Ask TrueGuest: Bartender Selling Techniques

Dear TrueGuest,

I am a food and beverage manager at a hotel with two bars.  Can you tell me some ways that we can increase our revenues?  We are obviously a little bit slower lately, but is there anything that we can do to help?

mixed-drink1The selling area of a bartender’s service is always overlooked. These selling standards are extremely important to generating higher revenues. Bartenders can come across as uncaring and unfriendly if they just approach and ask guests, “What can I get for you?” They also will not sell much more than the minimum guest order. Most hotel bars are not like the bars or nightclubs that stand alone.People usually expect more from a hotel bar.The service of a bartender should be similar to that provided by servers to a table of guests that are eating.There are many selling standards that should be in place for each time a guest arrives at the bar.This includes practices such as offering your drink menu to guests whether they know what they want or not, providing a food menu, suggesting any specialty drinks, offering more beverages, and offering bar snacks.Each of these practices has its own effect and benefit on your bartender’s guest service as well as revenues.Here is a breakdown.

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The Benefits of Mystery Shopping

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Many managers usually ask us, “Why do we need mystery shopping?” or “How will mystery shopping benefit our hotel?”We are here today to answer these questions for you and more.Let’s start with the most basic, but very important question of, “What is Mystery Shopping?”To TrueGuest, mystery shopping is a training and observations tool for managers.With shoppers acting as normal customers writing detailed reports about the service they experienced, managers are able to get the rare glimpse of the service from a guest’s perspective.Mystery shopping provides a great look at the service a hotel provides that you, as a manager cannot personally see.By using these reports, a service improvement training program can be implemented with the proper accountability.How often do you train and train on service standards only to get poor “official” scores on guest service?How do you know where to begin to find out what went wrong?Mystery shopping reports provide that accountability tool for managers.They can find out exactly what is or is not happening that creates poor service.

magnifying_glass1There are many hotels that tell us, “We are doing well in our guest service scores, so we do not need any mystery shopping!”To those hotels, we say, “Congratulations!”But think of it this way; who fills out those comment cards that you regularly base your success on?The guests that take the time to fill out the comment cards are almost always either the guests that had a wonderful visit or the guests that had a completely terrible visit. This probably accounts for only 1% of your total guests.What you are essentially saying is that you do not care about how any of the guests in between feel; a good 99% of them.You are risking the loyalty of the guests that you provided below-average service to, who did not feel like filling out your comment cards.How would your corporate office respond to that?Comment cards are like a crapshoot; you hope that you get “good” guests this month and that they give favorable scores.Why not turn that crapshoot into a sure thing?Mystery shopping provides an unbiased, objective look at your service at any given time.Managers are then able focus on keeping service consistently high by pinpointing and correcting any service deficiencies instead of waiting for a guest to comment on them.Unfortunately, they probably will have chosen another hotel by then.

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Thinking Strategically in this Recession

In this time of recession, there has been widespread panic throughout the hotel industry.  With much lower occupancy forecasts, hotel managers have been trying to prepare for 2009 as it seems like it will be a grim year.  But what are some of these managers doing?  Some hotels have been laying off employees to meet the demand, finding any way to cut some costs, and even working hourly shifts themselves to save some money.  But is this really the right way to do things?  We will provide you with a new perspective and maybe you will begin to look at your operations in a new light.  You will find that your job as a manager should mean more than trying to catch up to the present.manager1

If you think about your job description as a manager, what does it contain?  Is it to remedy situations and deal with issues as they arise?  Or is it to strategically plan and steadily improve the hotel as a whole in the long-term?  If it was written well, your job description should include a combination of both of these areas.  Unfortunately, at a time of a worsening economy and with the uncertainty of where your next dollar of revenue will come from, it is hard for managers to think of anything else than the short-term.  They begin cutting employee shifts, finding cheaper supplies, and doing anything they can to make that bottom line more attractive.  Though yes, some of the cost cutting is necessary to meet the lower demands, do the managers have the correct mentality when they are going about these profit saving measures?  My guess is no.  The managers are usually just thinking, “How can I get this month’s P&L looking good even though we are not getting any business?”  Newsflash!  If you have no revenues, your profit line will not look good no matter what you try to do! 

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Simple Guest Service Reminders

For the new year, resolve to improve guest service throughout your property.  We all know it will be tough year to hit budgets and to attract more business.  A great, and cheap way to keep the business you already have is to make sure your guest service exceeds standards.  A very simple way to do so is by making sure that your team  is trained to say the right things to guests.

customer_serviceAt a recent stay at a very fancy and expensive hotel, we ran into many issues.  The issues ranged from very small to a very large one but regardless, it did not seem that the guest service team was properly trained to handle the problems that we encountered.  Though they were able to fix the problems quickly and satisfactory, the guest service team was not empathetic or even apologetic at all.  This made our mystery shopper feel very unimportant even though we had just paid over $400 for the night.

To see the effect of slight changes in your team’s words on your guest service, please read this article on the Hotel & Motel Management website.

The author, Doug Kennedy, provides great examples of what many of your associates currently say to guests and what they should say instead.  It is a great way to improve your guest service without much cost!  For example, Kennedy points out the dreaded way to greeting a lone-diner at a restaurant with, “Just One?”, making the diner feel even lonelier.    He provides an excellent way to greet those guests by using, “Welcome to the restaurant  are you ready to be seated?”  The author also gives a few other great examples but leaves you to figure out how this concept can be applied to the many other areas of guest contact in your hotels.  It is a great way to keep your current guests happy and have them continue to choose your hotel in the future without spending any money!

Asking the Right Questions During an Interview

Whether you are new to the hiring process or have been interviewing candidates for years, it is always helpful to refresh yourself on some of the questions that can and cannot be asked during an interview.  With the large number of discrimination lawsuits filed, it can be easy to catch a lawsuit without even realizing it.  With some new types of questions, you may also gain some new perspectives and methods in your current hiring practices.

InterviewBefore you start, remember the categories that are illegal to discriminate against.  This will help you phrase all of your questions properly.  These categories include: Disabilities, Marital/Family Status, Religion, Sexual Orientation, Ethnic Group/Race, Nationality, Age, Gender, Arrest Record, Outside Affiliations, and other miscellaneous items such as the ability to drive.  Remember to never ask any questions that involve these categories as it can be interpreted as discriminatory.  Any questions that you ask must pertain to the job that is being interviewed for and the skills and abilities required for that position.  If you are unsure about a question that you would like to pose, consider making the question as general and open-ended as possible. 

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Guest Room Knocking Etiquette

Hotel-Room-Door-HandleHaving stayed in many hotels, we have experienced our share of disturbances.Unfortunately, many of these disturbances have been caused by the hotel’s staff.  The most awkward and uncomfortable ones come from the knocks and entries at the guest room door.  People treat their guest rooms in a hotel like their bedrooms at home.  Unfortunately, they do not think about the fact that many employees in that hotel have a key to these bedrooms.  On the other hand, many hotel employees do not think of hotel guest rooms as being private to the hotel guests.  Three knocks and a quick key swipe and they have entered the room, too quick for the guest to object.

Most guests like to be comfortable in their rooms and are not in their normal, public attire.  It is very embarrassing to be seen that way in an unplanned fashion.  Make sure that all employees in your hotel are properly trained in the etiquette of how to properly knock and enter a guest’s room.  Here are some the tips to remember: Continue reading

How to Calculate Beverage Cost

calculatorSurprisingly, many people that are in food and beverage management positions and even general management positions do not know how to calculate beverage costs, one of the most important costs in every hotel’s budget.  Don’t worry, we won’t tell!  We will help you keep that secret by showing you how beverage cost is calculated.  It is really quite simple.

Here is the way that most actual costs are calculated.  This is the cost that you usually try to get as low as possible in order to beat your budget.

First, you will need your bar’s total purchases (in dollars) for the period.  Remember, these should be liquor purchases only.  Second, you will need to know your change in liquor inventory (in dollars) for the period.  You will then subtract the total change in inventory from the total purchases (if total change in inventory is negative, keep it that way but still subtract it from total purchases).  We must take into account the inventory change because if you do not, purchasing more liquor to stock up would drive your liquor cost up, while lowering your inventory by purchasing less would lower your liquor cost.  If the liquor inventory is not considered, your liquor usage will not be properly seen in your cost calculation.  Lastly, you will need your bar’s total liquor revenues for the period.  Divide the first (purchases – inventory) number by the revenues.  That final number will be the cost percentage for the period.  A formula for those of you that need to see it visually is below.

 Actual Cost Formula

Check back soon for more useful tips that just might make your job easier.

TrueGuest Service Tips for Every Hotel!

Logo_Mark-Five_Diamond_Hospitality copy2We are very fortunate to be able to stay at some of the top hotels, including some amazing five diamond properties.  While your hotel may not have the staffing budget of a five diamond hotel, there are still plenty of service tips that everyone can learn from the five diamonds.

Here are some tips for providing five diamond service that does not cost much:

  1. Teach all of your associates the phrase ‘my pleasure’:  When a guest says ‘thank you’, associates at top properties always respond with ‘it is my pleasure’.  Other properties respond with ‘you’re welcome’ or ‘no problem’.
  2. Every associate must be guest focused instead of task focused:  At a three diamond hotel, a housekeeper held up the elevator that I was in to wait for her friend so they could go to lunch together.  The next day at a five diamond, an engineer who happened to be walking near an elevator saw me walking down the hallway and automatically pressed the elevator button.  The engineer was aware of my need as a guest.  The housekeeper was only aware of her own need for a lunch break.

Shift Break Troubles

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Shift breaks, they are the law here in California.  It is trouble that most restaurants  managers hate to deal with.  It is the policy that most servers fail to adhere to.  Those mandatory breaks that each employee must take is not just a burden on the server and the restaurant managers, it is frustrating to your customers as well.

While eating at the restaurant of a very exquisite and expensive hotel the other day, we had a disappointing experience.  Our service could have been described as good and terrible.  How?  Well, the service and friendliness from our server and bartender was excellent and would have rated a 5 of 5… when they were around.

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