Posts Tagged ‘customer journey’

Hotel breakfast: Greatest Asset or Biggest Downfall?

Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Breakfast is frequently one of the last things your hotel guests experience before they check out, so is likely to leave a lasting impression. Even if we’ve got the quality of food and the menu balance right, how much effort goes into getting the service spot on?

The chances are if you run a bed and breakfast, what you serve and the way you serve your breakfast probably gets a lot of your attention as it’s often the only meal you’ll be providing. But do hotels give breakfast the same focus?

For many hotels breakfast provides a great opportunity for additional profit. But we’ll be doing nothing to capitalise on this if we don’t look after our existing breakfast customers.

You probably serve more breakfast than any other meal; but does it receive the same degree of care and attention as lunch or dinner?

All too often breakfast is used as a training ground for new or inexperienced front of house staff. I frequently experience waiting staff at breakfast who have little more than a basic understanding of what’s available, the basics of hygiene when clearing and setting up tables, and dare I say it, of the English language.

How welcoming are your guests made to feel at breakfast? Do they get a surly request for their room number, with absolutely no eye contact as the waiter or host checks their list? Or do they get a nice genuine smile and a welcoming “Good morning”?

Breakfast service can be confusing for those not familiar with your hotel. Simply telling a guess it’s self-service (which is what I heard yesterday at breakfast) doesn’t really tell us very much, especially when the guest is still stood in the doorway and can’t even see into the restaurant or where the buffet is located. Should they wait to be allocated a table, or can they just sit anywhere they like? Will you be serving fruit juice, tea and toast, or do they go and help themselves? If you have just one type of egg on the buffet, are others being cooked to order?

A smooth and speedy operation is paramount on busy weekdays when everyone appears to descend on the restaurant at once. The necessity for speed of service may differ at weekends from midweek. Few business users during the week will be prepared to be kept hanging around waiting for their pot of tea and toast, whilst those on a leisure break are more likely to be wanting to take their time and not feel rushed. Recognising guests’ expectations and being able to adapt their approach and style of service will be an important factor in how your guests perceive the level of service.

One of the most frustrating things with breakfast buffets or self-help items is the complete lack of logic in the layout. Just a little thought applied to the order in which a guest would want to collect their items can avoid bottle necks and prevent frustrated guests who may not be at their best first thing in the morning.

Ten tips for avoiding bottlenecks (and mess and wastage)

  1. Encourage your team to take the customer journey*, serving their own breakfast and seeing everything the guest sees. Some things to check:
  2. Fruit Juice – are the glasses next the fruit juice? Are all the various juices labelled so guests can work out what they are without having to taste them? It’s not only frustrating for the guest to discover that what looked like grapefruit juice is in fact pineapple, but does nothing for your wastage levels and food costs either.
  3. Cereal – Are your bowls, cereals and milk arranged logically for guests to pick up the bowl, help themselves cereal, then pour on their milk. It sounds obvious but I so often see guests having to backtrack to get their milk.
  4. Milk -Recognise that pouring milk needs two hands – one to hold a cereal bowl another to pour the milk so is there anywhere to place their fruit juice, tea, or anything else they’ve already picked up?
  5. Pastries – The logical flow goes for toast, breads and pastries, butter / spreads and conserves. The guests sequence is plate first, bread then spread then jam. It just frustrates them to find they’ve sat down and forgotten their butter….
  6. Tea – If guests make their own tea, is it easy to make? Where I stayed this week all the pots were already laid up with teabags; fine if you wanted normal tea, but there were no other pots for brewing specialist teas. So guests had to empty teabags out of the pots to make their tea. Crazy! And nowhere to leave the wrappers.
  7. Hot drinks – Depending on what you use for hot water or coffee, check how well this dispenses. Is it pre measured? If so, is does this over fill the pot, causing spillages. Or does it short measure encouraging guests to take a second measure.
  8. Utensils – Check your utensils match the item. If you serve fruit, is this cut into spoon sized chunks, or elegant slices? Either of course is fine, but just make sure that the serving utensils and plates or bowls you provide are suitable – i.e. slices can’t be eaten (or easily served) with a spoon; they need a knife and fork, so only providing bowls to be served in is illogical. I frequently see ladles used fruit salad, stewed fruit or bowls of yogurt. Have you ever tried serving from these ladles? A shallow spoon would make life a lot easier for the guest; why complicate things?
  9. Toast – Cold rubbery toast is a big criticism of many a hotel breakfast. But do rotary toasters perform any better? You’ve just plated up your bacon and eggs and head for the toast, only to find either there’s a queue, or the settings on the toaster make it possible to get the toast anything between completely underdone and burnt to a crisp. And of course why you’re trying to perfect the colour of your toast your bacon and eggs have got stone cold. I’m not saying rotary toasters are a complete no-no, but firstly check the settings so that toast only needs to go through once to make it look and feel like toast, and position it so that guests can cook their toast before plating up their hot food.
  10. Hot dishes – If you use lids on your hot dishes, are the dishes labelled, so guest don’t need to open each one to find the bacon? Is there somewhere to safely put the lids without having to do a balancing act. Or move them without dripping condensation on the floor and counter? Check your utensils’ handles don’t get too hot and guests burn themselves. And while on the subject of hot food, hot food put onto cold plates does stay hot for long. Whatever your style of service ensure you warm your plates as much as possible within the realms of safety.

Look and learn how well your layout works for your guests. Watch for your bottlenecks, and re arrange accordingly. What are the things that guests constantly ask for when it’s there already? How much toing and froing is there from table to buffet?

Make your breakfasts memorable, for the right reasons, and leave your guests relaxed with a positive last impression and an incentive to come back.

Back to basics

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

With so much attention on getting income up and costs down, have we lost sight of some of the basics?

In my recent interviews with a number of prominent hotel professionals in my series “How to Give Your Hotel a Competitive Edge”, one of the messages that kept coming up over and over was about getting the basics right. Whilst most hotels get most tings right, most of the time, it only takes one little slip up before we end up with a disgruntled guest. These are some of the points raised:


The Welcome

Do your guest always get greeted with a smile and made to feel special?

  • How well do your staff anticipate guests needs before they ask for things?
  • Do you give attention to detail and have any special little touches for guests?
  • Do you know what constitutes a good welcome for your guests? Do they like to be fussed over, or would they prefer to be left to their own devices?
  • When staff service a room do they routinely put everything back to the standard layout, or leave things the way guests have laid them?


The condition and cleanliness of all areas

Do you have a strict audited cleaning programme in place? And does this ensure that the bedroom and bathroom are spotlessly clean (including under the bed, on top of wardrobes, under the basin)? And when was the last time anything saw a lick of paint? Take a look with a fresh pair of eyes and check whether anything looks tired and in need of a facelift. It’s a good idea to walk the customer journey at least once a week to check this out.  Better still ask others to do this on a rotating cycle; different people will pick up on different things, and even if you can’t address everything at once, at least you’ll know where needs attention and can schedule it into your maintenance plan and budget.

And when it comes to refurbs do you go all out on one or two rooms, or do you spread your budget to the benefit of all areas? There’s no one answer to this question, but think about the impact on your guests, your staff and your business as a whole. Is upgrading just one room benefiting only a very small proportion of your business, whilst other areas visible to all guests are left wanting?


The practicality

Image of a hotel room

How practical are your hotel rooms? Unless you experience a night’s stay for yourself you wont be able to see what works and what doesn’t. I recently stayed in a very snazzy hotel, and it looked great, but when I met with my colleagues at breakfast we were all complaining that none of it was practical. Definitely a case of form over function on that occasion.  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I have to strip the desk or dressing table of marketing bumf before I can put anything down?
  • Is there anywhere to hang the hand towel? Or hang the bath towel so it can be reused?
  • Is there anywhere to put down my toiletries in the bathroom, or put my makeup down where I can reach it and still see in the mirror?
  • Does the kettle lead reach the socket without having to put the kettle on the floor, and still leave free power sockets accessible if I need to plug in my laptop or phone charger?
  • Does the showerhead and water pressure give a decent shower?
  • Is there anywhere to hang my dressing gown – either in the bathroom or bedroom?
  • Can I see myself in the mirror whilst holding the hairdryer?
  • Can I sit comfortably at the desk without banging my knees, and have enough light at the desk to read by without sitting in my own shadow?
  • Can I open a window without using brute force?
  • Can I comfortably watch TV from the chair?
  • Do I have to strip off half a dozen unnecessary pillows before I can get into bed (and make extra laundry into the bargain)?
  • Do you have to get out of bed to switch out the light?


A good night’s sleep

When was the last time you slept in one of your own hotel beds? Even if guests don’t make use of the hotel facilities or get up early enough for breakfast, the one thing that all your guests will expect is a good night’s sleep. So check out your beds. A good quality mattress and base is key; and unless you check your beds regularly you wont know when they need replacing.

A good night’s sleep will also be affected by light, noise and temperature.  Do the curtains meet in the middle and cut out street lighting and the sunrise?

Is there any noise from outside such as bottle disposal from the bar, air-conditioning units, traffic, your own bar or other local bars?  Or internally from lift shafts, banging pipes, neighbouring rooms. I remember one sleepless night being disturbed by music throughout the night, only to discover it was from a radio in the night manager’s office in the adjoining room.

And how is the room temperature? Is the air conditioning or heating system clear to adjust without having to call reception?


Perceived value for money

All of the above, of course add to the perception of value for money, but value for money will mean different things to different people. So how well do you understand what is important to guests? Is what they receive as good as or better than what guests are expecting?

You should be constantly looking for ways to add value for guests, and particularly look for items that are low cost to you, but high perceived value to your guests. Is everything provided that would be expected at the price point your guests have paid? People’s expectation of what’s included at breakfast, for example, will be very different if they are paying £12.95 rather than £4.95. Do you let guests know everything that is included in their rate? And do you include everything they might expect to be included, such as free WiFi.

Value for money also means a clear and transparent cancellation policy – having to pay for something you have not used will not be seen as good value!

Consider how you compare with your competition, and if you are competing with brands and budget hotels focus on the personal touches that you can add that they can’t offer.

Overcome your guests’ challenges

Friday, February 10th, 2012

Listen to all the reasons people give for NOT staying, or limiting their stay with you. What other services you can provide that might just tip the balance in favour of that night out, overnight stay or weekend away. Think of the challenges your guests face, and how easily you could solve their problems:

  • No baby sitter – can you offer a babysitting service
  • What to do with the dog – recommend kennels (or allow dogs)
  • Poor transport network – provide a free taxi service to and from the station or airport
  • If I stay away another night I’ll miss my gym session and end up eating more than I should – a common concern for business users, so set up temporary membership arrangements at the local gym, and provide a healthy option light or calorie counted meal
  • The kids will want their bikes, but we don’t have a bike rack – offer bike hire or team up with a local hire shop ~
  • There’s nothing to do if the weather is bad – set up a kids’ play room and indoor entertainment area, and provide games and indoor activities
  • I don’t have time to do my laundry, get my hair cut or legs waxed – provide a laundry and pressing service, or offer complimentary or discount vouchers for your own spa or a local beauty or hair salon

You could take the attitude ‘that’s not my problem’ or you can see these ‘problems’ as great opportunities for additional services. Without having to think too hard or spend too much, people can have a ready-solved problem if you’ve put together a package ‘just for them’.
For more articles and resources

Be flexible and offer hotel guests alternatives

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

You can’t bow to every request a hotel guest ever makes. But don’t be so bound by the rules that any request is met with a hostile ‘jobsworth’ attitude! If you cannot meet your guests’ initial requests, look at offering an alternative:

  • A guest wants an early breakfast, before your kitchen staff normally arrive – offer a continental breakfast or a tray instead, or at the very least a take away cup of fresh coffee.
  • You receive a request just 10 minutes before service for an alternative to the set menu for a big party – you don’t have a choice, but listen to what the guest needs to avoid and offer an alternative combination without this item.
  • Your weekend guests ring ahead and say they haven’t been able to get a dog sitter. You don’t take dogs, but can you find a local kennel who can accommodate the dog?
  • Your guest asks for a particular brand of whisky for an important client he is entertaining. You don’t stock it, so do you refuse, or phone your neighbouring hotel or pub to see if they have it in stock.

Encourage your staff to get into the mindset of looking for an alternative solution, even if the initial question has to be answered with a ‘no’, it can be followed by ‘but I can do x for you’, or ‘I know someone who could do this for you’.
For more articles and resources

Offer your hotel guests and restaurant customers a choice

Monday, February 6th, 2012

Give your guests choice. This does not mean having 100 items on your breakfast menu or 40 types of pillow – but do give them a choice you can cope with. Again listen to what your customers tell you.

  • In your restaurant, how often do people tell you they are too full for a dessert? Serving huge portions may be appealing to some, but others may be put off having a starter or dessert if they think the portion sizes are too big. Why not provide a taster version, for a slightly lower price, to ensure the sale? That way the waiting staff don’t need to make a judgement call or check with the kitchen if this can be done; it’s already in the system, and the kitchen don’t have to guess the portion size.
  • Can you offer a choice of rooms in terms of features or facilities? Even if the rooms are all a standard layout, can you offer people a choice of outlook, proximity to reception, in-room amenities etc?
  • How often do you get asked what time is check out? Can you be flexible to allow later check-outs (for an additional cost or as part of a promotional special) so guests have the opportunity to make the most of their last day before they head home?
  • Do your guests come to you to celebrate special occasions? If so do you have one room, which is very special in its own right, or where you can include extra services? What else can you add to your standard offer to make a deluxe version to sell at a premium price?

Become your own hotel inspector, or train your staff to become your personal team of hotel inspectors giving you valuable and objective feedback where ever and whenever you want