Monthly Archives: July 2012

What we can do to get kids hooked to the hospitality, leisure and tourism industry


OK, I’m hooked

If anyone had suggested to me a month ago that I’d devote the best part of a sunny summer weekend to watching road cycle racing in preference to gardening I’d have thought them mad! But that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.

Seeing our boys in the Tour de France was the start, and then having the opportunity to be a part of the Olympics right on my doorstep all for the cost of a train fare was too good an opportunity to miss.

The day on Box Hill was perfect; an amazing atmosphere, great weather, brilliant view and not one, not two, but eight chances to see the action on the loop.

Needless to say I was hooked, and was glued to the telly for the entire ladies race on Sunday, despite a hundred and one jobs to do in the garden (and despite what was seen on TV it was actually sunny in Sussex most of the time!).

So what can we learn in business and in particular hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses from this surge of interest in cycling and other sports? 

One of the biggest problems I hear is the concern for a lack of young talent joining the industry. So what can we do to emulate the success of attracting new talent to cycling, athletics, or rowing?

There have certainly been some fantastic role models for the next generation. And what an inspiring idea to have youngsters nominated by some of these past winners to light the Olympic flame.

But the sports have gone far beyond this; rather than waiting for the young talent to come and find them, they’ve been out into schools to find them.

We need to follow suit. And not just leave this to the likes of Springboard. We all need to be doing our bit to fly the flag for the industry and inspire youngsters to want to be a part of it. It won’t happen overnight – most of the youngsters competing for the first time this year have been in training for years. Not all will make it of course, but the earlier we can introduce youngsters to the industry and all it has to offer the more likely we are to leave them with a positive perspective and attract new talent.

Parents, teachers, college lecturers, and careers advisers all have a part to play in influencing future careers. What perception do they have of the industry? Let’s do all we can to educate them and ensure that hospitality, leisure and tourism management is given the profile it deserves.

Establish ambassadors who can generate the passion. Offer work placements to schools and colleges, and make these fun and informative. Organise ‘A day in the life’ and open days for schools, colleges and careers advisers for them to get a real feel for the roles and opportunities, and a chance to talk to those who do the jobs.

Offer work placements for universities that give a structured programme and a really in depth view of the options within hospitality management so once they graduate they stay the course. Feedback from graduates who have experienced work placements in a particular segment of the industry are invariably drawn back to the same disciples on graduation. Without this connection it’s all too easy to stray into other industries if a job of their choice is not immediately forthcoming; potential talent maybe lost to the industry forever.

Let’s put on our own show open to all and give everyone a taste and a chance to be a part of this fantastic industry.

For more articles and resources


Find your passion

Working in a business you don’t enjoy, especially when it’s your own can be soul destroying enough in its own right, but it’s bound to impact on your customers too. If you’ve no passion for your hospitality or leisure business and share no common interests with your customers isn’t it time to do something about it?

Whenever anything went wrong or when confronted with something that was unpleasant my mother always used to say “life’s too short”. Unfortunately in her case it was, and she died at the age of 65. My dad outlived her by nearly 17 years, but sadly died at last year aged 81.

But both of them thankfully spent their latter years doing things that they had a real passion for. Whilst I was at university Mum also went back to school, to train as a psychiatric nurse. She later went on to work in young people’s psychiatric unit and used to come home with stories of playing football with teenage boys, dealing with anorexic girls and other troubled youngsters in the hope of giving them a better chance in adult life. My dad, having initially trained as an architect and then working as an interior designer had always had a passion for vintage cars and for the last 30 years pursued his hobby of restoring his own and others’ cars and frequently worked long into the night in his workshop. And at his funeral people came from far and wide with their cars that he’d worked on over years.

So what have I learnt from my parents about running a business?

Nearly every book on marketing, whether for hotel, hospitality, or restaurant businesses, or any other type of business, will remind you that you need to identify your target market and offer something that meets their needs. But what if when you analyse this you identify a group of people or a product or service which leaves you cold? Would you want these people at your funeral? I know my dad would have been delighted to see so many of his happy customers turn out in his honour.

Working with your perfect guest or customer and the services and products you offer should really excite you. If it doesn’t, it’s bound to have a knock-on effect on the perception of customer service and certainly impact your bottom line. But if it doesn’t excite you why would you want to be doing it anyway?

So in an ideal world you want to be dealing with people with whom you share interests, values or enthusiasm. So how do we find the ideal customers?

Start by listing what you enjoy, what you’re passionate about, what’s important to you. Can these be incorporated into your hotel or hospitality business? If your business reflects your interests the likelihood is you’ll attract other people who share them. You’re more likely to be able to build rapport with them, and you can be more targeted (and successful) with your marketing, both externally and on-site.

Create your values around what is important to you. If it’s important to you to sustainable resources, or care for the environment, or to use fresh, local ingredients when available, create your values around these principles.

If like my dad you have a passion or particular hobby, is this something that you can incorporate into the business in some way. In Dad’s case it was vintage cars, but it could be anything that you’re interested in – be that golf or gardening, shopping or skydiving, woodwork or walking. Your passion should really influence what you offer; whether you focus on just one of your passions or a number passions, it’s a combination of these that add up to make your hotel or hospitality business different. You’ll find it easier to share detail of your real passions, which will not only make your hotel or hospitality business stand out, but attract like-minded guests.

One way of really capitalising on your interests and capture the interest of your guests or customers is to become an expert in something that they and you are interested in. In addition to attracting the type of guests or customers with whom you can build a good rapport and a better prospect of repeat business, it also gives you a great opportunity to get noticed. By writing articles, blog posts, guidebooks or maybe even organising clubs or seminars around your interests or topic, you’ll be on the radar of people who share your interests, which in turn enables you to build your prospect list. It also provides a great opportunity for PR.

Focusing on a specific interest could also involve promoting or writing about events, or organising your own events, and opens up opportunities for joint ventures or partnerships with other businesses, clubs or organisations who share your target audience. What better way to get yourself noticed?

Any of these ways of tying in your interests into your business not only enables you to enjoy what you do and who you work with, but is a great way of being unique and really standing out from your competition. If you have a very niche interest it will translate into a very niche target market.

It’s never too late to start focusing on what you love and where your passions lie. Life’s too short not to.

Are you wasting sales opportunities in your restaurant or pub?

Are you wasting sales opportunities in your restaurant or pub?

Yesterday I went to wave on the Olympic Torch as it passed us by in our nearby town. After parking a good 20 minutes walk away and standing in the rain for 20 minutes I was certainly ready for a cup of coffee, as I’m sure were many others.

I knew I’d be passing a pub restaurant on the way back to the car, along with another 200 or so people who’d parked in the same street. So that meant 200 or so cold, thirsty and wet customers.

And guess what?

The pub was closed. What a waste!

Here they had a captive audience, and completely gone to waste. And the next thing is they’ll be moaning about lack of business. Surely for that number of people it was worth opening 30 minutes earlier and making a song and dance about it. After all we all had to walk past on our way to the procession. Juat a little bit of restaurant marketing could have gone a long way.

Even with passing trade there was a great opportunity to drum up business.

What could they have done?

Here are 7 ideas to get some sales:

  1. Took account of the weather and how people would be feeling on the day
  2. Put up a welcome board or sign to attract attention
  3. Organised take away coffee for people en route to the procession
  4. Put together a bundled offer – e.g. coffee and Danish or hot food to give value for money and upsell opportunity (win-win)
  5. Joined the other businesses who got press coverage of what they were doing to celebrate (and get on the radar of visitors for potential further business; another win-win)
  6. Contacted their regulars and existing customers to let them know what they had on offer (easy if you have a mailing list)
  7. Bothered to open the doors!

I know it’s not rocket science……

For more articles and resources


Where does your restaurant profit end up?

According to the external stock taker I was talking to yesterday, anyone in hospitality who thinks they haven’t got steeling going on is dreaming! Harsh words, but he was speaking from his years’ of experience.

How would you know if you had even minor problems with your stock – the odd free drink to friends, or a couple of fillets steaks for the weekend?

Unless you are on top of your figures it’s so difficult to spot when you have a problem. Sometimes it can go on for years undetected.

For example:

  • Do you know how much money you made last week?
  • Do you know how much your most popular dish is costing to produce and what profit (or loss!) it generates?
  • Do you know what impact a 1% increase or decrease in spend per head would have on your bottom line?
  • Do you know the return on your marketing investment from your last promotion?

No matter how compelling your marketing, how amazing your food, how extraordinary your service, and how happy your customers, at the end of the day if you aren’t making money on what you sell you have a problem. And unless you have a way of detecting this quickly the longer it can go on without you realising.

Stock control is key and here are some suggestions for keeping control on your stock. But it’s more than that.

Here are the top 4 things that you must keep on top of:

Regular recipe costing

  • Cost your recipe before you put them on the menu to decide if you can afford to put them on the menu at prices your guests are willing to pay
  • Post cost to check that what the chef produced is in line with what you initially planned. Ingredients coming in at higher prices, shrinkage, difficulties with portion control, wastage can all have an imp[act on the actual dish cost
  • Re cost the dish whenever any of the key ingredients fluctuate in price

Menu engineering

  • Knowing your stars – the high profit items, so you and your team know what to promote. Identifying the actual profit in monetary terms, not just percentages.
  • Showing your team the margins so they understand why some dishes need more of a push than others helps them understand the significance of why you might want them to sell more of one dessert than another

Your profit sensitivity

  • What impact small changes on spend per head, customer numbers or number of visits can have on your bottom line.
  • This is key to understand before you even consider giving any discounts.

Your bottom line profit and loss.

  • Too many restaurants leave far too long a gap between calculating their profit. Yes, it’s a chore taking stock, but unless you do you can never get anything like an accurate figure on your profit. And worse still unless you physically take stock you’ll never know when you have a problem with wastage or pilferage.

So to help you get on top of your figures I’ve bundled together my top 4 favourite tools, and am offering these at a special price for the whole of this week in honour of my birthday, plus I’m adding in a special bonus gift. Click here to learn more

Do you ever fail your hotel guests in the end?

Imagine this….

You’ve had a fantastic time. You’ve been well cared for, attended to with fantastic hospitality. Your meal was wonderful, the evening was relaxed and all your friends, family, clients or colleagues have had a good time.

But then it all turns sour. It’s time to go home and you want to pay. But nobody wants to take your money!

Has this ever happened to you?

More importantly has it ever happened to any of your guests?

Where can it all go wrong?

In the restaurant you have a busy night. The table of 6 seem happy enough, and your team are now rushed off your feet with the party of 10 who arrived late and clash with another 2 groups who arrived at the same time.

So what’s the problem?

The final course

  • Do we give as much attention to the final course as we do with the first two?
  • How much effort goes into describing the desert
  • Is the timing right, allowing sufficient time for people to appreciate their main course and wine, before thrusting the desert menu under their noses?
  • If people want to take a break, are they then ignored for half an hour and then go off the idea of a desert altogether?
  • Are people offered extras such as a desert wine, an extra glass of wine, digestifs?


  • How easy is it for guests to catch your eye when they want the bill? Or do they feel invisible?
  • How quickly does it then arrive, and what conversation takes place as it’s placed on the table – or is it just dumped and the staff member disappears again
  • How do you get the balance between responding quickly but not letting the guest feel rushed?
  • How are queries dealt with?
  • How much conversation takes place while their card is being processed – it’s an ideal time to get some feedback and continue to build rapport with the guest.
  • How well does your credit card machine work in all parts of the restaurant?

Hotel guest checkout

  • At the hotel checkout you have a conference on and everyone wants to check out at the same time and are twitchy about getting to the conference on time
  • If it’s a busy period do other team members help out to lessen the load and avoid queuing?
  • Is the bill ready when the guest is ready to check out?
  • Does red tape or your system prevent you from postponing checkout until later in the day?
  • Do you have other staff on hand to deal with answering the phone?
  • Is there someone to deal with complicated invoices who knows the detail?
  • Is the printer well stocked with paper to print out invoices and receipts?
  • Are staff trained to deal with things when they go wrong e.g. when the printer jams, when there is a query over the bill, when their credit card won’t go through?

Conference organisers

  • Is there anyone to be found in the conference suite at the end of the day?
  • Does anyone ask for feedback on their day or how you can improve for next time?
  • Does anyone offer to help pack up so the organiser or host can get away?


  • What conversation takes place as your guests leave?
  • If guests are returning to the hotel after a day out or from a conference just to collect bags, do they get the same level of courtesy as they would have earlier, or are they now just ignored?
  • Does anyone offer to call a taxi, or give directions for their onward journey?
  • Are they helped with their coats?
  • Are they thanked for their custom?
  • Do they get asked for feedback?
  • Is there an invitation to see them back again?
  • Do they get told of other events they might be interested in?
  • Are they given anything to take away with them as a memento of their visit?
  • Does anyone hold the door for them, help them with bags or offer them an umbrella if it’s raining


Keep your customer informed

I’m still waiting.

I’m still waiting for something I ordered two months ago.

Now I accept that things go wrong. Sometimes an order gets misplaced. Sometimes you run out of stock. Sometimes there are delivery or staff issues in getting the product to the customer. But two months without so much as an apology? I don’t think so.

This is a company I’ve used without issue for over two years, and up till now always good service and at a reasonable price. So you could say I was a loyal customer.

Notice the use of the past tense here. I was a loyal customer, but alas no more.

Having chased the article in question over a month ago I was told it was out of stock but I’d have it by the end of June. No explanation, no apology, and no offer of a refund instead.  Said item didn’t arrive in June and still has not. I have since had an apology of sorts from their customer service department, but did it come uninitiated? No, only after I’d chased again.

So what can we learn from this for hospitality businesses?

Well things do go wrong. The better your team and your systems the less likely, but even with the best will in the world sometimes there are things that get missed or things that are totally out of your control.

Guest mostly understand this….. providing you keep them informed.

  • Let them know when there will be a delay, so they can make a decision on whether to wait or change or cancel their order.
  • Let them know when what you’ve promised can’t be delivered so they can plan accordingly
  • Offer an alternative or give the guest a number of options
  • Offer something by way of a reasonable compensation to show you appreciate their patience or inconvenience
  • And most of all, admit to any mistakes on your part. Don’t be too proud to apologise.

Your hotel or restaurant guest will appreciate your honesty and this all helps to keep the trust and relationship sweet, so unlike me your guests remain loyal.