Repositioning F&B to Succeed in the New Restaurant Reality

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Much like the rest of the hospitality industry, food and beverage is at the precipice of change, accelerated by the lockdowns and prohibition of dine-in business brought about by the COVID-19 crisis. With that in mind, Sherri Kimes, researcher and professor emeritus at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration, and HSMAI Revenue Optimization Vanguard Lifetime Award winner, gave a presentation titled “How to Reposition Your F&B to Succeed in the ‘New’ Restaurant Reality” as a part of HSMAI’s virtual ROC@Home event.

While the COVID-19 crisis has brought F&B issues to a head, they have been underlying for a while, as customers have shown a preference for off-premises dining such as takeout or delivery. Many F&B professionals have been slow to embrace this because of lower profitability, and thus they haven’t made the necessary investments for the future. But when restaurants closed as part of the coronavirus lockdown, they were forced to adapt in order to survive, rapidly bringing about the transition to a new restaurant reality.

Kimes explained how F&B professionals can continue to maximize the tools they have at their disposal and embrace this new reality. The challenge is trying to make the same amount of money — or more money — with fewer diners. Kimes’ main points: Restaurateurs need both to tweak their existing systems and to innovate. Meanwhile, she recommended utilizing tools such as pricing, upselling, menu design, promotion, and distribution as always. “You want to use these to your full advantage, because they are always going to be available to you,” Kimes said.

Beyond that, it’s necessary for hotels to tweak restaurants, banqueting, and in-room dining, all of which need to be rethought in light of COVID-19 limitations. “What can you do to generate more revenue from what you have right now?” she asked.

Most obviously, restaurants need to readjust the number of patrons they can serve in their space. Kimes suggested finding unused space, such as excess guest rooms, to serve customers — and focusing on customers outside of the dining room. “The concept of capacity has changed,” Kimes said. “You have to make the most of the seats that you can fill. You can’t do it by raising the price too much, but if you have a lot of excess staff, see if they can deliver it. There’s some wonderful food in hotel restaurants and we should get it out there.”

Indeed, food delivery is what saved a lot of restaurants during the worst of the pandemic, but many hotel restaurants have been slow to embrace it. “There’s a lot of potential there,” Kimes said. “There’s a lot of issues as well, but it’s a revenue stream that you need to look at.”

While banquets for business meetings and large weddings may not be happening any time soon, hotels need to find new ways to use their event space and kitchens when things are slow. Examples Kimes offered included utilizing the space for small weddings so guests can spread out and hosting a popup restaurant. “I saw a wedding the other day in a banquet hall, and they had their masks on, but it was still a very special event, even with 14 people there,” Kimes said.

In-room dining also offers interesting possibilities, Kimes said. Guests might prefer to eat in their rooms as opposed to eating out, which brings opportunities, but the danger lies with delivering food to them safely. Kimes suggested using delivery robots as an innovative solution. “This is a wonderful opportunity that you should take full advantage of,” she said. “It’s an unwanted opportunity, but it’s a chance, so don’t waste it.”

There are many more creative opportunities for restaurants to serve customers from a distance. Kimes gave several examples that she has seen become successful, including a signature cocktail delivery service, selling food kits to make things like breakfast sandwiches, and sending out wine as part of virtual wine tastings. “We never thought anything like this would be successful, but it has been,” Kimes said. “We’re used to dealing with things being the same, but they’re not the same anymore. Right now, there’s a limit to how much you can do with rooms and you have to find other ways to generate revenue. It’s a great opportunity to differentiate yourself.”

To get an all-access pass that allows you to watch all of the presentations from ROC@Home in full, visit https://roc-home.heysummit.com/. For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

 

What’s Changing for Hotel Management Company Digital Marketers

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, HSMAI has served as a resource to connect peer groups to discuss the changing landscape. Having hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for brand chief digital officers on June 23, HSMAI hosted a similar program for hotel management company CDOs on June 24, giving participants a chance to catch up and share new insights since the last roundtable for this group was held in April.

Participants chose what topics the program focused on; participating companies included Apple REIT, Concord Hospitality, Marcus, Noble Investment, Prism Hotels &Resorts, Remington, and Stonebridge Companies.

SPEND SHIFT

Several participants said that, contrary to their usual practices, they have been focusing on OTA spend, while brand spend and paid search spend are down. “We will take whatever we can get, whether it’s direct or OTA — I can’t believe I’m saying that,” one participant said. “It’s cutthroat.”

“We have to rely on what the brands do,” another participant said. “If they turn off spend, we aren’t doing it, and so the OTAs become our best friends because they allow us to do stuff to drive business to the hotel.”

“We have to be where the guests are, and if they are searching on OTAs, then we need to be there,” another participant said. “We’re not going to get that business if we’re not there.”

Other participants said that they have been focusing on conserving their dollars as much as possible, leading them to choices such as social media, which can drive business without risking a lot of money. “We’re all just laying low right now,” one participant said after most of the group revealed that they are focusing on low-cost options. “It’s fascinating that we’ve all done the same thing.”

FIGHTING FOR BUDGETS

Roundtable participants said they have to go to bat for their marketing budgets and show why they need the funds to operate. “We are fighting for every dollar we get,” one participant said. “We have to constantly reeducate people on why we market and why putting a dollar here is better than putting it somewhere else.”

“We have dozens of hotels set to reopen in the next few weeks, and we need to bring back labor resources before the hotels reopen so that we can properly support the reopening,” another participant said. “We have to lobby for the resource allocation before they’re even open in order to support them.”

“It’s been a challenge to prove how much we have going on,” another participant said. “Everyone thinks they’re only asking us for one thing, but those ‘one things’ add up to about 600 things.”

“Most of our days are spent doing non-paid activities, like photography or merchandising,” another participant said. “We need to do a better job of focusing on those day-to-day tasks when we explain why we need human resources.”

STAFFING CHANGES

While many hotels are continuing to lay off and furlough staff, one participant’s organization is looking at expanding its team instead of letting people go. “We may actually be adding staff to our teams,” the participant said. “When the dust settles, we imagine there will be a lot of assets available and there will be a flurry of transactions as people struggle with liquidity. We may be adding more management teams and adding them to our portfolio.”

Another participant said that, instead of offering personalized support, their properties are handling digital marketing support requests with an alias email address that any property can reach out to, which has been successful. “I think we’re anticipating keeping our higher level of support alias for the next few months until we’re in a good place to customize the support level,” the participant said. “It allows us to handle more than 100-plus groups with a small group fairly efficiently.”

Several participants said that they were forced to stop outsourcing and contracting with agencies (creative, digital, etc.,) and may elect not to return to those types of partnerships in the future. “We’re looking at keeping on doing whatever we can in-house,” one participant said. “And continuing with that may create positions that didn’t exist previously.”

“I think there is a time and place for using agencies,” another participant said, “but we found that there was a significant cost savings by doing things in-house.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

Leisure Sales in a Post-COVID Marketplace

By Kathleen A. Cullen, Senior Vice President, PHG Consulting

Leisure travelers are expected to be among the first people to begin traveling again, but as with corporate travelers, they will look for hotels that are well prepared and put health and cleanliness at the top of their priority list. The days of luxury hotels magically making things happen behind the scenes will have to change when it comes to sanitation. Visuals will be key — and expected.

The following are some tips on how your hotel can remain engaged with travel management companies (TMCs), so you are top of mind once travelers are ready to make their next journey:

  • Consider using your technology to support virtual events.
  • Stay engaged with travel advisers and keep them informed. They are very interested in staying up-to-date in their hotel knowledge.
  • Work with your global sales offices or representatives to have the best chance of getting your hotel in front of travel advisers.
  • Agents will continue to use a global distribution system (GDS) but will have more questions about safety and health. Provide them with an email to ensure they have a way to ask those questions and keep a written trail of what is said. They will want to retain this information.
  • Consider doing a video of your cleaning process and share the video with booking agents.
  • Pay commissions in a timely manner — agents have been severely impacted. Consider offering bonus commission promotions.

Realistically, many things will not go back to “normal.” Service industry professionals may end up wearing masks and gloves indefinitely. You need to start thinking about how to showcase your hotel differently. Evolve and be creative when looking to engage, and keep things more intimate initially.

Excerpted from New Rules to Be Market Ready, by Kathleen A. Cullen, a new white paper available from HSMAI and PHG Consulting. For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

 

Group Sales in a Post-COVID Marketplace

By Kathleen A. Cullen, Senior Vice President, PHG Consulting

The group sales landscape likely will be very different in the near to medium term. The entire world has watched meetings and events scheduled for the first half of 2020 either cancel or postpone to later in the year, or even move to 2021. The challenge is knowing the best time to rebook. Hotels will need to be agile in pivoting to whatever the new normal looks like.

Approach conversations with your group clients in a transparent and partner-like way, displaying a sense of togetherness, compassion, and care and offering significant flexibility. The following is a list of key items that group representatives are expecting from hotels:

  • Cancellation and cutoff dates may need to be reevaluated for the remainder of 2020 to provide more flexibility in decision timelines.
  • Attrition clauses may no longer be accepted. Hotels will need to think about what is more important — group business at 50 percent of expected size or no group at all?
  • F&B minimums may have to be removed.
  • Room-to-space ratio requirements should be reexamined.
  • Program designs will have to allow for more space between attendees. There may be fewer attendees but the same space requirement to allow for social distancing. Rounds initially planned for eight people may go to five. Think in advance about how to handle groups that are “space heavy” and have an “off-rooms-to-space ratio” in their ask.

Alleviate client concerns in advance by communicating measures your hotel is putting into place before the question is even asked. These groups selected your hotel based on certain services and staffing levels, so it will be important to provide them information on what they can expect now:

  • First, reassure clients that your hotel is open and ready to welcome their groups.
  • It will also be important to address your staffing and planning for groups. Many hotels were forced to furlough much, if not all, of their staff. A natural concern will be who is available to prepare and support clients in advance of their programs. Communicate that staffing — and plan in advance, so clients have confidence.
  • Communicate service adjustments you are putting into place. How will you handle buffet or food stations? Will there be a pass-through cost for these changes?
  • Offer floor plans showing new room setups with social spacing options.
  • Should every table have not just pads and pens but also sanitizer?
  • What about the financial stability of your hotel? A legitimate concern of some clients could be the liability of deposits and the solvency of the hotel. Perhaps reassure them by offering to put deposits into an escrow account.
  • Does your air-conditioning system circulate recycled air or fresh air? If your hotel has been closed for a period of time, the HVAC system should be inspected to ensure that it is free of contaminants.
  • What virtual capabilities and internet strength can you offer for attendees who participate remotely?
  • Communicate the cleaning process, including sharing videos about it. Perhaps offer to put cleaning solutions in the rooms for guests who want the added comfort and ability to do it themselves.

Hotels that alleviate concerns in advance of any questions will provide significant comfort to group clients and have the best chance to secure the business. Give clients what they need. It won’t be about rate — it will be about trust, care, and communication.

Excerpted from New Rules to Be Market Ready, by Kathleen A. Cullen, a new white paper available from HSMAI and PHG Consulting. For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

 

What’s Changing for Brand Digital Marketers

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, HSMAI has served as a resource to connect peer groups to discuss the changing landscape. HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for brand Chief Digital Officers on June 23, giving participants a chance to catch up and share new insights since the last brand CDO roundtable in April (read takeaways from that roundtable here and here).

Participants chose what topics the program focused on; participating companies included Accor, Club Quarters, PHG Consulting, Red Roof, Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, and Aqua Aston. Here are key takeaways from their discussion:

NEW DIGITAL MARKETING TACTICS

As marketing budgets have been slashed, participants said they have stopped using display ads and pay-for-click advertising, focusing instead on methods like social media and email campaigns for which the cost is lower. Social media has been a vital tool for digital marketers to get their messaging across and has become a more prominent part of marketing plans during the pandemic. “Social media has become so important as a connection point to engage with guests,” one participant said.

But social media’s merits go beyond just engagement another participant pointed out. It’s the quickest way to communicate policy changes with guests, market the hotel in an affordable way, and share messaging on cleaning protocols. “For us, marketing our cleanliness and safety protocols has taken center stage,” one participant said.

Participants also said they have shifted away from top-funnel marketing and are focusing on low-funnel marketing methods such as meta and brand SEM.

HYPERLOCAL MARKETING

It is vital that hotels focus on attracting the increasingly important drive market. “Other business is just not coming in right now,” one participant said. “There are a lot of people shopping, but nobody is booking, so we need to change our parameters to retarget the local market.”

Although the drive market typically refers to guests who live within a few hours of the hotel, several participants mentioned that the parameters of that definition are expanding, as people are still looking to travel by car but are willing to drive for longer periods of time. One participant has seen the drive market expand to anyone who is less than two full days’ drive away.

“The drive markets are surprisingly larger than anticipated,” one participant said. “There are a lot of nuances in how we define drive market, which vary by city. Right now, we’re tweaking our messaging to retarget long-distance drivers.”

CHANGING AND ELIMINATING ROLES

Many of the participants at the roundtable have seen a reduction in their teams, and several said they don’t anticipate being able to rehire anytime soon. One participant has heard estimates that as many as one third of industry workers who were laid off or furloughed will not be replaced. “You’re going to have to be creative,” the participant said. “You’re going to have to find new ways, whether it’s hiring people on your team who are flexible or educating yourself to be a jack of all trades in order to get everything done.”

Another participant said that they see senior leadership roles consolidated. “I can see a shift to having just one senior leader and several junior leaders, instead of multiple senior leaders,” the participant said. “Some have already started to make that change and others are already there.”

Another participant said that a lot of money and effort has been put into bolstering housekeeping staff and systems in order to make guests feel safe and comfortable, but that level of effort won’t be exerted to bring back any other teams. “It’s not needed, and the customers don’t want it,” the participant said. “We’re at a point now where the cost savings has been tremendous, and it is what it is.”

Another change that participants see coming is an increase in remote positions across the board. “You used to have people who oversaw one or two hotels, but now are going to be overseeing multiple hotels,” another participant added. “GMs aren’t going to be able to demand that specific people be onsite anymore. In order to get the top talent, you’re going to have to be flexible with locations.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

What Is Business Acumen and Why Is It So Important?

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

No matter your discipline, business acumen is essential to your career in the hospitality industry. Learning business acumen means getting acquainted with everything you should know about the business world — soft skills, finance, reporting, communications, investing, profitability.

Specific to the hospitality industry, whether you’re looking to better understand metrics and managing business priorities, strengthen your partnership with hotel owners, or simply drive better results, sharpening your core business acumen skills will help. While these skills may seem simple, business acumen is something that hospitality professionals often overlook because it’s so fundamental. And while not having a strong proficiency in business acumen may not be detrimental to your career, having those skills is often what sets people apart from their peers.

HSMAI has offered a Certified Hospitality Business Acumen (CHBA) class for organizations that want to improve their teams’ business strengths for nearly a decade, and recently introduced a version of the course for individual hospitality professionals. The CHBA program enables participants to upgrade their business acumen skills and drives an elevated understanding of the hospitality industry and how it operates.

According to Peter Russell of Russell Partnership Technology, HSMAI’s partner in the CHBA, business acumen incorporates the core essentials that everyone needs in order to be successful in the hospitality industry and is something that hospitality professionals in all disciplines can benefit from. “It delivers the knowledge that they would otherwise find it quite hard to obtain,” Russell said. “A lot of people assume everyone knows this stuff, but nobody takes the time to teach it. There are a great number of people working their way through the ranks, and as they progress, that essential training and soft skills become more and more important.”

WHY DO YOU NEED BUSINESS ACUMEN?

As hotels and other businesses begin to reopen, it is more important than ever for hospitality professionals to have strong business acumen in order to thrive in the post-COVID environment. “I think that the businesses that adapt quickly will be the ones to survive and recover, so now is the ideal time to grow your business acumen,” Russell said. “Business acumen is all about driving your business forward and generating business success. Every business is struggling with success right now, but in terms of coming out and revitalizing, business acumen is going to be an essential part of that in the post-COVID world.”

As more people improve their business acumen skills and progress in their careers, the hospitality industry benefits as well with an influx of more well-rounded employees. Committing to advance your knowledge in business acumen demonstrates a willingness to improving your skillset and expanding your expertise, which leads to further opportunities for individuals and companies. “Stronger skills in business acumen enable people to move to bigger roles and realize dreams they have,” Russell said. “It gives them the knowledge they need to succeed and grow in their careers. It’s good for the individuals and it’s good for the industry as a whole to have more knowledgeable workers out there.”

And it’s not just for the entry level. Business acumen can be beneficial to people at every level of their career — from students still learning hospitality fundamentals, to C-level executives who want to strengthen their basic skills — and in every discipline. “While some elements of business acumen may be more applicable to some disciplines more than others, everyone needs that baseline knowledge,” Russell said. “Every discipline needs people who are proficient in all of these skills.”

WHAT IS THE CHBA PROGRAM?

HSMAI has been hosting business acumen classes since 2007 and has been offering the CHBA class since 2012. Russell Partnership has worked with HSMAI to develop and rework the course to fit the needs of the industry. The company also works with educational partners who teach hospitality and business acumen to students and hotel companies.

In the CHBA group and individual courses, participants access simulations that put them in the seat of a general manager and has them make decisions on pricing, marketing, staffing, and investments set over the course of a 12-month business cycle.

“It’s the power of the online learning modules delivering business acumen and the simulation program allowing them to put into practice all they’ve learned,” Russell said. “The issue with some programs is that you don’t get to use the knowledge, so it fades away quickly. Placing participants in the simulations means they can put into practice what they’ve learned and make sure they’ve understood it.”

Learn more about or register for the individual and group CHBA program. The individual CHBA is currently being offered at 50 percent of the usual rate through July 31, 2020.

What Is Business Acumen and Why Is It So Important?

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

No matter your discipline, business acumen is essential to your career in the hospitality industry. Learning business acumen means getting acquainted with everything you should know about the business world — soft skills, finance, reporting, communications, investing, profitability.

Specific to the hospitality industry, whether you’re looking to better understand metrics and managing business priorities, strengthen your partnership with hotel owners, or simply drive better results, sharpening your core business acumen skills will help. While these skills may seem simple, business acumen is something that hospitality professionals often overlook because it’s so fundamental. And while not having a strong proficiency in business acumen may not be detrimental to your career, having those skills is often what sets people apart from their peers.

HSMAI has offered a Certified Hospitality Business Acumen (CHBA) class for organizations that want to improve their teams’ business strengths for nearly a decade, and recently introduced a version of the course for individual hospitality professionals. The CHBA program enables participants to upgrade their business acumen skills and drives an elevated understanding of the hospitality industry and how it operates.

According to Peter Russell of Russell Partnership Technology, HSMAI’s partner in the CHBA, business acumen incorporates the core essentials that everyone needs in order to be successful in the hospitality industry and is something that hospitality professionals in all disciplines can benefit from. “It delivers the knowledge that they would otherwise find it quite hard to obtain,” Russell said. “A lot of people assume everyone knows this stuff, but nobody takes the time to teach it. There are a great number of people working their way through the ranks, and as they progress, that essential training and soft skills become more and more important.”

WHY DO YOU NEED BUSINESS ACUMEN?

As hotels and other businesses begin to reopen, it is more important than ever for hospitality professionals to have strong business acumen in order to thrive in the post-COVID environment. “I think that the businesses that adapt quickly will be the ones to survive and recover, so now is the ideal time to grow your business acumen,” Russell said. “Business acumen is all about driving your business forward and generating business success. Every business is struggling with success right now, but in terms of coming out and revitalizing, business acumen is going to be an essential part of that in the post-COVID world.”

As more people improve their business acumen skills and progress in their careers, the hospitality industry benefits as well with an influx of more well-rounded employees. Committing to advance your knowledge in business acumen demonstrates a willingness to improving your skillset and expanding your expertise, which leads to further opportunities for individuals and companies. “Stronger skills in business acumen enable people to move to bigger roles and realize dreams they have,” Russell said. “It gives them the knowledge they need to succeed and grow in their careers. It’s good for the individuals and it’s good for the industry as a whole to have more knowledgeable workers out there.”

And it’s not just for the entry level. Business acumen can be beneficial to people at every level of their career — from students still learning hospitality fundamentals, to C-level executives who want to strengthen their basic skills — and in every discipline. “While some elements of business acumen may be more applicable to some disciplines more than others, everyone needs that baseline knowledge,” Russell said. “Every discipline needs people who are proficient in all of these skills.”

WHAT IS THE CHBA PROGRAM?

HSMAI has been hosting business acumen classes since 2007 and has been offering the CHBA class since 2012. Russell Partnership has worked with HSMAI to develop and rework the course to fit the needs of the industry. The company also works with educational partners who teach hospitality and business acumen to students and hotel companies.

In the CHBA group and individual courses, participants access simulations that put them in the seat of a general manager and has them make decisions on pricing, marketing, staffing, and investments set over the course of a 12-month business cycle.

“It’s the power of the online learning modules delivering business acumen and the simulation program allowing them to put into practice all they’ve learned,” Russell said. “The issue with some programs is that you don’t get to use the knowledge, so it fades away quickly. Placing participants in the simulations means they can put into practice what they’ve learned and make sure they’ve understood it.”

Learn more about or register for the individual and group CHBA program. The individual CHBA is currently being offered at 50 percent of the usual rate through July 31, 2020.

HSMAI PERSPECTIVE: Choosing to Be Part of the Solution

By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the country and around the world, hotel companies haven’t been quiet about voicing their support. I’d like to think it goes without saying that HSMAI joins these industry leaders in rejecting racism and intolerance, but at a time like this, that’s not good enough: HSMAI rejects racism and intolerance, and demands that Black people everywhere be treated with justice, equity, and respect.

Where we go from here is up to each of us individually, but we all must choose to be part of the solution. Certainly, our industry has a role to play in condemning exclusionary practices and fostering diversity and inclusion. We can begin by confronting the industry’s shameful past of exclusion and segregation, which necessitated the creation of resources for Black travelers such as The Negro Motorist Green Book; respecting the significant progress we have made since then; and acknowledging that we still have much further to go.

This is a battle that must and will be fought across many fronts. At HSMAI, we are most immediately prioritizing representation, which is the obvious but crucial idea that having Black people represented in our organization, fully and equally, matters — as contributing members, volunteer leaders, conference speakers, partners, employees, and every other way. To our Black members and leaders who are already active in HSMAI, thank you. We hope you’ll be part of our internal dialogue moving forward. We can do better, and we will.

Longer term, there is the broader problem of all minority groups being underrepresented among professionals working in hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization. This is something that our entire industry must address together, but I know the HSMAI Foundation — whose mission is build the hospitality talent and leadership pipeline — is positioned to contribute in a way that helps generate systemic, permanent change.

As I said, changing the way things are is as simple as choosing to be part of the solution. HSMAI so chooses.

Being a Successful Revenue Leader During This Time

By Kunal Shah, Travel & Transportation Practice Leader, ZS, and member of HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board

What makes a good hospitality revenue professional during these uncertain times? Members of HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Board (ROAB) discussed this question on a call on June 11. Their answers were wide ranging, but most agreed that it goes beyond simply being technically skilled — and that today’s environment brings soft skills into the limelight more than ever.

Here in their own words are what ROAB members are doing to help their revenue teams, how they think those teams can improve leading up to recovery, and what they have seen change.

COMPASSION, UNDERSTANDING, AND PATIENCE

Members of the ROAB who serve as leaders in their companies have been pressed to step up even more during the coronavirus crisis. Compassion, understanding, and patience were the traits that members said were especially important to have during this time.

  • “Even when things are rushed or feel like emergencies, try to have heartful, intentional conversations with team members. In many cases, when team members are furloughed, you don’t want to lose good people permanently, but you’ve had to part ways in some form right now. And I think there are genuine, heartfelt ways of handling that.”
  • “There’s so many conversations happening at so many levels where you kind of get off [a call] and it affects you. And if you get on the next call and it’s still impacting your mindset, it’s going to be really difficult to be optimistic or to be that cheerleader for someone, especially for our subordinates who maybe have some concerns about their job security.”
  • “I think that understanding that the isolation of both working at home and just all of the unknowns, really, can drive this underlying layer of paranoia in our team members. We have to make space and find the patience for that, because I have team members now that I rarely heard from once a month, but now they’re needing a lot more. I’m trying to listen as much as I can.”
  • “One thing that I found to be really helpful is looking at what’s critical in terms of the work to get done and releasing them of a lot of the mundane things or advocating for them if they’re getting pushed to spend their time in ways that are unproductive. I think that that helps them feel supported, that they’re not necessarily on the hook for the same workload when their time is short that way. It’s all about the people side of the business right now.”

BALANCING RESPONSIBILITIES WITH REALITY

What should revenue teams be doing right now? According to ROAB members, there are many opportunities to take on more responsibility and to completely revamp existing systems and processes, but at the same time, teams should be wary about “over-diluting” the revenue optimization role .

  • “You have to consider if you decimate your entire infrastructure or make changes that are permanent, that in 18 months, we could be back to a more balanced and traditional segment profile. That’s the tricky thing to say, ‘Is this a situation for the moment, or is this a situation that’s going to stick with us for years to come?’”
  • “We’re dealing with the teams that are now supporting maybe different hotels or certainly more hotels than they have in the past, and we’re trying to let go of those things that were status quo behaviors and processes and thinking in a really scrappy way.”
  • “We’ve been pushing our folks to not view this as a ramp back up after a catastrophic event, but almost a complete mindset shift where it’s day zero. We want to forgo how we’ve always done things. We’ve challenged each person to identify how they add value to the organization and focus on that.”
  • “Another thing that we’ve got to take advantage of is this environment where people are spread thin for resources. Nobody is going to stop you or stand in your way from taking on more and from doing more and from taking ownership of stuff. I think revenue folks have the right mindset now, and a little bit of power to take over things and add value to different areas. Now is the time to do that.”
  • “I think there’s a danger for scope to just get really out of hand for revenue managers, because they tend to be the utility players. They have high technical acumen. They’re able to do a lot of different things because it’s what the job requires. I don’t want revenue management to get diluted just with the consolidation of jobs and roles, because then I think it takes us away from the quality of the work.”

ON THE STRATEGIC SIDE

From the technical perspective, there are a lot of considerations that ROAB members are taking under advisement as well. From changes in corporate structure, to changes in forecasting, members have seen many shifts in their roles over the past few months.

  • “One of the things I’m seeing is much less of a corporate support structure across organizations from the brands and much more of a stronger requirement of either a centralized director or revenue management or an individual hotel director of revenue management. I think that we’ll see corporate structures be more streamlined, longer term over the next few years, and that is going to require a greater level of responsibility and involvement from everyone in developing a next-level platform, strategy, standards, procedures.”
  • “Statistical modeling, in terms of bringing in other pieces that typically wouldn’t be in a normal revenue management demand forecast, is essential. A lot of the work being done at the above-property level is really understanding how we can incorporate a lot of the rest of market items, government restrictions, search data, etc., into our demand forecasting. We’ve seen a lot of really good positive correlations to help drive our forecasts. Unfortunately, it’s separate from a lot of what the RMs are doing, but it’s complementary in terms of being able to override a lot of the demand forecasts that we’re seeing at the property level. So I think we need to start thinking outside the box and not just using our internal data, but really reps and market data and training models to really understand the significance of that type of activity, as we start to chart our demand.”
  • “We’re having the property-level RMs handle just their typical 90-day cycle. And then we’re fielding a lot of need for longer-term forecasts to satisfy bank exercises or models that go into owners’ cashflow and whatnot. We’re taking that above property, just to relieve some of the pressure and also have a bit of a consistent method that way. For on-property forecasting, we have encouraged and changed the forecast process where we’re not forecasting by segmentation any longer, but we’re forecasting by guest origin. So much of travel, at least right in this moment, is dependent on who is able to travel and what their sentiment is based on where they live and what they’ve had to go through.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources pages.

Reopening Concerns and Best Practices for Hotel Management Companies

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

HSMAI hosted the final event in a series of three Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Virtual Executive Roundtables on June 11 that focused on the impact that COVID-19 is having on sales and marketing at HMCs. Roundtable participants discussed their biggest concerns as hotels are beginning to reopen and shared the best practices they have learned along the way. Here are key takeaways from the discussion:

STAFFING CONCERNS

As some furloughed employees are beginning to return to work, companies must handle the logistical issues of deciding who should be prioritized — and in some cases convincing people to come back. Several Roundtable participants mentioned that through the end of July, many furloughed employees will still be making more on unemployment than if they are working their job again, which doesn’t incentivize them to come back.

Meanwhile, many employees are doing jobs that they never signed on for, such as a marketer working in laundry. This brings another round of complications to the rehiring process, one participant pointed out. Even if the marketing team is ready to bring an employee back full-time, somebody still has to do the laundry, which means that that another employee has to be rehired for that position, or someone has to be shifted into it. “We’re trying to work as a team, because you have to take the staffing levels of the entire hotel into consideration,” the participant said. “We’ve got a lot of requests from different departments and not enough staff to fulfill them. Everyone believes that they are the most important, but we all have to figure out a way to help out other departments and do our normal jobs.”

PERMANENT CHANGES

COVID-19 has brought many changes to the industry in all disciplines, as hotels struggle to stay afloat. But while some changes are only temporary, others are here to stay as the industry reinvents itself.

One change that several participants mentioned is the need for employees to be multitaskers and work in different segments. “Job descriptions need to be updated,” one participant said. “Everyone has to be a generalist, from social media marketers to sales managers. We have to be prepared for everything. This is a call for us to think about hospitality differently.”

Sales departments in particular have needed to adapt very quickly to the new conditions. “We talk a lot about how you’re selling everything now, not just in one area,” one participant said.

“The sales relationship we’ve had for so long is changing and will continue to change,” another participant said. “Our sales teams can barely connect with customers when they’re at home, which changes the need for a relationship role to a technological role. Sales specialists need to be able to use technology platforms and follow through there.”

BEST PRACTICES

Roundtable participants offered advice on everything from managing teams to bringing in business. Here in their own words are some of their suggestions:

  • “Cross-train everyone. People are willing to do what it takes to survive right now, and they have to be able to work in different areas.”
  • “We’re doing weekly reviews to determine what segments are booking. It’s giving us the opportunity to review and redirect from what is not working as we struggle to find where the business is.”
  • “Right now, we have team goals instead of individual goals and it’s been working well. Normally this is more of an individual sport, but we have to a team sport for the time being.”
  • “The people on my team who are being the most flexible were surprisingly the younger leaders. I thought that the ones who had been through downturns before would be able to pivot and know that they have to try new things, but they’re stuck. We have to get them to think of things differently.”
  • “Our teams have to want to stay when they come out of this. We need to have empathy for them so that they don’t regret having to work 100-hour weeks right now.”
  • “Think out of the box. One of our hotels’ greatest successes was a having backyard rate and putting out a banner in front and advertising at the laundromat. The never would have expected that a few months ago.”
  • “Remember that your teams are having a hard time, too. Our sales teams have been through two-and-a-half months of cancellations and their spirits are broken right now. Be as compassionate with them as you can.”
  • “We’re looking at university dorm overflow as a source of revenue for the fall, as schools open back up but still need to keep students socially distanced in their dorm rooms.”
  • “There are a lot of owner expectations and pressure from owners who don’t understand the situation fully. That brings morale down for our teams, but we have to bring it up and keep them motivated, even with the lack of business and the increased frustrations.”

Professionals from these companies participated in the HSMAI Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Virtual Executive Roundtables: Aimbridge Hospitality; Atlific Hotels; Commonwealth Hotels, LLC; Crescent Hotels; GF Hotels & Resorts; Kessler Collection; LBA Hospitality; M&R Hotel Management; Marcus; Prism Hotels & Resorts; Pyramid Hotel Group; Regency Hotel Management; Remington hotels; Sage Hospitality Group; Sound Hospitality Management; Staypineapple Hotels; Summit Hospitality Group; and Wright Investments.

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.