As hotel owners and operators, it is our business to be absolutely fluent with what’s happening in our buildings. Who are our guests, what activities are taking place, what is the condition of the product, etc., are all questions that we deal with every day. While we generally do an excellent job of staying on top of all of this detail, there are occasions where we may be caught by surprise. How well do you know what’s happening?
We recently had an opportunity to pass through a new luxury boutique hotel here in Manhattan. It was mid-afternoon, and we stopped by the lounge as the doors were open, guests were seated and there was a bartender behind the bar. When we asked the bartender for a menu, he let us know that wine and beer were available, but cocktails were not available for another hour or so. He then offered the lobby lounge if we were looking for a cocktail. When we seated ourselves in the lobby lounge, a server approached and we ordered. His response was “sorry, it is 3:40pm and we don’t serve cocktails until 4pm.” We informed him that the bartender had sent us his way and informed us otherwise, but he simply apologized and let us know that if we wanted a cocktail, we’d have to wait another twenty minutes.
See anything wrong with this picture? The two outlets in question here, the bar and the lobby lounge, are located adjacent to one another in this hotel, in fact they are actually connected to one another. Despite this, there is apparently no communication between the outlets as to basic “rules of engagement.” It did not occur to the bartender that being able to offer beer or wine but not a cocktail would be difficult for a guest to understand, nor did it occur to the bartender that cocktails would not be available in the lobby lounge for another 20 minutes. By the same token, there was no attempt on the part of the lobby bar server to apply logic and find a way to offer cocktails 20 minutes “early” based on the fact that the bartender (his colleague) had suggested this in the first place.
The reality is that operating a hotel, in particular operating food & beverage outlets, is a complicated business that requires, amongst other things, a high degree of coordination. Sometimes overlooked is the fact that such operations also require a certain degree of logic or of common sense. Because logic and common sense are far more subjective than basic job skills, leadership of our hotels cannot assume that these traits are equally present in all associates. This is where our roles as property leadership can truly make a difference.
Property leadership must be sufficiently embedded in the operations of the asset that it becomes possible not only to address service issues when they arise, but to anticipate such issues before they impact the guest. With that said, experience tells us we likely cannot anticipate every possible situation, which is why the empowerment of our associates becomes very important. In the example above, a simple fix would have allowed the guest to walk away happy, rather than walking away disappointed. Could the lobby lounge server have sought an approval to provide cocktails twenty minutes before the established time? Could the bartender have “bent the rules” by serving cocktails from his bar which was obviously already open and operating?
Our role as leaders can be thankless some of the time, but we must practice proactive and aggressive hospitality at all times. Dig deep into your operations to make sure that you are not only providing the best in service for the obvious, but for the not-so-obvious as well. This is where we can truly separate ourselves from our competition.