Hotel F&B: You Never Know Who You Are Serving

By Susie Ross Founder, Waiter Training | October 28, 2008

The restaurant and bar crews were sorely understaffed to handle a small influx of people in October. There didn't seem to be a presence from management of any kind. The front-desk staff couldn't be bothered by petty requests and inquiries. One incident stands out in particular and I witnessed it - no exaggeration from the person to whom it happened.

The bride's uncle and his wife drove up from a small town in Texas. I'll call them Jerry and Marilyn. Jerry and his wife are unassuming in appearance and are probably aged in their mid-sixties. When they arrived at the hotel the afternoon before the wedding in their very expensive, shiny black Corvette, the valets eagerly awaited the opportunity to jump behind the wheel of the car to drive it 100 yards to a parking space.

Marilyn spotted a family member and went to chat with her in the lobby while Jerry stood back from the counter, waiting to be acknowledged. The hotel employees were assisting other guests. When they were finished with those guests, they saw no other would-be guests to whom they should be paying attention. They did see a maintenance man, dressed in dark work pants, work boots and a blue, striped shirt with a name patch, on which was embroidered the name "Jerry." They ignored him.

Jerry is a smart man, a businessman. He owns a company that paints commercial aircraft. It's not a large, Fortune 500 company, but he is successful at what he does, in part because he is a hands-on kind of business owner. He enjoys driving his Corvette and is comfortable wearing his work clothes after a day at work to get to his niece's wedding in Oklahoma City. Being a smart man, Jerry understood what was happening. So he went to the counter and asked if he could check in. He was a little angry, but he was willing to let their ignorance pass. However, the person he chose to talk to acted as if he might be insane to think that he could afford to stay in a hotel such as this. He skeptically began the check-in process.

That is basically the end of the story. Jerry checked in quietly and no one apologized for ignoring him. They happily took his money, though. He didn't complain to the hotel management; he didn't think it would do any good. However, he vowed they would never see his money come across their counter again.

Guess what the topic was at dinner that evening! The bride's family, other guests, including me, all of whom were having our own issues with the hotel, were only too eager to have another red mark added to our long list of complaints. We all certainly told other people. The tragedy for the hotel is that it's an international chain. People came from all over the United States and Canada for this wedding.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.