Naked Bootleg: Football Play Gives Game Plan to Hoteliers and Restaurateurs
Interactive online specials, special events, amazing and genuine customer service, leadership required to weather the storm.By Robert A. Rauch, CHA - President of RAR Hospitality
Naked bootleg is a term used in football whereby the quarterback runs counter to his blockers and tries to create a run or pass opportunity with no help from his blockers. With changes in the economy, new products entering our market and brands trying to out smart other brands, we are operating our businesses naked. We are trying to develop new strategies in the ways we operate and market our hotels while trying to stay ahead of game changers such as new technology, savvy customers and new product in our markets.
Management today must include creative leadership that stresses the urgency to work as a team and find ways to entice corporate travelers and groups to our hotels and restaurants. Gone are the days when we just responded to leads from our brands and convention bureaus. Also gone are the days when we posted our "vacancy" signs outside the hotel and guests would just check in...yes, I was around in the 1970s when that was all that was necessary to fill a mid-market hotel.
Today, we need to be developing revenue sources in a whole new ballgame. Consumers are vigilant at finding the absolute best value out there. They are savvy in the way they shop by consulting multiple web sites and relying on social media to get input from friends or those who think alike. That means that we as operators must know what key words to use to get potential guests to find our own web sites and we must proactively utilize social media to market our products. This medium includes but is certainly not limited to Trip Advisor, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Restaurants need to be conscious of Yelp along with their ratings and reviews.
Moreover, we must be very responsive to any requests for information by providing clear, concise correspondence that highlights our competitive advantages and shows where the value is in staying at our properties. Our proposals must be both attractive in appearance and easy to read and (though it seems like a given) have flawless grammar and no spelling errors or typos.
Those of us with restaurants, spas, and ancillary businesses must be extra aggressive in targeting repeat users via digital marketing. In our case, at the Hilton Garden Inn, San Diego/ Del Mar, we actually create our own events including seminars on college funding, health and fitness, and more. We host winemaker dinners and wine and food tastings on a regular basis as well. Our bar specials are never ending with specials seven days a week. These prove to build strong relationships with not only hotel guests, but also local neighbors.
Once we are able to get guests to our hotels and restaurants, we must provide "wow" customer service. When we look at service today, there are basically four levels: basic, expected, desired and wow. Basic service can be found at the post office. Expected service can be found at most fast food restaurants and many businesses today. Desired service is often found at good hotels and restaurants...but "wow" service is the only way to ensure repeat business.
How do we provide wow service? It's all about training, that first item in the budget to be cut by many companies. Good training coupled with strong leadership makes for a good start. To retain customers and get a viral marketing effect for your business, travelers must feel they are getting value. Add in a "wow" customer service level and that viral marketing grows exponentially. Relationships with clients and guests can be developed much more easily when the combination of value and wow service is apparent. That combination of high value in traveler sentiment and wow customer service is paramount.
Leadership is showing the management team how critical this concept is by "walking the talk." We all have something that we can do that is different. In my case, I run with our guests at the Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites, Del Mar and offer personal training sessions for others. My passion and knowledge of running and fitness motivate me to coach our guests into a healthy lifestyle. Relationships can be improved dramatically with genuine, individual interaction - and that is my goal...to build these relationships. Our "run with the GM" is popular with our business travelers, especially those who do not yet know the neighborhood.
For better or worse, it takes more than driving revenues to thrive today as a hotelier. Hiring the right people is certainly part of it but there are responsibilities that we have that cannot disappear even when the economy threatens to cripple us. Good insurance policies require diligence. Safety and security of staff and guests, an up-to-date emergency plan and a very clear set of policies is at the heart of preventive management.
Speaking of preventive management, staying on top of capital expenditures and routine maintenance projects is difficult during these tough times. There is a delicate balance between rigidly tight expense control and prudent investing in key areas. To make profits in these times is much more difficult than when the proverbial "wind is at our back." Let's hope 2015 has more positive "wind" to be blown our way.
Robert A. Rauch, CHA
Robert Rauch, CHA, is a nationally recognized hotelier and President of R. A. Rauch & Associates, Inc., a leading hospitality management and consulting firm. Rauch has over 35 years of hospitality- related management experience in all facets of the industry. Widely recognized as the 'hotel guru', Mr. Rauch maintains a blog where he expounds upon insights and trends in the hospitality industry at www.hotelguru.com. Along with the blog, he also publishes Hospitality Innsights, an electronic newsletter that is distributed monthly. Mr. Rauch held nearly every position in the hotel business including General Manager of full-service Four Diamond hotels for Hilton and Embassy Suites. His education includes a bachelor’s degree in Hotel Administration from Western International University and a master’s degree in Tourism Administration from Arizona State University. He is a Certified Hotel Administrator and has served as chairman of numerous tourism organizations nationally and in the western U.S. He has been directly involved in developing several leading brand hotels, some of which the firm still owns and manages. R. A. Rauch & Associates, Inc. currently operates hotels in California, Arizona and Colorado with several under development.Sales & MarketingUSA & CanadaUnited States