Category: Fall 2015

The Bleacher Bar at Fenway Park: Transforming a Former Indoor Batting Cage Into a Unique Eatery and Bar

September 15th, 2015 in Design, Fall 2015, Real Estate, Restaurants 0 comments

By Graham Ruggie

As one of the oldest cities in the United States, Boston is steeped in rich history. Many of the city’s most successful restaurants and hotels embrace the architectural heritage, while still providing modern conveniences including The Liberty Hotel, The Kendall Hotel, and Chart House restaurant. In fact, Boston’s Fenway Park offers one of the best examples of the “adaptive reuse” of iconic space. This is the story behind the design and construction of the Bleacher Bar; an area once used as an indoor batting cage for our beloved Red Sox baseball team.

When the architectural firm I was working for landed a project to design a new restaurant inside Fenway Park, I jumped at the chance to be involved. Little did I know that among the typical duties of an architect, I would have to find a way to install two-way glass above a row of urinals so thirsty patrons would not miss the action during the game. It proved to be an interesting part of the story to transform a former batting cage under the bleachers into a unique restaurant and bar destination.

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The central area of the bar looks out onto the Boston Red Sox field at Fenway Park (Photo Source: Author’s personal collection)

 

The Bleacher Bar sits unobtrusively below the famous Green Monster outfield wall, free of distracting the players and batter. (Getty Images)

The Bleacher Bar sits unobtrusively below the famous Green Monster outfield wall, free of distracting the players and batter. (Creative Commons Eric Kilby License 2.0)

Preserving History

Architect Janet Marie Smith had already been working with the Boston Red Sox as an “owner’s rep” to oversee a multi-year transformation of the ballpark once it had been decided to keep professional baseball at the park in lieu of moving to a new stadium. It seemed that every year there was a new project to add seats, including unique spaces such as the “Budweiser Pavilion” and cantilevered seating above the Green Monster over Lansdowne Street. The time had come to look at the last remaining undeveloped space in the park. The triangle-shaped space begins where the outfield wall intersects with the historic Green Monster and wedges out along the outfield and Lansdowne Street to a ramp that brings equipment out to the field. The “floor” of this former indoor batting cage area is at the field level which is about 42” below the sidewalk on Lansdowne St. Adding to the challenge of the geometry of the space are large steel girder beams that rise from the outfield wall to the outside wall of the park. The stepping of the formed concrete bleachers above is visible from inside the space. Finally, there was an existing 12’ x 12’ overhead door that opens onto the warning track. The Red Sox and restaurant developer wanted to make sure that we retained all of these unique elements in the design of the space to draw patrons for the experience. The challenge became, how do we design a comfortable, bar/restaurant space that not only meets code requirements, but also creates a unique experience for patrons?

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The bar/restaurant design strategically uses the small space to provide appropriate flow of traffic (Photo Source: Author’s personal collection)

Keeping with Code

After multiple layouts and back and forth with the client, we needed to address some unique code requirements and design features before we could complete the Construction Documents permitting and construction. The triangular space needed two means of egress to the street and a chair lift to meet accessibility requirements. This limited our options for space planning, as the big attraction for the space (other than the view out onto the field) was going to be a large bar with custom millwork and glass including a liquor rack and beer coolers that are fed from behind. In fact, just behind the bar there is a one-of-a-kind beer bottle and keg cooler. Seating, service stations, restrooms and the kitchen all needed to find a home while providing appropriate flow of traffic within these tight constraints.

From Lansdowne Street, the glowing Bleacher Bar sign invites fans and tourists in for a unique experience

From Lansdowne Street, the glowing Bleacher Bar sign invites fans and tourists in for a unique experience (Photo Source: Author’s personal collection)

Discreet Design

One of the most interesting parts of the design is the opening onto the field itself. Originally, there was a metal panel door in the opening, painted green to blend into the padding along the outfield wall. The park later replaced it with a glass overhead door that provided an excellent, if limited, view of the field. The challenge was, how to allow the bar patrons see onto the field without being seen by the players? The overhead door in question was directly in line with the batter’s field of vision as they watched the ball release from the pitcher’s hand. How could we prevent a flashing light or movement inside the bar from distracting the batter? Especially a Red Sox batter! I found a one-way film produced locally that had the potential to allow one-way viewing through the glass. The film was expensive and had to be printed with official Fenway green paint color. We arranged for a mock up and test after the completion of a night game. We worked with the contractor to set up lights and people standing in the opening with the door closed – just as it would be during a game. We were able to walk from the opening around the warning track and stand behind home plate to see if the product would work. As we walked on holy ground I asked the owner’s representative who was going to approve the installation before the developer spent money on the expensive film? The answer was “No one. If any player complains to the players association, a metal panel door will have to replace the glass door.” If that happened, that would be the end of our key attraction in the restaurant/bar. It was a gamble that fortunately paid off.

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A one-way film created to match the iconic Green Monster wall discreetly hides patrons from distracting the baseball players while still allowing for a clear view of the field from inside the Bleacher Bar. (Photo Source: Author’s personal collection)

Since 2008, the Bleacher Bar has been bustling with activity both on- and off-season with patrons clamoring for seats with a view of the field. Can’t find a seat with a view? After a beer or two, men can head upstairs to the restroom where they’ll find a unique design element: two-way glass above the urinals offer a unique perspective of the field! The windows came about after the architectural drawings were misread and it looked like there were supposed to be windows in the restroom. Everyone liked the idea so much that they were actually added in. All in a day’s work for this hospitality graduate turned architect!


RuggieGraham Ruggie (SHA ’91) is the owner and principal architect of Janez Design located in Framingham, Massachusetts.  He earned a Master of Architecture degree from the Boston Architectural College, but he considers his customer-focused management skills just as important as his design abilities. He’s uniquely qualified in this regard, with his years of managing restaurants in the hospitality industry, his completion of Marriott’s Total Quality Management course, as well as his degree in hospitality management from Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration. He lives in Ashland with his wife Ana (SHA ’91) and daughters.

U.S. Lodging Industry Update – Q2 2015

September 11th, 2015 in Fall 2015, Hotels, Real Estate, Trends 0 comments

It is important to note that while the quarter over quarter 33 percent per room price decline appears dramatic, the Q2 2014 numbers were skewed due to inclusion of the $1.73 billion trade of the 2995 room Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Photo Source:  Creative Commons, Saadick Dhansay, License 2.0)

It is important to note that while the quarter over quarter 33 percent per room price decline appears dramatic, the Q2 2014 numbers were skewed due to inclusion of the $1.73 billion trade of the 2995 room Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas. (Photo Source: Creative Commons, Saadick Dhansay, License 2.0)

Written by Daniel Lesser and Jonathan Jaeger of LW Hospitality Advisors®

The U.S Lodging Industry is currently experiencing peak levels as evidenced by year-over-year growth in many of the major performance indices. After the economic downturn in 2008/2009 when the industry experienced substantial decreases in overall performance and valuation, U.S Hotels have rebounded with many surpassing prior peaks.

According to data from STR Global, through the first half of 2015, the following performance metrics have reached all-time highs: Room Supply, Room Demand, ADR, RevPAR, and Room Revenue. On a year over year basis (twelve month moving average through June), overall Room Revenue for U.S Hotels has increased 9.1 percent. The following chart displays the twelve month moving average percentage change for each performance metric.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

Over the past ten years, the average U.S occupancy rate has ranged between 54.6 and 63.0 percent. As exhibited within the following chart, the 2014 and projected 2015 year-end occupancy is expected to reach peak levels. The next chart presents the number of U.S. submarkets reaching peak occupancy between 1994 and 2015; 2015 has been a banner year with over 80 submarkets reaching peak occupancies.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

In addition to strong demand growth across the country, another factor leading to increasing occupancy levels is the limited amount of new supply entering the market. Over the past twenty years, the average annual increase in supply has been 1.7 percent. Based on data from STR Global, the 2015 expected increase in supply is 0.9 percent. Overall occupancy levels are expected to remain strong; however growth will be limited due to seasonality constraints. As observed during previous recovery and growth cycles, the supply curve is expected to continue rising over the next several years.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

As evidenced by the 2015 Year End Outlook presented below, RevPAR growth in the U.S is expected to ease to 6.6 percent. The Upper Midscale and Economy segments are anticipated to achieve the highest rates of growth.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

In terms of the current hotel investment climate, U.S. hotels continue to attract domestic and foreign investors and a surge of institutional capital continues to be deployed into single assets and portfolios. Robust investor appetite is expected to continue, with greater participation from a wider array of equity sources. The stars continue to remain aligned and the fundamentals of the U.S. lodging industry are simultaneously favorable to buy, sell, and develop a variety of lodging product types.

One of the reasons for increased activity in the hotel transactions market is the improving profitability of U.S Hotels over the past five years. Total revenue for the industry reached a reported $176.7 billion in 2014, while House Profit was recorded at $65.8 billion according to STR Global. As observed on the chart below, profitability levels for U.S. Hotels have been increasing each year since 2009.

Source: STR, Inc.

Source: STR, Inc.

In addition to following national trends in the industry, LW Hospitality Advisors® (LWHA®) also tracks hotel transactions across the country. The Q2 2015 Major U.S. Hotel Sales Survey includes 56 single asset sale transactions over $10 million, none of which are part of a portfolio. These transactions totaled roughly $4.5 billion, and included approximately 16,800 hotel rooms with an average sale price per room of $267,000. By comparison, the LWHA Q2 2014 Major U.S. Hotel Sales Survey identified 42 transactions totaling roughly $4.5 billion including 12,800 hotel rooms with an average sale price per room of nearly $354,000. Comparing Q2 2015 with Q2 2014, the number of trades has impressively increased while total volume has remained steady. It is important to note that while the quarter over quarter 33 percent per room price decline appears dramatic, the Q2 2014 numbers were skewed due to inclusion of the $1.73 billion trade of the 2995 room Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

With 16 major hotel sales, Florida has been by far the most active transaction market followed by California with 9 major hotel sales. Million dollar plus per room trades are now occurring on a more frequent basis in top markets including the Q2 2015 sales of the Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Yountville, CA, and the Marker Waterfront Resort in Key West, FL which also set a new record for per room pricing metrics in Key West. The Waldorf Astoria Chicago trade of $600,000 per room is also a new record for the City of Chicago. Conversely, a record low trade has also occurred, the Revel Hotel and Casino, a bankrupt Atlantic City boardwalk property that originally cost $2.4 billion to build traded for $82 million ($59,000 per room), or 4 cents on the dollar.

U.S. hotel industry fundamentals are anticipated to accelerate during the second half of this year, and remain strong through at least 2016 as domestic corporate travel remains strong and sustained group momentum drives compression across the major markets. Wide open debt markets coupled with abundant sums of available low cost equity from around the globe should continue to fuel a hyper active transaction market. Clairvoyant investors who acquired assets between 2009 and 2011 will continue to bake in dramatic appreciation gains as a result of increasing U.S. hotel values. It is during robust markets like today that the hotel investment arena attracts newcomers to the sector. Many of these investors underwrite deals based upon an automatic assumption of rapid sale price increases during a one to three year horizon. Furthermore, they do not consider the ever present possibility of unforeseen market disruptions resulting in a need to hold on to an property during a down and/or turbulent market. Savvy investors know and understand that fundamentally hotels are long term investments, and while no different than their newbie brethren hope to realize rapid short term appreciation, they acquire assets that are market priced based upon traditional holding periods of five to ten years.


LesserDaniel H. Lesser has more than 30 years of expertise in a wide range of hospitality operational, investment counseling, valuation, advisory, and transactional services. He currently serves as the President and CEO of LW Hospitality Advisors®, based in New York City. Mr. Lesser is a leading authority on hotel feasibility and valuation, and is highly sought after to speak at lodging and real estate events, as well as lectures at prestigious institutions of higher education, including Cornell University, Columbia University and New York University. He is widely published and quoted, and serves as a quarterly columnist for HotelNewsNow.com and GlobeSt.com. Most recently, Mr. Lesser created and served as the Senior Managing Director-Industry Leader of the Hospitality & Gaming Valuation Advisory Services Group at CB Richard Ellis Hotels (CBRE). Prior to joining CBRE, Mr. Lesser founded and led the Hospitality & Gaming Group at Cushman & Wakefield and was a founding member of the team at HVS International. Mr. Lesser has also held operational and administrative positions with Hilton Hotels Corporation and Eurotels-Switzerland. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Hotel Administration from Cornell University, and also attended the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, Switzerland and Baruch College- City University of New York. Mr. Lesser holds the following professional designations: MAI (Member of the Appraisal Institute), FRICS (Fellow of The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors), CRE (Counselor of Real Estate), and CHA (Certified Hotel Administrator).

 

JaegerJonathan Jaeger currently serves as a Managing Director with LW Hospitality Advisors®, based in New York City. Prior to joining LWHA®, Mr. Jaeger had been with Pinnacle Advisory Group from January of 2008 through January of 2014. He began as a Consultant in the Boston office and was promoted to Vice President and head of the New York Practice. During his tenure, Mr. Jaeger was involved in the execution of over 300 consulting and valuation assignments throughout the United States. Prior to his advisory career, Mr. Jaeger held various operational and accounting/finance positions with Starwood Hotels & Resorts and Kimpton Hotels & Resorts. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science from the Boston University School of Hospitality Administration in addition to a minor in Business Administration from the Boston University School of Management. Mr. Jaeger is a State Certified Real Estate Appraiser specializing exclusively in the evaluation of hotel properties. During his time in Boston, he served on the Emerging Leaders Committee of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Appraisal Institute as well as a Council Member of the Massachusetts Lodging Association Under 30 Gateway Chapter. Beginning in the spring of 2011, Mr. Jaeger joined the adjunct faculty at Boston University, serving as co-instructor of the Hotel Asset Management course. In addition to teaching a course at Boston University, Mr. Jaeger has written several articles for industry wide publications; topics included the Manhattan Lodging Market, Highest and Best Use Analyses, E-Commerce in the Hotel Industry, among others. In New York City, Jonathan is a member of YHIP, the Young Hospitality Investment Professionals Group and also participates with the NYC & Company Hotel Committee in addition to recently affiliating with the Metro NY Chapter of the Appraisal Institute. Mr. Jaeger is a designated member of the Appraisal Institute (MAI); he achieved this designation in June of 2013. In addition, Mr. Jaeger is an active member of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) as well as a Development Coach for the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA).

 

Outrageous

September 11th, 2015 in Business Practices, Fall 2015, Hotels, Human Resources, Uncategorized 0 comments

Photo Source: Getty Images

Photo Source: Getty Images

By Michael Oshins

The complexity and challenges of owning and operating a hotel have changed over the years.  Traditionally most hotels were owned and managed by the same person (or company).  In today’s marketplace, several entities can be involved, including owners, developers, management companies, brands, affiliations/consortiums and asset managers, resulting in a far more complex organization.  The following scenario (created by colleague, Dr. William Kahn) features the relationship between the hotel owner and general manager and highlights the impact of this important relationship on the organizational culture of the hotel.  The case was posed to several industry professionals who were asked to use their expertise to advise on how they might respond to this scenario. The BHR would like to hear your opinion; please share your ideas in the comment section at the end of the article.  

Scenario:

Steve Leighton, a seasoned hotel manager, is in his fifth year as GM of The Seaside Hotel, a mid-sized property that is part of the world-renowned 60-year old Oceans By The Sea (OBTS) hotel corporation. Seaside was purchased just a year ago by successful manufacturing magnate, Ben Reston, a first time hotel owner. Recently, Steve began receiving more and more emails from Ben, all marked urgent and all addressing matters of day to day operations in the hotel. Much to Steve’s frustration, none of Ben’s communication responded to Steve’s repeated requests for increased investment in the physical upkeep of the hotel, despite the need for capital improvements to address wear and tear in the function rooms and suites at a time when several big corporate contracts were up for renewal.

Today, Steve arrived at the hotel and found a new string of escalating emails from Ben. The first one, from 8:00 p.m. the night before, had the subject line, “Outrageous,” and read:

Hi Steve. I wanted to let you know about the experience my nephew and his friend had at the hotel earlier tonight. I told them that we had a new chef and that they should have dinner at the hotel, my treat. When he called me later, he said he could not believe how rude the desk clerk was to him. My nephew said that he simply asked about getting a cab to go pick up his friend, I thinkand that the desk clerk barely gave him the time of day. He asked to speak to you, but you were gone for the day, and the Manager on Duty was busy in another part of the hotel. My nephew said that the dinner was okay (I want to talk to you another time about the salads, which I still think are presented poorly) but that the whole interaction with the desk clerk just ruined it for him. As you can imagine, I was mortified. Please call me.

The subject line of Ben’s second email, this one from late last night, was “Pelham.”

Steve: I called the front desk and found out that the name of the associate who was so rude to my nephew was Pelham. I think I remember him. Wasnt he the one that messed up one of my wifes cousins reservations last spring? I think so. Anyway, I want you to look into this. If he is making this many mistakes, hes probably not doing the job that we want. I certainly dont want someone like that representing my hotel. We cant afford a reputation for rudeness. The market is just too competitive around here. Ill call you tomorrow about this.

Steve found this strange. Kevin Pelham was one of the best associates on the front desk. He had a reputation as unfailingly polite and unflappable, calm in a crisis, good with the guests and the corporate customers. Terry knew that there was certainly another side to this particular story. He opened the third email from Ben, sent earlier this morning with the subject line: “Changes.”

Steve. We really need to make some changes. Its not just this Pelham fellow. There are other associates Ive noticed recently who are not doing the kind of job that we want them to. Some speak too quickly to the guests, like theyre trying to rush them. Others are too informal in front of the guests. They need to be more professional. They need to be shaped up a bit. Maybe theyll perform better after we do something about Pelham. That might scare them some. That works in my businesswhen my staff is afraid for their jobs, they work better and faster. Im sure it will work at the hotel too. Anyway, Im coming in around lunchtime, and will want to meet with you then.

Steve went to see Ilana Baylor, the Manager on Duty the previous night. Ilana was surprised that Kevin Pelham was the issue. She told Steve that it had been a bit crazy the night before. There were two wedding receptions, a corporate function, and several mix-ups with guest room reservations, and they had been short-handed at the front desk because one of the associates was called away by a family medical emergency. Ilana said that as far she knew Pelham did a good job holding the front desk together. She said that she would call him to find out what happened with the nephew.

Steve found himself increasingly annoyed with Ben. It seemed, from the emails, that Ben wanted to take a decidedly more active role in managing Steve’s staff. Steve wanted Ben’s support. But wanting Ben’s support and involvement was different from wanting him intruding in the hotel’s basic operations.

Steve walked back to his office. He was not looking forward to dealing with Ben later that day, but hoped that he could find a way to make it constructive. He sat down at his desk, saw yet another “Urgent” email from Ben, sent just minutes before. There was no message, just a subject line: “See you at noon.”

1. What are the key issues you see in this scenario? Which issues do you think are most important?

2. What initial steps would you take to address these issues?

Key Issues in Order:

1. Communication protocol

2. Defined Roles

3. Management Philosophy

4. Mutual Respect

5. Mutual Goals

Initial Steps to address these Issues:

1. Approach the meeting from an offensive not defensive position

2. Imagine the roles (owner/GM) were reversed

3. Present and execute a retraining program addressing service observations

4. Ask to formalize and establish an FFE schedule

5. Emphasize financial and GSS results

6. Agree that  management by fear yields at best short term gains.

7. Propose weekly “coffee” chats to keep door open

8. Offer to “walk” the hotel once in awhile.

9. Follow up to benchmark Owners perception status

If all this fails, update CV.

-Tim Kirwan, Principal, Hotel Creation NE, Boston, MA

Kirwan Tim Kirwan is the Principal of Hotel Creation NE located in Boston, Massachusetts. Prior, Kirwan was the Managing Director of the InterContinental luxury property located on Boston’s waterfront. No stranger to Boston, Mr. Kirwan has been the sure guiding hand behind the openings of the Hotel Commonwealth, the Cambridge Hyatt Regency and the Bostonian Hotel, which he served as Managing Director from 1982 – 1990.

As Managing director of Hotel Commonwealth he created a new destination in Kenmore Square which included thirteen boutique stores, the award wining Great Bay Restaurant with Michael Schlow and Chris Myers, as well as Eastern Standard Brasserie.

He was the General Manager of the 364-room Westin Hotel in Providence, which he also opened and managed with distinction and national acclaim for seven years. In addition, he is deservedly credited with playing a key role in the re-birth of the city of Providence, both through his service as chairman of the Providence Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as for garnering positive exposure for the city as chairman of the Providence Film Commission.

 

Three key issues are apparent to me and they are, in order of importance:

The owner’s relationship to operations: It’s pretty clear that Ben wants his hotel to operate at the very highest standard, which is a laudable goal. But he has no idea how to motivate his team toward this end. His style might work in manufacturing, but not in a hotel. A seasoned general manager like Steve will quickly tire of Ben’s constant interference. Experienced general managers are most effective when given measurable goals along with the autonomy and necessary resources to attain them. Being micromanaged demoralizes good leaders and creates resentment, even if both parties share the same goal. Steve needs to show Ben that his constant emails and negative assessments are counter-productive. He should suggest having a regular weekly meeting with Ben to go over the operation and get Ben’s input, at which time he could report out on progress made during the past week.

Turnover: Ben seems to believe that firing people solves problems, but that’s rarely the case. Turnover is expensive and generally leads to reduced service levels until new staff are trained and comfortable in their positions. Again, Steve should speak from his experience in the hospitality industry and attempt to educate Ben on what works and doesn’t work. Let’s hope Ben listens!

Staffing levels: It seems that staffing could have been more robust on the night when Ben’s nephew showed up. I’d review this situation to see if it points to a systemic problem and make adjustments as required.

-John Murtha, General Manager, Omni Parker House, Boston, MA

MurthaJohn D. Murtha, CHA, is a 37-year veteran of the hospitality industry. He is currently General Manager of the Omni Parker House Hotel in Boston, the longest continuously-operating hotel in America. He has been an adjunct lecturer in the School of Hospitality Administration at Boston University since 2001. He was recently inducted into the Hall of Fame by the Massachusetts Lodging Association. John graduated from the Hotel Administration program at the University of New Hampshire, where he is currently a member of the Hospitality Leadership Council and Advisory Board.

 

 

The interaction between Kevin Pelham and the nephew.
The communication between Steve (GM) and Ben (owner).

Regarding the incident with Kevin and Ben’s nephew, the first step to a resolution is to inquire about the situation with the employee. It is important to never go into a discussion, or disciplinary conversation, with an anticipated outcome. It is vital to allow employees the opportunity to express themselves and share their point of view. Once hearing from said employee, the supervisor should then elect an appropriate course of action, whether the issue conclude with the verbal conversation, or be taken a step further with written documentation Kevin may have felt frustrated during his shift because of the heavy traffic in the hotel and limited staffing, but it is important to stress to him the importance of hospitality. Without it, our business would not exist. On the other hand, while Ben might be quick to fault Kevin, the core of the problem could be a lack of staffing due to the call-off. This might entice the GM or Director of the Front Office to look into part time staffing for situations such as this. On call employees would reduce fluctuation in quality of service by stabilizing staffing.

A conversation with Ben is a must. It is common for someone with limited hotel operations experience to lack a complete understanding of the hotel culture. While Ben might believe disciplinary actions against Kevin would “scare” other employees and “shape them up,” it is likely to damper the trust between Steve and his employees above all else by turning the situation into a “he said, she said”. Steve should explain to Ben that he has spoken to Kevin regarding the situation, and has informed him how his actions were perceived by Steve’s nephew. Steve should also share Kevin’s explanation for the situation. Steve should then proceed to deliver appropriate disciplinary actions and keep record of the conversation, whether it is a follow up e-mail or formal documentation. It is important to be cautious of disciplinary actions because employers should preserve a good balance between a structured work environment and maintaining trust with their employees.

Steve should also converse with Ben regarding the hotel’s discipline process. He should explain that he apologizes for the unfortunate interaction with his nephew, and appreciates the feedback as he takes guest’s complaints very seriously. Steve should clarify his step by step process for situations such as these, and assure that it will be handled properly. Moving forward, Steve and Ben should agree on a form of communication which eliminates the frustrations and hostility exhibited in these e-mails.

-Chelsea Salamone, Front Office Manager, Washington Hilton, Washington D.C.

SalamoneChelsea Salamone currently serves as a Front Office Manager for the Washington Hilton in Washington, DC. Prior to this position, she completed the Management Development Program for Hilton Worldwide. She also worked with Pinnacle Advisory as a consultant analyst, and held interim positions in various hotel departments including Sales and Finance. Chelsea Salamone is a graduate of Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration.

 

 

Key Issues:

1) There is only a rudimentary relationship between the new owner of the property Ben and the General Manager Steve. Steve needs to take the lead on building a strong professional relationship with Ben.

2) There is neither a focused nor a sustainable communication between Ben and Steve.
Ben receives ‘snapshot’ impressions from his ‘circle of trust’ about latest service issues.
He forwards these information to Ben with his proposed guidance without listening to the concerning parties’ first or awaiting Bens feedback to the recent happenings.

3) There is a lack of training. Associates need to always put each guest in the center of their attention during each interaction.

4) Steve needs Ben’s commitment and approval for capital investment in FF&E. Strategic capital improvements need to be made in order to maintain the hotel adequately.

Initial steps:

1) During the upcoming meeting at noon, I would listen to all of Ben’s concerns first and take notes. A transparent, clear and repeated face to face communication between operator and owner is necessary in order to provide a sustainable and long lasting financial partnership, which is satisfying for both parties. A meeting agenda needs to include all important topics and track their progress.

2) I would find out what Ben’s top three goals are. In general, owners expect

     a) return on investment (ROI)

     b) maintenance of their product and

     c) building a positive reputation/ image.
I would build the meeting agenda around these mutual goals and would diplomatically discuss how to attain these goals in a sustainable way. Due to the high turnover and challenging maintenance in the day to day operation, hotels generally olden much quicker than comparable products like boarding houses, serviced apartments or other paid accommodations. For this reason most operators have contacted capital investment accruals related to the respective revenues. For example 3% FF&E accrual between year one and three after opening a new property, following 4%-6% of total revenue in the following years of operation depending on the standard of the hotel.

3) I would use a diplomatic approach to help Ben see the bigger picture, instead of letting snapshot impressions form his opinion. A strategic approach would be total quality management: by reviewing existing processes and systems it can be determined what elements need to be revised in order to improve guest and owner satisfaction. I would strategically address the problems at hand and make progressive changes in attitudes, practices, structures and systems.

A first action item would be training and improved communication with the associates, e.g. raising the awareness/ knowledge about Ben and his family by using pictures and preferences. The Front office associates will be able to recognize and assist the key players in Ben’s circle of trust more effectively.
A second action item should be interdepartmental cross training of associates, in order to use all resources strategically during peak business periods or when faced staff shortage. By providing lateral service, resources can be optimized and associates can assist where needed most.

-Cyrus Heydarian, Regional VP & GM, Breidenbacher Hof, Duesseldorf, Germany

Cyrus Cyrus Heydarian is the Regional Vice President of Germany & Middle for Capella Hotel Group, and General Manager of the Breienbacher Hof in Dusseldorf, Germany.

His extensive hotel experience spans three countries and two continents including Germany, United States of America, and Switzerland for such brands as Broermann Hotels & Residences, Boca Raton Resort & Club, and Seiler Hotel Mont Cervin.

 

 

Most outside of the industry and many within it probably perceive the role of a hotel manager to be one mostly focused on guests and employees.  However, building and maintaining a healthy relationship with owners is critical.The healthiest and most profitable relationships must be based on trust – trust in knowing that we’ll manage their asset and make the best possible decisions to drive the highest possible return on their investment.  In all honesty, most large hotels are now owned by institutional investors who need to be able to focus on the capital side of things rather than operations and they will not tolerate a management team who they don’t have complete confidence in. The case in question is a little different in that the owner is more personally invested in and closer to the asset.  This is definitely a situation that could lend itself to a more difficult balancing act for a hotel manager, especially if the manager and the owner are not on the same page about their goals for the property and how the hotel should be managed.Steve is most likely to have a productive meeting and working relationship with Ben if they can agree a few key principals:

1. Managing the people in a service business is very different to managing a manufacturing environment and while Ben has achieved great success in the past, he may need to give Steve time to prove that a different approach to management is required here.

2. There are a huge volume of non-subjective ways to measure the hotel’s performance, from financial metrics, to employee and customer surveys, social media sentiment, etc.  The working relationship between Steve and Ben would benefit from setting clear goals around these kinds of KPIs than on the much more qualitative and subjective approach being used today.

3. Finally, it is clear that Steve cannot be successful in his role in the environment today.  It seems like he may need to undertake a concerted effort to win Ben’s trust but at the same time may need to convey to Ben that he is concerned for the future of their relationship and the property if they cannot change the dynamics of their relationship.

-Lisa Pavlides, Director of Human Resources, The Westin Boston Waterfront, Boston, MA

PavlidesLisa Pavlides is the Director of Human Resources at The Westin Boston Waterfront in Boston, Massachusetts. She began her career at the Westin Copley as a Rooms Management Trainee before moving into a human resources role where she chose to continue her career. In 2005, Pavlides took a role at Director of Human Resources for the Westin Waltham before transition her position to the Westin Boston Waterfront in 2007.

She was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland and received her bachelors degree in business from Trinity College an a Higher Diploma in hospitality management from the Dublin Institute of Technology. Prior to moving to Boston in 1999, she lived and worked in London and California working in food and beverage, sales, and marketing.

 

What steps and issues do you think are most important to approach this situation?


OshinsMichael Oshins is Associate Professor of the Practice of Leadership in the School of Hospitality Administration at Boston University. He is former Vice President of Integer Dynamics, a hospitality consulting firm focused on operational productivity and technology. He holds a doctorate in human resource education from Boston University and a master’s degree in hotel administration from Cornell University. Email moshins@bu.edu

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Hotel Crowdfunding Grows Up

September 9th, 2015 in Business Practices, Fall 2015, Hotels, Real Estate, Restaurants, Trends, Uncategorized 1 comment

By Joshua Bowman

In July 2014, Zack “Danger” Brown famously launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Kickstarter website. To his surprise, he raised ten times the desired amount in the first day. Within a few months, Mr. Brown raised over $55,000 from 6,911 different complete strangers. Mr. Brown’s idea? Potato salad. Mr. Brown’s crowdfunding campaign was intended to be a joke, but the joke was on him. He ultimately raised over $55,000, most of which he graciously elected to donate to charity.

Mr. Brown’s story, which attracted national media attention, may give the impression that crowdfunding is a quirky new idea, well outside the commercial mainstream. However, the numbers tell a very different story. This year, Massolution and Bloomberg estimate that $34.4 billion will be raised through crowdfunding websites. Of that amount, Massolution estimates that $2.5 billion will be invested in real estate in the US – a 150% increase from 2014.

For those not already familiar with crowdfunding, it is essentially the raising of money, usually for a business idea, through an online portal. Crowdfunding was first made possible in the US by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups (“JOBs”) Act signed into law by President Barack Obama in April of 2012. The JOBs Act was designed to ease long-standing prohibitions on the mass marketing of so called “private offerings” of securities. To provide some perspective, in 2014 approximately $1.3 trillion dollars was raised via private offerings in the US. Private offerings, as opposed to public offerings, are exempt from the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) registration process, which means they are more affordable for, and more frequently utilized by, smaller businesses.

Although one might not realize it given the large numbers involved, the SEC has actually been quite slow to implement the JOBs Act. Regulations enacting Title II, which allow the mass-marketing of privately offered securities over the internet only to wealthy persons or entities, called “Accredited Investors,” did not take effect until September 2013. In order for an individual to be considered an Accredited Investor, he/she must have a net worth (excluding the value of his/her primary residence) of at least $1 million or have had income of at least $200,000 (or $300,000 together with his/her spouse if married) each of the previous two years with an expectation of making the same amount in the year the investment is made. The regulations that would allow everyday retail investors to invest in the most common type of crowdfunded real estate deals (under SEC Rule 504), have not yet been enacted; and it is not clear when or if they ever will be.   Although, in April 2015, the SEC enacted Title IV, which allows non-Accredited Investors to invest in “Reg A+” offerings, which, so far, are not popular with offerors because of their cost and more stringent regulatory requirements. The bottom line is that presently most of the “crowd” for legal real estate investment through crowdfunding in the US consists of somewhere between five and seven million high net worth investors.

 

Leipzig, Germany, the planned site for the first Podstel location. (Photo Source: Creative Commons  MatthiasX1 License 2.0)
Leipzig, Germany, the planned site for the first Podstel location. (Photo Source: Creative Commons MatthiasX1 License 2.0)

THE WORLDS FIRST CROWDSOURCED HOSTEL: Millennials are both tech savvy and eager to not only enter the work force, but create their own entrepreneurial career path. In recent years, a number of young entrepreneurs have launched crowdfunding campaigns with goals of building new and inspired hostels. Now, a new campaign is set to launch in October 2015 by Daniel Beaumont, founder of the hopefully first ever crowdsourced hostel, Podstel. The Podstel team has spent the last three years planning for their €100,000 campaign. If all goes according to plan, the Podstel team will break ground on their first hostel location in Leipzig, Germany. (Source: Podstel)

With regard to the hotel industry specifically, crowdfunding is definitely gaining momentum. Many of the largest real estate crowdfunding sites (such as Realty Mogul, Fundriser, Real Crowd and Prodigy Networks) frequently have hotel private placements mixed in with offerings for other types of real estate. In addition, a few crowdfunding sites that specifically focus on hotel crowdfunding have been created. The first hotel crowdfunding website dedicated solely to the hospitality industry was Hotel Innvestor, although others sites have recently been created such as iCrowdHotels and Equity Roots.

Route 66 REVITALIZING AMERICA’S MAIN STREET Patch of Land, a real estate crowdfunding website based in Los Angeles, CA, recently launched its first hotel offering. According to Bankless Times, the project, with a goal of $3.2 million in funding, will support a Ramada Inn located on Route 66 in Arizona as part of an effort to revitalize the historical Route 66 landmark. (Photo Source: Creative Commons Ctrlaltdileep License 2.0)

There is little doubt that hotel crowdfunding presently makes up only a tiny fraction of the estimated $2.5 billion that will be raised from the crowd in 2015 for US real estate investment. According to Tim Edgar, Founder and President of Hotel Innvestor, in 2015 somewhere between $25 million to $30 million is likely to be raised through hotel crowdfunding. That amount may seem paltry, but hotels in general make up only a small percentage of total real estate in the US. Moreover, most hotels are fairly large assets, which can make them more difficult to crowdfund than small residential or retail developments.

Even still, there have been some notable successes. In April of 2014, Kittridge Hotels & Resorts LLC garnered national attention by using Realty Mogul to raise $1.5 million for a new night club at the 163-room Hard Rock Palm Springs Hotel in Southern California. As part of the offering, investors were offered such benefits as improved bookings, room-rate discounts and free use of poolside cabanas. According to Realty Mogul, the offering sold out that July. Since then, Realty Mogul has completed two other hotel offerings.

An even bigger success occurred in September 2015, when Korman Communities started accepting guests at the newly renovated AKA United Nations Hotel-Condo located at 234 East 46th Street, New York City. Of the $95 million needed to purchase, gut and renovate the extended-stay hotel-condo project, about $12 million came through a crowdfunding portal run by Prodigy Networks. Prodigy Network’s CEO and founder Rodrigo Nino is widely quoted (in sources including September’s Time Magazine and Bloomberg News) as calling the Manhattan hotel “the first ever crowdfunded building in New York coming to completion, from A to Z….”

Furnished apartments at the AKA United Nations Hotel-Condo building in New York City is financed by crowdfunding

Furnished apartments at the AKA United Nations Hotel-Condo building in New York City are financed by crowdfunding (Getty Images)

Crowdfunding a hotel in Manhattan, which has traditionally been the top hotel market in the country, is no small feat. However, this milestone is only one of several signs that hotel crowdfunding is accelerating. Another is that hotel developers have recently started crowdfunding ground-up development projects, as evidenced by Hotel Innvestor’s $4 million offering for a 150-room Hyatt Place to be constructed at the Philadelphia Airport.

It is still early days for hotel crowdfunding, but the industry is growing up quickly. According to Tim Edgar, “The conversations that we are having with potential investors and issuers now are completely different from the conversations we were having eight months ago. People now know what crowdfunding is. They’ve heard about certain hotels that have been crowdfunded.”

BowmanJoshua M. Bowman is a partner at Sherin and Lodgen’s Real Estate Department and Corporate Department and is the Chair of the firm’s Hospitality Practice Group. He has substantial experience dealing with complicated issues related to commercial real estate ownership, development, finance, joint venture arrangements, acquisitions and sales, leasing, land use, licensing, management and franchise agreements, construction agreements, and food and beverage agreements.  Bowman has a particular concentration in representing owners and operators of restaurants and hotels, and is a member of the Hotel Industry Advisory Board for the New England Real Estate Journal, where he regularly writes articles of interest to the hospitality industry. In 2014, Bowman was selected as a Super Lawyer in the real estate industry by the publishers of Boston Magazine. He can be reached at 617.646.2281 or jmbowman@sherin.com.

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Digital Marketing Budgets for Independent Hotels: Continuously Shifting to Remain Competitive in the Online World

August 25th, 2015 in Business Practices, Fall 2015, Hotels, Marketing, Technology 14 comments

Top-Graphic

 


By Leora Halpern Lanz and Megan Carmichael

The hotel marketing budget, typically amounting to approximately 4-5% of an asset’s total revenue, must remain fluid, so that the marketing director can constantly adapt the marketing tools to meet consumer communications methods and demands. Though only a small amount of a hotel’s revenue is traditionally allocated for the marketing budget, the hotel’s success is directly reliant on how effectively that budget is utilized. Thus far in 2015, over 55% percent of hotel bookings are happening online, and mobile search queries have surpassed desktop queries (Google Research 2015). So as the world becomes deeply immersed in today’s digital universe, the marketing departments of independent hotels have directed their resources to the digital stratum, a necessity in today’s cluttered marketing environment and competitively branded arena.

The Continuous Adaptation

Such a stratum, though very complex, is extremely flexible. “The beauty found in digital marketing is in the ability to adapt until a niche is found,” says Jay Haverty, Chief Executive Officer of d50 Media, a marketing communications agency based in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. “If one method is not proving to be a success, it is easy to shift those resources into other methods until efficiency through volume is achieved.” Haverty notes that 25-30% of most marketing budgets (not necessarily in hospitality) are now in digital marketing, but within the last year, some budgets are showing 50% of their resources turning to the digital world. He also notes that 6-12% of the digital marketing budget is going to consumer-facing marketing, which includes tactics such as search engine marketing and promoted advertisement on social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter.

Looking at the hospitality industry specifically, Max Starkov, CEO of HeBS Digital, and Mariana Mechoso Safer, Senior Vice-President of Marketing at HeBS Digital (Hotel eBusiness Strategies), state in The Smart Hotelier’s Guide to 2015 Digital Marketing Budget Planning, that 75% of the (hotel’s) marketing budget should be allocated to digital marketing. Why such an increase compared to the general marketing budget statistics provided by Haverty? The hospitality industry is wholly reliant on word of mouth, as it is the simplest distribution channel for a business. Guest loyalty does generate business, yet positive reviews provided by word of mouth marketing encourages new guests and higher revenue margins. In a study done on hotel bookings by TripAdvisor, reports show that out of 12,659 responses, 77% of those travelers choose to use reviews and recommendations from the website before booking a hotel room. Such a statistic speaks loudly to the dire necessity for an online presence that is not only informative, but distinct and able to be discovered among the “clutter” of hotel advertising and promotion.

Digital Budget Allocation

Regarding the marketing budget, independent hotels, particularly those with no affiliation to a soft brand or alliance with a marketing consortium of some manner, may need to spend more dollars on their marketing than those that are branded. Lesley Silberstein, Corporate Director of Sales and Marketing for Boston-based Saunders Hotel Group, warns of the lack of “the safety nets” that a brand usually provides. Silberstein, also an adjunct professor at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, advises, “Independent hotels have to be efficient and prudent. They have to be far more conscious about which channels they determine to utilize, especially when new tools are continually coming along.” When new, innovative concepts such as Dynamic Content Personalization, , come to light, independent hotels must be educated and handle their research and due diligence. If the return on investment (ROI) is lower than expected, there is a risk of wasted dollars and even a tarnished reputation leading to a more difficult recovery. But the fear of lost dollars has been over-shadowed by the bright light that is innovative digital marketing. For independent hotels, website enhancements and website revenue optimization strategies provide for a strong foundation for the digital marketing approach.

 

*Percentages based on high end of ranges. Source: HeBS Digital’s The Smart Hotelier's Guide to 2016 Digital Marketing Budget Planning.

*Percentages based on high end of ranges. Source: HeBS Digital’s The Smart Hotelier’s Guide to 2016 Digital Marketing Budget Planning.

Website Enhancements

Website redesign is a never-ending challenge, and one that is easily lost or mismanaged when a short-cut route is taken. Less costly designs and/or functionality may save money upfront, but in the long term, lost revenue damages the hotel’s bottom line. This is especially true of independent hotels, as they do not possess the benefit of a brand’s reputation to depend upon. Independent hoteliers must take the extra step of caution when investing in the proper website presentation and function for their property. According to Starkov, CEO, and Sara O’Brien, Associate Director of Marketing at HeBS Digital, website re-design and enhancement should constitute 4-5% of the digital marketing budget. Hoteliers need to appeal to consumers on multiple devices, thus the need for the “responsive” website. Desktop users are looking for as much information as possible, whereas mobile users require short, slimmed down content. The tablet user desires deep, visually enhanced content. The more satisfactory the consumer experience, the more likely a transactional booking will occur.

Responsive websites ensure a design adapts to desktop and mobile users automatically, enhancing the customer experience.

Responsive websites ensure a design adapts to desktop and mobile users automatically, enhancing the customer experience.Photo by Viktor Hanacek.  

Website Revenue Optimization Strategies

In a survey asking 376 hoteliers where they see the most ROI, a staggering 70% said they see the best results from their online investments (Cullen, 10). Approximately 73% of those same hoteliers say they depend upon in-house staff to operate and manage their digital marketing efforts, but recent research from the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) indicates that increased ROI would result from actually outsourcing these efforts to an electronic marketing firm. Such outsourcing would generate more visibility and revenue, and ultimately prove more cost-effective. According to HeBS Digital, this avenue of consulting should approximate 8-10% of the digital marketing budget. The revenue optimization consultant, whether in-house or outsourced, is expected to utilize a variety of digital marketing efforts in the hopes of maximizing revenue. For independent hotels, these efforts include, but are not limited to, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), meta search, Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM), email marketing, and a strong Organic and Paid Social presence.

1. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Search Engine Marketing (SEM)

Together, SEO and SEM could constitute approximately 27-29% of a hotel’s digital marketing dollars. SEO is extremely vital when having to meet standards set by search engines. Search engines demand a constant improvement of unique web content, but they also demand the rejuvenation of already existing content. SEO is where independent hotels have the opportunity to penetrate the crowded arena, as they strive to remain unique and memorable in their guest experience. Safer also notes that it is important for SEO to align with SEM for greater ROIs. SEM, including paid search, which may total 20-22% of the digital marketing budget, has experienced the most change over the years. SEM is far more complex today and also requires a stronger time commitment to properly execute. Increased competition with Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) adds to such complexity for branded hotels, as they are insistently commanding brand key words. Again, an advantage for independent hotels can be found. Independents do not rely on brand key words when executing SEM; their challenge is rather to stand out among the Goliath brands.

2. Meta Search Marketing & Dynamic Rate Marketing (DRM)

For independent hotels, meta search marketing is a must, as it is part of the constant effort to shift Internet data share away from OTAs and increase direct bookings. It should equal approximately 11-12% of the digital marketing budget. In the hospitality industry, meta search marketing is a form of online advertising that requires real time room rate and availability information. Meta search site TripAdvisor receives 375 million unique monthly visitors (TripAdvisor 2015). Its reviews on properties serve as a conduit to direct bookings for hotels, also bringing meta search sites even closer to the purchasing point.  “Contrary to some perceptions in the industry, meta search is not a distribution channel, nor is it a ‘set and forget’ marketing initiative,” Safer notes. “It is a cost-per-click (CPC) advertising format, where the advertiser only pays when someone clicks on the listing and is then led deeper into their booking engine.”

TripAdvisor provides real-time room rates using the meta-search model. Source: TripAdvisor.com

TripAdvisor provides real-time room rates using the meta-search model. Source: TripAdvisor.com

Yet another advantage of search engine marketing and CPC or pay-per-click (PPC) marketing is the ability to “turn it off” when it doesn’t work – or when it works for that matter. Marje Bennetts, General Manager of the Beach House Hotel in Hermosa Beach California remarks that the retail-like advertising response of pay per click can work wonders when trying to fill “need dates.”  When advertising on the OTAs for example, for a particularly slow period for that part of Southern California, “we can immediately fill rooms at an attractive rate thanks to the power of the PPC advertising. When we fill rooms to a certain point, and then have less inventory to work with, we can ‘turn off’ the faucet so to speak. At that point, the guest books our rooms from other mechanisms and we can achieve a higher ADR (average daily rate) for those remaining rooms.”

DRM goes hand in hand with meta search, as it is a direct-response marketing system that allocates for real-time hotel inventory and pricing. When a consumer accesses hotel information on TripAdvisor, they are not only able to access a plethora of reviews, but also the real time ADR. If a consumer were to go to the property site and book through the CRS (central reservation system), they would find an identical ADR. This is a prime example of a meta search site making use of DRM. It is cost effective and takes little time, which is why so many hoteliers reap its benefits today.

3.   Email Marketing

Email marketing gives hotels the opportunity to reach as many potential and prospective guests as possible, given the multi-device era in which we live. This, suggests HeBS Digital, should realize 4-5% of the independent hotel’s digital marketing budget. What is important is that each email is optimized as responsive for desktop, tablet, and mobile devices. Email marketing secures great advantages with its use of dynamic content personalization. Data collected on website viewers is translated into personalized emails — about information they were just viewing on the website. Pair email marketing with social media presence (a suggested 2-4% of the digital marketing budget) and an independent hotel has the ability to appeal to a user on multiple communication levels.

4. Organic & Paid Social Media

Instagram has accumulated 77.6 million users in 2015 in the U.S. alone, 50% of whom are millennials (Zero-In). Utilization of this social media channel could enable an independent hotel to distinguish itself among current buyers, and also imprint a lasting message and/or visual for the Instagram viewer. The key to a good social media presence is a strong foundation (Starkov and Safer 9). This means that in addition to making use of various social media platforms, the hotel must execute this properly. Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages, for example, should be an extension of the property website and part of the hotel’s online network presence. The social sites should continuously be updated in order to reply to customers promptly, provide viewers with the most current of information, and perform its function in real time effectively.

As Haverty notes, a strong, organic, social presence is essential, but it will only take a brand so far. Looking past the likely sizeable core of vocal brand ambassadors that carry its weight on social channels, Paid Social becomes vital. Its promotional and advertising campaigns are both robust and well-designed, effectively aiming at both increasing the amount of bookings, and building an email database. This social channel in turn is required to be competitive, especially for operators looking to survive against larger brands. “Paid Social – particularly on Facebook, Pinterest and soon on Instagram can have a tremendous return on investment,” notes Haverty, “Facebook, especially, allows for extreme niche targeting, and provides access to audiences flagged for business and leisure travel, vacationing, cruises, and the like; other interest and behavioral targeting layers combined with age, life stage, and income targeting can make for extremely high-performing ad campaigns”

5. Contingency or Reserve Funds

Not always available for independent hotels with tight marketing budgets, but when there is the ability to reserve dollars for unanticipated advertising needs during the fiscal year or the desire to experiment with new techniques of digital marketing, reserve marketing funds would be fundamental to ‘line item in.’

What the Future Holds

The budget line items indicated above are merely educated suggestions. How each independent hotel determines to allocate its budget depends on its comfort with the channel, willingness to take risks, and measured tracking of the ROI. The beauty of digital marketing is in its fluidity. Hotels have the ability to experiment with digital marketing initiatives, and if the results are ineffective, the marketing director can redirect the efforts essentially immediately. As Greg Bodenlos, brand marketing manager at The Charles Hotel in Cambridge, Massachusetts pragmatically stated, “independent hotels have to do more than branded hotels with less of a budget.” These hotels have the unparalleled opportunity to be completely unique, but that comes with its own set of challenges. It will be interesting to see where the digital marketing stratum leads us as consumers, as hoteliers, and as hotel marketing managers. The constant innovation and vivacity has pushed marketing far beyond what was ever expected, and so, the future seems to be both excitingly complex, while curiously bright.


The authors wish to acknowledge Carly Antonioli, a student at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration, for research that contributed to the contents of this article.

 

LanzLeora Halpern Lanz is the president of LHL Communications, a hospitality content marketing, branding and media relations advisory firm. LHL clients include hotels, hospitality investment conferences, leisure products, hotel management companies as well as other industry related services. Previously, for 15 years Leora served as global director of marketing and head of the marketing practice for hospitality consulting giant HVS. Prior to HVS, she  served for 10 years as director of public relations and advertising for ITT Sheraton Hotels of New York and for 5 years as director of public relations for the Greater Boston Convention &Visitors Bureau. She is currently also a full-time lecturer at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration.

Megan-CarmichaelMegan Carmichael is a student at Boston University’s School of Hospitality Administration (SHA). Her studies and areas of interest include sales and digital marketing, and integrated marketing communications. Megan is currently working with LHL Communications, and serves as a peer mentor for incoming Boston University hospitality students. Beyond her studies in SHA, Ms. Carmichael is pursuing a minor in Communications at BU’s College of Communications

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From Patrons to Chefs, a History of Women in Restaurants

August 21st, 2015 in Fall 2015, History, Restaurants 5 comments

Brook's Dining Rooms

Brook’s Dining Rooms (Source: Author’s personal collection)

By Jan Whitaker

American women have long been involved in public eating places. In Early America a common pattern was set as wives partnered with husbands in operating dining rooms in taverns and inns – and then carried on alone. Elizabeth Fraunces, wife of Samuel Fraunces whose career is commemorated in New York City’s historic Fraunces Tavern, took over the tavern when her husband was named George Washington’s household steward. When Samuel died she continued in the business.

Somewhat surprisingly, in light of prudish restrictions placed on women later in the 19th century, women of the early 1800s ran establishments serving men almost exclusively. They supervised male waiters and provided steak and oysters accompanied by a full range of drinks from the bar. Running an eating place with a bar would be considered disreputable and unladylike as the century wore on.

Men far surpassed the number of women eating away from home through most of the 19th century. But as early as the 1830s women visiting town for shopping or religious gatherings came into the market for respectable places to eat. In response the proprietors of the Clinton Lunch in New York City opened a Ladies’ Ordinary in 1833 under the direction of the owner’s wife.

The Temperance Movement

Slowly more dining rooms reserved for women appeared, becoming the standard for accommodating this segment of the dining-out public. Usually on the second floor and often entered through a separate door, women’s dining rooms explicitly promised that patrons would not be subject to rude looks or vulgar language. Also important, gender segregation via a separate dining room guaranteed that women’s reputations would remain intact. The Stranger’s Guide to the City of Boston said of Campbell’s Temperance Eating House, “Ladies can visit this place with perfect propriety.”

The Temperance Movement encouraged moderation or total abstinence of intoxicating liquor. By 1833, there were 6,000 Temperance societies in  the United States. (Brittanica)

Encouraged by the temperance movement which began in the 1830s, and even more so by national Prohibition of the 1920s and early 1930s, the female dining public grew steadily. Its growth rivaled in significance the rise of women restaurant workers and proprietors in terms of the future development of the modern restaurant industry.

Confectionery restaurants specializing in the odd-sounding combination of oysters and ice cream became closely associated with women patrons in the 19th century. In San Francisco, a temperance restaurant of the 1850s opened a branch for women known as Winn’s Confectionery, Ice Cream, and Ladies’ Refreshment Saloon. Along with oysters and ice cream, Winn’s supplied wedding cakes.

Berghoff Ladies Dining Room ca. 1910, New York City

Postcard from Berghoff Ladies Dining Room ca. 1910, New York City (Source: Author’s personal collection)

Women Working & Running the Kitchens

Far from applauding the accommodation of women in public eateries, censorious 19th-century commentators saw the trend as a sign of indecency. The Baltimore Sun ran an article that asserted “The New York custom, borrowed from France, of ladies dining at restaurants instead of at home, seems to be making sad inroads upon all propriety.” Nonetheless, after the Civil War there was a dawning realization that the increasing number of single working women in cities necessitated places for them to eat. Women traveling alone also needed accommodations. Appleton’s Handbook in 1873 helpfully provided a list of leading restaurants where women could dine “with propriety.”

Throughout the 19th century women of all races and ethnicities were employed out of sight in kitchens, while men dominated management and the front of the house. Hotel dining rooms were typically staffed by Afro-American men, while rough and tumble white men staffed cheap dining halls, shouting orders to the kitchen and slinging plates down long tables. The announcement that “lady attendants” would be on hand at Wilson’s Ladies and Gentlemen’s Confectionery, Coffee Rooms, and Ice Cream Saloon in Boston in 1851 marked a notable departure from the norm.

The number of women running restaurants of their own was also on the increase in the later 19th century. In Indianapolis Mrs. L. C. Mead ran a popular Restaurant and Oyster Bay that occupied three floors in 1883. The West, particularly, afforded greater opportunity than the East. The mining town of Tombstone, Arizona Territory, was home to several restaurants run by women, among them Mrs. M. L. Woods’ Melrose Restaurant, which an 1881 advertisement proclaimed was “The Largest and Most Elegantly Furnished Dining Hall in the City.”

In the 1870s and 1880s, feminist thinkers imagined women freed from the home kitchen and dining room. Some advocated neighborhood cooperative dining rooms, while others wanted ready-to-eat meals delivered or homelike restaurants. Compared to men, women proprietors and diners were more appreciative of the liberating aspect of restaurants. However, by the mid-20th century the idea of getting mom out of the kitchen would become prominent in restaurant advertising campaigns.

The range of restaurant roles that women played in the 19th century included not just servers – slowly increasing as women were hired to work behind lunch counters in the later century and in working women’s lunch clubs – but also dishwashers. Women dishwashers continued to be commonplace into the 20th century. A survey of restaurants in Michigan found women dishwashers outnumbering men, possibly due to World War I. The number of women servers by then had exceeded men, and women were also numerous as kitchen assistants, cashiers, and cooks.

Women restaurant managers were also on the rise. Women oversaw the first vegetarian restaurant in America (1895) and the Baltimore Dennett’s, the lunch room chain known for biblical verses on its walls. Women also ran food services in major department stores, including bakeries, candy kitchens, and restaurants.

Home Economics

The home economics movement of the early 20th century produced women trained in food management, cooking, and nutrition. In addition to running food operations in factories and institutions, many gravitated toward the commercial restaurant field where they emphasized cleanliness and nutrition. Some were hired by restaurants, such as Boos Brothers; in 1913 this early Los Angeles cafeteria chain hired a former assistant tea room manager at Marshall Field to develop and test new vegetable and salad dishes.

Women trained in home economics were almost always white. However, Afro-American women were plentiful in restaurants, whether catering in their communities or working in the kitchens of white owners. Only rarely were they hired as servers in white restaurants.

Occupational statistics from the 1910 federal census show that there was one female “restaurant keeper” for every five males. Afro-American restaurant keepers represented about a fourth of women in the business. Among servers the ratio of women was increasing, with 102,495 males and 85,798 females nationwide.

Cafeterias & Tea Rooms

Two types of restaurant were dominated by women in the early 20th century: cafeterias and tea rooms. Women owned, managed, and entirely staffed many of the first cafeterias, some of which developed out of women’s semi-philanthropic lunch clubs. For these reasons cafeterias were initially regarded as women’s eating places and were shunned by men, who supposedly disliked serving themselves and carrying trays. Many women who ran cafeterias, such as Nola Treat and Lenore Richards of the Richards-Treat cafeteria in Minneapolis, came out of home economics careers as teachers or managers of school or factory cafeterias. Being college-educated and native-born, such business women stood in stark contrast to the many restaurant operators who were foreign-born and without much formal education.

The kitchen at the Tabby Cat Tea Room

The kitchen at the Tabby Cat Tea Room (Source: Author’s personal collection)

Tea rooms were also very much the work of native-born American women from the middle class, mostly white but with a number of Afro-American operators also. Tea rooms continued the sex-segregated tradition of American eating places, not because they refused to serve men but because most men found them too feminine. These small, dainty eating places reached a peak of popularity during Prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s, barely surviving after World War II. With all-female staffs, they introduced a new role for women that of hostess, often employing a society woman whose role was to attract others of her circle.

Riverside Tea Room

Riverside Tea Room, Clayton, Thousand Islands, New York (Source: Author’s personal collection)

Despite tea rooms, sex-segregated dining declined in the 1920s as unescorted women began patronizing all sorts of restaurants. Clearly women were rapidly becoming a market to be reckoned with, increasing from 20% to nearly 60% of the dining public between World War I and 1927. Suddenly male restaurateurs scrambled to figure out how to please them. Cleanliness was at the top of women’s list, putting diners and hamburger chains on the outs with them for some time.

Becoming Leaders & Executives

Beginning in the 1920s women became visible, even prominent, in the growing restaurant industry. In a newspaper advertisement for the 1923 convention of the National Restaurant Association (NRA) in Chicago, women’s membership was striking, represented by the Skoogland Cafeteria, the Petit Gourmet, Miss Hasting’s Tea Room, and the King’s restaurants. Women operators joined trade journals’ editorial boards and authored articles. Restaurant Management magazine added a column called The Woman Executive in the 1930s.

Increasingly women were featured convention speakers as well as officers of the National Restaurant Association (NRA). In 1926 Katherine Talbot, owner of Dayton’s Grey Manor Tea Room, addressed the annual meeting on “Atmosphere and Refinement in Restaurant Operation.” After serving as a director, Grace E. Smith was named NRA president in 1940. Although her family was embarrassed that she had pursued a career in the low-status restaurant business despite her college degree, she had won success managing a Toledo, Ohio, YWCA lunch room in 1908, and went from there to open a prosperous cafeteria and a suburban tea room.

Grace E Smith Cafeteria

Grace E. Smith Cafeteria. Grace E. Smith was named National Restaurant Association President in 1940.  (Source: Author’s personal collection)

Wartime again expanded opportunities in the 1940s as it had in the teens. Prominent women in the trade then included not only Grace E. Smith and Richards and Treat, but Mary Love McGuckin of the Maramor in Columbus, Ohio, Agnes Gleason of the Parkway Tea Room in Chicago, Anna Maude Smith of The Anna Maude Cafeteria in Oklahoma City, and numerous others. Few knew that the president of Don the Beachcomber was a woman, as Cora Irene Sund assumed the position in 1933, bucking the rule that most restaurant chain executives were men.

Obtaining capital for a restaurant, however, was an obstacle for most women who were often overcharged for supplies, refused credit, charged high deposits, cheated by banks, and rudely treated generally. Restaurant Management addressed the issue in a 1930 article titled “Why Don’t They Give Women Restaurant Operators a Square Deal?” Lack of access to capital would dog women into the 1970s and beyond, resulting, for instance, in their underrepresentation in fast food franchising. In 1971 only 6.3% of franchises were held by women. Early franchises were often overtly pitched to men. A Taco Bell advertisement of 1969 was typical with its boldface headline reading, “To a man who can’t live on just an average income – Consider a Taco Bell Franchise.”

The rise of the woman chef is relatively recent. For most of the 20th century women’s cooking resembled that done at home, but on a larger scale. Kitchens frequently looked like those in homes. Boiling, baking, pan frying, and stewing were more common than grilling. The drama of big knives and high flames was absent. A kitchen run by a woman was likely to be staffed by women also as men disliked taking orders from the opposite sex. It was considered remarkable when, during World War I, Statler’s Hotel Pennsylvania hired Anna Tackmeyer as chef. However, she was to preside only over a separate female-staffed kitchen devoted to home-style specialities like Southern fried chicken with gravy. In 1943, 330 hotels reported they had women chefs, but they were evidently banished after the war. In the late 1960s a career as an astronaut was considered more promising for a women than that of chef.


JanJan Whitaker writes about restaurants, department stores, and consumer culture. She has two books on the social history of department stores and one on the history of women’s tea rooms of the early 20th century called Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn. Since 2008 she has produced the blog Restaurant-ingthroughhistory.com on American restaurants and their culture.
All images are from the authors personal collection and should not be reused without permission from the author.

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