would apply to a new-build as well. Mostly the sources for the information would differ.

Let’s begin with the hotel’s brand. Learn what you can about the Brand and Brand image. What types and categories of restaurants and bars fit? Corporate Brand “owners” can help here, as they have usually thought this through. Get an answer to this question and you’ll be headed in the right direction, Brand-wise: “place any existing restaurant or bar in your prototype hotel – what would it be?”

Also essential: know the Brand Standards. And try to learn the demographic and lifestyle habits of the Brand customer. This will be different in some ways at the local level, but it’s a good starting point.

Next, and far more challenging: learn about the hotel guests and customers. Determine the answer to these and other questions:  Who is the guest, and why are they here? Where do they come from? Business, leisure? What type of business? Traveling alone or as part of a group? How did they book? What is their average rate? If part of a group, what is their group’s policy about charging restaurant and bar charges to the room? How did they arrive at the hotel? What is their average length of stay? I like to study a hotel’s segmentation analysis and then extend it to eating and drinking occasions. Hotels are amazing when it comes to tracking rooms. But rooms don’t eat in restaurants or drink in bars. People do.

Yes, Madness does have a Method

Simple? Maybe. If we were done. But what about the meeting and banquet guests who are not also staying at the hotel? I like taking a hard look at this category of customer, because it’s a little easier to nail down, even quantify, the eating and drinking potential. Let’s take meeting guests. Usually these potential customers eat lunch during their visit to the hotel. So, if we can determine how many such guests we have each year, what percentage have a banquet luncheon vs. eating “on their own”, we have a good starting point. While we’re at it, let’s find out how long the average break is. Hotel restaurants often close at lunch. The information provided here will factor into a decision whether or not to do this.

Now let’s look at the hotel facility. Access, parking, signage, visibility, and location within the hotel, for example.

Access alone generates a number of routes of inquiry. Access from the outside: car, bus, taxi, limo and walking. Now let’s go inside. Access to the restaurant and bar areas from the lobby, from the banquet areas, from the elevators, from the stairwells. Visibility, signage and wayfinding indicators are just some of the things to look for. During access what is the flow, especially when busy? What does the customer see as they enter, the “sense of entry”. What is possible? And since we’re assessing the facility, what about the employee flow, from the kitchen? And what about the attributes that aren’t readily apparent: sound system, lighting, Wi-Fi, natural light control and HVAC to name a few.

Finally, operations. What is the restaurant’s and/or bar’s performance? This requires a detailed analysis of revenues and costs. And sales patterns must be divined, which is possible if the POS system is current and is functioning well. Don’t forget a close look at menus and all marketing collateral of the existing concept.

Finally – or maybe first? – talk with people. Executive people. Guest people. Employee people. Owner people. Even competitors. Or nearby restaurants and bars – they’ll almost always offer their impressions of the facility you’re working to improve.

Next time – Part III, a thorough external analysis.

These are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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“Culture of Outlets” — Ban this Word!

And when was the last time you said, “Let’s go eat at an outlet”? I’ll bet you’ve never heard this dialogue:

Spouse A: Honey, it’s Saturday, let’s go out to dinner.

Spouse B: Sounds great. What kind of outlet are you thinking about?

Spouse A: What? I said dinner.

Spouse B:  Got it. At the hotel we call them outlets. Hey after dinner at an outlet, let’s go to an outlet for drinks.

Spouse A: I don’t want to eat at an outlet, I want to dine at a restaurant, then drink at a bar.

Spouse B: Sounds a little strange to me, but OK.

Also an Outlet

So, “B” works at a hotel. Why don’t we say “restaurants & bars” when we work at hotels? Well, it’s convenient to say outlets if you want to encompass every type of service in one word. Room Service is not the same as restaurant, and a mini bar is not the same as a Bar. But both are “outlets”. I suspect the term emanated from accounting where analysis often requires lumping the non-banqueting areas together.

Well, lump them together all you want, but don’t call my restaurant an outlet. Or my bar. Guests don’t eat at outlets – just ask them. I can see the intercept survey now: “Sir, would you mind sharing some of your opinions about the outlet you dined at last evening?” Restaurants, Bar/Lounge, Room Service and Mini Bars all work for me. Let finance people refer to Eating & Drinking Revenue Centers.

Cute Outlet, but not a Restaurant

So I pledge here and now: stop what this “culture of outlets”. This culture supports a second-class image for hotel restaurants and bars. Language both reflects and reinforces culture:  ban the word “outlet” from your hotel. Hold your F&B head high.

And while we’re at it, here is some more “culture of outlets” behavior we should put to rest:

  1. Using the hotel logo on bar and restaurant promotional materials. Your restaurant has a name, right? Your bar? And logos? [Note: I’ve seen hotel restaurants and bars without logos – you can design a useable logo on line for a couple hundred bucks. Do it.]
  2. Room Service should be positioned as a service of the restaurant, not a service o the hotel. Yes, in some instances Room Service is truly unique, with a different staff and different kitchen than the restaurant. But in most cases, when it comes to Room Service, we fail to leverage all of the internal marketing we’ve done for our restaurants and bars. We don’t use restaurant and bar logos, we don’t talk about the restaurant Chef and we don’t do anything to indicate that the Chef even knows that his or her food sometimes goes to the rooms (how about: “We have prepared this Signature from our restaurant kitchen specifically for our Room Service Guests”, etc.)

    This is Also an Outlet

  3. Performing “competitive shops” at other hotels. So you really think your guest leaves the hotel for dinner and walks or drives…to another hotel? A competitive survey should determine where guests eat and/or drink when they don’t eat/drink at your bars and restaurants. Your employees and your regular guests can both tell you this. Ask them.
  4. Hotel web sites. My recent “Banana” blog addresses the need for independent web sites for your bars and restaurants. But how about the hotel web site? I actually think that the driver of “culture of outlets” here is space: “dining” is a 6-character word. “Restaurants & Bars” is 18 spaces. The same culture at work, I think, that figures it’s OK to use “Events” as a placeholder for “Weddings”. Reorganize the site, make the space.

Please let me know what words or phrases you think might work better than “outlets”.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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When Selling the Right Thing is the Wrong Thing

Once last month I was thinking too hard and managed to work myself right into a contradiction. I was at a property roughly 75 miles from Wine Country.  I was congratulating management on their wine promotion, a simple but effective Best Practice, how I reported it. I was also congratulating myself on congratulating management as this would reinforce the Company’s excellent wine sales culture that I had supported in previous reports and meetings.

Regrettably, while compiling the report I encountered a sinister force trying to destroy the superb writing and brilliant conclusions of my masterful report: data. Oops. 

Turns out, the customer didn’t follow the well-merchandised direction: “drink more wine…drink more wine…” This is the thing about customers, that just when you expect them to do just one simple thing…well, you know.

Previously I had looked at sales, or the beverage mix. So, the spirits-beer-wine mix might be 30% – 32% – 38%. Great, we’re selling more wine. Keep it up. Promote wine. Good job. Report emailed.

Then I stumbled across some additional information. By “stumbled across” I mean I decided to look at the other data contained in the sales mix report. The other data was “number of items sold” though it wasn’t labeled clearly and this will continue to be my excuse for missing it first time around.

So, it turns out, incidents of beer sales surpass, significantly, incidents of spirits or wine sales in the lounge. Of course spirits and wine sales are critical and must be promoted, but promoted strategically. In fact wine sales and incidents of wine sales dominate room service beverage, for example.

But back to beer. Digging some more. Beer at this location wasn’t discounted significantly. Craft and imports were popular. The beer selection paled (pun?) next to the wine selection. There is a wine list but no beer list. There was excess capacity in the beer cooler. Management is smart and open minded. In other words, all of the usual obstacles were gone, and opportunities abound.

The hotel is adjusting inventories, re-writing beverage menus and developing new promotions. Adding some taps in the Lounge. Ratcheting up room service wine promos. All because of some data.

Six months from now I’ll request an updated mix and overall sales analysis,  and we’ll see happened. We’ll see together – I’ll share it here.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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How to Manage a Light Bulb

Let’s get this out right now: this is not “how many _______ does it take to screw in a light bulb” or anything like that. I’m not good at screwing in light bulbs. My wife will ask her seven-year-old daughter to replace a bulb, before she’ll ask me. Sure, I’m exaggerating. Sometimes she asks the ten-year-old.

But once that bulb is in, I can manage it as well as anyone. No so at some bars and restaurants I’ve seen in hotels. Bright lights in the bar. Bright lights at dinner. Lighting levels that change dramatically for no apparent reason. Lighting levels that differ from area to area within a restaurant or lounge, for no apparent reason.

Light Bulb Energy

We often overlook the importance of managing lighting levels. Lighting levels? How about music levels? Type of music? And TV’s. What’s showing – and why? It’s 9 o’clock, do you know where your mute button is? Do your guests like the cacophony of three separate programs blaring in your bar? We don’t understand why our places are sometimes empty, yet we’ve effectively killed any and every opportunity for energy.

How do you fix this? Sure, sometimes a better speaker or two and an additional dimmer switch might be required. But mostly it’s about strategy and scheduling.

We schedule our teams to service the guest. Every week. No problem. So why can’t we schedule the environment in which the guest will be served as well? The answer is, we can. Here’s one way to do it.

Make a grid for each outlet, with the hours of operation in columns, an hour for each column. TIP: if the outlet is open to or visible from a public area when closed, it’s just as important to manage its look and “feel” for that time period as well.

First, The FORECAST

At the top row, write “customer” – who is the customer you are targeting each hour the outlet is open?

Next row, write “occasion” – what is the occasion of their visit? Breakfast (re-fueling)? Meeting? Unwind after work? Unwind after meetings? Returning from dinner outside the hotel? Etc.

Finally, third row, write “energy level” or “mood” or whatever best sets the tone for the “feel” you want to support.

Now, the SCHEDULE

Record the appropriate level or channel or number for each hour, for each of the managed ambience items, including:

  • Lighting level #
  • Music volume
  • Music channel
  • TV station (mute except for scheduled “events”)

You will have multiple light controls, multiple TV’s, etc. And you can add items – maybe how the bar looks (“meal set” for certain hours, for example).

Recently I was at a smartly managed hotel in the New York area and the Lobby Lizard – here known as a Lobby Ambassador – has a checklist that includes six items that influence bar atmosphere, and they are checked multiple times each evening. I like that.

Teach your lizard how to manage that light bulb.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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