Peer to peer profiling: Is it still possible?

As an ex revenue manager from a sales and marketing background, I was considered to be a weird mix early in my career. It was always thought of as strange to mix sales with controls and people always referred to the move from sales to revenue as “going to the dark side”, even the revenue managers.

My obsession with benchmarking and beating the market, driving market penetration and compulsively monitoring competitor strategies came from my ‘salesy’, need to win instinct; meanwhile my strategic attention to detail side, the focus on the market bit, was pure revenue management. You couldn’t possibly have both skill sets? At least that’s what I was told countless times in my early career. Pushing to be a general manager in my day with my background? Not a hope – only if you know F&B, but that’s a different story.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be a ‘smash the glass ceiling’ style article, but it is an opportunity to reflect on the radical shift in our industry, and the changing personal values we now require, to thrive.

My generation of middle management in hotels was the one that saw the shift from occupancy and average rate into REVPAR (revenue per available room), and then we had TREVPAR (total revenue per available room); a godsend when you revenue manage a leisure club and golf course, never mind F&B. Latterly, when I did become a GM, my attention was focussed on GOPPAR (gross operating profit per available room), then departmental profit metrics, payroll %, overheads and expenses.

The detail was phenomenal. From the daily stats in the marketplace to the monthly performance comparisons, HOTSTATS was king. Plus the optimal measure of success? Market penetration and whose fair share you had stolen.

Benchmarking then was almost entirely like-for-like and it was the only real measure of peer to peer success, usually measured against like-minded operators up the road, or even next door. You were competing for exactly the same pound over and over again, and although we all had our ‘USPs’ and marketing metrics, frankly, there was little to split between us.

Occasionally, we looked internally too, using employee satisfaction surveys, and even more progressive (10 years ago), we looked at net promoter scores and guest satisfaction indexes.

All of us group or corporate city GM’s were focussed on these measures of success, meanwhile the world was changing from analogue to digital. Yes we were current enough to use to check what rates our competitors were selling and we mastered the dark art of distribution (albeit in those days manually); what we forgot about were the times we had misled the public, only marketed our best rooms and only promoted the good about our properties and our services. How much we had over-inflated ourselves back then.

The rude awakening came with the user-generated feedback sites; TripAdvisor and the like. They made life so much more complicated, and we hated them. We finally had to face up to our deficiencies; no you can’t sell those un-refurbished rooms at the same rate as the ones that were done last year; yes you can’t gloss over the shortcomings in the dining experience, leisure club or event facilities.

Were the sites abused? Absolutely in my view. For the first time ever, we had customers threatening us with bad feedback, some justifiably but many not so much; we had competitors creating fake bad reviews; and we still had head office expectations to manage, the wage percentages to deliver and the same GOPPAR to achieve.

Life just became much harder. Did we manage? Yes, in a fashion and we even got used to it, to a point. The really progressive, mainly independent properties, probably with some cash behind them, even thrived; they responded to the pressure, improved their services, facilities, refurbished, rebuilt and became something unique and new.

The advent of these sites definitely brought some unique and frankly positive changes to the industry too. We were being transparent about our operations, but we were also given a platform where we could really start differentiating from our nearby neighbours. Our USPs began to gain independent credibility and whereas before that pokey room in the beams of a 16th Century attic was a limiter to our TREVPAR, now it became the ‘authentic’ experience that commanded its own attention.

The sites ultimately cleaned up the poor operators and helped the good ones to shine, but what we certainly failed to embrace at the time was the necessary shift in benchmarking – we were still focussing on our nearby neighbours and still measuring their prices and market-penetration. The sites had forced change, but we’d failed to fully adapt to the shifting insight that was suddenly open to us.

As hoteliers, what we missed, and to varying degrees continue to miss, whilst trying to be everything to every person, is all the other options available to the consumer now. There used to be very clear lines between the designators; B&B was usually cheaper and operating within the host’s home, while hotels had their own property and were usually considerable larger.

There were different buying processes, and different markets and it was much easier to keep track of your ‘competitors’. Now however, the competitor pool is huge; boutique hotels, B&B’s, inns, pubs with rooms, self-catering restaurants with rooms, serviced apartments, homestays, glamping – the list goes on, but it basically represents guest choice.

So benchmarking is nigh on impossible now?

Probably; at least in the traditional sense. Now, you have your traditional segmented competitor sets: what are they travelling for within destination – leisure, town events conferences, business etc., for which you then need to consider the type of properties and facilities available within a reasonable geographic radius. This alone could have doubled or even tripled your ‘competitor’ pool.

Next, you also have your destination competitors: what attracts a customer to one location as opposed to another particularly as leisure guests are pursuing experiences rather than destinations. Next up it’s the comparison sites: who’s the cheapest, who has the best leisure club, service, breakfast, cleanliness; traditional measures, PR and marketing, star ratings, even EHO scores on the doors. So how in the heck are you supposed to measure parity across all these different factors?

The answer is try to be practical, fair and focussed. Historically, as well as less ‘competition’ to measure against, there were also less metrics, and less channels to check. Modernisation of industry has given us access to hundreds more pieces of info, but what many operators don’t stop and consider is which are the most relevant.

Our assessors can quickly and easily split operators into three camps; those who benchmark everything and anything obsessively; those who basically don’t benchmark at all; and those who take the habitual approach, doing what they have always done. Very few have taken the innovative approach, revisiting what business they want and how they want to compete for it and therefore what metrics are required and against which businesses, in a way that extends beyond the traditional designations.

My advice to operators therefore is this. Take a step back and consider the internal, before looking at how that affects the external. Use the user-generated measures, plus team enterprise and guest feedback to highlight first what you are doing well and which market you support the best, and then what aspects you can improve on, and whether these are intrinsic or opportunistic for your offering. Once you have reviewed and oftentimes re-established your competitive field, it becomes much easier to evaluate who you should, and who you do compete with.

Quality in Tourism assess hundreds of accommodation providers globally. To find out more about their assessments, gradings and mystery shopping services, visit

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How to make your hotel stand out from the crowd

Last year, we saw some big moves from the large international hotel groups with mergers, acquisitions and new brands. I can’t help but wonder how much more the brand landscape can keep growing in this way, as the customer seeks a more personal and original experience?

The big global hotel operators have dozens of logos across their websites, each one pitched at a different audience, in an original way, for a new market: a younger crowd, a mature crowd, the discerning traveller, the upwardly mobile, global domination or local spirit, the business road warrior, fitness and lifestyle junkie, boutique, social, couples, groups, families, millennials and Generation Z. You get the idea. If one brand doesn’t quite fit the latest persona, along comes another new brand to corner the market.

Let’s be clear, the international hotel chains have each built fantastic platforms and infrastructure over many, many years which give each of their brands a voice. They’ve built loyalty initiatives with tens of millions of guests connected to a dynamic CRM tool with points, miles and upgrades making sure they are heard. They have built boxes in every major gateway city and airport. They have technology budgets to make your eyes water, developing proprietary systems for competitive advantage. They have cool, open plan offices with hundreds of people analysing statistics and social listening. It’s a successful formula.

The question for hotel owners and operators is, how much does the scale development of hotel brands with monolithic systems provide the answer of choice for the customer? It clearly works for some, as global examples demonstrate, however you could choose to be discovered differently rather than riding the brand superhighway.

At Roomzzz, we’re not building a global institution, or aiming for global domination, at least not yet. Roomzzz Aparthotels was born 12 years ago without much of a benchmark in the UK. There was a vision of guest experience, great design and service, with intuition for the unfulfilled opportunity. We have a great family history, and we’ve developed our story with real purpose. The brand has evolved from an honest and sincere spirit of adventure. So, what is it going to take to get yourself noticed and stand out from the crowd?

Brands do talk, big or small. A brand is not just a hundred hotels in ten different countries with a standard operating procedure manual five volumes thick. Your independent, stand-alone property can find ways to communicate in words and pictures to truly differentiate from the crowd and carve out an identity which will bring the customer to them.

A brand is likely to be the most complex decision, if not the most expensive consideration you’ll have to make for a new hotel or a re-positioned property. Joining a big brand network comes at quite a cost to access the huge audience the groups maintain. Alternatively, developing your own brand or identity could be a game changer, and there are plenty of examples which stand on their own two feet in the wonderful world of hospitality, with a unique proposition which makes them what they are and able to drive measurable success.

The point here is that you need to find your lane. What is it that you do? What is it that you do that no-one else is doing? More importantly, what do you want your guests to say about you and remember you for? Let that drive your focus on standards and experience. Develop a message and a story that makes sense and then the business needs to find as many ways as it can to tell that story, keep it fresh and build the momentum and the consistency that enforces the brand. You may want to talk about the service that you deliver – what makes it different?

You may want to talk about the facilities you provide and the benefits your customer will experience? And what about the price point, location, package or standards? Who are you trying to reach and what should they discover about you? The best experience is all joined up with the customer centre stage; from their booking to arrival, throughout the stay and beyond. Let your standards, your brand, your team and your marketing bring the whole thing together and you’ll be one step ahead of the rest.

If you want to stand out from the crowd in 2019, you have to make connections with your audience. Have some genuine purpose for what you do and how you communicate. Generate a compelling story that guests will love and feel they can experience. Big brands can make a lot of noise, but it’s not necessarily the volume that everyone hears. Consumers today want to hear a tune they like, a great melody, a fantastic chorus. Your brand has the chance to sing your own tune in today’s digital, connected world and be heard in a very different way to the white noise and the blur of other brands. Be sure your marketing is consistent across the multitude of channels available now: Digital, Print, TV, Radio, Social, PR, B2B Sales.

One last thing. Walk the talk. You think you’ve done your part, built your business, well marketed to the world, with a highly original, genuine and captivating experience! What else will make the difference and get you the attention and success you deserve? In this transparent, agile and data rich world we live in today, customer sentiment provides true distinction. Arguably the most important way you could make a statement about what you do is nurturing your customers to shout about it.

There’s nothing more valuable than guests emphasising your brand and your USP’s on social media and review sites. Reputation is powerful. Work hard for it, celebrate success and take your team on the journey so that it matters as much to them as it should to you. In so doing, you’ll stand out from the crowd and truly find your own space where success is assured.

By Robert Alley, chief operating officer at Roomzzz Aparthotels

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The importance of health and safety in hotels

Today, health and safety remains an extremely important area for every business operating in the United Kingdom and around the world.

Although health and safety at work has steadily improved over the years, HSE statistics report that in the 2015/16 year, over 100 workers were killed at work. Additionally, the statistics state that around 30.4 million working days were lost in total due to work-related ill-health and injury.

Moral importance

One of the most important reasons for meeting and exceeding health and safety responsibilities are the moral considerations. There is a duty of care on individuals and organisations to not put others in danger with their actions, policies and procedures.

On top of this, it is especially important that business owners don’t put their workers’ health and safety at risk by cutting corners to increase profit. As time passes, moral obligations are changing. When an employee goes to work, they should not expect to be injured or potentially worse.

Legal reasons

Of course, all businesses need to operate within the law. Legally, all workers have a right to work in places where health and safety risks are properly controlled. Whilst employers are responsible for health and safety, it is the job of employees to help and embrace this important area.

What employers must do

  • Create a written health and safety policy
  • Conduct risk assessments
  • Effectively communicate with employees and explain how risks will be controlled
  • Pay for the health and safety training employees may need to do their job (e.g. IOSH courses)
  • Provide all of the equipment and protective clothing employees need
  • Report all incidents and accidents

To support with legal compliance, a formal framework known as a health and safety management system provides a structured and logical approach to ensure and maintain effective health and safety provision and legal compliance.

The business case

Not the most important case for health and safety excellence, but a definite positive outcome for businesses and in turn, potentially employees. A business can lose money through poor health and safety management. For example, huge fines for breaking Health and Safety rules and losing time and money due to poor efficiency.

But, there are also potential gains that businesses can make through properly managing health and safety in the workplace. These include:

  • Productivity improvements
  • Efficiency enhancements
  • Improved team spirit and motivation
  • Improved brand image and perceptions
  • Where to begin

It’s clear that preventing accidents should be a priority for everyone in a workplace. From senior executives to workers on the “shop floor”, training is key to ensuring safety and improving safety culture.

Key ways that training helps improve health and safety

Providing health and safety information and training helps you to:

Ensure you or your employees are not injured or made ill by the work they do.
Develop a positive health and safety culture, where safe and healthy working becomes second nature to everyone.
Find out how you could manage health and safety better.
Meet your legal duty to protect the health and safety of your employees.

By Ella Hendrix, freelance writer

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How to handle a general manager

There are so many ways in which independent hotels differ from those in group ownership. Perhaps one of the most significant is in the relationship between owner and general manager because, without a large corporate structure, it is often a very personal one. I would go so far as to say that a good working rapport between owner(s) and GM is essential to the success of the business.

I do not pretend to be an expert in this area. After all, it is over 30 years since I managed a hotel myself. However I have been lucky enough to observe lots of independent operators at close range throughout my time at Pride of Britain and, before that, as a publisher for Johansens.

Here is what I’ve noticed. When a GM is regarded by his or her employers as merely a supervisor, someone who is paid to keep on top of the day to day functioning of the business but is not included in major decision-making, the rest of the team find it difficult to think of the GM as “the boss”. It is the worst of all worlds, bearing loads of responsibility but without sufficient authority to control events.

This I have seen frequently in smaller establishments where the owners are present much of the time, involving themselves in the detail and giving instructions to junior members of the team without first consulting the GM. This places the GM in an impossible situation and if they’re any good they will probably leave. Or worse, if they are second rate, they are going to stay, allowing resentment and mistrust to soak up energy that should instead be directed towards delighting customers and growing profits.

Conversely, where there is mutual trust and respect I have seen plenty of GMs thrive, sometimes for decades, in challenging roles. Knowing the owner is fully supportive of his or her methods can give a GM almost invincible power, enabling them to create a perfect working environment for the team and to command its loyalty.

It requires generosity on the owner’s part to allow someone else to behave in a ‘proprietorial’ fashion and, most likely, to take the credit for achievements such as guide recognition. Exactly the same logic applies to a football club manager or the star of a west end show – the chairman or the theatre producer being proud beneficiaries, usually behind the scenes.

So on the very few occasions when my advice has been sought about appointing a GM I have started by asking whether that person is really going to be in charge. If not, it would be far better to engage a brilliant deputy, perhaps with the title ‘Hotel Manager’, and make it plain that the GM is really the owner.

In this way everyone understands how the hierarchy is supposed to operate and who calls the shots. Appointing an experienced professional GM, I would argue, best suits owners who are happy to stand back from the management of the business although they will obviously still set strategy in private consultation with the GM.

For the sake of my own job security I dare not single out individuals here but suffice to say the most successful hoteliers I have come across, without exception, are people who understand that management and owners must be seen to work hand in glove, one’s power dependent on the other’s consent.

For some reason we have witnessed a spate of high profile movers in the UK over recent months. Every time this happens it is traumatic for the business concerned, of course, though it does present an opportunity for a fresh face to re-invigorate things. We’re all allowed to make a few mistakes in life; the trick is not to keep repeating the same ones!

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The challenges and pitfalls of hotel development

Where do you start in the complex world of development? Looking at all the moving parts, there is a lot to think about: property owners, developers, agents, valuations, planning and licensing, funding, leasing, owning, managing, operating companies, brands, competitors.

For ambitious brands like us, even with a healthy covenant able to offer up a strong institutional lease or raise the development capital, it’s still not as simple as sticking pins in the map of where we’d like to go.

It helps to start with a clear strategy and not get caught up in the endless cycle of property prospecting. Be clear where you are heading and the variables you can control to get there. Buying, developing, leasing, managing and franchising are all options on the table. Location and site selection are unique to your brand or business, so let’s say you’ve already leapt over that hurdle. You know where you want to be. You understand the reach and distribution you want to achieve and the markets where you can make an impact. But making the numbers work is a big challenge.

In today’s world, it takes some focus and clarity of vision to get a deal over the line. Each party needs to see all sides, which means the owner/developer should also appreciate the long-term value that the operator, the tenant and particularly the brand can bring to the arrangement and the end value. No deal gets off the start line without a collaborative approach that works from every angle.

We’ve seen too many opportunities stand still for months and even years where the short-term expectations are in conflict with the long-term value of a good operator tenant, who can generate income and lifetime benefit for a development. And that’s without the intrinsic value and character that unique brands can generate for an owner and the wider scheme.

It’s a shame that great sites lie empty because a lease cannot be agreed for long-term performance and end value rather than just short-term returns. This vision must also be shared with the planning and licensing committees, who are less concerned with the valuation but can dramatically support the process to bring fresh purpose to old and new locations alike.

Another big question to think about is the complexity of conversion versus new build. Some of the best opportunities, locations and exciting buildings are standing around empty begging for attention, which seems like a golden opportunity for development and growth. However, the intricacies of design and complexity of cost drives out prohibitive rents once again, unless the long term value of a Full Repairing and Insuring (FRI) lease and asset appreciation is rolled up into the mix for the longer view without making the lease cover the bill from signature.

New builds would seem to keep things simple these days with a formula for the major brands that seems to work. But location is always king and the challenges of making existing building conversions in great locations fit the brief and brand must be compared to new builds where you might get what you want but compromise on the location. Conversions seem to be hard to stack up, with high expectations on existing value and high conversion costs making it hard to breathe life into some of the amazing city centre buildings which sit dormant today.

For us, the aparthotel and serviced apartments category is finally getting some of the attention it deserves. Long considered too ‘alternative’ for investors and funds, we were some way down the list of potential solutions, as developers and valuations missed the potential of high occupancies, strong guest retention and great operating margins. The case for aparthotels today is strengthened by these reliable incomes, flexible approach, established brands, solid model and distribution, proven operators and even alternative use.

However, even when it looks like your lease discussion is taking shape, the yield offered by your ‘alternative’ category might not stand up against the old familiar cookie-cutter solutions like Private Rented Sector (PRS) and office. The path to successful development still needs a bit of vision and perspective in the valuation to get it off the ground.

The world of hotel operations is increasingly complex these days with brands, operators, owners and asset managers all taking a piece of the action. It’s no longer obvious who is actually running the show, and the guest has to weave their way through so many brands claiming to be the answer to all their needs. Where do you begin to find the operating model that works for you?

Our owners took a decision a long time ago to build a brand to be proud of and look after our own guests and people. These days, it takes a brave person to start a family business from scratch, get the finance to back a scheme and to put your own brand on it. The investment into the brand, the technology, the people and distribution cannot be overstated. It’s a lot of work and takes a long time, with a genuine commitment to excellence required in order to succeed.

The biggest hotel operators have wide distribution networks, powerful marketing and loyalty platforms, and finely tuned brand operating manuals. An independent brand can provide flexibility, character, innovation and agility which cannot be matched. Many owners these days look for the reliability of established management companies who share their expertise for a fee and a slice of the profit.

These experienced management teams don’t tend to have the brand or the system to plug into, so for another set of fees and another slice of the pie, a big brand can put their name over the door. As an owner, you want to make sure that the management company and the brand are working hard enough for you, so you also employ an asset manager to ask the difficult questions and squeeze a few more pips out of the business. Unless you’ve done this before, you may never know what you’ve missed or what the right questions were to be asking.

So, a bit like my golf swing, there are so many moving parts to grow the pipeline for development. However, with a great model and brand, genuine focus, the right team and a balanced approach, there can be a great future ahead.

By Robert Alley, chief operating officer at Roomzzz Aparthotels

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The ultimate hotel experience

Hotels have always been about more than simply having a place to rest your head for a few nights. A visit to a hotel is often an experience unto itself, with hotels acting as their own contained worlds offering a collection of unique facilities and opportunities in one place.

A hotel’s exact function might differ depending on its location, price and star rating, but even the simple luxury of breakfast included or a good pillow makes a hotel stay something to remember.

Having said that, the landscape is steadily, but radically, changing both for hotels and their customers, and hoteliers must endeavour to keep up. Hotels should always be looking to offer more to their guests, whilst accentuating and improving the assets they already have.

Typically, a major hotel will look to provide a comfortable, well-maintained and aesthetically pleasing room, with good food and convenient access to activities and adventures nearby. Therefore, with a hotel stay comes a certain peace of mind, as in an unfamiliar place a hotel room becomes a haven of comfort and luxury for guests who stay. Guests can relax and rely on the staff who work there to ensure they’re comfortable and looked after, and this can be a huge luxury and a welcome break from often chaotic working weeks.

Conceptually, the hotel can be all things to all people; it is a means of convenience and functionality, as well as a means of treating yourself and enjoying a well deserved break.

As previously stated though, the game is changing for all involved. The rise of Airbnb and similar alternatives means that hotels have to stand out and offer more than just a comfortable bed and a place to rest. Instead, hotels need to put the spotlight on the extras they can provide, that will make their guests’ experience all the more memorable.

The special nature of the ‘hotel experience’ has to become a vital part of a hotel’s operations again if they’re to compete with the growing popularity of competitors in the space. Hotel alternatives (and an awareness of their merits) are only on the up, so the hotel experience must grow and modernise alongside it them.

The good news is that the range of opportunities available to hotels in terms of diversification is also bigger than ever. Along with top quality restaurants and bars, many hotels – from the Novotel Manchester West to the DoubleTree by Hilton in Bristol – offer high end fitness and gym facilities extremely popular with guests travelling for both business and pleasure.

The Park Inn by Radisson Birmingham holds specialised walking, running and cycling routes, and spas are now almost commonplace. Even quirkier offerings, like beekeeping and in-room yoga sessions at St. Ermin’s (also in London) offer further examples of the ways in which hotels can innovate in order to maximise their space, resources and guest satisfaction.

Likewise, the enviable facilities boasted by many hotels dictate that restricting them to overnight guests is, if anything, counterproductive. Meeting and conference rooms are rarely easy to come by, particularly if holding a meeting in a different city, but many hotels already have these available and ready for use; probably in a great location to boot.

Hotels also face the challenge that is accessibility and exclusivity. It’s only natural to view hotels as something you’d only use when travelling, but this doesn’t have to be the case. One key notion behind the ongoing evolution of the hotel experience is that it does not have to come hand-in-hand with holidays. In fact, it does not even necessarily have to come with a room and an overnight stay.

Therefore, another task for hotels is to make everything they offer more accessible to a wider range of people, by being willing to allow guests to perceive their function in a slightly different way. This process is already underway, as many hotels are starting to offer ‘day rooms’ with no overnight stay attached, for up to 75% less than their nightly cost. This opens hotels and their array of facilities up to those who seek to use them in a more cost-effective way.

If you’re also able to give local people the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of hotels close to their home for a short ‘day-cation’, you widen your market considerably. And isn’t this the aim?

The popular view of hotels as places of opulence and indulgence is both an asset and a setback. The luxury of hotels is what make them appealing, but also creates an idea that they will always have high costs, or are exclusively for people who are travelling. It’s time hotels looked to break free of restricting stereotypes and offer more than a bed in a nice room, in order to attract new customers and make a stay at their establishment a stay to remember. Food for thought, I hope.

By Simon Botto, CEO of DayBreakHotels

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The importance of thought and consideration in designing kitchens

It seems like a stupid title, correct? Then why do so many of us rush to make mistakes before considering the whole picture?

I was just yesterday going over plans for a kitchen at a boutique hotel slated to open this September here in Toronto. It is a fascinating project with a unique concept, certainly for Canada. The boutique has no dining room, only a small lounge and all guests are on full board, meaning three meals a day, plus some snacks. These meals are to be served in their rooms.

Now, I knew that the meals were cooked fresh off site and delivered twice daily to the boutique, but I never stopped to consider the cuisine requirements carefully. It was only when we met with the caterer that I began to see the error of my ways.

I have been very much involved in many kitchen designs, all of them for medium to large hotels by European standards. All of them needed all of the ‘usual’ kitchen departments, the main cooking area, the garde-manger (cold kitchen), the butchery, vegetable preparation, the bakery and sweet shop, the saucery, the dishwash areas, storage.

During the course of my collaborations with professional designers, I had always had to ‘dampen’ their enthusiasm for going overboard on too much equipment, overkill of you will. Executive chefs tend to like overkill – more toys.

Here in Toronto, as lead consultant to this fine project, I found myself trying to make sure that nothing would be lacking in the small area allocated to the kitchen. I was imagining combi-steamers, bain-marie hot holding stations, heated dish out counters, a cold station for salads not far removed from the type you see at Subway restaurants, and other equipment.

I had fallen into the same habit as those designers I had worked with, and let my imagination run amok.

While sitting with the caterer and  learning about the various menus that would be delivered at mealtimes and ready to serve to the guests, I realised with a shock that I was guilty of ‘overkill’ myself. I felt a little like I did way back at school when the teacher distributed an exam with the instructions to read the questions and then answer them. Everyone, myself included, waded into the questions, feverishly writing down answers. Meanwhile one nerd at the back of the class got up and declared “Completed”. Of course the last question on the exam sheet  read: ‘Do not answer any of the questions but stand up and state “completed”. We had not read all the questions as instructed, just as I had not considered all angles of necessity for the kitchen.

Upon my return to my office I immediately sat down and completely revised my kitchen ‘project advice’ to update the designer on our actual needs, not those I initially presented, and here is why.

Given that the facility is small (around 30 rooms), the maximum meals to be served at each meal time would be thirty meals if the place was fully occupied.  Even with the considerable variety of menus the chances of having more than say eight different meals would be slim.

The meals will arrive fully cooked and prepared twice daily. So even if the main courses, soups and perhaps other hot dishes needed a little warming, what equipment would be needed to take care of this number of dishes? Not a great deal! A small combi oven, a commercial grade microwave, an electrical range (no gas available)  and a two unit hot holding bain marie plus a small cold prep unit would be more than sufficient. Of course there would be need for the small commercial dishwasher with hood, and perhaps the same hood could accommodate the combi, but the costs for the kitchen are way down, and the limited area allocated looks much more free and ergonomically suitable.

In the past I have saved up to $150,000 (£114,000) and more in costs on new kitchens by holding back the expansive and creative impulses of designers, yet here I was doing the same on a smaller scale.

When designing new kitchens, whatever the size, there is an absolute need for operational food and beverage professionals to be involved. This is not only to be able to control the expenses of new equipment but also to find the most ergonomically suitable design for those working in the area, along with strict adherence to hygiene laws.

Sure, you need the expertise of the professional designers to draw up the plans, draw up the procurement lists for bidding, the specifications for the contractors and the advice on equipment up dates. You may also need their advice on placement of equipment, but make sure that this also is in sync with the demands of the team that will operate the facility long after all the designers and consultants are gone.

It is critically important to get the plans and equipment right. Overkill and people will be falling over equipment, underkill and drastic delays will bring unhappy guests. This is the reason that there is room around the project planning table for all.

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Misleading online ads by booking agents are just the tip of the iceberg

The decision to crackdown on booking websites that advertised misleading discounts on hotel rooms has been praised by a leading digital marketing agency, but they warn the scale of the issue is much larger.

Experts at Fat Media say there are still major issues surrounding the use of backdoor online advertising and influencer promotion.

It was recently revealed that high profile booking websites such as Expedia,, Agoda,, Ebookers and Trivago have been investigated over high-pressure selling tactics and misleading discount claims by The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

The CMA admitted concerns that the sites were making rooms seem more popular than they were. And experts at Fat Media have revealed that this isn’t the only issue with online promotions.

A recent survey on bloggers and vloggers, commissioned by Fat Media’s sister company CollectivEdge found that only 38% of brand collaborations were disclosed as an ad or sponsored post to readers, and 40% of those who didn’t disclose admit they were confused about the rules and regulations surrounding disclosing paid-for content on their blogs or social channels.

Alexei Lee, head of communications for Fat Media, said: “We welcome the decision by the CMA to crackdown on misleading advertising, but in all honesty it’s the tip of the iceberg.  Some businesses are employing a range of methods to drive sales from native ads, which don’t look like advertising, just normal content, to sponsoring influencers, who, as our own surveys have revealed don’t then disclose who they are collaborating with.

“Our experience is that influencer content and native advertising is valued and engaged with by consumers if they are delivered using best practice, and consumers are fully aware of the link with a brand. It’s when consumers feel duped that problems can arise for all concerned.”

The survey by CollectivEdge revealed that nearly three quarters of bloggers and vloggers are not disclosing when a brand has collaborated with them.”

The Advertising Standards Authority sets the rules around disclosure and these require an influencer to clearly inform their audience when a payment or product has changed hands in exchange for a review or mention in a video or post.

A third of the 1400 influencers asked admitted that brands were asking them not to disclose paid content, which, in light of the fact that paid-for collaborations makes up 26% of influencers’ content, highlights a lack of awareness or willingness to play by the rules across a significant proportion of brands.

Not disclosing paid-for content can cause major issues when building consumer trust and could damage both the brand’s and the influencers’ reputations.

Lee said: “Influencers are now media owners, but often aren’t aware or are pressured not to comply with ASA rules which can lead to misleading their followers.”

On native advertising he added: “Companies are also circumventing ad block technology by using practices like native advertising to encourage people to buy.  The content appears in social news feeds and often looks like any other story rather than an actual advert.

“The fact is, any content that an influencer, or publication, produces that has been commissioned by a brand is classed as advertising. It is really important that influencers and brands understand how to make consumers aware of this, otherwise both parties could be at risk of damaged reputation, and potentially even financial penalties.

“It’s important that the rules and regulations that surround paid for content are made clearer but also followed, otherwise we could see a complete erosion of trust in the content and information provided by brands and influencers.”

Contributed by digital marketing agency Fat Media

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What developments in tech mean for the future of hospitality

Business related technology continues to evolve at a fast pace across so many industries and sectors, making wide changes to the daily activities of many businesses.

Because of these advancements across other sectors and lifestyles, we are able to identify how industries such as hospitality are likely to take advantage of them in the near future, and how these technologies will become part of the hospitality industry.

Modern businesses should aim to be as inter-connected as possible. Multichannel services  and greater customer accessibility make your business as user-friendly as possible. For the hospitality sector this often means online bookings and payments such as restaurant bills, bar tabs and activity reservations, but also creates an overall improvement to the customer experience.

Payment Systems

Payment technology has evolved a huge extent over recent years, and your business needs to be properly ready for future advancements in order to keep up with customer’s expectations. Recently introduced mobile payment services from the likes of Apple and Google have created new challenges to businesses, as they have had to strive to keep up with such new developments. Cryptocurrency has even begun to infiltrate the hospitality market, with some businesses allowing payments to be made online and in-house via blockchain-based formats.

In October 2018 contactless payments overtook their chip-and-PIN counterpart in the UK for the first time ever – this was helped in part to a huge increase in the number of mobile payments made. However, millions of small businesses across the UK still only take cash payments. In order to remain competitive, hospitality organisations need to ensure they offer as many different kinds of payments as viably possible in order to provide customers with the flexibility that they have come to expect. Businesses that happily offer a range of smooth transactions will succeed over those that are stuck firmly in the past.


Interest in self-service solutions is continuing to grow. An increasing number of businesses are likely to introduce technology that removes the need for customers to interact with another human being, such as when making a booking, taking an order or requesting services. Self-service tech will continue to improve, becoming quicker and more convenient to both the customer and the business, future-proofing the technology to create long-term solutions. By investing in automated services early on, businesses will be able to cut their costs in the years ahead.

Inevitably, not all parts of the hospitality sector can and will be replaced by a robot, but in these situations a self-service option is a welcome addition alongside a human member of staff. This could take the form of an automated phone line in order to take the strain off staff, or a self check-in service alongside the reception desk to ease waiting times.

Public Wifi networks

Today’s consumers expect to be able to connect to public Wi-Fi networks easily and seamlessly in almost every place of business they visit. Public Wi-Fi is nothing new, but modern consumers anticipation of widespread coverage can in fact change their plans based on the usability of a public data service.

When it comes to setting up a public Wi-Fi service, you must ensure your broadband package is able to handle the amount of potential traffic that you predict will be accessing it on a daily basis. Even data limits that sound large can easily be used up quickly if lots of people are logging on to your account freely. It’s also worth investing in a fast package speed, as slow connections can easily frustrate customers and discourage them from visiting your premises in the future.

It is recommended that businesses consider implementing a hotspot gateway – this provides a virtual portal that guests access your customer network through, meaning their traffic is separated from your private network so you can ensure a more secure Internet connection for both you and your guests. A hotspot gateway creates an extra barrier between cybercriminals and your data, while also allowing you to put firewalls in place across your network. Your business will also be provided with some legal protection when any guest connects to your network through a hotspot gateway, as they must accept terms and conditions in order to access the connection.

By Nathan Hill-Haimes, founder of Amvia, a privately-owned, voice, data and cloud application provider based in Sheffield, UK which supplies services to companies of all sizes

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How workplace trends are influencing hotel design

With more and more businesses offering flexible working for their staff, there has been a rise in the need for remote working spaces.

While coffee shops and libraries are common choices for hot-desking, hotel lobbies have become increasingly popular and it’s easy to see why. Hotel lobbies generally don’t tend to be as busy or as loud as coffee shops, the internet connection is good and the atmosphere sophisticated, elegant and warm – a no brainer for any digital nomad or remote worker.

Here at Richmond Hill Hotel we are currently undergoing a major refurbishment which, an incredibly exciting project that has prompted lots of thought about our identity and the design of the hotel moving forward. Wanting to embrace the trend for fluid working we’re keen to create an all-day destination where self-employed entrepreneurs can come to do work in the day, enjoy cocktails or dinner in the evening and stay overnight in one of our newly refurbished, well appointed, Georgian bedrooms.

It has been evident in recent months the evolution of the hotel lobby, from one dimensional check-in office to an all-day destination where guest and non-guests alike can eat, meet and dine. With more workers choosing to leave the confines of the traditional office space behind, what are hotels doing to adapt?

Creating all-day destinations

Hotels today are looking to create spaces that cultivate communities and one of the ways they are doing this is by getting remote workers through their doors and utilising their spaces to create all-day destinations. Remote workers are often looking for atmosphere, comfortability and good technology and hotels that offer this as well as versatile, stylish spaces are much more likely to get people through their doors. Remote workers may utilise the space during the day for work but become customers in the evening as they meet friends or colleagues in the hotel’s restaurants or bars.

Rethinking package options

Attracting remote workers is a great marketing opportunity for hotels and savvy marketers are using the opportunity to win new customers. At Richmond Hill Hotel, for example, bookable meeting rooms offer privacy for meetings and small conferences and no longer necessarily require a full DDR package. Private dry hire room rates are on offer which can be booked for as little or as long as needed, perfect for a one-off presentation, meeting or last minute re-group.

Fuelling productivity

Productivity needs feeding so a key draw for remote workers is always food and drink. Offering barista style coffee certainly helps to lure in busy workers, as does offering simple and delicious menus that change throughout the day. Hotels are creating all-day dining destinations where people can kick back, to brunch, lunch or dine, with a smooth transition to the evening for delicious cocktails or craft beers without fear of getting tired of the offering. Hotels that work seasonal and sustainable produce into their menus will also likely pull in those, particularly millennials, with a socially conscious mind set.

It’s clear to see through new openings and refurbishments that hotels are taking note of the growing need for flexible working spaces. Gone are the days of utilitarian reception areas, hotel lobbies are becoming creative hubs for freelancers, small start-ups and office workers that need a change of scenery. This is a great opportunity for us as an independent hotel and by bringing together great food and drink, beautiful décor, comfortable furnishings, hi-spec facilities and a great atmosphere, Richmond Hill Hotel will be the place to be next spring.

By Diane Tapner-Evans, GM at Richmond Hill Hotel

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A recent survey from hotel solutions provider HRS has found that the demand for innovative technology in hotels is on the rise


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