Having just wrapped its second season, “Hotel Hell” represents a solid hour of television — albeit a slight guilty pleasure — with many important lessons for hoteliers. Nearly two years ago, I reviewed the first season to mixed sentiments. As the centerpiece of the show, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s bold and confrontational persona is what holds it together and keeps us thoroughly entertained, even as the episodes devolve into a formulaic structure of oddball or obstinate owners and cookie-cutter solutions.
Yes, the producers likely canvassed the United States to find the worst of the worst in order to create the most excitement, but I still can’t help but feel as though certain characters are exceedingly dramatized. I guess the word got out after the first run of episodes, and now people are “playing up” for the camera. Moreover, at times I don’t see eye to eye with Ramsay’s suggestions, even though his personality is a delight to watch. First, he’s only dealing with independent hotels, and his plans might not necessarily work for semi-independents or chain properties. Second, the budgets for many of his proposed upgrades simply aren’t feasible.
That said, Ramsay makes many exceptionally strong points that are consistently spot on in terms of getting a property back on track. His professional experience leans more to the restaurant side of things, but he nonetheless holds valuable insights that every hotelier can take to heart. Here are five that I’ve noted:
1. Authenticity is critical.
The theme of your property has to remain true to your region, its vegetation, its customs, its traditions, its produce and your unique history. The buzz term behind all this is “authentic local experience,” which is the currently trending expectation amongst guests. Deviate from this at your own risk, as any discrepancies will confuse customers.
2. Food always matters.
Everyone eats, and there is a strong emotional connection between what guests think of your food and what they think of your rooms. Even though you might differentiate these two operations, your customers don’t — they’re both part of the overall experience. Given that we run on our stomachs, perfecting your cuisine is paramount.
3. Color is key.
Often, Ramsay makes basic changes to the décor that go a very long way. Many of the hotels or inns he visits are mired in drab browns, grays and beiges. Any interior designer will tell you the colors in a room can drastically impact an inhabitant’s mood, and this is definitely true for the guests on “Hotel Hell.” You need colors that are bright, refreshing and in congruence with your property’s theme without being overpowering — not an easy task. You might not be able to readily identify an error in this regard from online comments or score cards, so go out of your way to ask guests face-to-face or sit staff members down for an honest query.
4. Problems start at the top.
If you have an eccentric owner or general manager, then expect headaches down the line. The top executives are a hotel’s generals — its leaders — and if they have any underlying traits that are detrimental to the property’s operations then the army won’t be able to properly mobilize itself towards victory. If you find yourself in this situation, my advice is to sit your boss down in private for a sincere conversation about how you feel his or her actions are negatively impacting the business. Beyond that, don’t plan on changing other people, as true change can only occur from within.
5. Your team is your family.
If you cherish your staff, then those positive feelings will be passed on to the guests. The opposite is also true — a neglected team will in turn neglect your consumers as well as disregard their constructive criticism. You can have excellent décor, guestrooms, amenities and F&B, but if your staff members aren’t personable, then it’s all for naught. Remember hospitality is a people business, and your team is the face of your hotel. Have them smiling, and your guests will smile, too.
Well, those are my five. What other takeaways did you glean? For those who haven’t watched it, “Hotel Hell” is on Fox, so there will be reruns for you to catch. If not, then PVR, Netflix or any other streaming service can probably help. Lastly, another show, “Hotel Impossible,” is a worthy counterpart worth a viewing (it aired its fourth season earlier this year and is undoubtedly rolling out a fifth sometime soon).
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on September 16, 2014)