With the low margins in the hospitality industry, you need every edge you can get. You’ve probably seen many articles on how to spot the bad employees. But what about warning signs that your own performance is lagging? Here’s a list of mistakes to avoid which will help you get the most out of your employees and your hospitality business, be it restaurant, banquet, hotel, or casino.
Have no annual plan. This is the measly scheduling that all businesses have to do. Hospitality is a seasonal industry – scheduling maintenance and review tasks during non-peak hours will help you keep everything running smoother. This doesn’t mean you have to stick to the plan when the inevitable complications arise, but over all your foresight should keep things running smoothly.
Don’t invite inspections. Whether it’s a fire code or a health code, periodic “friendly” inspections will help you identify problems and fix them early before they become accidents that will result in an “unfriendly” inspection. It also puts polish on your halo in the eyes of your insurance company.
Don’t spend time in the trenches. Time and again, the most successful hospitality managers show up on the event floor or the dining room every now and then and pitch in for a shift. It helps communication between you and your staff, who have the opportunity to point out what needs fixing instead of trying to write you a memo. It boosts morale in the lowest levels of staff – their respect for you skyrockets when they see you aren’t too much of a big shot to get your hands dirty. And of course, nothing puts your staff on it’s best work ethic like having the boss working elbow to elbow with them.
Ignore the calendar. New Year’s Eve coming up? Oh, well, we’ll be busy anyway. Summer here? Well, let’s see how the vacation crowd treats us. Instead of sitting there letting the holidays and seasons happen to you, you could have planned a special event or an aggressive marketing campaign in advance to make sure you take full advantage of the rich times. Making the most of the fat times helps you survive the thin times.
Ignore your competition. Nothing is more directly competitive than the hospitality industry; three restaurants on every corner, a chain of hotels along each street. You should be constantly thinking of what you can offer your customers that your competitors don’t.
Micromanage the staff. The flip side of being in the trenches should be the confidence to lead with authority by delegating responsibility efficiently. If you feel you have to follow up every detail and make every minute decision, your staff will feel that you lack confidence in their abilities. You should just be able to give an order and have the employees scurry to carry it out, reporting back to you only if there’s problems. Micromanaging is also a sign of a work-a-holic boss, and those aren’t always the most successful ones.
Expect the business to run itself. Avoiding micromanaging doesn’t just mean you can spend all week at home and check in on the phone twice a week. Nobody cares about your business as much as you do, and if you aren’t there, things are likely to skew farther away from how you originally designed them to run.
Don’t innovate. What could possibly be creative about our business? It’s just providing the service of basic necessities of life, after all. That’s when businesses fail; when they just keep doing what everybody else is doing. Innovation is when you offer a new service feature that nobody else does, create a hot new menu item and promote it in advertising, and a new luxury to your hotel property. Every time you innovate, you are temporarily in a market of one until your competitors copy you.
Ignore the computers. A hidden drain on the hospitality industry is the high cost of software. Maybe LucasFilm needs that $950 copy of Photoshop, but you’re just as well off making your advertising flyers on the free Gimp. You really don’t need Windows office software when the free PC systems out there such as Linux can run Open Office for free – and a spreadsheet looks the same in both. Your guest check-in system will run just as well on a free Unix system. And so on. Hospitality businesses are one industry that consistently overspends on business software. Your needs are not that fancy; any program that can open, edit, and save a text file will do just fine for writing that memo. And why pay for anti-virus software when a system like BSD or Linux doesn’t get viruses in the first place? Every program you run should be free of cost, and for that matter you can run a hospitality business on “outdated” hardware, at least for a small-scale company.
Ignore the Internet. Why should a hotel have a web site? So guests can get directions to the place and make reservations online. Why should a pizza parlor have a website? So customers can order online. Why have wireless web access in the lobby? Because traveling business guests bring laptops and want to stay online while they’re there. Web space these days goes for as cheap as $5 per month, and building a website on it will be a one-time expense of $100 to any random online freelancer. You pay more than this to advertise in newspapers, yet the Internet can reach millions more customers!