Saturday, 17 August 2013

Part 3 - ANALYSIS - Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality


'The successful man is the one who finds out what is the matter with his business before his competitors do.' Roy L. Smith

There is a danger that many hospitality business owners believe they know everything there is to know about their business, based on what they like themselves. They have never conducted a thorough analysis of their customers, competition or the market. This they perceive to be an unnecessary waste of time and expense. The only trouble with that view is that the hospitality industry is constantly evolving, so without keeping up with the changes, they could eventually become extinct!

Don't become a hospitality Dodo!
In our opinion, it's vital that a business conducts the required research in all aspects of the business to remain relevant and successful long term.
In our previous article - 'FIVE YEAR PLAN' (Part two in the series on Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality), we examined developing a marketing plan and marketing strategy. Here, we will delve into the analytical detail required by a business, in order to provide the data upon which important decisions can be based.

Competitor Analysis
Conducting a competitor analysis is an essential part of your five year plan. It will help you make strategic comparisons between competing businesses on critical success factors, assess your direct competitors and allow you to use the results to make future planning initiatives to change or enhance performance.

It has never been easier to find out everything there is to know about your competitors. Internet search engines, social media and review sites have opened up a new world of knowledge. We can gain an in-depth understanding of our competitors' pricing, menus, accommodation, facilities, target audience, quality of product, staffing, customer engagement, marketing initiatives; in fact, everything you need to prepare a complete picture of who and what you are competing against.

Review sites especially have opened up a once private window into a business. Now, everybody can see our dirty laundry hanging on the line. Guests and diners are willing and able to cut through the rhetoric and give their frank and honest assessments in graphic detail (photos, videos and all!). There might be the odd exaggerated claim, but the consensus of the many doesn't lie.

Firstly, produce an analysis sheet and consider the following:
  • List your competitors
The analysis starts with the list of who you identify as your chief competitors. However, careful consideration should be given to companies who might compete indirectly and new businesses entering your market. Travelodge are investing £243 million in new hotels and new bedrooms in 2013.

(If you think competition in the UK is tough, consider China. The Chinese market is expected to overtake the USA as the worlds largest by 2025 with an estimate of 6.1 million hotel rooms climbing to 9.1 million by 2039.)   

Once the list is compiled, highlight those competitors that will prove the greatest challenge.
  • List the items for comparison
Identify what you want to compare against. For instance consider the premises; location, appearance, parking and d├ęcor etc. The product offering; breakfast, lunch, dinner, specials board, bar menu etc. The accommodation; facilities, WiFi, satellite TV, iPhone chargers, courtesy tray and mini-bar etc.   
  •  List marketing activity
Review websites, social media platforms, signage, press releases, newsletters and publications etc. 
  • List service standards
To assess your competitors' service standards, you will need to make a visit to the property and assess the quality of service offered. Ordering a coffee is usually adequate enough to allow you to make an appraisal. Telephone their reception and judge attitude, clarity of speech and upselling skills etc.
  • Assess your business
Once you have completed your list, rate your own business. Consider employing a secret shopper to assess your operation but above all, be honest. Looking at your own company's performance and standards can be very revealing. This will create a benchmark against which you can identify the gaps.

Customer Analysis
Who are your customers? Let's ask another question, are your customers the ones you really want? Wouldn't it be good if we could entice just the good ones with the highest disposable income? Better still, if they all carried a flag, so we could pick them out of the crowd. Unfortunately, it's not that straightforward as we all know. Someone once told me that you get the customers you deserve! That certainly stopped me complaining.

Actually, potential customers do provide some clues. We can judge them on gender, what they wear, how they talk, by their buying habits and how they communicate. These are accurate signs but it's a really expensive business trying to find them by mass media advertising to the general population.

Therefore, you need to segment your customers into groups to initiate a targeted approach to your marketing activity. Once identified, you will better know what services matter to those guests, what to offer them, how to reach them and identify opportunities to attract more of them.

There are generally four ways to segment the market:

  • Geographic (rural, city, local, national, international etc.)
  • Behavioural (new or loyal guest, negative or positive attitude, status etc.)
  • Psychographic (personality, lifestyle, values, interests etc.)
  • Demographic (age, gender, family, occupation etc.) 

.....and four main customer segments to consider:

  • Individual leisure guests
  • Group leisure guests (tours, weddings, functions etc.)
  • Individual business guests
  • Group business guests (meetings, conferences, training etc.)  

Customer segmentation therefore allows you to use the right media, with the right message to reach the right person(s) in the most cost effective way.

S.W.O.T Analysis
The final piece of the analysis jigsaw for your five year plan, and a key contributor to the competitor and customer evaluation, is to conduct a S.W.O.T. analysis.


  • Strengths - exploit, publicise and design your offers around your strengths.
  • Weaknesses -  identify, minimise and overcome your weaknesses.
  • Opportunities - evaluate and use as a basis for future action.
  • Threats - draw up contingency plans to challenge and overcome the threats.

Who compiles your SWOT analysis?
We at Hospitality Skills believe the whole management team should be involved in this process. The more contributions, the more dynamic the conclusions. Each will bring a different perspective to the table and often provide very useful submissions.

Next time....Part 4 - We'll examine the next elements of your five year plan for 'Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality'.

For further information about Hospitality Skills and our services please contact us here:
David Allen
Co-Owner Hospitality Skills

In addition, we would welcome you to join the Hospitality Skills Group on LinkedIn where we share best practise in hospitality and would value your input.


Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Part 2 - FIVE YEAR PLAN - Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality


"Catch a man a fish, and you can sell it to him. Teach a man to fish, and you ruin a wonderful business opportunity." - Karl Marx 

In this series of articles, we at Hospitality Skills are examining and discussing the issues surrounding the hospitality industry today. Our aim is to proffer ideas and solutions to businesses looking to improve performance and attain ever greater success. We wish to inspire dialogue with people who are as passionate as we are about raising standards in the hospitality industry and to share best practice from the many years of combined experience.

In part one, 'Having a Vision' (25th July 2013), we looked at the reasons for developing a 'vision' for the business and the thought processes involved. In part two, we will concentrate on developing the content of your five year plan.

Let's first address the time frame. Why five years? Why not one or ten? There is no right or wrong time scale for laying out your vision for the future, it's down to individual circumstances. Whatever it is, the process is the same irrespective of the duration. 

In this article, we will look at a five year plan as this is the time-frame generally required by investors looking for their annual return. 

Often, writing a business plan is seen as a process for new start-ups, but that couldn't be further from the truth. Its use is more prevalent amongst established companies than is typically understood. Planning is about assessing possible future events and making decisions based on those findings. It's also about trying to minimise potential risks using information available today to help you make better decisions.

"Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort." - Paul J. Meyer

We at Hospitality Skills believe it is essential that you have a five year business plan. Remember, you can't hit a target you haven't got!

Illustrated below are a number of steps to help you create the content for your plan. We'll examine some of the elements.

Executive Summary
The first page of your five year plan is actually the last one to be written, as it's a summary of the whole and arguably the most important element within the document. The reason for this is that it's often the only part of your report that will be studied by readers. Therefore it should contain a brief outline of the proposal, background information, concise analysis and the main conclusions of the plan.

The prerequisite of the executive summary is to familiarise the reader with the larger body of material without having to read it all. It will also become an invaluable reminder to you, the author, and worth keeping to hand to re-read regularly as you progress through the stages of your plan.  

As a guide, your executive summary should be no more than about ten percent the size of the whole document. 

Mission Statement
Essentially your mission statement answers the question 'why do we exist?' It's designed to direct the actions of the business, clarify its overall objectives, present a path and guide decision making. It provides a framework within which the organisation's strategies are formulated.

Here are some suggested elements for your mission statement:
  • Business aims
  • The market
  • Your customers
  • Products and services
  • Value
  • Quality
  • USP (Unique Selling Proposition)

Examples of mission statements:


Our mission: to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighbourhood at a time.

Hilton Worldwide

To be the pre-eminent global hospitality company - the first choice of guests, team members, and owners alike.
Business Background
The business plan background is the detail of the company's history to date. What your main purpose was for starting or taking on the business and the origin of those ideas. The progress you have made to date, identifying the main challenges faced and overcome, as well as the on-going issues and how you intend addressing them. It's an opportunity to include your own business background and that of the members of your team, their technical skills and areas of expertise. 

Highlight why you are different, any advantages you have over the competition and how you are geared up to meet the future needs of your guests. Demonstrate your successful track record. 

Be upfront and frank about any disadvantages or weaknesses you feel the business has. This shows integrity and inspires confidence. Conclude by providing an outline of your main goals and a brief explanation of how you plan to get there. Keep this section concise and we suggest you avoid inessential personal details.

Product Description
Here you can add details about your current accommodation, restaurant, bar, leisure or whatever products and services you offer and how your five year plan will bring about changes. Include all your key departments; reception, housekeeping, maintenance etc. This is where you can extol your vision for the future and highlight the intended improvements.


Marketing Plan

The foundation of an effective marketing plan is having a clear marketing strategy with the aim of achieving increased sales and a sustainable competitive advantage. The strategy portrays a longer term view with a tactical plan showing details of specific actions over the first year.

Conducting a marketing analysis initially, will highlight market conditions and current economic factors that are in play. From this you can develop a comprehensive blueprint, identifying the company's target markets, overall marketing efforts and sales promotions.

To help you construct your marketing objectives use the 7 P's:
  1. Price
  2. Product
  3. Promotion
  4. Placement
  5. People
  6. Physical environment
  7. Process
The marketing plan will therefore outline the basic aims of the business to provide the solutions to achieve the desired accommodation occupancy, leisure membership, food and beverage sales etc. whilst meeting the needs of the customer. However, the most important element of the plan is to ensure it is measurable. Without the ability to monitor progress there is no way of gauging success. 

Next time...Part 3 - We'll examine the next elements of your five year plan - Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality

For further information about Hospitality Skills and our services please contact us here:
David Allen
Co-Owner Hospitality Skills

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Part 1 - HAVING A VISION - Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality

'Dissatisfaction and discouragement are not caused by the absence of things but the absence of vision'.
In this series of articles, we at Hospitality Skills aim to address the issues and challenges facing the hospitality industry today. We'll examine and discuss the solutions and suggest actions to be taken to enable you to move your business forward, possibly in a new direction if that's required.

Albert Einstein once said, "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results". We have often had this conversation with clients who fervently believe that the way they have always done things, over many years, is the right way. In some cases this is true, there are some fundamental aspects of hospitality that will never change; it's in the word... 'hospitality'. However, many things have changed.

We are trading under very different conditions today and 'normal' has gone forever. We have to adapt to these ever changing times whether that's climate related, new technology, banking crises or Governmental factors beyond our control; we have to re-position ourselves to remain relevant and visible to our customers.

The consumer is a different animal too. Today, a guest can sit in your restaurant having breakfast whilst wielding their mobile device between the condiments, informing the world about their experience - with photographs to boot! You are on trial day and night, held to account by a plethora of social media judges, all of whom have the power to make your day....or send you into the depths of despondency until the next decent review hits your inbox.

'They should be stopped!' I hear you cry. 'It shouldn't be allowed! What right do they have?' But one is reminded of the story of King Canute having his chair carried down to the shore, to order the waves not to break upon his land. Our protestations are as futile as Canute's demands.

Whether we like it or not, the world is a rapidly changing place and it has never been more important to know where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Will that future be a place you decide upon or one that's determined for you? For an answer to this question, consider for a minute what happened over the last five years. You get the point? Your vision, your five year plan, will be the framework for you to design the future you want.

We use the term 'vision' for a reason. Having a vision is much broader than just having a business plan with a sales forecast and cash-flow projections. It carries with it an emotional element which, as we shall see later, is essential to its achievement.

So, we want to sell you on the idea of creating a vision for your business. A five year plan that starts today and acts as a Sat Nav to guide you through the twists and turns ahead. A vision can incorporate a written and a visual representation of your plan; a picture that can be shown to your team, something relatable, a clear interpretation you can both buy into.

But before you start committing your vision to paper (or iPad), you need to get into the right mind set. One of the main obstacles to this process is believing that change can happen at all. Ask yourself this; has anyone else ever done what you would like to do? The answer is usually yes, so plant that thought in your mind from the outset; if it's been done before, it can be done again and you can do it too!

Turning a vision into reality. The iconic Burj Al Arab, a symbolic statement for Dubai. 


Let's turn to the practicalities of creating your vision, your five year plan. 

Thought process

The first stage is to enter into entrepreneurial thinking mode. Learning how to think in an entrepreneurial way allows you to stay one step ahead of your competition; recognising opportunity in what people might want in the future, considering improvements in efficiency, introducing new products and services and training to enhance knowledge and skills. (Remember human capital is one of your greatest assets). 

How will your new business differentiate itself from your competition?

Adaptive reasoning

Today, business processes, underlying workflows and information systems have to be adaptive to changes as guests expect you to deal with their requests in a flexible, individual way. The hospitality industry is characterised by ever changing requirements and unpredictability. Think through and reflect on the changing environment and consider how your customers needs will evolve over time. Reason and draw out conclusions to enable you to make effective decisions when the time comes.

Conceptional framework

A conceptional framework will allow you to outline possible courses of action and your preferred approach to your ideas and thoughts. It will enable sensible and clear discussion and will act as a compass to help navigate through the array of ideas.

In summary:
  • Combine ideas and concepts and organise them in a manner that makes them easy to communicate
  • Organise your thinking about how and why the changes should take place
  • Identify the activities required to make it happen
  • An overview of your ideas that will shape the way the new business will look
  • A set of assumptions, values and rules under which the changes will be conducted

You will find the process of creating this vision and the development of your five year plan will be empowering and motivating. Both you and your team will be invigorated and confident for the future. A good recipe for success.

Next time...Part 2 - We'll turn to the financial elements of your five year plan - Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality

For further information about Hospitality Skills and our services please contact us here:
David Allen
Co-Owner Hospitality Skills

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Improving performance and achieving success in hospitality - An introduction

Who could have predicted in 2008 that the hospitality sector would be in the position it is five years on? Of course it's a mixed picture and some businesses have done exceptionally well, but the many hoteliers and restaurateurs we speak to, still aspire to return to the heady days of the early noughties when customers would spend with gay abandon. We search for those signs that the 'green shoots' of recovery are appearing, however, there is a fear that where we are now in 2013, could be the new 'normal'.

The danger with waiting for the good times to return is that we limp along with minimal profits, just holding our heads above water, with the promise that we'll 're-invest' in the business the minute the tide turns and the money starts flowing into the coffers once again. It's the classic 'Catch 22' and sadly, in many cases, leads to the demise and eventual ruin of a business. Daily we read of once thriving, even iconic, establishments going to the wall. Nostalgia is no protection against the hard financial realities of managing a successful business.

So, what's the solution? Firstly, the good news is, there is a solution! We at Hospitality Skills ( have been studying best practise for the past 14 years through the 'good' and the 'not so good' times and have developed a programme that addresses the issues and provides the solution to put a business back on the right track to profitability and long term success, whatever the economic climate.

In this blog, we aim to address some of those issues and examine the potential solutions. We would welcome your thoughts and comments to expand the discussion and will attempt to answer any specific questions raised along the way.

To begin with, as we are in the hospitality industry, we need to create a recipe for success and as with any good menu, we need the right ingredients. So here they are:
  • Vision - (If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up where you're headed!). It all starts with a five year plan for success. We'll examine the key elements and identify the necessary steps to prepare for the way forward. Understanding the thought processes, adaptive reasoning and conceptual framework required.
  • Team - (Together Everyone Achieves More). Having the right people, in the right roles, with the right attitude. (See article 'Hire attitude and train the skills' We'll discuss 'organisational structure', optimal reporting and communication systems as well as tips on how to conduct effective meetings. We'll uncover the myths of motivation and identify the factors that make up a great team.
  • Budget - (A mathematical confirmation of your suspicions. - AA Latimer). Apart from examining all the benefits to the business, we'll look at the process of constructing a budget and who should be involved in its creation. We'll discuss industry benchmarks for costs against revenue and effective measurement systems to deliver the bottom line. This is a huge area to look at and one of the most important to the business, so we shall break this topic into several sections and examine each individually. 
  • Sales - (Every sale has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust! - Zig Ziglar) We will discuss the art and/or science of generating revenue both internal and external and examine the many and varied ways to make sales in rooms, F&B, events, weddings, conferencing, leisure, spa etc. We'll look at which members of the team should be trained as salespeople and who has the responsibility for achieving the revenue requirements of the business.  
  • Marketing - (The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous. - Peter Drucker). Here we'll examine all the many and various ways to market. What works......and what doesn't. We'll discuss the key elements of an effective website, the do's and don'ts of social media. With search engines such as Google constantly changing the goal posts (algorithms) on 'how to be found'  we'll examine the latest facets of optimisation. Also,exploring return on marketing investment and how to measure our success 50% of our marketing works and 50% is a waste of time. The skill is knowing which is which!
  • Management - (Management is, above all, a practice where art, science and craft meet. - Henry Mintzberg). Effective management is essential to the success of any business. Even more so in the hospitality industry, where we're dealing mainly with people. In this blog we'll discuss all aspects of being an effective manager. We'll identify the key skills needed to deal with the specific challenges in this globally competitive industry, with both rapidly changing technology and environment.
  • Training - (Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten. - BF Skinner) We know how important it is, but training is usually the first budget to be cut during times of austerity. Here, we want to discuss why training is essential, especially when times are tough and why reducing your investment in people is a false economy. We'll look at the most effective methods of training staff with the minimum amount of time and disruption.
  • Customer Service - (Is the customer always right? Maybe not, but they are still the customer. - J  Goleczka). Here we will discuss all aspects of exceptional customer service and customer care. It's a subject that most hospitality businesses in the UK believe they have right, but the facts say something different. The Institute of Customer Service customer satisfaction index for July 2013 makes for interesting reading. 'Satisfied customers spread the word, but organisations must do more' ( We will look at examples of best practise and identify the key areas where a small improvement in customer service can make a significant difference to the bottom line. time, we look in detail at the first of our ingredients for the recipe for success...VISION.
David Allen - Co-Owner Hospitality Skills (