Breakfast Modifications – As good as a holiday

Have you ever gotten tired of the usual English Breakfast? Not just eating it, but also preparing it for your guests. Sometimes it becomes such a routine that we forget why we do it. It should be about spoiling your guests, making them feel at home and giving them the perfect kick-start to their day.

Modified Breakfasts

Modified Breakfasts (Photographer: Renate de Villiers)

They say change is as good as a holiday. Modifying your breakfasts might be just what you need to help you make your guests feel special (and in the end you might even enjoy preparing it more).

Here are a few ideas on modified breakfasts:
Overnight Peaches and Cream French Toast
Breakfast Banana Pops
Breakfast Quesadillas
Homemade Granola
Banana Bread French Toast
Some guests enjoy the traditional English Breakfast. Others love to be surprised. How do you surprise your guests in the morning?

Be the customer to know the customer

To be a customer is different from offering a service to a customer as I am sure you are aware. Still, as service providers we often forget how it feels to stand on the receiving side of things. Every now and again we need to remind ourselves what it feels like to be a customer in order to identify our customers’ needs and expectations.

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

Marketing Tourism in South Africa by Richard George

In his book, Marketing Tourism in South Africa (4th Edition), Richard George says:

“By observing your involvement in the decision-making process as a consumer, you will develop a better understanding of marketing and consumer needs and aspirations.”

We cannot market our destinations and services to customers if we don’t know their needs and aspirations. This is why quite a few destinations, like Southern Sun’s resorts, invest in employees who are primarily responsible for direct customer interaction. In addition to the extensive, continuing training they undergo, each employee experiences the resort first hand before they get the opportunity to work on the front line. (Marketing Tourism in South Africa. 2013:18) This allows them to experience the complete customer journey, giving them an overview of what customers will expect when they arrive at the destination.

In the tourism and hospitality industry, guests usually have to make a decision considering what they’ve seen on the internet or on a brochure, which is why many customers depend on referrals from friends. When employees have experienced the destination’s service, it makes it so much easier for them to up-sell.

“You need to understand the customer journey before you can sell it to customers.” –Renate de Villiers

Invest in your employees. Train them continuously, make them understand the customer’s journey through your destination and involve employees in the communication process with customers in order to get to know your customers better.

In the end, tourism and hospitality is all about relationships and as we all know, people understand each other much better if they have something in common. Employees who have not experienced the customer journey of your destination will therefore struggle to find “common ground” with customers and will not be able to sell the destination to the best of their abilities.

So, take the chance to let your staff stand on the receiving side at least once and then let me know what changes you see…

 

(Thanks Richard George for a stunning book! Such hands-on examples and great ideas for blog posts!)

Get psyched for tourism’s high season

It’s Spring and we are starting to get ready for South Africa’s biggest tourist rush in December, we must also have our marketing strategies in place, prepare our staff for high season, ensure that our destinations are in tip-top shape and that we can handle whatever gets thrown our way.

Hospitality in Spring

Hospitality in Spring

 

I often wonder what different destinations do in order to “set the scene” regarding these things for high season. Obviously everyone has their own way of dealing with it, but surely some things work better than others.

Here are a few things I can recall that always psyched me up for high season:

  • Involving staff in preparations for summer, year-end functions, Christmas and New Year.
  • Quick, short training courses relevant to staff’s departments, encouraging them to go the extra mile and up-sell your products and services.
  • Making staff feel they belong by organizing yearend celebrations for them as well. Combining these with some kind of acknowledgement ceremony is also a good idea.
  • Having staff experience what the destination has to offer first-hand. This just gives them a view from the other side, which makes it easier for them to identify with customers’ wants and needs. It’s good to do this just before high season, as it will still be fresh in their memories.

For me Spring symbolizes new beginnings, growth and beauty. Why not find ways to implement this in your marketing and other destination strategies this month? Have staff come up with fresh, new ideas on how to improve customer service. Involve them in the process – they are the ones on the floor and notice things you might not even be aware of. This is one way of ensuring growth for your destination and its people.

Embrace this new season!

Small things with big impact

On my travels, locally and abroad, I’ve noticed that there are numerous small things that make a big impact in the hospitality industry.

“Sometimes doing something ordinary a little different makes a bigger impression.” –Renate de Villiers

Here are a few things that caught my attention at different guesthouses, restaurants, hotels and other venues:

A normal cup of coffee becomes more special with a hint of nostalgia:

Koeksister

Koeksister

What could have been a normal champagne birthday celebration became a special champagne picnic at the Kamonande Game Reserve in Limpopo:

Picnic

Picnic

Not just the ordinary glass of champagne, but one with an edible hibiscus flower:

Champagne with Hibiscus

Champagne with Hibiscus

A common dinner at a fancy restaurant gets new meaning with entertainment in between. Dinner theater is becoming more and more popular as customers search for new, exciting things to do.

Waiters with some extra skills (like magician tricks or surprise elements) make a much better impression than the usual “can I take your order” attendant.

What small things does your restaurant or tourist destination do to make a bigger impact on your guests?

Let us know your thoughts and ideas by commenting below, or send us your comments via Twitter (@TravellingMG) or Facebook.

For more info about Travelling Mystery Guest, contact Renate on enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.

Hospitality Working Hours – A different approach

In the hospitality and tourism industry it is almost expected that you will have at least one staff member complain about his or her working hours. It’s almost understandable, even though we all knew what we got ourselves into when we took the job.

Still, hospitality hours are hectic and many hospitality experts would agree with me that we need to find a way to make it work for both our customers and our employees. We can’t tell our guests to leave that we can go home now, can we? But we also can’t tell our staff to forget about spending time with their loved ones. We need to find a way to make ends meet.

But how?

Keeping guests and staff happy

Keeping guests and staff happy

Shift work is probably one of the first and best solutions. Shift rotating rosters are probably just as good a solution, if not better. This not only allows hospitality managers to balance the skills of employees during different parts of the day, but it also allows employees to learn about different departments in the industry. This stimulates and motivates them to go the extra mile and it teaches them the versatility of hospitality, allowing them to develop different skills.

Be a soundboard – listen to the employees’ complaints. Many times people just need someone to listen to what they have to say. Who knows – they might just have the ideal solution to the problem.

For restaurants it might be possible to make changes to the opening and closing times of the business. The Whippet Coffee Shop in Linden, Johannesburg, for instance, mentions on their website that

The Whippet believes in a lifestyle approach to business – we believe in giving our staff reasonable so that they can spend time with their families – this means our kitchen and store opens and closes early. This also allows our chef and store owners to keep their passion for the food, drinks and the people they serve. We hope you can share our philosophy on life.”

(See really cool photos of  The Whippet Coffee Shop here: Kikisofpeopleandplaces)

So, what is your philosophy on life?

Share your comments below or chat with us on Twitter (@TravellingMG).

A smile versus true friendliness

In hospitality (and in life) I believe there is a difference between a smile and true friendliness.

Smile VS Friendliness

Smile VS Friendliness

When you get trained in hospitality, one of the first things you learn is to “always smile, no matter what”. So that is what you do. You smile, no matter what. The problem is that we don’t always feel like smiling, so we’ve taught ourselves to smile without emotion. It has become a way of doing in the hospitality industry, which prevents us from sharing emotion with guests. (And sometimes, whether we like it or not, guests want us to share emotion with them, as that is one thing that makes them feel at home).

We must remember that our customers are not just customers, but they are people too. Just as we can feel when they are unhappy, they can sense our fake smiles. Still, no one is perfect and we all have bad days sometimes. All I am saying is that we, as hospitality professionals, should do as much as possible from our side to appear friendly, even when we don’t feel like it.

How can we change our attitude in a matter of minutes?

  • Go for a five minute walk outside. The fresh air might just do the trick. Changing your scenery is the ideal way to get your mind off things.
  • Quickly watch a funny home video or an inspirational video on Youtube.
  • If the reason for your bad mood is the customer, try to fit in a joke in the conversation – that might lighten the mood a little…
  • Quickly listen to your favourite happy song. You can even close the door and pull out a few dance moves if you must. Any kind of exercise for a minute or two could lighten your mood.
  • If you feel you can’t change your mood right away, see if you can’t find someone to assist you with difficult customers for now. If not, at least keep the fake smile then.
  • Make the decision to change your attitude and don’t give yourself time to think about it. Just do it. Changing your attitude changes your day.
  • Talk to children or elderly people – it’s more difficult not to smile at them.
  • Last, but definitely not least, eat a small bar of dark chocolate. Apparently it acts as a natural anti-depressant. (Just don’t over indulge and make sure you’ve wiped your mouth before you interact with guests!)

Do you have any other suggestions?

How to keep guests entertained over weekends

It’s hard to keep everyone happy and entertained over weekends – especially if you don’t know them well. Travelling Mystery Guest has identified a few tips and ideas on how you can keep guests entertained over weekends at your destination:

  • Provide them with a booklet that includes all the possible attractions in the area.
  • Give guests the option of having a family picnic in the hotel / guesthouse’s garden.
  • Hold quiz nights at your restaurant.
  • Rainy day? Provide guests with board games in the rooms – this is the ideal time to spend some quality family time!
  • Organise a town or city tour for your guests and show them all the hidden gems of your surrounds. Have some of the locals join in on the fun and educate guests about your environment and the locals living there. You can even create your own customized tourist attraction map.
  • Hold art weekends where guests have the opportunity to take part in pottery or painting classes.
  • Hold family cook-offs for the families staying over.
  • Organise a local organic market for one weekend per month at your destination. You’ll be sure to have a few walk-ins too!
  • Have local musicians perform at your venue.
  • Hold movie nights (with just a white sheet, a few cushions and popcorn you can get quite far, trust me!).
  • Think karaoke evenings for kids, or even guitar hero and Wii. Kids can keep themselves busy with this for hours!
  • Provide guests with a list of local restaurants (be sure that they are tried and tested… you don’t want to refer them to a dodgy, horse-meet-selling restaurant) – except if that is what they want? You can always suggest a restaurant-hopping evening for them: entrees at one restaurant, mains at a second and dessert at another.
  • Make up mystery baskets and invite families to cook their own dinner. Just make sure that you have enough space to do this. Another option is to take it outside – have them make a “potjie” or have a braai.

Do you have ideas you’d like to add? Feel free to comment below!

Happy weekend everyone. 🙂

Environmental Responsibility

With Earth Day on the way (22 April), environmental responsibility is the word on everyone’s lips. What are you doing for Earth Day this year?

Earth Day 2014

Earth Day 2014 (Photo by Renate de Villiers)

I’ve been noticing two very distinct behaviours with regards to this topic in the hospitality and tourism industry. It goes both ways. Some accommodation establishments have gone the extra mile to increase awareness about environmental responsibility. Many have created their own vegetable gardens and some have even gone to the length of “farming” on site by adding pigs to the establishment’s environmental cycle. As the kitchen throws out vegetable peels, the pigs eat the peels, they get fat, get slaughtered and eventually guests are served organic food. It’s all very clever.

On the other end, we find hospitality and tourism establishments that have not been educated on the subject of environmental responsibility, or those who are not interested in being educated. This is normally not necessarily due to ignorance, but rather due to the fact that they are scared of not being able to pull it off.

Therefore, TMG has compiled a few tips for kicking off your guesthouse, hotel or restaurant’s environmentally responsible operating system:

  • Try to reduce the amount of printing in the office. Rather use PDF’s to send proof of payments, invoices and quotations to guests and suppliers.
  • Replace all light bulbs with energy saving bulbs – inside and outside.
  • Restaurants can create a very romantic feel at their tables by using the popular solar lights in mason jars these days.
  • Wedding venues can incorporate green wedding packages into their marketing strategy – I can promise you: more and more brides want to get married as green as possible (no pun intended).
  • Replace your old shower heads with new, water saving shower heads.(Try Eco Shower for more information).
  • Get tips and ideas from your guests. Put short questionnaires in the rooms or at their breakfast tables asking them for ideas on how to reduce your footprint on the environment. Also let them take part in your initiatives.
  • Use dishwashers (domestic for smaller establishments and industrial for hotels) to save water while washing dishes.
  • Put up notices in the rooms requesting guests to make sure that all taps are closed properly and ask them to leave their towels in the bath when they want them washed. This will prevent housekeeping from washing towels every day, reducing the amount of water utilised for washing.
  • Add recycling bins in the kitchen and train your staff on what goes into which bin. There is no use in adding the bins but the staff still throws glass bottles into the paper or the plastic bin. Training forms a very important part of the smooth running of any company, including the hospitality and tourism industries.

Have you started your journey in becoming friendlier to the environment yet? Share your experience and tips with us by commenting TMG’s blog posts.

For more tips and ideas for Earth Day, visit our Pinterest board: Ideas for #EarthDay2014.

Happy Earth Day to all!

What is a hotel wheel?

You know how we all studied in school – creating brain maps, rhymes and pictures to remember certain things? Well, the hotel wheel has a similar function in that it assists us to understand how all the different departments are interlinked within a hotel, guesthouse or restaurant setup. Obviously for a guesthouse and a restaurant the wheel won’t be that big, but for hotels it becomes quite intricate.

To show you what I mean, let’s have a look at a simple example:

A hotel wheel consists of the different departments within the organization, including the bookings department, front office, reception, guest relations, the restaurant, the swimming pool area, entertainment, housekeeping, security, guest relations, etc. When we imagine these departments working together to keep the wheel turning, we realize that many of these departments need others in between before they can actually do what customers expect from them. For instance: Reception can’t check guests in without security’s okay, nor can they check guests in if the bookings department has not done the booking. Housekeeping can’t be sure to provide guests with the perfect room setup if the bookings have not been completed properly.

A rough sketch of part of your hotel wheel might thus look similar to the example below:

Hotel Wheel

Hotel Wheel

Obviously no hotel’s wheel would look exactly the same, as no one runs their business the same way. Still, there are certain key areas with key departments that will always be included.

Would you like to create your own hotel wheel in a creative way, which you can use to teach your employees how the different departments interlink? Contact Travelling Mystery Guest today for an interactive workshop hosted at your establishment! Call Renate on 082 336 1562 or email her on enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.

Upcoming Travelling Mystery Workshops

TMG Workshops for April

TMG Workshops for April

With April slowly, but surely approaching, Renate is planning some really fun, interactive workshops for you and your staff. Here are the topics to look forward to in April:

1.       Creating your own hotel wheel

In this workshop you will learn how to identify the different touch points between hotel staff and guests. It is ideal for managers and lower level employees as you will be able to understand the complete customer journey and the different areas of interaction where you have an opportunity to engage and impress. Bring pencils, paper and creativity and let’s roll out the hotel wheel!

2.       Creating your own customer journey map

In addition to the hotel wheel, we also learn a bit more about the customer’s journey. We identify different target markets and their different touch points. We also identify areas which might need some attention within the customer’s journey, and some advantages and opportunities we might have missed in between. This is a great way to review your customer service delivery and current engagement with guests. The workshop will assist you to take a look at things from another angle – put your thinking caps on and let’s think outside the box for a while.

3.       What are the customer service issues in SA’s Hospitality Industry?

Take a look at the different challenges faced in South African hospitality with regards to customer service. Renate gives you an outline of Travelling Mystery Guest‘s observations and experiences, after which some interactive brainstorming and discussions will guide you to ideas and solutions to overcome some of the customer service challenges you face within your hotel, guesthouse or restaurant.

4.       How to increase customer service in South Africa

This is a follow up on the workshop above, looking at case studies and research done on the customer service challenges faced and considering possible solutions and the outcomes thereof. This workshop will also give you some tools to use with regards to staff management and training, as well as establishing a feeling of loyalty and trust among all staff members within your hotel, guesthouse or restaurant structure.

Remember that Travelling Mystery has made it easy for you by presenting these workshops at your establishment. For bookings, contact Renate on 082 336 1562 / enquire@travellingmystery.co.za.