Hospitality is one of the most fast-paced, ever-changing industries that is constantly affected by external circumstances such as staffing fluctuations, consumer trends, and, of course, the global economic climate. This means that hotels need to be agile in responding to any changes that may affect them if they want to stay relevant in a highly competitive market.
You might say this is the case for any company or industry – and you would be right. However, there is an added complication when it comes to the hospitality industry. Hotels are so multifaceted that adopting any meaningful change is hard to do “from the top” without considering how the different departments are going to absorb it. This is, of course, partially the responsibility of the Senior leaders for each particular discipline, but if the different departments work in silos (which they often do) or if the hotel doesn’t have enough resources or long-term staff to fill these positions (which they often don’t), responding quickly to stay relevant can be difficult. This is the case, especially when new tools, technologies, and consumer trends disrupt operations across multiple departments.
The obvious answer is a multi-disciplinary approach, which will allow the hotel to address the issues – and opportunities – that arise from any rapid external changes in a way that encourages collaboration. Whether between Human Resources and Sales or Revenue Management and Engineering, opening lines of communication within and across departments offers a high-level overview of how to optimize efficiency and respond as a united front.
Adopting a multi-disciplinary approach is about much more than just departments working together towards a common goal. By connecting multiple departments, creative solutions can be developed based on the multi-disciplinary insight of department leaders to optimize operational processes for greater agility when faced with disruptions in the industry. That’s essentially the purpose of multi-disciplinary problem-solving: Coming up with creative solutions that leverage the strengths of each department for quick and effective decision-making. This is going to be even more important in 2024, and here are a few reasons why:
Staying Consistent Across the Board Gives an Important Message in an Uncertain Economy
A big motivator to focus on creative solutions is the risk of slowing leisure demand due to an anticipated mild recession in the first half of 2024. This means that because people will be spending less money on leisure travel and hotels in an uncertain economy, finding a way to make your hotel stand out from the competition is crucial.
However, it may be tempting to lower your average daily rate to appeal to more travelers, but this can do far more harm than good. According to hospitality investment banking expert Dr. Donald Wise: “If your only competitive advantage is dropping your rate, then you have no competitive advantage. You’ve got to be a leader, and you’ve got to keep the rate and sacrifice occupancy because if you drop that ADR you’re going to fight to get it back.”
One way to stay ahead of the competition and keep your hotel generating consistent revenue (without compromising your hotel’s reputation) is to lean into a cohesive concept. The idea behind a concept hotel (not a themed hotel) is to provide a distinct guest experience that makes your hotel a go-to destination for a one-of-a-kind stay.
For example, if the feel of your F&B program is aligned with the design of your hotel – from the restaurant and bar to the lobby and each room – guests will experience that same harmony throughout their stay.
And it doesn’t stop there. By connecting all hotel departments (including housekeeping, front office, and marketing), guests can experience this cohesive story before, during, and even after their stay. Rather than needing to conform to trends as they arise, a hotel with a solid concept can create a lasting impression through consistent touchpoints that overdeliver on excellence.
Staffing Challenges are Easier to Solve from a Holistic Perspective
High staff turnover rates in hospitality, coupled with fewer hospitality students entering the field, mean that hotels need to develop creative solutions that proactively address these staffing issues. Research shows that anything related to staffing is easier to solve from multiple angles, especially as staffing challenges in one department often affect multiple other departments.
For example, a sales manager vacancy can impact a hotel’s bottom line, and the responsibility falls on human resources to ensure the position is filled quickly. As a result of this time pressure, managers are often thrown into their positions with little to no training or no clear direction. This can lead to low morale, lost profits, and, ultimately, high staff turnover. So, if hotel departments are encouraged to “fill in the gaps” together through collaborative problem-solving, the negative effects of staffing shortages can be minimized much more effectively.
This culture of cooperation also needs to be encouraged from the top. According to HR expert Deanne Soderberg “creating a culture and building a strong people foundation” can help hotels attract and retain high-quality applicants. Developing training for your teams and maintaining a community within your hotel makes it easier for different departments to work together far more efficiently.
Catering to Shifting Consumer Preferences for Healthier and More Sustainable Meal Options Adds Longevity to Your F&B Program
Although food and beverage trends seem to come and go with the popularity of short-form video content and the resulting online communities, there are common threads that can, to an extent, futureproof your hotel’s F&B program.
The core themes include a shift to non-alcoholic beverages, environmentally-conscious ingredients, sustainable product preferences, and more plant-based meals. Each of these consumer trends can be catered to with the creative input of F&B experts and external, multi-disciplinary insight to tie it all together.
Here are a few examples to illustrate how combining these multi-disciplinary insights can lead to creative solutions:
- A mixology expert can share specialized insight into the growing popularity of non-alcoholic beverages as more people (particularly the younger generations) gravitate towards these options for health reasons.
- A seasoned chef with hands-on hospitality experience can help design and create a restaurant menu that considers the rising number of people choosing to go vegan or flexitarian for the benefit of their health and the environment.
- An F&B expert with a holistic view of the hospitality and F&B marketplace can secure supply contracts with local companies to address the relationship between food waste and sustainability.
Together, this team of experts can create a menu – and an exceptional experience to go with it – that appeals to the widening range of consumer preferences without compromising on quality and taste.
Optimizing all Departments Now Gives Your Hotel a Head Start in the Face of Change
Multi-disciplinary problem-solving comes in to assess a hotel’s needs from all departmental perspectives to offer creative solutions to the issues or opportunities brought about by the shifting industry landscape. Although this can apply to many (if not all) hotel departments, a good example of this in action is the working relationship between revenue management and engineering teams.
Engineering experts can conduct Property Maintenance Assessments to ensure that everything in a hotel is operating efficiently to avoid the risk of lost revenue. With this insight, engineers can assist in the maintenance of hotel assets – such as equipment, facilities, and systems – and increase their returns on investment.
Once any potential issues are resolved or preventative measures put in place, a revenue management team can build on that foundation to evaluate and analyze top-line revenues and bottom-line profitability drivers. The end result of this approach to proactive problem-solving is a tailored strategy built on multi-disciplinary insight that’s unique to your hotel and helps you drive sustainable revenue growth across all departments.
Therefore, although their disciplines may differ, both departments can work together to optimize hotel revenue in unique and innovative ways, and by sharing insight into their respective processes, they can streamline certain operational processes to save time and resources.
Can You Adopt a Multi-Disciplinary Approach with Limited Resources?
If a hotel doesn’t have enough high-level expertise to implement multi-disciplinary problem-solving, what can they do now? There are external solutions for hotels to consider, such as hotel consulting, where industry experts can offer assistance on a per-project basis. Bringing in an expert – or even a team of experts – to facilitate these discussions can save hotels a lot of time and resources in the long run.
These multi-disciplinary experts can offer an unbiased, fresh perspective that’s based on years of varied hospitality experience. By pooling their knowledge together, the collaborative process happens seamlessly as they craft unique solutions that address your hotel’s specific needs.
Although it’s not possible to look ahead or know for certain what the hospitality industry will look like in the future, a multi-disciplinary approach to problem-solving can help your hotel adapt as needed (and quickly) in the face of unpredictable trends or industry disruptions.
By SSP’s F&B Industry Expert John Young