Durable Design: Five Tips on Hotel FF&E That Will Last Longer

By Roger G. Hill Chief Executive Officer & Chairman, The Gettys Group Inc. | March 11, 2012

In difficult economic times, especially in this current downturn that hotel owners find themselves in, investing much needed cash or securing financing for Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment ("FF&E") refurbishments becomes a sensitive topic. Hotel brands require owners to follow brand standards and comply with often strict property improvement plans and timelines. The guest as well has high expectations and often seeks to get more and pay less. This puts a lot of pressure on owners and it becomes critical to make the right decisions for the operation in regard to renovations. It is a fine line between guest expectations and the operation's balance sheet. In the end you cannot put off a renovation, but you can make smart decisions in regard to value for your money, or in other words, return on investment. Durable design or longer lasting FF&E is not necessarily a question of good or bad times. It is always an important factor that should be on an owner's mind when considering renovations.

During healthy economic times and with higher hotel occupancies, newly installed FF&E needs to be able to withstand more use and abuse. Owners have to consider the opportunity cost of taking rooms out of their inventory as well as longer, and often unreliable, manufacturers' lead times. During times when manufacturers' production capacities are maximized, cost of product to the buyer goes up and it would not be unusual to see quality going down just because corners are being cut, or quality control processes are not strictly followed in order to meet the increased demand.

A recession such as the one we currently find ourselves in should be considered an opportunity to upgrade a hospitality asset. If there only wasn't the pressure on maintaining a positive cash flow and/or obtaining financing. With the hotel operation being less busy, it is easier to take rooms out of order and in a very competitive manufacturing world, production lead times decrease and the value that can be expected for goods purchased should be much greater.

Obviously, in times like the current times, for most hotel owners it is not realistic and not in their best interest to tie-up much of the urgently needed cash reserves and invest into new FF&E. It therefore becomes important to prioritize and spend money wisely with long-term value in mind. Following are some thoughts and ideas as to what you can do to extend the life of your hotel FF&E:

  1. If not already implemented, follow a strict FF&E maintenance program. With
    lower occupancies, take advantage of taking rooms out of order for a couple
    of days and have them undergo regular deep cleanings. Repair case-goods and
    seating rather than replace them. Following a strict maintenance routine can
    extend the life-cycle of case-goods by several years. The same applies to
    fabrics; wash and dry clean them on a regular basis. Consider opportunities
    for achieving energy/water efficiencies by using the appropriate light bulbs
    (ideally fluorescent if applicable) and install low flow shower-heads for
    example. Take advantage of your manufacturers' or distributors' resources.
    Most of them will be happy to come in and train your staff on proper
    maintenance. In the end, it is in their best interest to have their goods
    look beautiful.

  2. Evaluate which improvements can create a "wow" factor and at the same time
    are cost efficient and durable. For example, consider bamboo or Lyptus(R)
    flooring - these are rapidly renewable materials; they are sustainable,
    attractive, durable and affordable. Look at stone for heavy foot traffic
    areas. If carpet has to be replaced, think about product made of wool or
    branded nylon and select a simple and neutral design. On first thought it
    might be more expensive, but suppliers are willing to negotiate during
    difficult times. The initial higher cost will provide you with a product
    that looks and feels better and has an extended life span.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.