This articles summarises some of the many practical aspects of running a successful hotel. Running a successful hotel the first time involves a series of organised routines and work practices. When taking over a hotel form a buyer, implementing practical changes for the first few days of trading is essential. These include changing the business contact details on all stationery and advertising materials, ensuring utility electricity and gas and telephone accounts continue (so guests can continue are enjoying basic in-room services promised). It will also be very important to ensure that you have adequate hotel insurance including public liability insurance to ensure that any accidents are covered from the second you take on ownership. You’ll need to notify your local tourist board to ensure that your registered as the new owner and make sure you also have legal ownership of the hotels established website (to reflect the fact that contact details may have changed). Your payment details also need to be logged with the local council (for business rates) and suppliers notified so the established supply chain of materials (such as linen and food and drinks) does not collapse.
Prior to your first day you will need to undertake a complete inventory of all of the interior aspects of your new hotel. Most small hotels will have a combination of the owner’s personal items along with furniture and fittings (which are only intended for use by the guests). This stock inventory check will include all of the furniture and fittings, drink bottles and non-perishable food stock, cutlery and stationery and any other disposable items (which any normal hotel will ordinarily have for their guests). Failure to take on an adequate stock check may result in guests not receiving the service you want them to receive. For example to run out of soap, shampoo or toilet rolls is simply not acceptable.
Running a Hotel-tips
You will need to establish a daily routine centred around the reception area of the hotel. The front office reception is the focal point of your business and it will be the first point of call for guest queries, rivals and check-out of guests. This will include planning out in detail from supply deliveries, preparing the breakfasts, payment of invoices, taking bookings over the telephone and logging queries, scheduling turning out the rooms, organising laundry collections, setting the table areas, cleaning the rooms and so on. The detailed daily checklist will depend on the size and the complexity of the hotel. A sensible process would be to divide up your daily routine by areas of the hotel, by hour, by person responsible for the action.
You will need a system to deal with enquiries by telephone, letter or e-mail and set process for replying to them accordingly. That system should include a method of accepting a booking in a reservation and potentially accepting a deposit from customer to secure that booking. Once the deposit has been received you will need a confirmation process by letter or e-mail in place. As this process will continue again and again with every guest, (hundreds and probably thousands of times over the years) clearly you need to be familiar with and computerised software or reservation process you put in place. This may include preparing standard letters, booking forms, receipts and invoices. You will also receive a large number of general enquiries by telephone and will need a process for sending out further information or redirecting them to your website (which will help save on your annual stationery and printing bills for brochures and leaflets).
The quality of your correspondence reflects the personality and character of the hotel. Inaccurate or poorly organised letters will reflect badly on the hotel and give the impression of disorganisation and poor man management. Conversely attention to detail and a prompt response to enquiries are more likely to attract prospective guests who will be impressed by your good nature, professionalism and helpfulness. All inbound enquiries should be logged so that if there is more than one member of staff at different times manning the reservations desk, there is a clear communication between staff members to ensure double bookings are not occur. It is also probable that different staff members need to pick up actions left by the previous shift (such as replying to e-mails or letters of members of the public). Low-cost reservation software systems will provide an accurate way of ensuring guests receive what they expected. It’s important to clarify the exact requirements when they arrive (such as their dinner requirements, how much their deposit they have paid, the contact details and their reservation to and from dates). Tracking guest requirements will be an important aspect of your marketing process for guests who may come back and stay on a regular basis. Using your reservation system you may choose to send out a promotional offers in the future (such as during a seasonal period when you know that some guests are visiting the area of business or are attracted to certain location during the summer months will stop the example families visiting the seaside).
You also required by law to ensure you display your tariffs accurately in a reception area. This may also serve to reduce general enquiries from potential guests as well as avoid any confusion over disputed bills and sundry extras associated with the checkout. You’re required by law to register all guests over 16 years of age when they arrive at your hotel and this is accepted part of the greeting process on both sides. Under the Immigration Hotel Records Order of 1972 guests will need to provide their name, address, postcode and nationality. Foreign guests will need to provide their passport number and ultimate place of destination. These records must be kept for one year in case of any enquiry by the authorities.
Be prepared to provide additional information to new guests (who will not know their way around your hotel and may not know where they are exactly in the local area). Solve the latter problem in advance by preparing a simple one-page leaflet of the nearby point of interest (including maps and contact details). This will leave them with the impression that you are helpful, hospitable, organised and have already thought of their needs. Make clear any details which guests should be aware when they arrive (such as when dinner starts the checkout times for the following morning). Always smile and be as helpful as possible when pointing out the direction of their room and ask if they need any assistance carrying luggage or other items to their room.
For larger hotels the need to prepare the bills early in the morning is essential to avoid guests cueing while trying to check (causing frustration and onward delays to their journey). Therefore it is important to record any additional extras to their room bill as soon as possible prior to excepted check out time. This will allow you to prepare the final bill early in the morning in anticipation of the guest settling their account. Lastly don’t forget to place a guestbook in the reception area to allow your guests to make any comments about their stay with you. Sometimes guests with criticisms may prefer to write them in your guestbook (which is equally valuable feedback as positive phrase).
For small hotels and bed and breakfasts the quality of the food is absolutely essential in delighting your guests and increasing the chances they will return in the future. Most people enjoy a good English breakfast, served fresh and warm and with a smile. Therefore the organisation within the kitchen is essential, so that food is served hot and efficiently. The breakfast menu is an important factor providing a number of choices for your guests which can be partially prepared in anticipation of guests arriving at breakfast time. By asking your guests what they would like to choose from the breakfast menu the night before, your breakfast routine in the kitchen suddenly comes completely straightforward and allows food to be cooked and served fresh. Therefore in your welcome process for guest registration, remember to ask them for their breakfast order and any requirements through morning newspaper.
Finding a really good qualified chef to run the kitchen is absolutely essential. Discuss with him the sensible dinner menu choices well in advance so that it meets the expectations of your guests. Many people are opting for organic and fresh vegetables these days and you should thoroughly research what your competitors are serving on their dinner menus. The more choices you offer the more cooking ability, raw ingredients and planning are required. To avoid frustrating guests with unnecessary waiting, always take the main meal order first (to provide the chef with maximum cooking time in advance). Make sure guests understand when dinner is served and when it finishes to avoid spreading out across an unnecessary time period. For hoteliers running smaller establishments with no experience of cooking, it is essential you understand the basics of food hygiene, food safety needs must be learned through formal training and educational courses.
Focus on the food cost and price you charge guests. Visit all the local competing establishments to establish the advertised price of a main meal, starters and desserts. Many pubs are simply glorified restaurants these days targeting family orientated nights out. Hotels have an additional market to capture here. People want good sized portions, served fresh, hot and at a reasonable price. It’s likely that your food margin will be low but supplemented by drinks orders which will provide you with the additional margin you seek. When you plan your menu with your chef construct a detailed budget to check profitability and break even point.
Guests naturally expect to book a hotel room that has been thoroughly cleaned and prepared (following other guests staying in that room the previous night). Hygiene is at the top of guests priority in terms of choosing a hotel to book. Guests will not want to see any evidence that someone else is used at room before. Sheets must be freshly cleaned, a bathroom disinfected, the floor hovered, the rubbish removed and the room completely spotless. You only have one chance to make a first impression – so the routine for cleaning bedrooms must be diligent and thorough. You will need some type of trolley containing all the cleaning materials to move between room to room and it’s sensible to prepare detailed checklist to tick off after finishing each room to ensure that nothing is forgotten during the cleaning process. This will probably include removing any dirty cutlery, collecting rubbish, removing bed linen, turning off any lights, opening the windows to air the room, dusting everywhere, making the bed, hovering the room and disinfecting all areas of the bathroom. Attention must also be paid to dusting and hovering all the public areas of the hotel including always in corridors and especially the main entrance area of the hotel. It sensible to record sheet of a public notice board when that particular part of the hotel is being cleaned last so that guests can clearly see attention to hygiene and cleanliness.
You also have to pay close attention to the accounting issues faced by small hotels. These include opening up a bank account in order to take booking deposits, pay VAT, pay staff expenses, accept credit cards, manage petty cash and so on. Ask your accountant to devise systems for recording expenses, revenues, petty cash and VAT.
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