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 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:
- 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 / email@example.com
- 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
The hospitality industry is not an easy industry to be in. It’s long hours, often unthankful customers and not necessarily great pay. Still, many people are in the industry for the love of serving others, being hospitable and enjoying the opportunity of meeting new people every day. The industry can get you down sometimes, though, and I believe that this is one of the main reasons customers don’t always get the service they expect. I’ve made a list of the main things I have noticed are not being done professionally in many South African restaurants:
Staff are often uncertain about menu items and specials and do not have the confidence to up-sell the restaurant’s services to its customers. Train employees to know the business and to believe in it and they will sell it to your customers.
It’s often the case that guests are not kept in the loop of things while waiting for their order at a restaurant. Remind employees to keep their customers informed regarding waiting times and current specials.
There is a certain standard in the hospitality industry regarding personal hygiene and personal neatness. Make sure that your staff know what this standard is and that it should be adhered to at all times.
Pulling out the chair
It doesn’t happen very often that a waiter pulls out a chair for a lady, but if it happens, it makes her feel special and welcome. Remind staff to make guests feel welcome with small, professional gestures like this.
Have a great Easter and keep striving towards customer service excellence!
And so the first month of 2014 is already behind us and February is well under way. Many experts have had a look at the travel market‘s stats from last year and here is what they were able to identify:
- According to a survey done by American Express Travel, one of the most popular reasons for travelling is arts and crafts.
- This is the year for up-selling. With the weakening of the Rand, international travel to South Africa has become even cheaper. Broaden your horizons and up-sell in international countries rather than domestic.
- According to the ITB World Travel Trends Report 2013/2014 there has been a tremendous growth in international travel in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. If you want to start marketing internationally, I suggest you target these countries first.
- Leisure travel is outgrowing business travel according to the ITB World Travel Trends Report.
- The ITB World Travel Trends Report says that city holidays and holiday tours have been the main driving factors in tourism growth worldwide for the last four years.
- 2013 was finally the year for mobile according to SocialMedia Today. We can expect an increase in enquiry and booking traffic from smartphones and tablets alike.
- A study done by Expedia Media Solutions have shown that travellers visit at least 38 websites on average before they purchase an online travel package. 2014’s challenge will therefore be to keep websites updated, easy to navigate and with all the information a guest might need.
- With TripAdvisor now offering meta-search capabilities, hotels will need to have a look at this additional distribution outlet in 2014.
- Social media has an increasing influence in the search and planning stages of travel. Keep an eye on visual search sites like Instagram and Pinterest this year.
- There’s a definite growing importance of Google+. Don’t miss out on this one in 2014.
- Keep a lookout for Millennials (18 – 30-year olds). According to Chris Fair, Resonance Consultancy President, this is a much more ethnically diverse group, making them more interested in international travel. Other characteristics include their interest in urban rather than resort destinations, their likeliness to travel in pursuit of a favourite interest or activity and the likelihood that they would rather travel with friends in organized groups.
- The use of social media with widespread sharing of holiday photos has fostered a new trend. Travellers now want unique experiences which they can share with friends and family via social media ports.
Creative Travel – Interacting with locals
- There’s also been growth in creative tourism as Chris Fair calls it. This speaks of travel that provides a connection with those who reside in the destination. Travellers want to interact with locals.
- Another travel trend to keep in mind in 2014 is the growth in multigenerational travel. The older the baby boomers get, the more family travel they do and most of these travels are planned around milestone events. These travellers are all about trading memories, convenience and value. Another challenge for destinations this year is to be able to cater for both 6 and 66-year olds.