Archive for July, 2015

The Necessity of Real Time Accounting

Monday, July 27th, 2015

Most every month a familiar scene takes place in many clubs.  The financial statements have been prepared and distributed to all stakeholders – the general manager, the department heads with bottom line responsibility, the finance committee, and the board.  It’s around the 15th of the month following the end of the reporting period, sometimes later, and the GM’s phone starts ringing and the questions start coming – “Why are F&B revenues down?”  “Why is Golf Course Maintenance over budget by so much?”  “Why is food cost so high?”

Sometimes there are recriminations – “You told me last month that the cost of food would come back in line this month.”  “How can we avoid assessments if we can’t meet our budget objectives?”  “After last quarter’s overages, you said we’d do a better job controlling payroll, but it didn’t happen!”

Often the general manager or department heads don’t have ready answers for what’s going on.  “We’ll have to look into it and get back to you,” seems to be a common response – certainly not one to build confidence in the club’s management team!

The usual attitude in many clubs seems to be that monitoring the financial performance of the club and all its departments is the sole responsibility of the club controller.  The fact is that all department heads with bottom line responsibility in profit or cost centers must be held accountable for the performance of their units.  In addition to their expertise in a chosen profession – food and beverage, golf, tennis, membership marketing, agronomy, aquatics, spa and fitness, and activities – department heads are expected to master the skills of running a successful business.  Further they are expected to analyze the performance of their operation on an ongoing basis, demonstrate initiative to stimulate revenues and control expenses, and take all necessary steps to meet or exceed their budgets.  This can only be done by tracking their revenues and expenses in real time.

Some department heads aren’t inclined to do this, either because they don’t relish or truly understand the numbers side of a business or feel it takes too much time from other more enjoyable tasks.  In any case, these excuses are inappropriate.  Running a business requires a commitment to the financial aspects of the operation and without knowing where the business stands financially at any given moment prohibits the possibility of corrective intervention.

A modest effort to better organize oneself and the task of collecting critical data on a daily basis along with the disciplined routine of entering this information into spreadsheets is all that’s necessary to stay current with the numbers.  Some may say that such collecting and recording of data is the proper role of computers and specialized software.  Such managers may rely on software summaries, delegate the task of tracking to an assistant, or will wait until the end of the period to bring their numbers and benchmarks up to date.  In so doing they lose the opportunity of spotting adverse trends and taking timely corrective action to ensure they meet performance expectations.

While I agree that computers make the task of organizing daily data much easier, I strongly argue for the necessity and benefit of managers “touching” their numbers every day.  Doing so ensures both a conscious and intuitive understanding of one’s business; helps spot anomalies, adverse trends, or erroneous entries; and makes a manager more attuned to the cyclical ebbs and flows of the business.

If department heads owned their individual operations and had their own money at risk, you can be sure they’d move heaven and earth, including a real time accounting of their revenues and expenses, to ensure its success.  While they don’t own their club department, they are being compensated to run it professionally and demonstrate the same proprietary interest in its successful performance.

Given the general manager’s responsibility for the club’s performance, he or she must ensure that the proper fiscal disciplines are established club-wide and that department heads have a complete understanding of and fully meet their fiscal responsibilities.  Two resources to accomplish this are Tools to Beat Budget and Basic Accounting and Financial Management for Managers.

Bottom Line:  Though each club must design the most efficient means to track departmental operating data in real time, the overall benefit of real time accounting to the club is immediate and compelling.

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!

Placing Your Time and Energies Where Most Needed

Monday, July 20th, 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.

Ed Rehkopf, Hospitality Resources International

*Rob Duckett, GM, Mountaintop Golf and Lake Club, Cashiers, NC; Chris Conner, GM/COO, Cullasaja Club, Highlands, NC; Tim Mervosh, GM/COO, Milburn 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!

Franchising Your Operation

Monday, July 13th, 2015

The underlying theme of much that we have written about on the Hospitality Resources International website is the need to document all aspects of your operation.  This is especially true of standalone enterprises with limited resources and no economies of scale.  Without an effort to establish expectations, standards, and processes, you’ll be forever reacting to daily crises and addressing issues and challenges on an ad hoc basis, which inevitably results in chaotic and inconsistent operations.

Compare this to the success of franchised operations which are built upon carefully crafted and well-documented processes for all aspects of the business.  Michael E. Gerber, author of the bestselling E-Myth Revisited, goes so far as to say, “without a franchise no business can hope to succeed.  If, by a franchise, you understand that I’m talking about a proprietary way of doing business that differentiates your business from everyone else’s.  In short, the definition of a franchise is simply your unique way of doing business.”

The obvious implication for clubs is that to be successful you must define your expectations, standards, policies, procedures, and work processes and organize your club as if it were a franchise – one where how it interacts with its members and how service is delivered sets it apart from all others.

While the effort to establish such a “franchised operation” is significant, the major benefit of such an approach is that much of the day-to-day functioning of the enterprise takes place routinely, allowing senior management to focus on strategic issues, managing the deliberations and direction of the board, and providing extraordinary levels of personalized service to the membership.

To assist club managers in their efforts to document their operations, HRI has created a large number of operational resources.  Some can be downloaded at no cost, while others can be purchased at reasonable cost from the Marketplace Store.

Here’s some of the feedback we have received from satisfied clubs:

“I cannot tell you how valuable I have found the [accounting] policies and procedures manual.  I was wondering if the Personnel policies manual is also available?”

Deborah Brumitt, CPA, Controller, Hermitage Country Club

“Thank you very much – I appreciate the material as I am embarking on a new project of writing SOP’s. We a readying our club for turn-over later this year and preparing SOP’s that had never been written for my department.”

Kristina Gelb, Director of Catering, Desert Mountain Properties

“As a new club manager I was delighted to find Hospitality Resources International on the web.  I have been looking for a way to adapt and streamline existing club policies and procedures for quite some time now and HRI helped us do just that.   I love your product!!!  It is simple to use and will eliminate hours of redundant work and endless editing.”

Attila Harai, General Manager/COO, The Army and Navy Club

“As a new owner/manager in the club business I was starting to develop our operational systems.  When I came across Hospitality Resources International I was amazed at the complete system that was put together and available on their website.  After getting and implementing the entire program in our operation, it has become an invaluable resource by which we run our entire business.”

Joe Godfrey, President, Foxland Harbor Club

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!

Dining Service Tips

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Here are some random dining service tips:

  • Station Cleanliness.  Even if others are responsible for cleaning the dining room, double check the floor, table, and chairs to make sure they are clean for customers/guests/members.  Take action as necessary.
  • Table Settings.  Double check your tables to make sure the previous shift set the tables properly and all settings are complete, tableware wiped down, glassware clean, napkins properly folded, salt and pepper shakers wiped down and full, sugar caddy clean and stocked, and any other table detail checked.
  • High Chairs and Booster Seats.  Make sure they are clean, sanitized, and ready to go during service.  When you are seating a party is not the time to discover they’re not properly cleaned and sanitized.
  • Work as a Team.  Servers can accomplish so much more when working as a team then they can individually.  Think of your co-workers whenever you do something.  If something needs to be done, just do it, regardless of who noticed it.
  • Clean Up Spills and Clean as You Go. Spills must be cleaned up immediately as they present a slip and fall hazard.  Keep your stations clean as you go.  If you make a mess in the kitchen or pantry, clean it up.
  • Use Serving Trays.  Always use serving trays when serving cocktails and beverages.  This applies to alcoholic drinks, coffee, tea, and any other beverage where the glass or cup is not preset on the table.  When serving beverages on tables without cloths, always place a bevnap or coaster on the table first.
  • Learn Member Names or the Names of Regulars.  Check reservations so you can match names with faces.  Whenever members sign charge tickets, again reinforce your memory by matching names to faces.  Ask co-workers who a particular member or customer is if you don’t know – somebody must know!
  • Critical Information.  Never approach a table without knowing: daily specials, how they’re prepared, and prices; appetizer(s) of the day; soup(s) of the day; wines by the glass; special desserts; specialty drinks; and any other detail of the day’s offerings.  Without this information you’ll surely embarrass yourself.
  • Carry your Necessary Tools.  Always carry a pen, dup pad, daily food notes from pre-shift meeting, wine key, and a clean service cloth.   Even if your establishment is non-smoking, matches are necessary for those customers who wish to step outside for a smoke and come in handy for lighting candles and sterno.
  • Sidework.  Make sure you fully complete all necessary opening and closing sidework.  The idea is to be completely ready for any service need during the meal.  Likewise, your closing duties will prepare the dining room for the next shift and ensure the cleanliness and sanitation of the dining room and pantry.
  • Check Linen.  Make sure table linen does not have a “sour” smell.  If so, replace it and notify your supervisor.  Also ensure there is an adequate supply of clean linen to meet expected levels of business.
  • Responsible Beverage Service.  It is against the law to server underage individuals or to over-serve anyone.  Be aware of anyone who is drinking heavily.  Watch for slurred speech, inability to focus eyes, loss of motor skills, or blank expressions.  Alert management to any potential problem.
  • Condiments.  Before the meal period check any condiments that are served to tables in their original bottles to ensure bottles are clean.  If not, wipe down with a clean damp cloth.  This applies to various condiments such as ketchup, mustard, A-1 Sauce, hot sauces, etc.
  • Dishwash Station.  Do not overstack dishwash station.  It’ll just result in breakage and spills.  Try to help out if possible or make your supervisor aware of the developing problem.
  • Music. Music can be a pleasant accompaniment to any meal, but it can also be a source of irritation if played too loud or if the music is inappropriate to the crowd, the mood, or the occasion.  Most food service operations subscribe to a music service that provides a wide variety of music.  Selecting the most appropriate music for particular meal periods is an important element of establishing ambience.  Classical or contemporary jazz is often a good mix for evening meals, while lunch music can mix more popular and light or classic rock.  Regardless of selection, playing the music at an appropriate volume is of absolute importance.  Managers should establish guidelines for musical selections for each meal period.
  • Lighting.  Setting the appropriate lighting level is an important element of establishing the ambience in the dining establishment.  The lighting level will be determined by the time of day, weather outside, ambient light from the windows, the meal period, the mood you are trying to achieve, whether or not candles or votive lights are used on the tables, and any ancillary lighting such as wall sconces, etc.  Most dining areas are equipped with rheostat switches for their lights so that the lighting level can be adjusted.  Make sure to check the lights before each meal period to make sure the lighting level is appropriate to the occasion.
  • Sun Glare.  Many food service facilities have dramatic views from the dining room, sometimes overlooking the cityscape, 18th green, or maybe a lake or park.  While these views add much to the diners’ experience, they can also be a source of irritation when the bright sun shines into their eyes. So when the sun gets low, pay attention to whether or not it is shining in anyone’s eyes.  Close the blinds or drapes until the sun sets lower; then reopen them so customers can again enjoy the view.  Your consideration will be greatly appreciated.
  • Table Clearing. While it’s impossible to clear tables noiselessly, it is the hallmark of a quality establishment to clear conscientiously, taking the time and care to stack dirty dishes quietly and remove soiled flatware purposefully instead of slinging it around.  Whenever you clear a table, focus on what you’re doing and be aware of the noise you are making.  The care you take will enhance the diners’ experience.
  • 86’d Items.  When the kitchen announces a menu item as “86’d,” i.e., runs out of a particular item, servers must pass the word to other servers as quickly as possible. There is nothing more disappointing to a diner who has ordered a particular item that is no longer available.  Spreading the word allows a server to mention such items when announcing and describing featured items to a table.
  • In the Weeds.  Getting “in the weeds” can happen anytime without warning no matter how prepared you are.  While experienced servers know how to kick into overdrive and dig themselves out, it’s also important to let your supervisor and fellow servers know.  While you may think they should be able to see when you need help, don’t make this assumption.  They’re focusing on their own tasks and may not notice.  Remember that we are all part of a team – and teammates are there to help.  Usually, being in the weeds passes as quickly as it comes upon you and often all you need is a helping hand for just a few minutes.
  • Be Alert.  Always keep an eye on your tables.  You can usually tell if someone at a table needs something as they will be looking around or trying to get someone’s attention.  Check back with your tables frequently to see if everything is alright or if you may get them something else.  Be sensitive, though, to diners who are engaged in deep discussion or are enjoying a romantic evening together. They may not appreciate constant interruptions.  Always take you cue from the diners.
  • Ordering by Memory. It’s always impressive when a server takes orders by memory, though not everyone is able to do this.  Usually, a server would not have the confidence to do this until they have been working at the establishment for awhile and are thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the food and beverages offered.  If you are comfortable enough to try this, start small by doing it with tables of two.  Once your confidence is up, try it with larger tables.

Food service is a detail-intensive business.  Reminding your staff periodically of these details will help keep them foremost in their minds.

Excerpted from Food Service Management on the Go, Hospitality Resources International

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!