helvetisch accompanies companies to express their uniqueness in interior design and creates independent room concepts. In the hotel and catering sector, we work together with a proven expert - Benedict Fornaro. He has worked for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and The Leading Hotels of the World in leading positions and was able to take a look behind the scenes at over 300 hotels. Today, his own company focuses on the successful interplay between concept, hospitality and profitability. But what exactly does it take for a concept to be successful?
Fortunately, there is no golden passpartout for a successful hotel and restaurant concept. But one thing is obvious: the interaction between hosts, employees, guests and products is a difficult matter. Benedict Fornaro deals with hotel concepts and their cost-effectiveness and explains in an interview which measurable points need to be taken into account.
Benedict Fornaro, many service providers work on successful concepts. What is this and what should a hotelier or restaurateur look out for?
The concept is often used to describe the intangible. It is a kind of generalistic expression that contains all facets: great business considerations right down to the little things that make the guest happy. It's all about supply and demand. For hotel and gastronomy concepts this means: How many people will stay overnight or eat? What needs do I want to cover with my offer? Every hotelier thinks about why the guests stay overnight. Is it a question of relaxation, is one on the road for business or simply has no other option than to stay overnight in this hotel? I am thinking of beach resorts, where guests can relax up to airport hotels, where stranded passengers are looking for a place to stay.
But such considerations do not yet question the whole business model, do they?
Actually, the business plan for each type of hotel and restaurant is somewhat different. Some considerations have to be made if you want to maximize profits through clever planning in purchasing, economies of scale or more turnover.
What figures can a hotelier and a restaurateur use as orientation?
There are various key figures. Profit and cash flow are the most obvious, but they "only" show the result. The occupancy rate is the average occupancy rate of the hotel. If it is higher than 90%, the overnight stay is too cheap and you lose room to renovate rooms or offer an alternative to dissatisfied guests. There are reasons for too low occupancy rates such as too high room rates, inefficient sales activities and more. Another indicator is the average rate during a certain period. This figure compared to the cost per room helps in assessing how profitable you are. The average stay rate indicates how many nights the guests stay in the house. This number has a big influence on the offer and the organization in the hotel. For more than four days, for example, the hotel needs different restaurants and bars. If the guests stay one or two days, the needs are different.
And what about gastronomy? The guests are much shorter in the establishment.
You have less time to leave an impression on your guests. But here, too, there are indicators that you should keep in mind: The turnover per "available seat hour" indicates whether you earn enough money. It shows how much money was earned per seat during opening hours. This has a direct effect on the pricing of the menu or the speed with which guests are served. Another indicator is the cost of goods. If the costs for food and drinks exceed 30% of the turnover, the alarm bells go off for the restaurateurs.
This list is not exhaustive. There are various key figures and even if everything is right, there are other reasons why things can go badly in business. So you don't have a golden key for hotels and restaurants either, do you? No - luckily not! Both industries are incredibly dynamic.
Besides the figures, what makes a successful concept?
Every guest is touched emotionally and has expectations when entering a hotel or restaurant. For example, there are countless holiday resorts with beaches, good food and great suites. Whether the guest is completely happy during their stay depends on the interpersonal skills of the staff and the "soft factors". In other words, question whether the concept is refined and creative, the quality of the entertainment, of the processed goods is high and more. The bottom line is that the guest's expectations must be exceeded. The situation is different for a hotel with business customers. Motivation and expectations are different. The guest doesn't necessarily want to spend the night here, but makes the best of it. This is the reason why these hotels have well stocked bars, offer fast ironing and laundry services or workstations in the rooms.
That sounds like the legendary "Customer Centricity"
The hotel industry is probably the sector with the greatest expectations of customers towards service providers. Hosts are always called upon to recognise and satisfy the needs of their customers - and to do so profitably!
Can you explain this with an example?
An exciting case for these challenges is the audio technology in the rooms. Guests' habits have changed a lot in recent years: Twenty years ago, luxurious hotel rooms had stereo systems in their rooms. In the 2000s, IPods and the first IPhones led hoteliers to invest in playback stations for them. After a short time, the connectors of that time were passé and the devices became silent. Today, the guest only needs a Bluetooth connection between the smartphone and the room system. Hoteliers invested to then watch how the technology became obsolete within a very short time. This does not mean, however, that the investment was in vain.
What does the future hold for the hotel industry? Will hotels survive the modern trends?
If you recall the simple purpose of a hotel - a room and a bed - you can confidently say: Yes, hotels survive. According to a UNWTO study, 1.33 billion hotel arrivals were recorded in 2018. That is 86 million more than in 2017. The question of the form of the hotel industry, on the other hand, is justified. The needs of both guests and employees are changing. But the fact is that the needs have always changed. Skilful hoteliers work with this change on a daily basis. There are always innovative concepts that meet the needs of their time, whether in the past, today or in the future. This is where the fascination for the hotel and gastronomy industry lies.
Where will we as guests see the most changes?
A lot will change in the public spaces. Since the 1990s, hotels have invested heavily in spas. For some years now, guests have wanted to relax not only in bathing pools, but also in the public areas of the hotel. Here, work and leisure are mixed in the form of cosy seating areas, libraries, lounge music, sockets and work niches. For hoteliers, this is a difficult terrain, as little turnover can be generated, but guests feel very comfortable.
Many hotels market their history. How important is history for a hotel or restaurant?
History in the sense of a long tradition is not really important as long as you don't try to market it. Much more important is a kind of red thread - identity. No hotel that operates successfully without an identity comes to my mind out of the blue. As I said, every hotel stay is also about emotions. Identity influences these emotions.
So the golden key to successful hotel business after all?
Just a placeholder! As clear as the fact that identity is important, as difficult is the description of these traits. This is an enormous challenge. Identity influences countless factors. One of the most important is in any case the staff that is in contact with the guest. The basis for this is strong values, a clear vision and goals. Identity can only be lived if it is described simply and comprehensibly in the form of independent values. If the whole staff understands the identity, a basic attitude develops, which plays along with each still so small decision.
Is it often the case that the personality of the hotelier and host determines this identity?
Ideally, it is the host who exemplifies this cordiality. In larger companies or hotel chains, the values are theoretically defined and an infectious momentum develops from this. A famous example is the motto at Ritz Carlton Hotels: "Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen". This principle of dignity, sincerity and elegance can be recognized in every Ritz Carlton Hotel - as guest or employee. What is striking is that successful hotels have an identity that matches that of their guests. When hotel and guest alienate each other, confusion and disappointment arise. Here, too, there is no passe-partout for a successful hotel identity. And also here applies: luckily