Reinventing the hotel management mindset

It’s time to start thinking differently about the relationship between hotels and the F&B within them. Conventional wisdom tells us hoteliers are firmly in charge. But what if we told you after
nearly 40 years operating restaurants and hotels, it’s clear those trained on the F&B side of the business can make for more effective hotel managers.

It’s a startling observation that surprised us too. It’s just such an outrageous concept that’s diametrically opposed to everything we’ve been taught as industry professionals. Yet, as much as we tried to convince ourselves this wasn’t the case, our real world data and experience proves the opposite is true.

Now perhaps there is a way to find ways to mine untapped areas for even great success. With dozens of hotels, restaurants, and hotels that contain restaurants, under our stewardship, we know the heartbeat of a restaurant operator beats differently than that of a hotel operator. We see it playing out here at Heart of America Group, most of our hotel general managers come through the restaurant side of our business.

We’ve pinned the biggest reason on the amount of time spent interacting with customers on a daily basis. While hoteliers and restauranteurs have the same ingrained passion, it’s the continual human interaction giving these managers the edge. Guest touch points on the restaurant side occur much more frequently than in a hotel as servers, for example, are constantly interacting with guests and getting to understand them on a deeper level than the cursory interactions of a quick hello in the hotel lobby.

It’s a subtle shift that makes a huge difference. Look at it this way. Traditional hoteliers are more challenged to have that same depth of guest interaction experience. Hoteliers have less organic means of guest contact, meaning that after several years, the restaurant professional literally has thousands of hours of deeper, more meaningful customer interactions.

Additionally, there are some hoteliers that still don’t see the restaurant as a profit center to be embraced, but rather one that must be tolerated as a brand requirement. It’s an unconscious prejudice many times created by a lack of understanding the F&B business which manifests itself in underperforming restaurants. Folks coming from the restaurant side of the business, however, do not see F&B as a separate silo, or the hotel restaurant as a necessary evil.

Overall, we see those individuals coming from the restaurant side as not only great at guest relations, but can operate the hotel in a more cohesive way, blending in the F&B side of the business more expertly.

To us it’s about taking energy from the restaurant environment and finding exciting yet natural ways to translate that energy into the hotel space. This philosophy also abolishes an internal operational culture clash, while eliminating resource competition between departments, which is reemphasized throughout continual training initiatives.

At Heart of America we look to nurture that dichotomy between the two sides of the business in such a manner allowing astute hotel owners to operate the hotels more effectively. It’s a cornerstone strategy pairing our upscale, yet casual dining concept Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, with your hotel to create a more vibrant well rounded business that dramatically improves the bottom line.

Owners also see simplified reporting from this way of looking at their business because nearly all properties can operate on single P&L, reducing the age old departmental problem of ‘hey this my department, but not my expense’ mentality.

Other practical ways this operational philosophy helps: In staff meetings everyone communicates together, on off peak hours a restaurant host could help with front of house tasks and vice versa. That fluidity creates staffing model flexibility while also keeping staff busy and engaged with customers throughout the day. And it gives employees a clearer career path, a critical must as the industry deals with a shrinking talent pool.

Guest experience is more critical than ever, and imbuing your staff with the restaurant ethos will generate more hotel income and happier, more engaged guests.

For more information on how your hotel can reach maximum value and profitability contact Ajay Singh, VP Brand Development of Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse with Heart of America Group ( Connect with Ajay via phone at 309-743-3247 or via email at [email protected].