The International Network of Hospitality Consulting Professionals

Camp Foodservice Consulting Case Study – Improved Service, Satisfaction, Sanitation and Costs

Surprise Lake Camp Case Study

A Unique Foodservice Consulting Assignment

Surprise Lake Camp (SLC) in Putnam County New York desired improved food offerings and a service delivery focus to their campers and staff, along with any reduction in costs that could be realized. Leadership outlined concerns from the beginning with camper satisfaction to take priority in food quality and the delivery to dining rooms at the top of the list. Lopolito was brought in for foodservice consulting, and a 16-week contract was agreed upon to begin addressing menus, sanitation, training, ordering, and other conditions in pursuing improvements.

Situation Background

SLC is a kosher operation with one leading chef, two assistant chefs, and 40 support staff. Oversight by a Mashgiach is required to support a kosher facility. There are four kitchen facilities with three on what is called Main Side and one on Teen Side, with Teen Side kitchen a ½ mile trek to the opposite side of a large beautiful lake. SLC serves approximately 750 meals 3 times each day seven days a week, in addition to other food service needs each day. The coordination of foodservice has specific timing intervals throughout the day with strict staff protocols necessary to meet this demand. The Main Side Kitchens are separated in cooking meat and dairy on the ground level, and the Parve kitchen is on the second floor along with the
bakery. The Teen Side Kitchen is separated in cooking only meat and dairy and daily deliveries of product are necessary to support them.

Assignment Introduction

Upon LHC’s foodservice consultants arriving at SLC it was clear that there were a number of opportunities for improvement. Dry storage was disorganized, inventory was removed without process, freezer storage was limited and prevented effective ordering, ordering practices did not have accountability, and small wares like cutting boards, knives, and other preparation equipment needed to be replaced. Sanitation training was going to be a key focus with most of the 45 crew members being new employees for the 4 kitchens and 4 dining rooms. Additionally, eight weeks of menus needed to be discussed and revised, upgrades to product discussed, and prior years operational protocols needed to be understood and revised where necessary.

Meetings with the chef of 11 years were arranged to review anticipated menus for the season, and a full walk through of the kitchens took place to understand equipment needs and workflow patterns. The initial few weeks was preparation and organization for the arrival of the approximate five hundred campers and two hundred and fifty employees, but during startup a staff of about 50 were on property to prepare. Past Inventory practices were for staff to take supplies as needed without regard to issuing, par levels, or organizational controls. This in turn caused time delays in locating product, product outs, and last minute changes to menus. The leading chef demanded that the needs of the kitchens and dining room were immediate and the staff must be able to take anything they needed quickly and without burden. However, this practice did not allow for efficiency, caused elevated expenses, and resulted in a disorganization of inventory.

Case Observations Presentation

This is an overnight camp with 500 campers, 250 staff, serving 2250 meals per day seven days a week with a relatively new staff each season to coordinate and train.

  1. Food and beverage and all paper good costs needed to be addressed.
  2. The large inventory of dry and paper goods was untidy and carelessly stored.
  3. The chefs, cooks & dining staff removed inventory without regard to proper inventory procedures.
  4. Foodservice delivery to the four dining rooms was not timely and required improvement.
  5. Sanitation policies and cleanliness effectiveness required some improvements.
  6. The quality of certain proteins and main food ingredients required improvements.
  7. Freezer capacities were limited and past limitations caused shorts and storage difficulties.

Lopolito Hospitality Project Management and Foodservice Consulting Outcome

This project was effort intensive and Lopolito formed new ideas to meet the demands of this camp environment while adhering to commercial foodservice best practices. Providing product rapidly from inventory to the Main Side Kitchens became the first of many challenges. Secondary but equally important was the daily issue and orderly delivery to the Teen Side Kitchen, as this constant support is vital to their success. In order to track inventory and keep level pars, the past practice of taking items without regard would not be a suitable process going forward. Third and ongoing was the delicate assignment of reducing costs while at the same time improving the food product quality and improving dining room delivery services.

Lopolito instituted ideas that offered solutions and generated great results.

  1. Purchases were carefully considered. All ordering was precise in selecting the correct item size and quality, along with best price. These careful actions resulted in the savings of $35,000 under budget, and $25,000 less than the prior year’s expenses. Read more about Restaurant Expense Loss.
  2. A full displacement, organization, and replacement of all inventories were performed.
  3. Newly designated “issued product shelving” was created to allow staff to take goods quickly without issuing request orders. This product was replaced continuously from stock as necessary.
  4. Issue shelving significantly increased productivity in kitchen preparations, which in turn improved food service delivery to the dining rooms. This process allowed inventory levels to be maintained.
  5. New color coordinated cutting boards replaced older versions, sanitation buckets were implemented, and ongoing cleaning and sanitation training was initiated in all areas.
  6. Proteins like chicken tenders and improved meat cuts were added to replace frozen manufactured products. Fresh cut fries were also introduced. Camper and staff dining satisfaction improved.
  7. The idea of an additional freezer was discussed as necessary, and a 900sf freezer was rented. This additional freezer allowed larger ordering capacities, eliminated shorts, and allowed more productivity by eliminating product searching and replacing with appropriate inventory issuing.
  8. A master inventory list was created and regular inventory procedures were enacted.
  9. A master order list with product codes was created to assist in a consistent ordering process.

 


About the Author:

Jim LopolitoJim is president of Lopolito Hospitality Consultants and a veteran of the restaurant, country club and catering industries offering expert operational review, club management consulting, foodservice consulting, and team development. His consulting services include his proprietary “Expense Loss Review” program. The ELR program reviews variances between money that is currently unsystematically expensed on product, services, or equipment and the amount expensed upon our review and implementation of practical methods of spending behavior. Jim has worked in virtually every position in foodservice, from executive chef to general manager in restaurants, country clubs, and catering in well-known organizations throughout New York. His background includes 12 years in restaurants, 19 years in private clubs, and 10 years in high-end catering and concert production.

Case Study: Restaurant Profitability in an Established Operation

A Case Study: Increasing Restaurant Profitability in an Established Operation

This is a summarized version of the restaurant profitability case study. The full Case Study is available at: www.LopolitoHospitalityConsultants.com

Restaurant One – For financial and business confidentiality the actual business name has been replaced in this study.

Assignment Outline:
Restaurant One in Orange County New York desired improved restaurant profitability, as well as Front-of-House (FOH) services to their customers and an understanding and possible improvement of the other perceived deficiencies. Restaurant One offers both a casual dining room and sports bar dining atmosphere with a separate banquet room for parties. Hours of operation occur all 7 days with lunch and dinner service, and there is an abundance of local competition and variety of cultural food styles in the area. Lopo lito Hospitality Consultants was asked to review the location and to assess how to improve service and increase profitability.

Introduction:
The review of Restaurant One, by the restaurant & bar consultants, began in February 2017 where initial observations exhibited numerous neglected core efficiencies causing unreliable service and a negative effect on bar and restaurant profitability.

There was a consistent absence of immediate attention to the customer upon their arrival, followed by a common showing to the table and throwing down menus. This was followed by a service standard of simply taking orders and delivering product with no special steps to create an elevated customer experience. There were compounding service issues with regular and similarly made errors on food and beverage orders that were distressing customers, as well as, FOH and BOH effectiveness. In addition to the FOH training needs that were apparent, issues distressing profits included evidence of severe over pouring with occasional under pours of alcohol, Call brands poured when Well brands were charged, inexperienced wait staff mixing their own alcoholic beverages for their tables, frequent food and bar item returns, no inventory taking procedures, arbitrary menu price practices instead of formula based, lack of training in secondary floor managers, and there was a neglect to parking needs affecting diners coming to the location especially during parties, and this was additionally burdened with employees taking up guests parking spots.

Case Observations Presentation:

  1. The general manager was never trained in essential skills like inventory management, COGS, menu engineering, and is unfamiliar with the percentages that are necessary to understand cost evaluations.
  2. There were no employee position descriptions in place, onboarding or training programs.
  3. Wait staff make their own drinks for their tables resulting in poor quality. Call brands are being poured when Well brands are charged, there is no recipe consistency.
  4. Upon our initial review we performed a short audit of alcohol cost percentages by reviewing of invoices and sales during the same time period. These first month results are as follows;
    1. Bottled wine pouring percentages were at 45%-63%.
    2. Wine by the glass pouring percentages were at 24% to 44% on paper, however most wines by the glass were being over poured so these results were estimated lower than actual.
    3. Alcohol pouring cost percentages were at 40%. d) Beer pouring cost percentages on bottled and tap combined were estimated at 35%.

LHC Management and Outcome:

  1. Position responsibilities were formulated and LHC wrote a guide for each of the four segments; Front Desk, Runners, Bussers, and Wait Staff. Training to each segment progressed.
  2. Meetings with the general manager began in March to train in inventory and COGS management.
  3. Inventory training with the General Manager included the creation of their first inventory spreadsheet, understanding FIFO & COGS, and evaluation and calculations of alcohol pouring cost percentages.
  4. To address the inconsistent drink making, over pouring, and other cost issues, LHC designed a 4 hour comprehensive alcohol pour training program for all wait staff and bartenders to attend.
  5. June 2017 presented a second full month of strong inventory and COGS results for pouring cost assumptions resulting in the following.
    1. Wine combined COGS is $3,119 on $14,381 revenue for a 21.7% cost to sales (down 7.3% from May)
    2. Bottled & Tap Beer combined COGS is $5,981 on $21,510 revenue for a 27.8% cost to sales (down 2.2% from May) c) Alcohol COGS is $5,080 on $22,447 revenue for a 22.6% cost to sales (down 10.4% from May)

Discussion:

This case was coordinated over a 9 month term, February 2017 to October 2017. The initial project concerns by the owner was training of the FOH staff in better service standards and perhaps the idea that no inventory taking was affecting profits.

Conclusion:
A discussion of financials in October 2017 offered an average increase to restaurant profitability of $3,000 per month over the term beginning June 2017 through September 2017. If maintained, the resulting outcome for 2018 has a minimum expected 2% increase in annual profit, or $36,000 additional profits based on $1.8 million revenue.

Follow –Up:
A follow-up call was made to the manager at 3 months following the completion of this project. Here are the results of this conversation.

Q: LHC introduced and trained staff in drink making and how to use the recipe books LHC created for the bars. We also introduced and trained to use the jiggers. Are the bar books and jiggers being used?
A: Yes, continually used, especially by new staff working with the recipes. Also, we do not push the few seasoned bartenders to use the jiggers when very busy, but all wait staff use them continuously. Customers have become accustomed to the jiggers.

Q: LHC introduced a comprehensive program of training with materials for bartenders, wait staff, bussers, and runners. How well has this program continued?
A: Staff is performing better with fewer mistakes. Drinks are more consistent for us with the bar recipe books LHC designed. We have a number of new employees that recently started, and they will receive the position descriptions. Fewer mistakes are occurring with orders though.

Q: Have you reviewed financial with the owner regarding profits?
A: Yes, while I have not seen the recent reports myself, the overall talk is profits are better and are continually getting better since LHC program implementations.


Meet the Author:

Jim LopolitoJim is president of Lopolito Hospitality Consultants and a veteran of the restaurant, country club and catering industries offering expert operational review, club management consulting, foodservice training, and team development. His consulting services include his proprietary “Expense Loss Review” program. The ELR program reviews variances between money that is currently unsystematically expensed on product, services, or equipment and the amount expensed upon our review and implementation of practical methods of spending behavior. Jim has worked in virtually every position in foodservice, from executive chef to general manager in restaurants, country clubs, and catering in well-known organizations throughout New York. His background includes 12 years in restaurants, 19 years in private clubs, and 10 years in high-end catering and concert production.

Case Study: Hotel Energy Management at the Ritz Carlton – Naples, Florida

pdf-icon Click here to download a PDF version of this case study, complete with graphic analyses.

PROJECT SUMMARY

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company embarked on a three year program centered on reducing energy consumption. The purpose of the program was not only to reduce the portfolio’s energy consumption and cost, but also to raise the awareness of the Ladies and Gentlemen of the Ritz-Carlton as to their personal responsibilities pertaining to energy and the environment.

The Ritz-Carlton program was a resounding success by any measure. On a portfolio basis, energy consumption was reduced by over 13% from the baseline year which gave rise to a substantial decrease in energy spend.

One of the primary success factors in The Ritz-Carlton’s ability to drive down energy use was the more than 400 energy projects and retro-commissioning measures completed during the Program. The energy projects coupled with the increased focus placed on energy conservation yielded outstanding results, as the portfolio far surpassed the 9% stated energy reduction goal at the outset of this program. In fact, the portfolio energy reduction was 47% over this energy reduction goal relative to the collective Energy Baselines of all the properties.

 

IMPLEMENTATION

Operationally each property (a total of 32 at program end) was visited to review energy performance and assess overall building operation. Using energy auditing and retro-commissioning tools, a snapshot of the hotel’s current operation was generated along with a road map of how to reach greater levels of energy efficiency. This was followed by regular communication with the Director of Engineering as a method of placing constant emphasis on the importance of energy reduction.

The key performance indicator for energy consumption used throughout the program was British Thermal Units per square foot (BTU/SF). This is the preferred measure of consumption that best reflects how efficiently a hotel operates. While not a perfect metric, BTU/SF produces a better comparison between properties. Other metrics based on occupied or available rooms can become skewed when comparing hotels with large differences in room count.

Each property reported its energy consumption by energy type on a monthly basis throughout the program duration. Those inputs (kWh, therms, gallons, etc.) were converted to BTUs and subsequently to BTU/SF for each property. Three scorecards were created and posted monthly:

  • A year-over-year performance report
  • A report indicating progress toward 3-year property goals
  • A monthly energy consumption report

The first two reports were based on adjusted energy consumption (see Adjustments section below), and show the final property standings.  The monthly energy report provided the properties with their raw, unadjusted energy use, and, for Ritz Corporate, it documented summaries of energy use and utility costs for all properties.

The second primary measurement tool used during the program was the Energy Reduction Summary Report shown at right.  The data contained here presented the Directors of Engineering with their updated energy reduction requirements necessary to achieve their Program goals in both BTU/SF and in percent.

PERFORMANCE

Energy consumption in any Ritz-Carlton hotel is largely determined by three factors: the overall attitude of the hotel staff as it relates to energy efficiency; the existing infrastructure, and the ability to change and upgrade existing systems.

The commitment of the entire hotel staff to the goal of energy efficiency cannot be overstated. The process begins with the Engineering group, but they must have the support of the entire hotel team in order to achieve lasting energy reductions. The key individuals are the Director of Engineering and the General Manager. The DOE must put forward a plan of attack, and the GM must put his or her position behind it. Lack of commitment by either will produce few results, but an enthusiastic embrace by both can achieve significant savings.

The Ritz-Carlton portfolio participating in the program is diverse with several located in tropical climates, others in cold weather areas, and still others in dry or desert conditions. Location alone will begin to define a hotel’s energy profile. But more importantly, the hotel’s existing systems will dictate where it stands on a BTU/SF metric. A property with a full service laundry will consume more energy per square foot than a similar property that has none. A hotel serving a half million food covers per year will consume more than one serving only 100,000, all other things being equal. Hotels with aging and inefficient lighting or HVAC equipment will also consume more energy.

Therefore, the ability to modify or change existing systems, or change the way in which these systems operate becomes an extremely important process in moving toward greater energy efficiency. Replacing inefficient equipment requires capital expenditures, some of which have attractive returns on investment. These changes and upgrades are identified by doing a comprehensive energy audit on the facility. Modifying the method of operation of certain systems like HVAC can also achieve positive results. This process is called retro-commissioning. Each EMS property had both an energy audit and retro-commissioning done during the Program.

During the course of the Program, through both energy audits and retro-commissioning at each of the hotels, almost 800 separate energy projects were identified. Some of these involved capital expenditures while the rest did not. More than half of the total energy conservation measures (ECMs) were reported completed. Statistics on the savings generated by these ECMs across the portfolio are shown below.

These savings were generated over the course of the program and became valid as each ECM was completed. Some of these projects were done in year one while others were completed in years two and three. But the total energy saved by the completion of these 433 projects is enough to power over 1,300 average sized homes for a year.

 

QUARTERLY REPORTING

One of the key documents reported throughout the course of the program was a usage reduction report. This report outlined the overall energy usage reduction for each property on a monthly basis as it related to its Energy Baseline. A similar report is presented below summarizing the entire portfolio’s Program performance versus the overall goal.

The adjusted Energy Baseline for The Ritz-Carlton portfolio was 175,893 BTU/SF. The baseline was adjusted to account for hotel openings, closings, large variations in occupancy, and other events that resulted in major changes in energy usage and/or baseline year. The Energy Baseline in conjunction with the 3% annual goal was used to outline annual reduction goals for each program year. All baseline adjustments have been incorporated in this table.

The usage reduction report also showed a comparative annual BTU/SF graph indicating the portfolio’s annual performance since the base year. Last, the report contained a table listing the top ten energy conservation measures recommended for implementation at all of the properties. The method of selection of these measures was determined by: (1) the frequency in which they were recommended; (2) the effectiveness of the measure in BTU/SF savings; and (3) its financial viability in terms of payback. All numbers presented are averages from the actual projects recommended. Two of the measures are classified as no-cost, low-cost opportunities generated in the retro-commissioning process; the others are categorized as capital projects.

During the course of the program, the Ritz-Carlton portfolio reduced its overall energy consumption by 13.2% relative to the collective Energy Baselines of all the properties. That is 47% over the stated goal of a 9% reduction

A timeline was generated for each property in order to better grasp visually the effect of their efforts to reduce energy consumption.  Two timelines for the portfolio were developed indicating only major hotel events such as openings, closings, etc.  The first showed raw, unadjusted consumption in millions of BTUs, the second presented consumption adjusted for occupancy and other changes in BTU per square foot.

CARBON FOOTPRINT

The quarterly Performance Report updated the hotels on their historic (unadjusted) performance by utility type. These inputs were then translated into carbon emissions to create a carbon footprint for each specific property. The tracking of carbon emissions became more important as the program progressed, especially for marketing purposes at the property level.

The carbon footprint was calculated by converting both electric energy consumption and natural gas (or propane, fuel oil, etc.) usage into carbon emissions. Electric energy consumption creates indirect carbon emissions (direct emissions associated with this usage comes at the power plant); the burning of natural gas or other fuels on site in boilers or stoves creates direct emissions.  Emissions resulting from on-site combustion are a known fixed quantity per unit of fuel burned; therefore the calculation of direct emissions is simply the product of the usage times the CO2 rate per unit.  To calculate indirect emissions conversion factors obtained from the EPA in their Energy Star program are used by geographic region to translate electric usage into metric tons of CO2.   The portfolio’s carbon footprint over the duration of the program was shown in a separate graphic along with each property’s footprint in kilograms per available room and kilograms per square foot.

ENERGY INDEX

As a part of the engineering service, each hotel had an energy profile calculated to give a better indication of how well that property was performing. The profile took into account the type of building, the existing HVAC systems in operation, operational parameters, occupancy, food covers, and hotel location. The result of this process was a BTU/SF value that was regarded as a norm and not a goal. The property’s energy index was generated by comparing this value against the property’s actual energy consumption. Hence a value below 1.0 represents a hotel whose operation is better than the norm and has less room for improvement. A hotel with a value above 1.0 is one whose operation should be able to be improved.

The chart below shows the energy indices for each property calculated after the base year and the current indices. In most cases, the current indices had decreased indicating better overall performance since the program inception. San Francisco had its index increase dramatically due to the start- up of a co-generation plant. San Francisco consumed significantly more energy on site once the co-gen plant came on line due to natural gas usage for the micro-turbines, but because of the nature of a co-gen system, San Francisco lowered its overall energy cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.

CONCLUSIONS

As previously discussed, The Ritz-Carlton energy program was tremendously successful. On a portfolio basis, energy consumption was reduced by over 13% from the 2005 baseline which gave rise to a substantial decrease in energy spend as outline in the table below.

These gains in energy efficiency are all the more remarkable considering the extremely high standards set by The Ritz-Carlton Hotels to create its ultra-luxury brand. Standards in guest comfort and overall guest experience precluded the use of certain energy saving devices, such as compact fluorescent lamps. As such, energy conservation measures were recommended in order to not compromise brand standards. If additional compact fluorescent lighting projects and other miscellaneous measures had been incorporated into the list of energy savings projects, the savings would have been even more dramatic.

One of the two primary success factors in The Ritz-Carlton’s ability to drive down energy use were the more than 400 energy projects undertaken during the program. As noted above properties that completed energy conservation measures saved more than those that did not. And ECMs tend to have a lasting effect. Once a measure is put in place, it will typically continue to produce energy savings.

The second primary source of success of the Program was the ability of management to change the attitudes of entire hotel staffs regarding the use of energy. This is a key factor because large energy savings are often the result of many small initiatives, ones that the Ladies and Gentlemen are likely to make if they have been well schooled in the value of saving energy. This paradigm change is a testament to the skillful leadership at The Ritz-Carlton and their continued focus on energy conservation.

Case Study: Breaking down Barriers Between a Hotel and Its F&B Franchise

Breaking down Barriers Between a Hotel and Its F&B Franchise

When it comes to thinking broadly about food and beverage, hoteliers can either opt to supervise and operate their hotel F&B programs internally or they can work with a partner who will manage the culinary branding. This decision can determine the type of consumer dining at the restaurant and greatly affect the bottom line.

Recently, hotel executives are beginning to favor the latter option. The logic behind this shift drives right back to the greater potential for revenue from incorporating an experience restaurant group to operate the property’s F&B in addition to the power that such an entity can have towards garnering incremental returns from customers.

In my experience, though, the biggest challenge in these collaborations is properly aligning the processes needed to operate two separate hospitality-driven businesses under the same roof. Disagreements and unclear responsibilities to this effect can often lead to barriers that prevent both parties from reaching a fluid partnership.

During contract negotiations, talks about the actual operation usually concentrate mainly on task ownership, such as what department will deliver ice to guest rooms or who should clean common spaces. First, however, hoteliers should try to understand the situation from their partners’ viewpoint. What actually attracts a restaurateur to hotel management agreements are two main objectives.

The first is a hotel group that will help build their restaurant without a major upfront financial contribution and with the ROI for the hotel usually paid back via higher profit-sharing within the first five to seven years of operation. The second reason is a matter of risk; if the restaurant is not successful, they can walk away without a significant monetary loss.

The tradeoff that may prevent a hotel from forming such a collaboration is that the associated company has to provide all food, beverage and services for every hotel amenity. These amenities include, but are not limited, to in-room dining, employee cafeterias, lounges, banquets, lobby spaces, pools and any other public area.

Thus, in order to attain a success working relationship, there needs to be a clear vision and strategy in place for the hotel, in conjunction with alignment of purpose between the property and F&B teams.

Situation and Challenge

I was hired by an NYC-based hotel in order to ‘fix’ their third-party F&B company. My client was extremely frustrated by the level of service the guests were getting. This foodservice provider happened to be a well-established restaurateur with two successful and well-known brands. The company also had a loyal following and a plethora of experience in the restaurant space but zero experience in hotel F&B.

Due to the negative feedback hotel management was receiving from their guests, several senior executives were starting to get extremely frustrated while market share and brand reputation were slowly eroding. As it turns out, this F&B partner couldn’t get ahead of the issues and they were quite overwhelmed. This combination resulted in a toxic relationship that was felt by management and staff in every department. Before you knew it there was a pitched between the hotel and the F&B teams.

As part of my initial analysis, I explained that for hotel restaurants to be well-received, they need to be conceptualized and treated as unique business entities – separate yet compatible with the hotel. The environment needs to be barrier-free in order to avoid such conflicts. Below are examples of how putting the time and effort into breaking down barriers between the two operators transformed an extremely volatile situation into a thriving partnership.

Contract Solutions

Putting together management contracts for third-party F&B services takes a lot of time, money and planning. I most often find these agreements to set a very negative tone for the future operation. The language is very stark and defines the sides with a very sharp divide. Moreover, legal documents have to be written in a text that can only be translated one way – that is, they are necessary but they create a gap right out of the gate.

Operating agreements penned between partners must have structure so they can be managed independently by the ground team, but there can be subtext added to promote brand equity for both units. In this client’s particular case, they didn’t have it all figured out. When reality set in, it was quickly realized that they were in a power struggle that was creating roadblocks and getting in the way of running a healthy business.

Once the epiphany had taken place, we worked with in-house leadership and focused on the things that mattered and added value – profitability! Ultimately, that meant they are both there to provide a strong and compelling internal and external value proposition. In order to have a strong external value proposition, the internal one needs to be compelling. If the internal is not intact, the external will never be successful. I have honestly never known of a bulletproof contract, but I am fully aware of less combative strategies and methodologies that allow for a ‘straighter road’ to the finish line.

Marketing Solutions

Although they fuse together nicely, hotel and F&B operations require independent but harmonious marketing strategies. The partnership should always be remembered and brought into the fold when possible – on both sides of the fence.

For example, when conducting a photoshoot for the room division at this NYC locale, the culinary team was not included in the artistic components but was needed to cater food to the team during the shoot. When the chef was made aware that outside food was used for the actual photographs, the first instinct was to engage in a power struggle. His argument was that he allowed the film crew to use his staff to deliver food to avoid the expense of a full banquet team so he should at the very least have been consulted. Although there was a contractual obligation in place to provide a 50% discount on the food to the hotel staff, the photoshoot was, however, during his busiest time of day. The chef wanted the opportunity to provide the culinary for the shoot and get ad credit.

When confronted with this, I saw two departments with two agendas. The hotel was paying for and organizing this campaign, so why should they include F&B? The chef then retorted, “Why should I have to use my staff to deliver discounted food?” My straightforward answer was that each entity holds valuable resources that can benefit one another in a unique way.

One side would get complimentary food for their photoshoot from a partner that is invested in the success of the promotion, while the other will get culinary credit in-print or online. Once we reframed each party’s demands, it was a ‘win-win’ for all. What started as a battle for control ended in a innovative collaboration for the future.

Fixing Breakfast

Hotels have a much sharper view of how breakfast service should run because guests consider the morning meal as part of their overall hotel experience. When things don’t go well during this meal period, it is a direct reflection on the hotel. Without prior knowledge of breakfast being viewed more as an ‘amenity’ rather than a strict ‘revenue outlet’, realigning resources can be very challenging for a foodservice operator.

Creating a process that encompasses all of the details of service, loyalty programs from the hotel and proper scheduling are imperative. In this instance, the F&B operator could not get it right. In order to answer guest complaints of poor service, the F&B supervisors just kept adding staff, and yet they still couldn’t get ahead of the operational differences.

I dug deep to understand what the issues were exactly as management did not know. All they knew was they were being forwarded multiple emails per day from clients stating concerns about their F&B experiences and asking for compensation or reimbursement. No one ever sat down and said, “Here are the concerns and this is what we would like to see.”

The immediate step was that I got them off of email and into the boardroom where I asked the team to listen and write things down. Via this process, we rapidly learned one change could clear up five problems. Guest were frustrated because all they wanted was ketchup for their potatoes or raspberry preserves for their toast; they’d ask five people and nothing ever arrived.

Going forward, all tables were set and reset with every breakfast condiment they could think of. This saved steps while simultaneously clearing up more chaos than one can imagine. Once in place, new steps of service were memorialized into the training guides, staff side-work and management duties. These new manuals were shared with the hotel and, when faced with complaints, their team members could explain the service model used in the restaurant without generating a feeling of separation or a lack of care for the patron.

In the beginning of the partnership, it is essential to lay out goals from each side for the agreement. For the hotel, brand recognition from the restaurant group is paramount, but not always relevant. If your F&B partner is known for a certain type of cuisine, one needs to be aware that this flavor profile will flow through all meal periods. The food options will show themselves on the breakfast menu in the form of different grains, sauces, portion size and selections in general. It cannot be assumed that the morning meal will follow a classic standard of eggs benedict and pancakes.

Chefs communicate through their food. While it is hard to conform, in these situations it is necessary. If the demographics of both the local and hotel clientele are calling for granola instead of the restaurateur’s preexisting preference for quinoa, that needs to be respected. If the locals want ketchup instead of puréed sundried tomatoes, the former must be made available.

In this particular case, hotel guests were asking for traditional items and when their requests went unanswered, disappointment set in. Taking my time to thoroughly explain this from the guest’s point of view, the chef was able to understand and find a happy median between adapting to requests and maintaining his foods’ identity. All told, this one alteration made a meaningful difference in the overall tone of the partnership.

In-Room Dining (IRD)

IRD is a very tricky department for a third-party F&B operator. The staff are employees of the restaurant that work with restaurant patrons, but only interact with hotel guests. For this reason, the hotel partner has a heavy influence in this area by way of requirements for the tray set-up, uniforms, phone scripts, delivery times and tray pick-up. The IRD staff shares storage space, uses the service elevators and, most importantly, enters guestrooms. A major struggle I saw was delivery times for the breakfast meal period.

Calling IRD for a pot of coffee and some toast on your way to a business meeting could take an hour for delivery. They tried adding staff but it didn’t work. I suggested looking into the service elevator set-up. Hotel staff were scheduled to arrive at the peak of the in-room-dining rush which meant that all of housekeeping would be waiting for the service elevators to get to their assigned floors at the same exact time as the IRD staff were trying to deliver hot food within the quoted time.

This was clear to the staff on both sides of the equation but they just developed defenses against the issue and ultimately made things worse. Elevators were being held on floors while some staff members were pushing all the buttons so elevators would stop on every floor so they could jump out and grab supplies. It was a disaster!

Back to the boardroom, we went through this issue with the hotel & F&B managers, and then staggered the staff schedules around the service elevator usage. Next, we changed the hours of employee cafeteria usage so that some teams would have their meals at peak times in order to ease traffic on the floors. These two simple yet meticulous alterations ended up making a world of difference.

Problems At The Pool

There is nothing more frustrating than relaxing by the hotel pool then asking for a menu only to be told, “I’m sorry, but I work for the hotel. I’ll get someone who can help you.” Or worse, getting out of the pool and in need of a towel only for a staff member to say, “I’m not allowed to give out towels. Let me see if I can find a pool attendant.”

Whenever employees from two different departments share the same customers and space, the approach for service and training must be crystal clear. Everyone wants to know their role and responsibility for ease of process and efficiency.

In this case, we came up with a ‘chit’ system. This procedure is used to communicate between departments without it being obvious to the guest. It functions through a ticket being filled out by the pool attendant which is then given to server with guest information. The purpose was to give one another silent cues and encourage an exchange between the different sections without it being visible to the guest. Soon, everyone was back to sun-and-fun at the pool!

Long-Term Results

Now going into the second year of the partnership, there is a salubrious working relationship between both teams on this property. Positive feedback from guests on TripAdvisor and their own internal ratings have both increased, while occupancy is at the budgeted levels. In addition to the three revenue outlets described above, the partners are in talks to take over other amenities within the hotel. Now that there is trust, the partnership can continue.

The moral of the story is that when engaging in a partnership where both individuals reside in the same building, barriers needs to be broken down. Joint ventures are formed because of a perception of mutual value. For this, though, brand equity has to be an added component to the agreement while effort needs to be exerted to push forward and not quibble over whose responsibility it is to clean the garbage room or who is to blame for a flood.

Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” This should be the motto by which all hotel F&B agreements operate.


About the Author

Kelli Carucci is a former member of Cayuga Hospitality Consultants.