Increasing Staff Efficiency through Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment

By Kyle Rogg President & COO, Value Place | May 25, 2014

When it comes to increasing your hotel staff's operational efficiency, detailed furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) decision making might not be atop your list of priorities. But it probably should be.

At Value Place, when our executive team dedicated itself to smart design, we made a conscious effort to honor our core values – being clean, safe, simple, and affordable. Today, before the first shovel of dirt is scooped at one of our construction sites, the impact of every decision made in the design, construction, and ongoing operation of our properties is evaluated to ensure it has a positive effect on staff efficiency and return on investment for the franchisee.

Smart FF&E design starts on paper, when mistakes cost far less than they do on the job site or after a property is in operation. We've made continual improvements to our prototype hotel design at every step of construction and operation, resulting in staffing efficiencies that surpass industry averages. Staffing costs at the average economy extended-stay hotel are 22 percent of revenue (Ref: Highland Group). Yet our business model, driven in part by well-planned FF&E design, results in staffing costs that are nearly half the industry average. For us, that efficiency started in the design stage where staff productivity and positive operating income are our primary goals. With the right staff and FF&E decisions, the benefits of our pursuit can be seen every day that a property is open.

What's On the Floor Can Drive Staff Efficiency

The initial Value Place design featured carpets in guest rooms. A traditional hotel element, it seemed the obvious choice. In addition to the anticipated problems associated with carpet, including stains, odors, damage, and wear, we have a unique issue. As an extended-stay hotel, we experience a higher level of wear and tear on our flooring since guests spend more time in their rooms than the average hotel guest. That fact, coupled with our promise to deep clean the carpet between each guest, meant spending a lot of time turning rooms around and costly carpet repairs impacting our bottom line. Industry surveys show that carpet replacement averages are approximately $1,000 per room, including labor and materials (Ref: JN+A/HVS Design Cost Estimating Guide).

To remedy this issue, we looked at numerous options and solutions. Today, all new Value Place construction projects feature wood-plank vinyl flooring throughout all guest spaces. Installing this flooring, which is popular throughout Europe and Japan, has helped eliminate carpet throughout the building, a decision we made with the guest in mind. The new flooring is soft to walk on, dampens sound, and looks very modern.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.