Four More Years! Four More Years?
Your consumers have drastically changed in the last four years. Here’s a look at what the next four years may bring. Contrary to the latest news and prognosticators on television, newspaper columnists and pundits, I have yet to hear too much about a definitive plan for the upcoming worldwide outlook and the ‘fiscal cliff’ that is supposedly rapidly approaching.
On the other hand, most of the rhetoric I hear from the hospitality industry is a great deal of talk and discussion about where they think they and we the consumer are going in the future.
As a result of changed customer and guest expectations and perceptions, hotel and restaurant companies are finding that they must strike a better balance between price sensitive business and the rest of the guest experience. Much of the industry has spent the last four years cutting expenses, labor and costs, eliminating perks for guests and trying to hold onto market share while increasing performance and profitability. These steps are all good and proper for a recessionary period and lack luster economy, but it has taken its toll on the overall guest experience and how customers think about choosing a hotel to use and restaurant to dine at, in other words, we have become even more discriminating with our choices.
Guests are very wise to ferret out price-point promotions, and have navigated the ‘deal mentality’ very well for the past few years. Road Warriors and savvy guests now utilize the tool of social media to comment, critique, and research and compliment those operators who value their business and reward them with positive feedback. But as we progress along the process of life there will be some dramatic changes happening the next few years and I am not referring to health care and taxes.
The baby boomer generation is drifting away, either by choice or simply being off loaded in today’s business and hospitality employment world. Those long term supporters of brands and companies are here to for loyal guests and will be a fading memory of the good times, great average hotel rates, occupancy and large average check restaurant spending.
The Millennial Movement is upon the hospitality industry and their loyalty to brands, embrace of the social network of life, travel trends and experiential demands are far beyond the current demographic market spectrum. Just the concept of eating in restaurants, something we used to refer to as dining, has dramatically and will forever be adjusted from the “norm” as it has be called in the not too distant past. The 30-something center of this immerging guest, staff and market segment will most certainly redefine the substance and style of how we move forward in the hospitality industry. Although paraphrasing my Sociology Professor from college who once said, ‘before we change the system, we better make sure we have built a better model.’
Recently I stayed at a relatively new and well know mid-market boutique hotel in a major city. I, along with our client, was looking forward to this experience and we also planned a meeting at their business center to maximize our time together. Granted, some of the people in our group were not the target guest market for this hotel, but hospitality should be hospitality for all and not segregated by one’s actual age, but rather by a positive attitude and awareness. Although we were told in advance by the sales manager the hotel was sold out, there was only one desk person to handle the flow of guests waiting to check in when we arrived, along with the lobby activities and customers that this concept wants to service and attract. Since the rooms are all the same at the hotel, the only difference is location and what floor you will be placed on, simple enough, but then again it should be easy to maintain and service. My room appeared fine, clean and similar to another of the chain’s hotels I had previously stayed in before. Later that evening upon my return, I went to access the “free” internet and it was unavailable, I did all of the typical access checks and tests, and still no service. I then decided to pick up the phone to seek assistance, but the phone at the desk didn’t work, neither did the unit next to the bed. I also realized the room was a bit warm, so I went over to adjust the thermostat and found out that I couldn’t lower the temperature. Since I wasn’t wearing a watch I glanced over to check the time on the clock, it read 4 o’clock, but I knew this was incorrect, since I came back to the room around 11pm---oh well the clock was out of order too. I called the hotel via my cell phone and after going thru several recorded prompts, finally reached a front desk associate to talk about my room ‘deficiencies.’ He was polite but didn’t understand why I had no internet, the phones didn’t work and told me he was alone and couldn’t talk or address the problems for ten to fifteen minutes, and so could I call back? I waited twenty minutes and then called the hotel number again and went through the same prompts, only to reach the same person who let me know he still didn’t understand the problems with my room, nor was there anyone available to assist me at that time!
Since now it was late and I was the host for the morning meeting, I asked that a manager contact me in the morning before the meeting to review the issues. The morning and afternoon came and went, still no follow up. We had the meeting, guess I expected that the room and breakfast would be preset before arrival, not the case, as we started the meeting the service team was still setting up the room. I then realized that maybe I just expected too much and that I was not the typical guest that was meant to be staying in this type of hotel, or maybe with all of the changes in the world this is the future of hospitality, run and managed by inexperienced, poorly trained staff who will try as they may to be personable and correct but lack the basic tools to take care of the guests and manage the facility - but if this is the future of our industry, I am not looking forward to the Next Four Years!