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Revisiting the Basics Can Help You Solve Sophisticated Hospitality Problems

By Bisk
Revisiting the Basics Can Help You Solve Sophisticated Hospitality Problems

There are no secrets to successful leadership in a hospitality operation.  Experience, knowledge, and common sense will be useful components in a leader’s problem-solving toolbox.  As well, command of basic management functions including planning, organizing, coordinating, staffing, directing, controlling and evaluating are very important.  These basic resources can be very helpful in addressing many of the problems confronting today’s hospitality operators.

Here are some examples:

What do our guests like and dislike about the products and services we offer?

Basic communication principles can be used to address this challenge.  There is a significant difference between a casual “How was everything?” and a genuine solicitation of guest input from a caring manager.  Also, managers who supervise by walking around in a restaurant can often judge the quality of service by looking at the guests’ water glass (full = good service; almost empty = inadequate service).

Technology including social media, crowd-sourced websites and guest room media are among the relatively new sources of primary guest-related information.  However, neither they nor any other information source will be useful unless the operator recognizes that the “guest is the boss” and knows much more about his or her own preferences than does an experienced manager.

How do we reduce employee turnover?

Employee turnover is expensive and impacts the production and service attributes that help justify the value equation that makes guests loyal to our brands.  Tactics to address this problem can be found in one of the most basic tenants many people learn as children: treat others the way you would like to be treated.  Of course, useful strategies to increase employee retention must include innumerable tactics some of which including compensation management and succession planning can be sophisticated.  However, a basic work culture driven by a core value of employee respect can set the precedent for interactions that improve rather than reduce employee morale.

One suggestion: think about things your best boss always did that you personally liked, and also think about what your worst boss did that you didn’t like.  These activities will likely suggest things that your own employees will and will not appreciate – and then challenge yourself to consistently do the right things.

How can we reduce product costs without reducing quality standards?

Hospitality purchasers pay for more than products and services when they buy from vendors.  Preferred suppliers should provide information and timely access to vendors and the resources that are procured.  Free advice can be discovered by asking vendors questions such as, “Do my service specifications require anything that I don’t need?” and “I plan to use the product in this way; what product would be best for this purpose?”  The answers to these questions may suggest ways to reduce costs by obtaining those products and services that are most suitable for their intended use.

How should I revise troublesome work processes (for example, those that hinder guest service or create workflow bottlenecks)?

This question can be easily answered with one or more basic tactics with a common objective: ask the employees who do the work.  Effective leaders typically don’t address challenges other team members are able to manage.  Those closest to the situation are likely to have improvement suggestions.  There are at least three potential advantages to this tactic: the leader is showing respect to the affected employees, alternatives may be generated that may not have otherwise been suggested and there is less likely to be resistance to change (the improvements are our idea – not the boss’s idea!)

Why is the new supervisor an under-performer?

Jane (or Bob) is a great entry-level employee and is promoted to a supervisory position in the same department, and work performance has since deteriorated.  The cause must be a poor promotion decision – or was it?

In fact, the supervisor must for the first time, schedule, direct the work of and evaluate the performance of subordinates. Inventory, training, budget development and other tasks may represent additional responsibilities that were not previously performed by the new supervisor.  

Many hospitality operations have inadequate supervisory training programs, if they have one at all.  In the absence of effective training, is it assumed new supervisors would automatically learn how to do these activities?  Recognition that people with positive attitudes (like most new supervisors!) must still be taught new work skills should be well-understood.   

In Conclusion

It is true that some – or perhaps even many –  challenges confronted by hospitality managers and leaders can be addressed with relatively simple fixes. When these alternatives are useful, problem-solving time can then be diverted to issues requiring creativity and the commitment of significant resources which enable the organization to remain competitive.

Category: Hospitality