Valet Parking: Are You Driving Yourself into a Wall?

By Richard Dahm Senior Risk Consultant, National Hospitality Division, Wells Fargo Insurance Services | February 15, 2010

Considered to be a luxury service to the hospitality industry, most hotels, restaurants, airports and even banquet halls, include the service of valet parking. Although this is a value-added service to your clientele, its ultimate costs and risks are a growing concern for the hotel or restaurant owner. While some establishments choose to employ their own staff as attendants, more are leaning toward contracting outside firms who use their own employees. Although outsourcing this risk does lessen some of the liability headaches, both in-house and outsourced services have the same everyday problems that may ultimately end back up on the establishment's doorstep. Such going concerns include; property damage to the valeted cars, theft, bodily injury to guests and pedestrians and damage to non-valeted vehicles. In this time, everything is more expensive; from the high price of cars to medical bills. No one can afford to make up the costs of carelessness, improper management or inadequate insurance coverage. If you're concerned with your valet services and are finding negative trends occurring more frequently, maybe its time to re-evaluate your valet program. The following are several indispensable guidelines to help you improve the quality of your valet service, ultimately reduce the claims frequency and cost and keep the goodwill of your customers.

Training

The average age of a valet attendant is between 19 and 25. Valet parking services tend to have high turnover and therefore look to the local college student body to fill their attendant positions. While there may not be a shortage of applicants, the driving experience of the typical college student is less than average. In order to improve the talent pool, you must be able to implement one of two practices, a training program or a better screening process. It is important to start with the basics:

Verification of valid license and driving history -It is fundamental to know that you are hiring validly licensed drivers. Second, do your drivers have a clean driving history? Employee driving records can tell you on how responsible your drivers are and what kind of history they may be applying to your business. Have the applicant apply for the job by supplying his/her driving record. The employer should review their attendant's current driving records at a minimum of annually and perhaps more frequently if there is high turnover.

Are your drivers experienced driving vehicles with manual transmissions?In the past it was common for drivers to know how to drive a manual shift transmission. Today, stick shifts are not as common except in higher valued sports cars. If the operator is not acquainted with high end vehicles such as Ferrari, Porsche, and Corvette, many of these sports cars not only have manual shift, but they are accompanied by large horse power. An inexperienced attendant could cause major damage to the vehicle as well as to other vehicles or people around them.

Are drivers given driver training and proficiency tests?Know what kind of driver you are hiring. All employees should be given a proficiency test to make certain they are skilled enough to handle multiple types of vehicles and in your environment. Whether it's operating in a parking garage or high traffic areas, your drivers must be able to handle a vehicle with skill and confidence. They should also know how to safely park a car. Many valet services back the cars into a parking space for easy recovery. Therefore, it is essential that parking skills be included into any proficiency test. New hires should not be thrown into the busiest time slots, but worked up to them.

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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.