Posts Tagged ‘ Hotel Accounting

“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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Are You Tracking That?

Tracking what, exactly? Well, everything, apparently.

Just what are the trends in F&B number analysis? We have so many tools today – it’s great. At the risk of dating myself, I remember the day our regional F&B Director rushed into my office and announced that he had this new “miracle” tool, VisiCalc, and “wait until you see what can be done with it”. That was 25 years ago. Here’s how things have evolved, for some hotel and restaurant chains:

  • We have more information then ever before. It’s a digital world. We have Business Intelligence Systems. We have Dashboards. We have Enterprise Programs to look at POS in real time. We have labor systems and can view labor in real time. Purchasing systems – need to know how many bottles of tobacco you bought last week? Yesterday? No problem. And of course, we have spreadsheets.
  • What is the job today? Reports. To corporate. Now. “More information than ever before” has led to “more reporting than ever before”. And, thanks to Excel, Adobe, Power Point and others, we can make some pretty spiffy reports.
  • Since we have all of this incredible information there are some silly practices from “long ago” that are really not needed any more – and for many, basic practices such as taking inventories and forecasting covers by meal period are among the data casualties.
  • And how helpful are the reports? Maybe this is a hint: I have yet to meet a unit manager, hotel or restaurant, who didn’t keep his or her own spreadsheet with their own collection of goals and trends, and use that spreadsheet to manage.

“To manage”? That’s right. They find they can’t manage with 100 data points to look at, but they can do a hell of a job looking at the ten most critical data points, especially if they look at them every day.

Let’s digress: how many restaurant companies have won the coveted Malcolm Baldridge National Quality Award (www.baldrige.nist.gov)? The answer is one: Pal’s Sudden Service (www.palsweb.com), a small drive-through hot dog chain with no indoor seating, but with business practices and results beyond what most of us have imagined possible. And Pal’s shares its methodologies through its Pal’s Business Excellence Institute (www.palsbei.com) – I’ve taken 3 courses there, and recommend it to anyone pursuing excellence in business practice.

Why I mention this – Pal’s tracks 10 pieces of information. Not 11. Not 100. Just 10. Pal’s managers and corporate track the same thing.

In fact, the fourth (of seven) category of criteria for Baldridge is: Measurement, Analysis, and Knowledge Management. A paper about the Award and about Pal’s published for the International Journal of Quality and Productivity Management (Vol.5, No.1, December 15, 2005) explains:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to manage an activity that cannot be measured in some way. Often, managers want to obtain as much data and information as possible regardless of its usefulness. Many incorrectly believe that more data lead to a more informed decision. This is usually not the case. Only relevant data should be kept and measured, and key performance measures should be acted upon.

The successful managers I’ve observed, at the unit level, get this.

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