SOPs for Hospitality & Hotel Industry
The Hospitality and Hotel Industry
When modern humans first started migrating out of Africa some 100,000 years ago, it kind of also marked the beginning of our history of travel and exploration. In covering long distances over the lands, these early humans had to camp at safe and hospitable locations. As we progressed through the centuries and human settlements became more frequent across the world, finding hospitable places to camp/stay became easier. Today, we travel because of business reasons, spending holiday/vacation, visiting religious sites, medical treatment, etc. What we sought thousands of years ago as ‘hospitable’ locations are now available to us in the form of hotels, motels, inns, resorts, guest houses, etc. What constitutes hospitality might have changed from access to wood, water, food, shelter, and pleasant weather to AC rooms, swimming pools, free Wi-Fi, room service, etc. Thus, hospitality and travel-stay are historically and fundamentally connected.
Globally, the hotel and resort industry is worth more than USD 1 trillion as of 2021. Today, there is no dearth of hotels in cities that experience a moderate to high traffic of tourists and travellers. The higher this traffic is the more competitive the hotel business is out there. And when it comes to surviving and succeeding in the hotel business, hotel owners must retain the contemporary essence of ‘hospitality’ and apply it in their business. If you own a hotel in a hill station where the mercury does not go beyond 10 degree Celsius, a fireplace that runs 24*7 could be a great way to exemplify the hospitality of your hotel. But how could you ensure that the fireplace in your hotel runs all the time? The answer lies in how you manage your business operations. And more precisely, whether you use SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) or not.
Challenges Faced Due to Poor Processes and Management Systems
Inconsistencies in Housekeeping Operations. Housekeeping is a continuous activity in hotels. Various activities included here are making beds, cleaning rooms, clearing dustbins, sending linens for laundry, vacuuming, floor cleaning, etc. To ensure consistency and quality in housekeeping activities, hotels need robust operations management. Sometimes even the reputed hotels fail to live up to the standards expected of them. And sometimes remote motels and guest houses are impressive with their housekeeping efforts. The differences arise in the management of the housekeeping operations. When the housekeeping operations and activities are not planned and defined in formats that can be easily followed and monitored, hotels fail to sustain the right physical environment whether it is in the rooms, lobbies, swimming pools, restaurants, spas or clubs. The consequences are similar without strict monitoring and adherence to the established operational protocols.
Quality Control in the Kitchen and F&B Department. When customers are charged more for the food and beverages in hotels, they expect a superlative experience. The more stars you add to the hotel, the higher will be the tariff and the higher will be the customers’ expectations. They expect the food to be of high quality, prepared with the best quality inputs by expert chefs under uncompromisingly clean and hygienic conditions and served with utmost professionalism. Maintaining such quality standards is not possible in an undefined and disorganized working environment. For example, if normal salt is used in preparing a food item whereas the requirement was that of rock salt, the taste of the food will surely take a beating. Customers who have the taste buds for that food item will catch the anomaly. It was only about a pinch of salt but that is capable of differentiating your business from your competitors. Whether it is salt or a beer mug, the inventory management should be capable of ensuring that required inputs and materials are always available.
Inconsistencies in Delivering value-added Services. Value-added or extra services offered by hotels should not be treated as separate from the routine operations. Inability to deliver these services after advertising in bold letters amounts to as much customer dissatisfaction as it is for failure to deliver any basic service. For instance, if a hotel offers free Wi-Fi to its guests but the connectivity is unreliable, it will definitely lead to customer discontent. Identifying network issues should not be left to the moments of customers complaining about it. There should be a working mechanism to monitor and report the consistency of the internet service provided by the ISP.
Slow Complaints Resolutions. In the first place, hotels must ensure that the need for customers having to raise a complaint does not arise. And even if complaints come in, these must be resolved as early as possible. Addressing complaints can be left to informal management or there can be a formal, defined roadmap towards resolving them. When there is no defined way to address complaints, managers and employees will use their judgement and discretion to find solutions. Despite their best intentions, the ad-hoc solutions found by them need not necessarily be the best way to address customer complaints. Such informal solutions may add to operational costs, lead to compromise with safety and security standards, etc.
Weak Interdepartmental Coordination. Like any other business enterprise, hotels too are reliant on interdepartmental synchronization. But it does not happen on its own. The operational framework has to be designed that way. When the operating linkages between the departments are not defined and mapped as proper functional guidelines, it creates the scope for mistakes, ambiguity, fraud, etc. For example, if the room AC is not working and the customer informs the reception or the housekeeping assistant, it becomes the duty of the person who was informed about the problem to bring it to the notice of the maintenance department. In the absence of a defined interdepartmental working plan, the services will be affected and there would be avoidance of accountability and responsibilities.
Low Productivity of Employees. The performance and productivity of employees depend not only on their skills and expertise but also on the operational framework in which they work. Employees perform better when they have a clear sight of what they are supposed to be doing and the results expected in each activity. When the business processes and operations are not defined to serve as guides in the level of implementation, the activities carried out by employees are likely to be more prone to errors than if these were defined and mapped. The management body will mistakenly attribute lower performance and productivity as an HR failure whereas the problem area was with operations management.
Benefits of SOPs to Hospitality and Hotel Industry
SOP for hospitality management and hotel business has proved to be a key tool in bringing operational excellence.
Consistency in Housekeeping Operations. Once the SOPs for various housekeeping operations are prepared and implemented with strict adherence, the chances of deviating from what needs to be done are significantly eliminated. The procedure for carrying out every housekeeping operation serves as an operational roadmap for the employees and also serves as a tool to monitor performance. With standards of performance and output defined, every employee will have prior knowledge of the results expected, the sequence of activities to be followed, the resources that will be required, the reporting authority, the timeliness and frequency of the job, etc.
Better Inventory Management. To keep the hotel operations run smoothly, various types of inventories are required by various departments for carrying out their functions. The kitchen department will have requirements of cooking ingredients for preparing food, disposables, fuel cylinders, dishwashing liquids, etc. The housekeeping department needs dusting and wiping tools, cleaning liquids, room fresheners, soaps, shampoos, disinfectants, etc. for the upkeep of the hotel interiors and outdoor areas. By following SOP for purchase department in hotel industry, hotels can ensure that their inventory/purchase department is working in close tandem with the other departments, the requisitions are raised as per rules, the purchase orders are duly issued, quality checks are done (Quality Management System/QMS), and the required inventories are consistently available.
Robust Support Functions. The services delivered by a hotel in the form of comfortable beds and pillow, clean bedsheets, working air conditioners, fridge with bottled water and other complimentary items, a clean swimming pool, good food and beverages, free pick up and drop and so on are made possible because of the background support functions working strong. These include housekeeping, kitchen, purchase, engineering and maintenance, IT, security, etc. If any support function fails, one or the other frontline operations are bound to get disrupted. With SOPs in place for all the departments, like front office SOP for hotel, hotel SOPs for security department, housekeeping SOP for hotel, SOP for accounts department in hotel, etc., the processes and operations get to follow a planned roadmap of functioning.
Quicker Complaint Resolution. Despite the sincerest efforts of any hotel, customer complaints cannot be avoided altogether. The biggest hotels have lost the biggest of cases in consumer courts around the world. With the power of social media in almost everyone’s hand in the form of a smartphone, customers take no time to share any undesirable hotel experience of theirs with the rest of the world. SOPs help hotels in correcting any unintended flaw with their operations. Instead of grappling to find a solution, predefined policies and procedures for dealing with various types of customer complaints help hotels to initiate the correction course without making a scene out of it.
Aid in Process Automation. Process automation is easier when the processes are defined. With SOPs, the business processes and operations are defined and mapped in terms of procedures and standards of performance and output to be maintained which then become inputs to define the automation requirements and for better business process management (BPM).