Learn from 2016’s mistakes

As the year draws to a close, it is time that we take a step back and reflect on not only our achievements, but also our failures. Like Harold J. Smith once said:

“More people would learn from their mistakes if they weren’t so busy denying them.”

The Pepper Tree Restaurant

The Pepper Tree Restaurant

The reason for our reflection is not to carry our mistakes with us, but rather to use them as stepping stones towards achieving bigger heights in  2017. Therefore, we’ve made a list of the general shortcomings in South Africa’s hospitality industry, hoping that it might be a guide to improvement in the year to come:

Restaurants:

  • Communication is one of the most basic, yet most neglected service standards when it comes to South African restaurants. I’m not talking about “hello” and “goodbye”; I’m talking about keeping your guests informed, looking them in the eye and serving with confidence. Communication is not just a language. It’s a way of doing. It’s not only verbal, but also non-verbal. Your body language often says more than your words.
  • Up-selling is non-existent in most South African restaurants. Managers may argue and say that they don’t want to bombard guests with too much information and they don’t want waiters faffing around the guests all the time. I say your waiters are not your only up-selling tool. Yes, they are a great up-selling tool and with the right technique and confidence, they could probably increase your sales with at least 10% per seating just by convincing guests to order an additional item on the menu. But, there are other methods too. Need some tips? Let us help you to work out an up-selling technique for your restaurant with our workshop on up-selling professionally. Contact us for more information on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za

Accommodation establishments:

  • In 3 to 4-star establishments, the customer service levels are often not up to standard in most of the departments. From receptionists that are not available at the reception desk, to porters who don’t show, to room service timing and delivery, to the cleanliness of the in-house gym, to the availability of amenities. Systems and standard operating procedures need to be put in place and need to be adhered to at all times to ensure that the customer journey runs smoothly.
  • Maintenance is a touchy subject, yet so very important. A preventative maintenance plan needs to be in place and needs to be kept up to date at all times. Once an establishment has let this slip for 6 months or more, the maintenance costs escalate at a very fast pace, which means other business aspects will need to be neglected in order to fix this.
  • Health and safety is almost never the fun part of running an accommodation establishment, but it is crucial. Even though fire extinguisher and emergency exit signs are not necessarily aesthetically appealing, it is important to put them up. The problem comes in where establishments put them up in places where they are not really visible to the guests, which completely defeats the purpose. Guests need to be able to see these signs in case of an emergency.
  • Following up does not happen very often. It often seems as if there is a general agreement that when a guest has checked out, all is well with the world. Still, following up with guests, asking about their stay, inviting them to come again, is the actual final part of the guest’s visit. Not the departure. This forms part of the post-stay phase in the customer’s journey, hence, it is just as important as the pre-stay and the visit. Following up makes a guest feel cared for and will make them want to return (if the stay was pleasant). Don’t neglect the post-stay phase of the customer journey. It’s like up-selling for the guest’s next trip.

These are only a few of the things we’ve noticed in 2016. Use it, don’t use it. Just remember:

“A mistake repeated more than once, is a decision.” -Paulo Coelho

Destinations need to think out of the box

Highlight what makes you unique and tap into travellers’ expectations.

We recently wrote about business travellers and the growing trend of them looking for destinations that are unconventional and adventurous. Yes, the standard hotel room is still number one on the list for business travellers, but this is mainly because they know they will get what they expect. Hotel groups normally also make this easier, as they have a standard room types, which provide guests with exactly the same whether it is in South Africa or London.

With the bleisure travel trend becoming more and more popular, the demand for more adventurous and unique accommodation options will also increase. This means that destinations will need to start thinking out of the box and tap into travellers’ expectations, which is ever changing and could be quite challenging, yet very exciting!

Out of the box thinking. (Image from: writerswin.com)

Out of the box thinking. (Image from: writerswin.com)

This does not only apply to business travellers, but also leisure travellers. Destinations need to figure out what makes them unique and use that as a selling point. Unique selling points is what gives destinations their competitive advantage. What is yours?

How to identify your unique selling point:

If you are uncertain about what makes your destination stand out from the rest or if you are looking for a way to stand out from the crowd, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does my destination offer something different to the destinations in the area?
  • Can we incorporate educational tourism or voluntourism or something similar in our destination?
  • Does my destination cater for a niche group of travellers, i.e. business travellers, travellers with kids, adventure travellers, etc.?
  • Is there a way to incorporate certain activities for travellers at our destination, i.e. yoga classes, meeting rooms, conference facilities, water sports, expeditions, etc.?

These can be guidelines to see where your destination is able to create its own unique selling points, eventually letting the destination evolve and stand out from the rest.

Tools and Trends to use to your advantage:

Keeping up with current tools and trends in the travel industry will guide you to successfully identify certain areas in which your destination is able to exceed guests’ expectations. Examples of these include:

  • Travel apps and the use thereof
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Knowledge on the different types of tourists and their needs and expectations
  • Creative and inventive thinking (thinking out of the box) from employees
  • Customer feedback (always very valuable)
  • Customer Journey Evaluations (done by Travelling Mystery Guest and helps to identify gaps in the customer journey that need to be attended to)
  • Customer Journey Mapping workshops (teaches HODs and staff how departments interlink with each other to create the ultimate customer experience and shows touch points where the destination has an opportunity to WOW the guest. Contact Travelling Mystery Guest for more information and bookings.)
  • Knowledge about Millennials and their travel trends and expectations
  • Seasonality trends
  • Mobile and other technology that can improve the guest’s experience
  • Cultural, sport or leisure events and wellness holiday trends
  • Long family holiday trends
  • Older travellers tend to travel further and longer and look for more adventure
  • Younger travellers drive the trend for activity or sporting holidays

These are only a few of the things you could consider when you want to set your destination apart from the rest and be the best. Find your unique selling points and use it to your advantage. Think out of the box.

Notes from Customer Journey Evaluations

Here are some notes on our experiences at restaurants this past month. Take it, make it your own and grow into the best customer service provider out there!

 
– Keep staff on their toes by having monthly quiz nights or challenges regarding the menu and other topics like communication and body language.
– When a guest calls to make a reservation, they normally do it to ensure that they are given a great seat upon arrival. Go through that extra little trouble and place a reserved sign on a well placed table. They’ve gone through the trouble to book, now you need to make an effort to show them your appreciation for their business.

Reservations

Reservations

– When you’ve set a certain standard regarding the plating of dishes or the aesthetic appearance of your drinks, be sure to keep to it. Regulars come back, because they know what they get. If they don’t get what they expect, they’ll definitely be disappointed.
– Décor is a must in any restaurant to attract customers and even though you want to impress your customers with tastes and textures, the décor, their comfort and other facilities also play a role in their experience. Be sure to maintain your restaurant’s décor regularly to keep it from looking tired, dated or neglected.
– Have checklists and procedures in place for in-store restrooms. There’s no use in having a clean restaurant, but a not so clean restroom.
– Remind employees of standard operating procedures. We’re all human and, well, often we need to serve intimidating customers and then we forget quite a few things!
– Eye contact and self confidence goes a far way. Hire employees who have this in them. If they don’t, train them.

Reception Checklist:

The reception area (with the exception of the security gate) of any hotel or guesthouse is the very first impression as part of the customer’s journey guests experience at your venue. With that in mind, we’ve put together a checklist of things you might have to keep in mind for your guests’ arrival:

Hotel Lincoln (Photographer: Jenna Leigh Kutcher)

Hotel Lincoln (Photographer: Jenna Leigh Kutcher)

1. Smiles and friendliness
2. A welcoming body language
3. Porters, offering assistance with luggage from the parking area.
4. Luggage trolleys (optional, but ideal for larger venues)
5. Neat, professional appearance of all staff members.
6. Name badges for all staff members.
7. Additional seating for when guests need to wait a while.
8. Welcome drinks and snacks (optional, but always impressive)
9. Fact sheets of the venue
10. Additional information about the surrounding area and things to do
11. Maps of the facilities, if it is a large hotel complex
12. Branded confirmation letters, writing pads, pens, envelopes, etc.
13. Booking options for on-site spas, restaurants, golf courses, etc.
14. Key cards / keys for rooms
15. Key card holders (branded)
16. Luggage storage facility
17. Luggage storage tags (branded)
18. A general safe for guests’ larger personal items.
19. Safety deposit procedures in place.
20. Rate your stay / rate your dining experience cards
21. Dental kits
22. Sewing kits
23. Sanitary kits
24. Shoe mitts
25. Additional shower gel, shampoo and body lotion
26. Additional wrapped soaps
27. Additional shower caps
28. Cell phone chargers for all the different cell phones
29. Two point plugs and universal plugs
30. Matches
31. Candles (if there is no generator, which should be seen as a necessity in South Africa these days…)

 
Can you think of anything else? Perhaps you’ve stayed at a hotel that had some additional items that impressed? Let us know by commenting below.

 

Sources: The EveryGirl

Treat your guests for Valentine’s

It is true that everybody just wants to be loved.

Why not share the love with your guests with these few ideas on Valentine’s Day:

Conversation Heart Cookies

Conversation Heart Cookies (Graham Cracker)

15 Hospitality Tips for 2015

So, we’ve given you our thoughts and observations from 2014 and today we’d like to share some of our hospitality tips for 2015 with you:

 
1. According to a report by Deloitte, China and India will continue to be the key hospitality markets to cater for in 2015.
2. Understand your “customer’s journey” very well. This will assist you to know what customers need or want.
3. Get to know your customers in order for you to be able to serve them what they want the next time around. If you have a guest who comes down to the bar every evening and orders a Coke, tomorrow you will be able to take out the Coke and serve it to him as he sits down. He wouldn’t even have to ask for it.
4. Couple your service with an experience. Most customers, these days, like to have an experience wherever they go. Even a small trick with a napkin might have them in awe.
5. See what you can do to couple your service with cycling this year. This sport has increased tremendously, allowing for some great tourism and marketing opportunities.
6. Peer2Peer dining is an interesting trend that has emerged overseas which might not be a bad idea if implemented correctly.
7. You’ve got to be mobile. With wearable technological devices increasing, there is no turning back on this anymore. Hotel groups like Marriot, Hyatt and Hilton are currently working with companies like Checkmate to develop this mobile service even further, which means mobile is now a necessity in the hospitality industry.
8. According to a poll done for the Hotels.com mobile app, tourists upload holiday photos within ten minutes of arriving at a destination. Ignite Hospitality refers to them as “Braggies” and let’s face it, the “selfie” is here to stay. Keep in mind that people will be taking selfies at your destination too and they would want to link and share it with you. Be sure to be on social media!
9. Social Wi-Fi will be a trend in 2015, moving away from the original Wi-Fi login process, customers will now rather be encouraged to log onto destinations’ Wi-Fi through their social networks, allowing the destination to gain more access to the customer to build a better and stronger database.
10. Social reviews (Facebook, TripAdvisor, etc.) will only be increasing in 2015. Be sure that you have processes in place regarding responses to bad comments, maximizing good reviews, etc.
11. Stay active on social networks. Being on social networks is good, but you’ve got to interact and show customers that you are available on a daily basis.
12. Create your own mobile apps, allowing guests to order before they arrive. People tend to be impatient – ordering before they arrive will prevent them from waiting for their food, but it will also protect you from them changing their minds and going elsewhere when they arrive.
13. Food trends predicted for 2015 include reduced sugar and protein boosters. Customers want a “well-being feeling” and we need to cater for that.
14. Customers are experimenting with many local breweries and prefer beers and wines from micro-breweries and smaller boutique wineries. Guests would rather drink a beer that is promoted with the line: “We recommend this local beer, produced at a brewery just down the road.”
15. Sustainability is one of the big trends, whether we like it or not. Many customers prefer supporting establishments that make an effort to make their business more environmentally friendly. Consider looking at a few ways in which you can incorporate environmental and social responsibility in your business.

Top Hospitality Observations in 2014

In 2014 I’ve seen small garden café’s and large hotel groups. I’ve seen professional and less professional hospitality staff and I’ve been in the back office of many a destination. Here are my top 10 observations from 2014 – take it, use it and take 2015 by storm with new angles, new excitement and new plans:

Consistency is king ©RenatedeVilliers

Consistency is king ©RenatedeVilliers

  1. Why would a hotel room be perfect if housekeeping’s offices behind the scenes are unorganized? Like in life, beauty comes from the inside.  Start there.
  2. Consistency is king. When a guest is served a biscuit with his coffee today and not tomorrow, he will be disappointed. Don’t set a standard you can’t keep up with.
  3. Too few restaurants see the importance in gluten free and other healthier alternatives on their menus. If you ask me, a whole menu section dedicated to that might put you at the top of the list for many customers.
  4. Waitrons need additional communication skills and self-confidence. It seems that many waitrons would rather say nothing and only check their tables once, in order to protect themselves from difficult customers. It’s true that customers are difficult, but a waiter with self-confidence has less trouble than those who serve with fear.
  5. Branding still triggers the memory. Many establishments don’t use branded coasters, swizzle sticks, plates and other tangible items, probably mainly due to cost. Still, seeing the branding image at the entrance of a destination, again at reception, in the room or at the restaurant table and on the bill burns the memory into the customer’s brain. It’s one of the first things he will recall when someone asks for a referral to a restaurant or destination.
  6. Loyalty makes the destination. I’m not talking about customers’ loyalty. I’m talking about employees working for the destination’s loyalty. If staff don’t have the same reason for serving customers than what the destination promises, they might do more damage than good.
  7. First impressions really do last forever. If a guest is not greeted on arrival, not assisted with his luggage or not made feel welcome by a great atmosphere with audible background music, he might just not want to return.
  8. Small things have big impacts. Noticing your regular guests’ preferences and acting on it before they need to request it, makes a big impression. A fresh flower on the bed, bath salt in the bathroom, the guest’s favourite chocolate or hot chocolate on a cold winters’ night – those things make them feel at home.
  9. It’s a human thing. Guests don’t want to feel like numbers. They want to feel like friends. Being able to meet the chef or the general manager, exchanging a few short sentences and getting to know the people who play an integral role at the place they dine and stay, make guests feel important.
  10. At the end of the day, experience is all that matters. The thing with experience is that everything is interlinked: service standards, tastes, textures, ambiance, conversation, views, smells, sounds… That’s why every employee in the company needs to understand the whole restaurant / hotel wheel to see where they fit in and to ensure that they are able to meet those standards.

Being pet-friendly has its challenges

Pet-friendly hotels and guesthouses have quite a number of regulations and policies that guests need to adhere to. It is also interesting to see how many guests travel with pets and how many of these guests expect top of the range service for their pets.

Pet-friendly hotels

Pet-friendly hotels (Image from: luxuryvacationsource.com)

Pet-friendly hotels (and those that are not) need to include certain regulations in their documentation in order to give customers a clear understanding of what is allowed and what not. Examples of these regulations can be found on pettravel.com. One of the examples is that of the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company and includes the following:

 
• Not all the group’s hotels are pet-friendly
• Some of the hotels only accept dogs
• Most hotels only accept pets between 10 and 30 pounds (about 4.5 – 15 kg)
• Usual charge is between $125 and $250, non refundable (between R1300 and R2700)
Pets are usually restricted to certain areas of the hotel
• Several hotels offer special pet packages, i.e. pet hikes, beds, treats and toys

 
Other interesting services hotels offer pets:
• Pet spa services
• Pet room service menus
• Doggie robes and towels
• Pet psychics
• Gourmet pet cakes
• Pet swimming pools
• Pet rain gear
• En-suite training sessions with award-winning behaviorists
• Pet tourist maps that indicate pet-friendly locations in the area

 
Is your establishment pet-friendly? Do you have your pet-regulations in place?

 
Travelling with pets is no joke, that’s for sure! Not to mention accommodating them.

Gaining more guests

Many hotels, guesthouses and restaurants offer more than just food and accommodation to their guests these days. It not only gives them additional exposure, but also helps them gain more guests.

Customers tend to change frequently regarding their needs, expectations and even emotions. By experimenting with some additional offers, we might be able to identify some new expectations more easily and even gain competitive advantage.

Outdoor Movie Night

Outdoor Movie Night

(Image found on babble.com)

 
Have you noticed how expensive it has become to watch movies at the cinema? Not to mention the price of popcorn, slush puppies and other snacks. Why don’t more venues use this as an opportunity? People love to go back in time and to experience some nostalgia every now and again. Why not give them a venue where they can watch movies in the garden while enjoying a box of homemade popcorn?

 
Dinner Theatre is another thing that draws many guests’ attention nowadays. It might be a little more expensive than going to the cinema, but the value for money is just so much more worth it. Spoiling your guests with a dinner theatre every now and again will keep them excited about your establishment and curious about what’s happening next. Those guests who only came for the performance now also have a chance to experience your venue and mention it to their friends.

 
Internal and relationship marketing has become key in the tourism and hospitality industry. We need to find ways to impress current guests all over again in order for them to spread the word. We need to think out of the box. Surprise your guests with something creative and new every now and again, build relationships with them and see how they do your marketing for you!