Meeting Your Communication Needs with Meetings

November 23rd, 2015

Common wisdom says that everyone hates meetings.  But what everyone really hates are pointless meetings that drag on and on.  Beyond such mismanaged gatherings is the absolute need to communicate, pass on important information, and keep all managers and staff informed.

This is especially critical in the hospitality business where there is so much detail for everyone to know and communicate, yet with the press of operations, long hours and days, and multiple shifts, it is difficult to gather staff, exchange ideas and information, and get the word out.

The first and most basic step in improving communications is a consistent service-based approach to leadership among the General Manager and department heads with its emphasis on the open flow of communications throughout the organization.  This alone will uncover issues, keep the staff better informed, and ensure that everyone knows what’s expected and what’s going on.

The second requirement is that everyone responsible for holding meetings understands and consistently applies proven meeting disciplines to ensure meetings are on time, on topic, on purpose, and efficiently run with the minimum investment of everyone’s precious time.

With these two requirements in place, the following is a list of ongoing operations meetings (excluding club board and member committee meetings) that are considered essential to a well-run organization.  While there may be other meetings the general manager would like to see from time to time, these may be scheduled as necessary with desired attendees:

1.   Weekly General Manager’s Staff Meeting.  A weekly update meeting for the General Manager and department heads, including the Controller, HR Manager, Facility Manager and heads of all operating departments.  The purpose is to bring everyone up to speed on what is going on in their areas of responsibility and to give the General Manager an opportunity to give group direction, discuss issues and concerns, and review any significant club events and activities for the coming week.

2.   Weekly Food and Beverage Meeting.  This meeting goes over all F&B activities and events for the coming week and is usually held early in the week to allow time for menu changes, revised guarantees, and any last minute details that will affect the smooth functioning of the F&B department.  The meeting is usually chaired by the Food and Beverage Director or Executive Chef and includes the Catering Director or Manager, Dining Room Manager, and any other F&B managers or supervisors who have a need to know.

3.   Monthly Golf Operations Meeting.  This meeting allows the GC Superintendent, Head Golf Professional, and General Manager to discuss any issues relating to the golf operation and ensures the General Manager is well-informed on events, issues, and concerns relating to the players’ golfing experience.

4.   Departmental Daily Huddles.  These brief meetings at the beginning of the day or before each shift give the department head or supervisor the opportunity to meet briefly with staff to discuss the day’s business, review activities and events, reinforce the organization’s culture and service ethic, go over member preferences, recognize outstanding performance, and remind staff of important service issues.

5.   Monthly Review of Operating Statement and Department Work Plans.  When the monthly financial statements are completed, the Controller will schedule a series of meetings for each department head to meet with the General Manager and Controller to review departmental performance and progress toward work plan milestones and completion.  Department heads will bring their Tools to Beat Budget Binders to the meeting, along with their departmental benchmarks, and be prepared to respond to any questions from the General Manager.

6.   Monthly Facility Maintenance/Housekeeping Meeting for the Facility Manager and/or Executive Housekeeper to brief the General Manager and discuss any and all concerns relating to his or her areas of the operation.

7.   In Private Clubs, the Monthly Membership Marketing and Relationship Management Meeting to allow the Membership Director and General Manager to review marketing efforts and any member issues.  In other operations the Monthly Sales and Marketing Meeting with the Sales Director and/or Marketing Director and General Manager.

8.   Periodic All Hands Departmental Meetings held monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly as the need requires and the pace of operations allows.  These meetings allow department heads to inform all staff of important issues and concerns, reinforce mission and vision, clear the air, and give staff the opportunity to ask questions.

The bottom line is that in the detail and labor intensive business of hospitality management, thorough communications among management and staff is a must to promote the quality and efficient operations expected by customers/guests/members and the owner(s).  Without ongoing meetings, these expectations are seldom met!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!


What I Expect from My Club Controller

November 16th, 2015

The controller fills an extremely important role in any hospitality operation’s management hierarchy.  In addition to performing financial accounting, management, and reporting functions, he or she is the subject matter expert for the owner(s) and general manager on all matters relating to sound fiscal policy.  As such the position of controller has specific responsibilities and requirements relating to every area of the operation and provides key information to decision-makers.  Here is a summary of my requirements for the position:

1.  Written standards, policies, and procedures (SPPs) for all aspects of the accounting function.  Not only is this important for consistency sake, but also to make all managers and supervisors aware of their responsibilities.

2.  A written internal control plan that stipulates key fiscal practices, identifies areas of potential problems, and specifies necessary separation of duties.

3.  Coordinate and supervise the annual budgeting process.  This requires establishing the necessary timeline and deliverables in the budgeting sequence.

4.  Implement Zero-Based Budgeting throughout the club.

5.  Establish a system of real-time accounting club-wide.  The Tools to Beat Budget program is an excellent example of how this can be done in all departments.

6.  Assist department heads in implementing departmental benchmarking.  Prepare the Executive Metrics Report and include it with the monthly financial statement.

7.  Coordinate and attend the monthly review of operating statements with each department head and the general manager.

8.  Conduct a review and analysis of one major cost category each month with the aim of constantly reviewing the enterprise’s cost structure and taking steps to reduce costs when opportunities present themselves.  Report findings to general manager.

9.  Routinely prepare the following reports:

  • Weekly Revenue Report for the general manager and heads of profit centers.
  • Pay Period Summary Report for the general manager and all department heads each pay period.
  • Monthly Aged Accounts Receivable Report for the general manager.
  • Updated cash flow projection on a monthly basis for the general manager.

10.  Training of managers and supervisors in all fiscal responsibilities and requirements, including:

11.  An outreach program whereby the controller visits each department head on a monthly basis to discuss needs and issues.

12.  In private clubs, serve as the club’s representative on the finance committees, attending meetings, providing information as requested, making professional recommendations regarding fiscal issues, and keeping the general manager fully informed on all significant matters addressed by the committee.

A smooth accounting function requires that all members of the management team understand and meet their responsibilities in a timely and accurate manner.  It is essential therefore that the controller engage with the full management team to ensure this happens.  The benefits to the operation include greater real time knowledge of the enterprise’s financial performance, more timely information to support decision-making, and the full confidence of the owner(s) or board that their significant capital investment is in good hands.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!



Overcoming the Barriers to Quality

November 5th, 2015

The bottom line for any private club is to consistently meet or exceed the expectations of its members.  Given that the members of clubs typically come from the affluent and elite segments of a community means that their life experiences have accustomed them to superior levels of quality and service.  To exceed their expectations, therefore, the management and staff of a private club must be committed to quality in all aspects of its operations.

In the 1980’s and 90’s, American businesses and industries became obsessed with understanding and implementing the necessary initiatives and processes that led to the astonishing Japanese dominance in quality manufacturing.  American academics and business leaders, building on the pioneering work of Dr. Joseph H. Duran, Dr. W. Edwards Deming, and others, embraced the concept of Total Quality Management (TQM) as the answer to improved competiveness.

In 1988 a major U.S. government agency defined TQM as:

“a strategy for continuously improving performance at every level, and in all areas of responsibility.  It combines fundamental management techniques, existing improvement efforts, and specialized technical tools under a disciplined structure focused on continuously improving all processes.”

While many businesses and organizations embraced TQM, not all attempts were successful.

As often stated, much can be learned from failure, which demands close examination, while success is celebrated but often less well understood.  In 1996 Robert J. Masters published an article in Quality Progress magazine entitled, “Overcoming the Barriers to TQM’s Success.”  In this paper Masters listed eight obstacles to efforts to improve quality (shown below with our comments and resources relating to private club management in italics):

1.  “Lack of management commitment.  Management must commit time and resources and clearly communicate the importance and goals to all personnel.”

Service-Based Leadership places a primary focus on providing all the tools, training, resources, daily engagement, and example to provide high levels of quality and service to members.  Constant communication is an essential element of such leadership, while open and Unimpeded Communication ensures that everyone in the organization is on the same page.

2.  “Inability to change the organizational culture.  Change takes time and effort.  In order for the culture to change, the employees need to want change and be willing to participate.  This requires reasons that management must convey.  The change will only occur if the employees trust the management.  It cannot occur from a state of fear.”

Well-defined and continually reinforced Organizational Values and a culture of service are essential to club operations.  Whether you need to start from scratch to develop such a culture or you want to change an existing culture, you cannot achieve quality and service without it.

3.  “Improper planning.  Planning must involve all parts of the organization and be communicated clearly to employees.”

A Discipline of Planning on all levels of the organization is crucial.  As we say, the importance of disciplined planning cannot be overstated.  Haphazard planning results in haphazard operations and equally haphazard performance.

4.  “Lack of training.  The most effective training comes from senior management.  Informal training needs to occur on a continual basis.”

Lack of formal and consistent training is the Achilles Heel of Hospitality OperationsOn the Go Training is an effective way to continually train without breaking the bank.  The club’s management team must provide a consistent message of quality and excellence and be actively involved in training.  Ensuring the management team is properly and thoroughly trained is even more important than training line employees as pointed out in Management Training is an Essential Part of a Quality Operation.

5.  “Organizational structure problems and isolated individuals or departments.  Multifunctional teams will help break down some of these barriers.  Restructuring is another method.”

Structure and organization are fundamental in any complex enterprise, as is the discipline of utilizing industry best practices on a consistent basis.  The Remarkable Service Infrastructure is offered as an overarching plan for structuring club operations for quality and service.

6.  “Ineffective measurement and lack of data.  Effective decisions require that the employees have access to the necessary data.”

Benchmarking club operations in detail will provide the data to keep stakeholders informed and focused on continual improvements.  Judicious sharing of the data with line employees will furnish the necessary feedback and incentives to excel in their efforts.

7.  “Inadequate attention to internal and external customers.”

The feedback loops in The Remarkable Service Infrastructure graphically represent the need to listen to both internal and external customers.  Knowing and addressing the concerns and challenges of employees is just as important as providing for the needs and desires of members.  Are Your Internal Customers Also Being Served? speaks to the need for attending to your internal customers.

8.  “Inadequate empowerment, lack of teamwork.  Teams require training.  Their recommendations should be followed whenever possible.  Individuals need to be empowered to make decisions.”

Note the requirement for employees to be willing, committed, AND empowered on The Pyramid of Successful Service.   This powerful tool of quality and service is described and explained in The Power of Employee Empowerment.

The first step in overcoming any obstacle is to identify it; once identified you can formulate initiatives to address it.  Hospitality Resources International provides a wide variety of resources to put your club on the path to improved levels of quality and service.  Whatever success you’ve achieved in your own quest for high levels of quality and service, reviewing the HRI materials may inspire or materially assist in your efforts towards excellence.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!




The Intangibles

October 26th, 2015

Michael Crandal, CNG, Inspiring exemplary management teams with confident leadership. AUTHOR: Life’s 10-Point Must System.

“Whatcha See is Whatcha Get” is a great song from the early 1970’s by The Dramatics. But, all great business leaders know that things run much deeper than what is merely seen at the surface level.

There are deeply rooted “invisible to the naked eye” intangibles that reflect professional consistency and personal character that maintain greatness. Others may have careers that languish in the minor leagues and never really understand why. Not really.

The resumes of achievers in executive leadership and professional sports both document their outward “stats.” But, if we were able to personally know them — we would slowly uncover a common thread of intangibles that ultimately separate those who make it to the “bigs” and thrive ─ and others who pine away as career minor leaguers.

1.     MUST get the most out of ability:  (Their own ability AND that of the entire team.)

It is a big mistake to evaluate executives (or athletes) only by the apparent skill level portrayed on paper. All the ability in the world will never get any lasting traction if lacking the intangibles.

  • Common sense,
  • emotional control,
  • focus,
  • a driving will to never compromise best efforts, and
  • some skill — are what lead to positive results.

It’s the things you can’t see that get you to that next level. Let’s take a look at some of the intangibles that go beyond the stats.

2.    MUST have positive influence on teammates:

Is it just me, or have you also ever noticed that things do not always go according to plan?

Original plans, like the sails of a great ship, may need from time to time to be adjusted slightly to reflect unforeseeable new prevailing winds. Should the ship start drifting slightly off course, it is easy for some to become hesitant in making difficult, yet appropriate, decisions that could avoid wandering unnecessarily into the vortex of a storm.

These isolated times of necessary course corrections are viewed as opportunities for those who are prepared to step up their performance another notch.

Successful leaders (or an entire company for that matter) are NOT those who have no problems on their plate or challenges of navigating through changing times. They ARE those who consistently handle them well and rally the entire team to believe they can collectively prevail.

3.      MUST have a “nose” for the ball:

If a trend is not going in the favor of the team — look for those who are still not afraid to handle the ball, and you will be looking at a professional who possesses a mandatory intangible.

Keep in mind that generals do not earn their stars in tranquil times of peace. It is in times of duress that they distinguish themselves.

4.      MUST routinely make big plays:

Irrespective of how much time and skill was devoted to drawing up game plans, organizational charts, and standard operating procedures — victory is determined by those who consistently make big plays. They are the ones who actually want the ball when the game is on the line and who then calmly produce in the clutch.

“BIG PLAYS” should be routine occurrences that the entire team prides itself in making day after day. The result is an undeniable, palpable, consistent “winning streak” of great consumer experiences.


  • A horse can win a race by “a nose”.
  • A boxer can win a fight with just one punch.
  • The difference between a major league baseball player and a career minor leaguer is only about 3 hits a week.
  • A football game can be won when the wide receiver beats his man by just half a step — just one time.

The difference between oftentimes good and consistently great has little to do with potential. It has everything to do with the degree of focus given to the little intangibles that loom so big in overall performance.

A little difference is all the difference when it comes to making big plays.

It is the little things that matter in striving to continually add polish to ultimately great consumer experiences, like particles of sand — compressed into a massive rock.

5.      MUST have their own style while still being a great teammate:

While individual styles may be variable, creating an atmosphere that constantly moves the entire team in a positive direction must be an intangible fixed asset that proves contagious.

Some bring to the team energy and enthusiasm. Some a calming oftentimes statesmanlike presence. Some carry themselves in a dynamic way that others want to emulate.

Mission Statements and Core Values may look good when printed in the annual report. But — are D.O.A. if not brought to life by leadership that confidently stirs the pot in a positive way toward that unique team chemistry that maintains pride of being a part of it all.

TEAM CHEMISTRY IS AS IMPORTANT AS IT IS HARD TO DEFINE. Every successful “major league” endeavor has a unique winning culture that is generated by the team chemistry of those entrusted to successfully lead and operate it.

6.      MUST anticipate:

One definition of a genius is: “Someone who sees a target that no one else sees yet — and hits it!”

An essential intangible is having the sense of being able to anticipate what just might happen before anyone else does. Anticipate the needs of consumers. Anticipate the desires of all those around you. Anticipate potential economic challenges and how to best respond to them.

Achievers are always looking down field and anticipating what needs to be done to achieve success and they are prepared to offer support and insight in order to get the needed policies in place. Then, they are prepared to lead the entire team within those meaningful policies towards making great things happen every day in the field — not just once on the drawing board during an annual strategic planning meeting.

Leadership that is able to anticipate equates to being able to solve potential problems before they ever have a chance to happen and to create ― in advance ― the best case scenarios for successfully navigating economic challenges and changing times.

Change is inevitable. Those who are successful initiate positive change, rather than reacting negatively to it.

7.      MUST be coachable:

Yes, there is some merit in “doing your own thing.” But if carried to an extreme, this single trait can score a knockout punch of any hope for hall of fame status.

When errors are pointed out and suggested corrective action ignored, some otherwise very noted executives can find themselves on the end of the bench very quickly.

Nothing will sit you down quicker than a reputation as being uncoachable.

There is a wealth of business experience and insight to be gained from board members, effective peers, proven department heads, and fellow teammates who can all potentially serve as great mentors. Listen up! Be wise and seek their input.

There are 2 kinds of people who are going nowhere:

  • Someone who will not do what they are told. And,
  • Someone who will do nothing but.

We all need mentors. There is no such thing as a “self-made” leader ─ regardless of whatever title may be on their office door or how many gatekeepers they have! We all need mentors!

No one will work alongside a “know it all” for very long. Why? Because this is a person who has stopped learning. After all ― they already know it all. Don’t they?

Those not willing to be coached today, by default, are unwilling to prepare for the changes that tomorrow will surely bring.

So, statistically speaking — find a comfortable chair in the clubhouse and ask yourself how the stats are looking these days? Do you like what you see?

Taking a closer look at the intangibles can manifest visible results — favorable ones.


Oh, and one more thing, just in case you’re wondering. The letters after our author’s name Michael Crandal, CNG — stand for: Certified Nice Guy. Self-certified, by the way. But, a nice guy nonetheless. Mr. Crandal creates leadership and business ethics presentations. He and his wife, Kim, reside in the Buckhead area of Atlanta, GA.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!



Job One – Placing Your Time and Energies Where Most Needed

October 19th, 2015

While club general managers have many responsibilities, there is one that is pre-eminent – member relations.  This is so because of one simple fact – if member dissatisfaction with the club grows into a groundswell of criticism or if one or more particularly influential members dislike the way things are going or form a negative opinion of the job you’re doing, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll be looking for a new job.

This may not be fair in any objective sense, but it’s the reality of our profession.  No matter the progress you are making to improve quality, service, and the bottom line, it’s the members’ perceptions that will determine your standing as the club’s GM.  So the critical skill of a successful club general manager is, first and foremost, the ability to establish and maintain a good working relationship with the club’s governing board, its various committees, and the membership at large.

At the root of this ability is an impressive skill set – the tact and nuance of a diplomat, the sociability of Mr. or Ms. Congeniality, the business acumen of an acknowledged hospitality professional, and the influence of a strong and effective leader.  To the truly gifted few (the Rob Duckett’s, Chris Conner’s, and Tim Mervosh’s of the world, to name a few of my acquaintance*), this skill set is second nature.  For the rest of us, it requires hard work, continual effort, professional self-improvement, and most of all the time, energy, and focus to make member relations Job One.

Given the many requirements of running a successful club operation, though, it is often difficult to give the proper time and attention to the demands and details of member relations.  It is for this reason that every general manager should organize his or her operation to run as effortlessly as possible through sound organization and structure; well-defined expectations; detailed standards, policies, and procedures; ongoing, consistent training of all staff; and strict accountability for departmental performance.

When this happens, the general manager has the time to focus on the many details and aspects of member relations.  In doing this, he or she can monitor the pulse and attitudes of the membership, advance the progress and understanding of important management initiatives, and deepen the relationship bond between members and management – and in the challenging world of club management, there is nothing so important.

*Rob Duckett, GM, Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club, Cashiers, NC; Chris Conner, GM, Cullasaja Club, Highlands, NC; Tim Mervosh, GM/COO, Milburn Golf and Country Club, Overland Park, KS.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!



Standards, Policies and Procedures

October 12th, 2015

The terms “Standards,” “Policies,” and “Procedures” are used in business to describe the what, why, and how’s of a hospitality operation’s organization and work processes.


  •  Something considered by an authority or by general consent as a basis for comparison; an approved model.
  • Anything as a rule or principle that is used as a basis or model for judgment.
  • Morals, ethics, habits, etc., established by authority, custom, or an individual as acceptable.
  • Fulfilling specific requirements as established by an authority, law, rule, custom, etc.

In a manufacturing setting product standards usually include material specifications, manufacturing tolerances, quality measurements, and the functionality of the finished product.  In the hospitality field, however, the establishment of a standard is usually made by management based upon an understanding or expectation of what will satisfy or impress the customer/guest/member.  Often this satisfaction is based upon the manner in which some service or action is performed.  Therefore, the standard is a description of the desired outcome of that service or action and/or the manner in which it is performed, for instance the approved way of presenting and opening a bottle of wine, or the correct way to fill out a form used for documenting personnel actions, the manner in which month-end inventories will be conducted, or the level of professionalism of management and operations.

In the case of hospitality operations, standards are the model for the optimum way of doing things.  They are established by the general manager as the acceptable model of performance by which customers judge proficiency and professionalism.  They apply not only to the daily performance of individual duties, but also to the manner in which you conduct yourself and your business.

Policy (ies)

  • A definite course of action adopted for the sake of expediency, facility, etc.
  • Action or procedure conforming to or considered with reference to prudence or expediency.
  • Prudence, practical wisdom, or expediency.  (expedient:  tending to promote some proposed or desired object; fit or suitable under the circumstances.  Synonyms include advisable, appropriate, desirable.)

Policies and standards are so closely interwoven it is often hard to tell them apart.  Policies most often apply to those areas of the operation where they can be little or no leeway in how you do something, for instance in the area of Human Resources where so much of what you do is dictated by law or by the need for correct action to avoid litigation, or in the area of Accounting where exactness and consistency are necessary to ensure the correctness, accuracy, and transparency of financial reporting and fiduciary responsibilities.

Policies can also apply to operations.  For example you establish policies to ensure the consistent and fair treatment of customers, for instance in how you take tee times or restaurant reservations.  The need for policy here is to ensure that every customer has equal treatment and the same opportunity to enjoy the establishment’s amenities, which as every manager knows is important to keeping customers happy and satisfied.  Nothing will upset a customer faster than believing he or she is not getting a fair shake from the operation.

Procedure (s)

  • An act or a manner of proceeding in any action or process; conduct.
  • A particular course of mode of action.

Procedures are the “how to’s” of the enterprise’s business.  Sometimes they flow from standards and sometimes from policies, but in the end they are the exact instructions of how to do or complete a particular process, act, or event.  Whereas policies are often the big picture of why we do something, procedures are the detail of how it is done.

Standards, Policies, Procedures.  It is essential to develop detailed, written standards, policies, and procedures for every area of operations.  Not only are these the basis for developing training material, but they serve as the foundation for developing a culture that is consistently taught to new hires and reinforced by both management and other employees.  When everyone understands “the way things are done,” there is less opportunity for freelance behavior.  Eliminating freelancing or employee discretion fosters consistency of product and service delivery.  As Harvard Professor Theodore Levitt says in his book, Marketing for Business Growth, “Discretion is the enemy of order, standardization, and quality.”

In fact, employees will be the first to say that they appreciate the time and effort taken to teach them the accepted way of doing things and that management insists upon uniformly high standards.  People naturally take pride in being associated with quality and this is no less true for service employees.

Summary.  Taken together standards, policies, and procedures form the bulk of the material that an employee must master to satisfactorily complete all their job functions, duties, and responsibilities.  Without taking the time to define, explain, and clarify standards, policies, and procedures, how can management realistically know what it is that employees need to learn?  Without well-defined (i.e., written and reviewed) standards, policies, and procedures, any attempt to train will be disorganized and inconsistent.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!


Yes, Your Employees Need Training, But . . .

October 5th, 2015

what your managers and supervisors really need is ongoing education and development!  And not just book learning, but thoughtful practical experience and guided professional learning, as well as knowledgeable coaching and mentoring by those with broader proficiency.

The requirements of leadership and sound decision making require nuanced thought and a deep understanding of the complex and interrelated consequences of judgments and choices.  Regardless of background, experience, and education, managers at every level need continuing development of their knowledge base and skill level.

A general manager, as the enterprise’s senior leader, has the near sacred responsibility to advance the development of all his or her subordinate managers.  Not only does the function serve the individual needs of subordinate managers, but as John Maxwell, noted author on leadership, has said,

“The single biggest way to impact an organization is to focus on leadership development. There is almost no limit to the potential of an organization that recruits good people, raises them up as leaders and continually develops them.”

Longstanding consumer advocate Ralph Nader also addressed the importance of this function when he said,

“I start with the premise that the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.”

While my guess is that many GMs recognize this responsibility, few are able to follow through due to other pressing issues and time constraints.  In many cases, the need is for a structured program as a guide to ongoing professional and leadership development for junior managers.

Fortunately, Hospitality Resources International has created a number of such guides.  These that can be used in short, easy-to-absorb sessions to focus any hospitality team on the fundamentals of the profession.  When used in conjunction with well-thought out strategy and plans, they become powerful conveyances on the road to operational excellence.  Here’s a list and brief explanation of each:

Leadership on the Go – 53 coaching topics for the most fundamental and critical foundation of success; the perfect tool for coaching a consistent, service-based style of leadership.

Values on the Go – A means to constantly and consistently remind your management team of the operation’s underlying values.  Includes topics on Mission, Vision, Guiding Principles, and Operating Standards.

Service on the Go – The 54 topics in this book cover such topics as The Foundation of Service, Principles of Service, Attitude, Teamwork, Etiquette, Common Courtesies, Body Language and Tone of Voice, The Pre-Shift Meeting, Suggestive Selling, Engaging Customers, Dining Service Tips, Service Recovery, Wow Factors, and more.  Taken together they form an incredibly effective tool for coaching new employees and reminding long term employees on the basics of service and service delivery.

Management Disciplines on the Go – 130 topics to coach your management team on the essential disciplines of hospitality success.

Employee Development and Discipline on the Go – This 65 topic, wire-bound book is directed at the necessary disciplines to find, hire, develop, and retain the best talent for your operation.  Includes detailed principles and procedures for counseling, disciplining, and discharging problem employees.

Food Service Management on the Go – 136 best practice topics to remind and reinforce the necessary disciplines for running a high-quality and high-performing food service operation.

Accounting on the Go – A great teaching and coaching tool for managers and supervisors with bottom line responsibility.  Use these 46 short topics in a wire-bound book to remind your managers of their important fiscal responsibilities, as well as to help standardize the accounting functions of your operation.

Human Resources in the Go – 84 Human Resources coaching topics covering employment laws, hiring, onboarding, employee development, training, performance reviews, and necessary HR policies.  These topics are designed to assist your management team in meeting all regulatory requirements and HR best practices.

Each of these coaching tools can be purchased individually on the HRI Marketplace store.  As an alternative, all eight can be purchased at a 25% discount here.

Hospitality enterprises that engage in a formal program of coaching experience significant benefits, ranging from improved morale and engagement from people who recognize their employer’s commitment to their development, to enhanced performance resulting from a focus on the fundamentals of the business, and to pride in belonging to a high-performing operation.

Lastly, there is no greater satisfaction than that of the coaches who share their knowledge and experience in a meaningful way with those following in their footsteps.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!


Lists of Tens

September 28th, 2015

David Letterman is famous for the Late Show Top Ten, a humorous compilation of 10 items usually relating to some prominent topic of the day.

Hospitality managers can also use lists of ten to uncover issues and opportunities as part of a process of continual improvement in their operations.  It’s a simple matter of asking employees to list their top ten “whatevers.”  Recognizing that employees are often the people most familiar with an organization’s challenges due to their intensive laboring in the details of the operation, I have found that asking for anonymous submissions will yield the most truthful and helpful information about what needs fixing or improved.

Managers must make it clear that it’s not required to list 10 items.  The purpose is not quantity, it’s to get answers regarding what’s troubling staff or customers/guests/members.  Here are some lists of ten examples:

  • Ask food servers for a list of their top ten complaints from customers.
  • Ask front desk staff for the top ten complaints from guests.
  • Ask housekeeping and maintenance staff for their top ten obstacles to completing their tasks efficiently.
  • Ask the bag, range, and cart attendants for their top ten ideas to provide better or higher levels of service to golfers.
  • Ask all employees for their top ten frustrations about working at the establishment.
  • Ask employees for their top ten ideas to wow customers.
  • Ask turn house and beverage cart attendants for the top ten snack items requested by golfers that aren’t carried in inventory.
  • Ask the accounting and HR staffs for their top ten frustrations with employee work and departmental submissions.

As can be seen, the list of ten questions can be far-ranging and cover any aspect of employees’ jobs and the challenges of service and service delivery.  The real benefit in posing such periodic questions to employees is that they often reveal unspoken issues and obstacles that make their jobs more frustrating.  It’s a simple matter to take the submitted lists, collate the results, and review for any consensus of opinions.  Often some of the issues raised are easily solved by a change in policy and procedures or some minor purchase.

Managers must always thank employees for their input and get back to them about any proposed action to address issues raised or ideas given.  It’s also important to let employees know if any of the issues will not or cannot be resolved and give the reasons why.

The ultimate purpose of the list of tens is to discover issues and opportunities in the operation.  Using periodic lists of ten and acting on the responses sends a powerful message to employees that their ideas and concerns will be listened to and, if possible, addressed.

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

A Roadmap to Successful Club Benchmarking

September 21st, 2015

In late June of of 2012 I participated in a panel discussion on benchmarking at the Hospitality Finance and Technology conference in Baltimore.  My fellow panelist was Russ Conde of Club Benchmarking.  Some weeks after the conference I received a sheet summarizing attendees’ reviews of the session.  While mostly positive, one of the attendees said that the discussion covered a lot of benchmarking concepts, but was short on the specifics of how to benchmark.

As I have written in Twelve Reasons I Benchmark, there are a number of reasons to benchmark your club’s operations.  One important reason is to compare your club’s performance to that of the wider industry – and Mr. Conde’s Club Benchmarking service does just that in a simple, automated way via the Internet while providing standardized benchmarks industry-wide.  The CB analysis tools and reports support strategic versus tactical thinking in the boardroom.  A study of data from more than 1,200 clubs currently in the CB system has revealed a number of Key Performance Indicators with direct impact to the bottom line and confirmed the existence of a common private club business model now known as the “Available Cash Model.”  I cannot commend Mr. Conde and his partner Ray Cronin enough for this invaluable service to the industry.

But just as there is value in benchmarking your operation externally, there are valid reasons to benchmark your performance internally – that is within each department and the club as a whole.  Having provided this context, let me now provide some of the key specifics on how to benchmark.

First, for those wishing to compare their performance to other clubs and graphically visualize how their operation relates to the industry’s common business model, it couldn’t be any easier – simply visit the Club Benchmarking website and sign up for their service.

Second, for those who want to set up an internal program of benchmarking, here’s a discussion of some of the challenges and pitfalls, as well as information on where to get the necessary benchmarking instructions and spreadsheets to do it:

  • Let me start by saying that every day there are literally hundreds of data points generated in club operations.  The real benefit of benchmarking, though, is in tracking data over time.  The number of meals served in the club dining room on a particular Friday night doesn’t signify very much; it is simply an occurrence.  But if that number is part of a declining trend in Friday night dining, it is certainly a cause for concern.  Without the effort to track trends and compare them to historical performance, there is no way to manage for either quality or performance.
  • It is essential that the club’s General Manager buys into the value of benchmarking and fully supports the effort.  Without his or her backing, it will be far more challenging to implement club-wide benchmarking.  That doesn’t mean that individual department heads cannot benchmark within their departments and be successful, but it does limit the overall value of benchmarking to the club.
  • It is helpful to have a point person for the project – and I suggest the club controller.  This does not mean that the burden of benchmarking falls on the controller’s shoulders – as each department’s benchmarks must be the responsibility of the department head.  But it is helpful to have a person knowledgeable about accounting and the use of MS-Excel to help guide and assist less knowledgeable department heads through the process.

Having said this I also want to stress that the controller’s office is the logical place for the preparations of several key reports (some sort of Weekly Revenue Report, see HRI Form 203 for an example, and a Pay Period Summary Report, HRI Form 229) that will facilitate data availability club-wide, as well as the consolidation of key benchmarks from all departments into the Executive Metrics Report which I have advocated as a useful enhancement to the monthly financial reporting package.

But even in the absence of such reports from the accounting office, a conscientious department head, recognizing that she is the person fully responsible for her department’s performance, can with a little effort get the necessary data to benchmark.  For example, revenue information can usually be accessed from point of sale reports and payroll data is available from the accounting office or payroll service – both merely take a little initiative to get the desired information.

  • Depending on the club’s pace of operations and individual department heads’ workloads, it may make more sense to start small with one or two departments whose managers are “numbers” people and who relish the idea of a deeper empirical understanding of their business operations.  The enthusiasm and resultant success from these early adopters or “pathfinders” will serve as an invaluable inspiration and guide for others.  An alternative would be to implement one significant form of benchmarking club-wide – say benchmarking payroll costs across all departments.  In time, the value of this will lead to a desire for more robust benchmarking of other areas of club operations.
  • While every club can set their priorities for data to benchmark, here are some suggested priorities and the reasoning behind them:
  • Profit and Loss Statement (as part of the Executive Metrics Report) – low hanging fruit, easy to access data from P&Ls, requires only monthly data entry.
  • Payroll Cost – largest cost in operations, potentially yielding greatest opportunity for improvement and savings; makes future budgeting far easier; most effective when employees are paid on a bi-weekly basis (read Why Our Workweek and Pay Cycle? to understand why).
  • Departmental Revenues – by day of week, week by week, monthly, and annually; easy to access data, historical record can improve staff scheduling, makes future budgeting far easier.
  • Food and Beverage – probably the most effort and time-intensive if done thoroughly (tracking sales of beer, wine, alcohol, appetizers, desserts, specialty drinks, etc.), but provides critical feedback on any efforts to improve the average check; data can also help with managing inventory levels of alcoholic beverages.
  • Inventory and Accounts Receivable – low hanging fruit, easy to access data in accounting office, helps monitor and correct inventory volatility, requires only monthly data entry.
  • Retail – can dramatically improve performance when coupled with other retail disciplines.
  • Utilities – low hanging fruit, data comes from monthly utility bills, once-monthly data entry for electricity, water & sewer, and gas; helpful in spotting and investigating usage and billing anomalies.
  • Individual Departments – prepared by department heads, makes them more knowledgeable about operations (enhancing their authority and influence), analysis of benchmarks leads to improved performance.
  • All the resources to begin internal benchmarking at your club can be found on the Club Resources International website.  Simply purchase the 153-page Club Benchmarking Resources for $99 at the Marketplace store.  It contains the background information, the basics of benchmarking, departmental benchmarking instructions, and samples of benchmarking spreadsheets.  Each departmental instruction gives a list of benchmarks to track and sources of data, as well as specific instructions on how to use the spreadsheets and a sample spreadsheet for both year-to-date and year-to-year tracking.

A number of benchmarking spreadsheets are available on the Club Resources International website and can be downloaded at no charge.  After downloading and reviewing the benchmarking material, managers can customize the spreadsheets* for their operations, and begin collecting and recording the necessary data.  If key data has never been tracked before, patterns will emerge pretty quickly as benchmarking progresses, though the longer the data is tracked, the more valuable the benchmarks will be as operating standards.

  • My experience with benchmarking over the years is that it usually takes several months of close focus and review to successfully set up; thereafter ongoing benchmarking becomes part of the club’s routine.
  • Some department heads may need training and handholding during implementation, particularly if they are not familiar with computers or spreadsheet software, but once up to speed, they fully appreciate the value of monitoring the underlying details of their operations.
  • An important discipline that fully exploits the benefits of benchmarking is to make a formal review of departmental benchmarks part of the ongoing monthly review of financial statements with each department head.  When combined with the Tools to Beat Budget program and an examination of progress toward the goals of the department head’s annual work plan, benchmarking becomes a particularly effective means of driving progress and performance club-wide.
  • All departmental benchmarks are then summarized on a monthly basis using the spreadsheets and a copy forwarded to the controller for the next and final step in the benchmarking program.
  • The club controller completes the Executive Metrics Report using selected benchmarks from the departmental spreadsheets and submits it to all stakeholders as part of the club’s financial reporting package.  One controller who presented the EMR to the club’s finance committee reported that a particularly influential member said he was “thrilled” to see such underlying performance data and looked forward to reviewing it on an ongoing basis.

Benchmarking is an essential business discipline that yields significant benefits to club operators.  As H. James Harrington author, engineer, entrepreneur, and consultant in performance improvement, said “If you can’t measure something, you can’t understand it.  If you can’t understand it, you can’t control it.  If you can’t control it, you can’t improve it.”

*Individual clubs will undoubtedly want to customize the Excel spreadsheets for their range of departments and scope of operations.  While spreadsheets are “protected” to prevent inadvertent write-over of cell formulas, the protection is not password-protected, allowing individual clubs to modify the spreadsheets as necessary.

If you have any questions or want more information about any aspect of benchmarking, contact us at

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!

How Fares The Genius with a Thousand Helpers?

September 14th, 2015

I return once again to the profound and proven wisdom of Jim Collins’ Good to Great.  In his study of immensely successful publicly-traded companies and what made them great, he contrasted their performance to comparison companies – those of the same approximate size and markets in the same industries that did not achieve or sustain greatness.  Collins’ findings are all the more compelling because they are based on empirical evidence, not management theory or untested hypotheses.

Among his many findings (see the article The Book Every Hospitality Manager Should Read on the HRI website) was the prevalence of Level 5 Leadership in the good to great companies.  Many of the comparison enterprises, in contrast, followed a “genius with a thousand helpers” model.  These companies attained success, in some cases spectacular, based on the unique gifts and will power of the organization’s leader, but in the end were not able to sustain that success when the leader moved on.

The same pattern is often seen in small organizations such as private clubs where a new general manager is hired to make dramatic improvements or to turn the club around.  Because of the ever-present time factors and impatience of the Board and members, the leader by force of will implements the necessary changes but without investing the time to strengthen the subordinate management team.  While progress is made, the foundation had not been laid for long-term success.

When the “turnaround specialist” is hired away to a more prestigious position based on his or her accomplishments or when boredom sets in after the major initiatives are accomplished, the organization is left with a weak management team that depended too much on the genius’ direction and forceful personality instead of developing their own management disciplines and leadership abilities.  The end result for the club is an inability to consolidate their gains and an inevitable slide back into mediocrity and inconsistency.

In some situations the Board and membership inadvertently create the limiting environment where only the genius with many helpers model can be used by mandating such low compensation and benefits packages for the club’s department heads that a strong team cannot be built and maintained.  In other instances there is a failure of the General Manager to establish clear expectations and hold subordinates accountable for their performance that gives rise to this fatally flawed management model.

So what is a club Board or General Manager to do?

First:  In selecting a new general manager the Board should focus on a candidate that can produce long-term gains by building a disciplined organization and developing his or her subordinates.  As a member of the search committee, I would focus on the specifics of how to go about doing this and dig for satisfactory answers.  Facile responses and evasions, no matter eloquent or smooth, would disqualify any candidate.

Second:  As a potential general manager I would develop an explicit game plan to develop the necessary organizational building blocks for success (see The Quest for Remarkable Service for an example).  In interviews with search committees or headhunters I would explain in detail what is necessary, how I would proceed with implementation, and provide sample timelines with explicit deliverables or measures to chart and monitor progress.  Finally, I would ensure the search committee understands the requisite and realistic time and resources necessary to implement the plan.

For an incumbent general manager intent upon organizational turn around or renewal, I would use the same criteria to “sell” my plan to the Board.

Third:  Once hired or the plan approved, I would interview each department head in depth to ascertain background, experience, skill set, leadership abilities, and management disciplines for their position.  Then I would lay out in some detail my expectations (see What I Expect from My Club Management Team) for these key managers and establish a written work plan (see Expectations, Work Planning & Performance Reviews) with measurable accountabilities, timelines, milestones, and deliverables.  Over time I would hold them ever more strictly accountable for their performance.

Fourth:  I would expend significant effort in training, coaching (see Coaching Your Way to Excellence), and mentoring my subordinate managers.  The overall purpose of this is to identify who has the necessary desire to learn, will to succeed, enthusiasm for change, and work ethic.  Those that don’t demonstrate this level of interest and commitment should be encouraged to move on.

At the same time, I’d stress the need for all department heads to develop their assistants who show promise for greater responsibility and contribution.  The time and effort spent in developing the organizational depth of talent will yield both immediate and long term results.  For those departments without promising assistants, I would question the hiring rationale and methods of the department head.

Fifth:  Begin implementing the necessary management disciplines to better organize the operation.  See 10 Disciplines that Will Transform Your Operation for an overview of these.  Implementation will take time and a particular club’s needs will impact the priority of effort, but with steady focus, turn by turn of the flywheel, the club will achieve the breakthrough that will fundamentally transform the operation and achieve levels of quality, service, and success that, in retrospect, might have seemed unattainable.

In Good to Great Collins tells the story of Henry Singleton who, with single minded determination, founded and built Teledyne Corporation into a Fortune 500 company in five years based on his undeniable genius and drive.  Yet when he stepped away from the day-to-day management of the company, it began to fall apart.  Within 10 years without his guiding hand, Teledyne’s stock value had collapsed.  As Collins said, “Singleton achieved his childhood dream of becoming a great businessman, but he failed utterly at the task of building a great company.”

So what type of leader would you prefer to be – a Level 5 Leader or the Genius with Many Helpers?  The choice is yours – and you also own the results!

Thanks and have a great day!

Ed Rehkopf

This weekly blog comments on and discusses the hospitality industry and its challenges. From time to time, we will feature guest bloggers – those managers and industry experts who have something of interest to say to all of us. We also welcome feedback and comment upon the blog, hoping that it will become a useful sounding board for what’s on the minds of hardworking hospitality managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for Hospitality Operators!