Archive for April, 2013

Are Your Internal Customers Also Being Served?

Monday, April 29th, 2013

While every hospitality operation focuses on serving its customers, how good of a job does it do at serving its internal customers?  If you look closely at the organization of your enterprise, you’ll see that you have two different types of departments in your organization – operating departments that directly serve the customers, such as front office, food and beverage, activities, tennis, fitness, spa and locker rooms, and support departments that serve the customers indirectly by serving the operating departments.  Included in this group are accounting, personnel, facilities maintenance, and administration.

So how well does the latter group serve their internal customers – the operating departments?  My guess is not as well as they could or should!

Here are some suggestions to get them to focus on their internal customers:

  • Call a meeting of the support department heads and explain the concept of internal customers and how their support of the operating departments enhances the overall enterprise performance.
  • Require the support department heads to draw up a list of things they can do to better support the operators.  My main requirement would be informal weekly visits and meetings with operating department heads to determine their needs and issues with a strong emphasis on “how can I help you and your department.”
  • Have support department heads draw up a list of their frustrations with operating departments, such as slow response to accounting and personnel requirements, sloppy or missing paperwork, poorly coded invoices, late inventories, lack of timely hiring documentation, constant emergency or last minute repair requests, etc.  Then have them design outreach programs such as training and periodic assistance visits to improve their responsiveness to administrative requirements.  The benefit to this is twofold – it improves cooperation and teamwork at the same time it eliminates the ongoing frustrations of support department heads.
  • Conduct an annual survey of operating department heads to measure their satisfaction with the support and assistance they receive from support departments.  Make the results part of the support department heads’ performance reviews.
  • Conduct periodic meetings/brainstorming sessions with support department heads to gauge the success of their efforts to improve communications, training, and support to operating departments.  Identify bottlenecks and problems and work with both operating and support department heads to resolve issues as necessary.

Bottom line:  For the operation to function efficiently all department heads must understand not only their jobs, but how their actions and performance impact other parts of the business.  Recognizing and addressing the needs of internal customers is just as important as caring for the enterprise’s customers/guests/members.

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Labor Cost Control Strategies

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

While there is no single answer to controlling labor costs, there are many different things that can be done to ease the task.

Forecast Scheduling.  Using various tools at our disposal such as benchmarked levels of business, the schedule of club-sponsored events, and the catering forecast, supervisors should attempt to forecast their staffing needs at least one month out.  The one-month horizon is important in that it allows time to contact, hire, and train seasonal help.

Seasonal Hires.  When business conditions dictate (i.e., when the forecast shows business levels surpassing thresholds), supervisors should begin bringing in seasonal hires.  They can be people who you have already interviewed, hired, and trained such as former employees or employees hired specifically for seasonal work.  In either case, these new hires should be given some indication of how many hours they can expect to work each week and how long they’ll be kept on the payroll.

Conversely, supervisors should also plan for the sudden deceleration as the busy season comes to an end.  Intelligently managing both the expansion and reduction of staff results in satisfied members and significant payroll cost savings.

Budget Time Off.  Clubs have fluctuations in business on a daily and weekly basis as well as seasonally.  These fluctuations can result in legitimate overtime.

Having also said that we want to avoid overtime costs as much as possible, the same fluctuations in business that cause these costs can also help us balance them out.  Using the concept of Budget Time Off, a supervisor can send an employee home early on a slow day.  Budget Time Off is used frequently in housekeeping and the food and beverage area.  When the work is done or it’s slow, employees are sent home.

Budget Time Off should also be applied in areas where staff work established shifts, such as the reception desk, maintenance, or in administration.  The concept works like this – if, because of circumstances, an employee works more than eight hours in one day, the Supervisor should send him home early on another day in the same workweek to avoid surpassing 40 hours worked in a given week.

Cross Training and Departmental Shares.  In a small organization like the club, it does not serve us well to have a large staff of specialists.  Rather, we should have a smaller staff of people who are cross-trained to work other positions.  Often while one area of the club is slow, another is busy.  Most cross training takes place within departments and allows a supervisor to deal with sickness and emergencies.

Another form of cross training is inter-departmental and results in departmental shares – employees who can work in two or more areas as the level of business requires.  Departmental sharing requires close cooperation and communication between department heads to ensure that the needs of both staffs are met and cumulative overtime is avoided.  Supervisors who are interested in exploring the possibility of departmental shares should pick other departments whose workload is dissimilar to their own.

Project Work.  When fluctuations in business leave us with short-term lulls, supervisors who are concerned about keeping staff productively employed should assign project work.  In a club operation, particularly one that has been busy, there are many things that get deferred in the crush of business.  These deferred items, such an intensive cleaning, polishing the details, straightening out back- of-house areas, etc., make excellent project work.

Because we never know when business will suddenly be slow, supervisors should have a ready list of necessary project work.  With this list at hand, it’s a simple thing to assign the work whenever staff have excess time on their hands in lieu of sending them home.

Sending Home Early.  Sending home early is self explanatory and fairly easy to do.  It requires the will to do it, vigilance on the part of the supervisor, and a feel for the business.  While there is always some risk involved that we may suddenly get busy and need the full staff, supervisors should take the risk and depend on the dedication and professionalism of remaining staff to rise to the occasion.  Experienced supervisors know that we all have an overdrive that we can kick into for short periods of time to get the job done.  For those of us who are “adrenaline junkies,” (and who in this business isn’t?), we actually get a rush from it.

Layoffs.  As long-term busy periods wind down, supervisors are often faced with the difficult task of reducing staff.  While no one enjoys laying off employees, it is much easier to do if the employee(s) involved were hired seasonally and already know that their hours will be reduced or they will be laid off when the busy season is over.

Voluntary Leaves of Absence.  Before a supervisor considers layoff staff, he should inquire if anyone on his staff – core or temporary – wants to voluntarily leave.  There may be a temporary employee who for some reason wants to leave or a core staff member may want to take an unpaid leave of absence.

While no one may be interested, it’s always worth asking before another staff member is involuntarily laid off.

Scheduling Vacations.  Full time employees earn vacation time.  Some employees, by virtue of their longevity, have substantial amounts of vacation to use each year.  Supervisors should schedule their employees’ vacations during slow times when you will not be forced to replace them on the schedule.

Summary.  Regardless what combination of strategies ultimately proves most helpful to a particular supervisor, continuing success depends upon vigilance and attention to business levels and scheduling on a daily basis.  The easiest way to achieve this is to make this vigilance and attention part of your daily routine.  Compare daily hours and schedules frequently to ensure compliance.  Checking employee hours daily will help avoid overtime.  Pay close attention to levels of business.  Know who is on the clock, what their schedule and rate of pay is.  Act decisively to control cost.  Act as if your job depends upon it.  Ultimately, it may.

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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The Value of Structure

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Some weeks back I received a phone call from a general manager and former colleague to thank me for landing his dream job at an ultra-luxury private club aspiring to “national club” status.  He said the hiring process was unexpected and sudden.  His name had been passed on to the owner’s search committee who flew him in for an interview.

John (not his real name) is a consummate club professional with Certified Club Manager status and a solid record of achievement in the industry.  But according to John what really made the committee sit up and take notice during his interview was providing them with a copy of the Remarkable Service Infrastructure (found in The Quest for Remarkable Service).  John gave credit where due for the diagram, but explained that he believed in it and followed it in organizing the clubs he managed.

One of the interviewers, obviously impressed by John’s recognition of the need for organization, commented that in all his experience with club managers he had never come across one who recognized and articulated so well the need for structure in running a club.  Five days after the interview John was offered the position.

I thanked John for his kindness in calling me and giving credit to the Remarkable Service Infrastructure diagram, but assured him that the committee would never have considered him had it not been for his record of accomplishment and reputation as a consummate professional.

While I recognize the value of the Remarkable Service Infrastructure diagram, it and The Quest for Remarkable Service are only marks and words on paper and of little value without a committed general manager to initiate and execute the many leadership and management disciplines involved.

But as with any successful endeavor, the leader must have a game plan and then follow it to conclusion.  As legendary NFL coach Tom Landry said, “Setting a goal is not the main thing.  It is deciding how you will go about achieving it and staying with that plan.”

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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What is Your Club’s Mental Environment?

Monday, April 8th, 2013

In my recent reading I came across the term “mental environment” to describe the feeling one gets, almost subconsciously, in different physical spaces.  For instance, consider how you feel in the midst of a quiet meadow and compare that to how you’d feel in Grand Central Station during rush hour.  The point is that every space we inhabit has a different mental environment made up of the attitudes, moods, activities, and pace of the people occupying that place.  Contrast the difference between an NFL stadium during Sunday’s game with that of an empty cathedral, or a doctor’s waiting room as compared to an airport with anxious travelers rushing for their departures.

While every space has its own signature feel that feeling can be dramatically altered by human events and emotions.  Compare the mental environment of a happy well-adjusted home and one that is in the midst of marital strife.  Even the same place can have a different feel at different times.  Consider the camaraderie and good spirits in a busy bar on Friday night versus the same bar that morning when it had one patron.

The natural environment is not only a reflection of current occupants and activity, but it also affects everyone who enters.  Walk into that same bar on Friday night and you’ll soon join in with the good time.  We have all heard of the “mob mentality.”  This is a perfect illustration of how the mental environment of a large, unruly crowd can move people to do things they would never do otherwise.  Clearly, the “mental environment” is a very real phenomenon.

In many dining establishments I’ve visited the prevailing mental environment is one of “horseplay” and good times, that is, a compelling sense that the restaurant is there for the amusement and pleasure of the employees.  Certainly it’s not a mental environment of service and caring for the customer.

What is the mental environment of your operation as it pertains to your staff?  Is it one of service?  Is there a sense among all employees of dedication to helping and assisting not only your customers/guests/members, but also each other?  If not, you’ve got some work to do.

As with any other skill you wish your employees to demonstrate, you must take charge and define your standards and instruct your employees.  The better job you do of training and reinforcing    basic behaviors, the more control you’ll have over your operation’s mental environment.

  • Values – your employees must understand the importance of your organizational values and service ethic and demonstrate it in all they do.
  • Attitude and Mood – it is up to you as the leader to insist upon basic requirements of positive attitude and good mood.  Say to employees, “Be of good cheer, or don’t be here.”
  • Standards of Decorum and Demeanor – as a fundamental requirement teach basic etiquette and appropriate behavior to your employees.  Working quietly, efficiently, and with purpose sends a powerful message to all who witness it.
  • Organization and Efficiency – a sense of order and efficiency says a lot about your operation.  Your staff needs to know what to do and when and how to do it.
  • Controlled Pace – while hustle is an important quality in an employee, having a well-organized and efficient operation results in fewer chaotic moments with staff rushing wildly about – which doesn’t inspire confidence in anyone.
  • Helpfulness and Good Cheer – your people create this by their absolute dedication to customers and each other, but you have to require it by direction and reinforcement.

Your enterprise and all aspects of its operation are a reflection of your vision and leadership.  Take control of your mental environment just as you would any other important part of your operation.  You’ll see the results in customer satisfaction and your bottom line.

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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Personal Leadership: Adding Value to Your Organization

Monday, April 1st, 2013

If you are interested in advancing your career, the easiest and quickest way to do so is to add value to your employer.  When you consistently demonstrate your ability to take initiative, solve problems, and make your boss’ job easier, you will be recognized as one who adds value to the organization.  “Personal Leadership” will allow you to stand head and shoulders above your peers and will ultimately lead to greater and greater successes in life.

Reject the Status Quo. Every organization has its way of doing things.  Often the methods are a result of stopgap measures implemented over time to deal with various problems as they arose.  Seldom are standards, policies, and procedures formalized in writing; even less often are they well-thought out from a big picture standpoint.  Despite the haphazard nature of most methods, they are considered sacred and untouchable by employees because “we’ve always done it that way.”

A leader, however, does not accept this status quo.  She shines the fresh light of reason on the organization, continually asking questions: Is there a better way to do this?  Does this make sense?  Does this really serve our customers’ interests?  This willingness to look for new ways to do things allows the leader to realize another principle.

Seek Constant Improvement. Every aspect of an operation – from product and services to standards, policies, procedures, work methods, and training material – should be analyzed for ways to do them better, faster, more efficiently, and with higher levels of service.

When a leader is dedicated to constant improvement and seeks the input of her employees, the entire department becomes energized with ideas, innovation, and enthusiasm.  And while the organization as a whole and its customers benefit from the improvements, the employees gain the greatest benefit – knowing that their efforts contribute in a meaningful way to an organization that is vital and successful.

Be Proactive. A leader should always be looking ahead to ensure her department is ready for any contingency.  Since most businesses have a seasonal routine, the leader reviews past activity from a variety of perspectives in a search for ways to improve performance, and she continually seeks new ideas, events, and activities to keep the operations interesting and fresh for customers.

Leaders should be looking at least three months ahead for routine operations, and further for major activities, events, or projects.  This continually advancing planning horizon allows all essential requirements to be completed in a timely manner, while effectively implementing and marketing new products and services.

Have a Plan. Every event, activity, project, or initiative demands a plan.  Without a proper plan a leader approaches everything helter-skelter, wastes valuable resources and time, and subjects employees to her own disorganization and lack of discipline.

By putting a plan in writing – even something as simple as a one-page outline of timing and responsibilities – a leader is better able to communicate with employees and with other affected departments.  A written plan broadcasts a leader’s competence and abilities to everyone who sees it.

The Army has a phrase to express the need for planning.  The sanitized version of the six P’s is:

“Prior Planning Prevents P. . .-Poor Performance”

Yet poor performance won’t be prevented simply by planning.

Follow Through and Follow Up. Whatever she undertakes, the leader will follow through to ensure that all details are covered and all actions completed.  Often follow through requires modification of the original plan when unexpected situations arise.

Lastly, the leader will follow up on all completed actions or projects to learn from mistakes and to ensure that the initiative met the expectations of customers, other managers, and employees.

Summary.  Demonstrating Personal Leadership is more of a mindset than possessing specific skills.  It involves the willingness to tackle any problem, the understanding that every problem has a solution, and the realization that problems are opportunities in disguise.

The choice to be a Personal Leader is up to you.  You can tread water and wonder why your career isn’t going anywhere; or you can add value to your organization and ensure your future success.

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 hospitality hardworking  managers throughout the country and around the world.

Hospitality Resources International – Management Resources for the Hospitality Industry!

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