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Showing posts from February, 2010

Hungry? What about a Salmon Doughnut or a Pork Burger?

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MSNBC featured a news article about a new menu item in China --- salmon doughnut. Once failed in the early 2000s, Dunkin’s Donuts now teams up with a Taiwanese franchise partner and re-opens several stores in Canton (Guangzhou), China.

Doughnuts have always been Americans’ favorite snack. Since the 90s, other Americans’ fast-food giants like McDonald’s and KFC, have already become popular eateries in China. When Dunkin’ Donuts followed McDonald’s and KFC, who would imagine Dunkin’s would fail and end up leaving the market of a 1.3 billion potential consumers?

Compared to Dunkin’s Donuts, McDonald’s did something more than just bringing American food to China. From the very beginning, McDonald’s has attempted to “blend” the Chinese custom and culture into the “Americanized menu.” The restaurant even tried rice burger. Some “renovated” items remain to serve the Chinese market. Today, consumers can order pork burger at a McDonald’s Hong Kong location because many Chinese consume pork and c…

Earn Money with a Twitter Account? How so?

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I watched a video at ABCNews.com last month. Tory Johnson recommended several ways of making extra money with social media tools (http://abcnews.go.com/video/playerIndex?id=9600813), one of which is Twitter.

Marriott also adopted Twitter as part of its social media strategy. After its renovation of 38 properties in UK and Ireland, Marriott invited celebrities and other Twitter users to share their Marriott experience with their followers.

I am not sure if these celebrities are already “fans” of Marriott or how much Marriott pays to the celebrities, but Gail Porter, Sarah Cawood, Angela Griffin, and Max Rushden are among those who have committed to this campaign. If you run a hotel or a restaurant, will you pay somebody to tweet about your business?

References:
CatererSearch.com: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok02242010-3
Picture was copied from: http://www.webdesigncompany.net/social/

One Day, We May Be Able to Make Hotel Reservations on Facebook

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According to a report at Inc.com, Facebook is adding PayPal to its service. Both Facebook advertisers and users will be able to process payments on Facebook with PayPal.

In November 2009, Sheraton Hotels & Resorts launched a new website that embeds with social networking tools. Visitors can link their Facebook account in Sheraton’s website and share their Sheraton stories in both platforms. Not every hotel company links Facebook with its website yet, but many of them have a Facebook page. For example, as of 1:35pm on 02/24/10, Holiday Inn has 5,553 fans; Marriott has 2,252; Sheraton has 965; the list can go on. Now that people can make payments with PayPal on Facebook, it is possible that we may be able to make hotel reservations directly on Facebook in the near future. Do you agree?

References:
Inc.com: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok02242010-2
Sheraton Hotels: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok02242010-1
Picture was copied from: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok02242010P

How Would You Like a Cheaper Room with Prepaid and Non-refundable Restrictions?

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If you traveled to Canton during the Canton Fairs in the 80s and 90s, you are probably very familiar with the prepaid, non-refundable restrictions on hotel rooms. That was the time when hotels tripled its rack rate and required non-refundable deposit for all reservations because of high demands.

USA Today reported more hotels are now selling prepaid, non-refundable rooms with bigger discount in the U.S. due to the recession. More and more customers choose to pay in advance for a cheaper room. This alternative works well for those who plan ahead. Hoteliers just need to clearly state the “prepaid and non-refundable” restrictions to guests upon reservations. Then, guests can choose higher price with fewer restrictions or lower price with more restrictions. I don’t mind paying in advance for a cheaper room if (a) I am certain of my travel plan, (b) I don’t own any debts to credit card companies, and (c) the money I can save exceeds the opportunity cost of my deposit. We often pre-pay for o…

Managing the Content in Social Media

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Whether a business should start using social media or not is out of the question. The truth is no matter if a restaurant or a hotel chooses to get involved in social media or not, customers are probably already been discussing their experiences somewhere in the Internet. We just need to act proactively and be aware of how to manage the content being shared.

Now, Hoteliers can use SearchVIEW and ReviewAnalyst to track, analyze, and react to guest comments. Furthermore, if they want to estimate the return on their investment in Facebook and Twitter (time of course, and possibly money), Link2Brand.com can help them calculate how many reservations are actually generated from those social media websites.

Want to know more about how reliable these softwares are? Probably you can find the best answers by googling the products or searching the products in social media websites. If you have tried these products, what are your experiences?

References:
Hospitality Update: http://tinyurl.com/linchikw…

More about Hotel Design?!

Yesterday, we discussed hotel design. Today, we are going to continue.

Yahoo!Finance reported Courtyard celebrates the brand’s 100th hotel with a “refreshing business lobby” (as shown in the video). The new lobby has more functional space and a cozier feel, in which guests may spend more time and get more accomplishments.

The Wall Street Journal suggests hotel design is a global trend. According to Dianna Wong, an entrepreneur of an architecture and design firm, hotel design will play a more important role than before, especially in the Asian market. She foresees more open bathrooms in guestrooms because more people travel alone and they want the “spa experience.” In addition, more aesthetic design is expected because design is associated with brand images.

More extreme? The Westin Hotels will open its “wellness store” at Amazon.com on March 1st. Westin’s sister brand W Hotels just hired a “Fashion Director” to oversee W’s hotel design and decors (http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/02/h…

Check Out the Award-Winning Motel 6

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“Travel + Leisure” announced its “2010 Design Award,” and Motel 6 is the winner. Some descriptions of Motel 6’s new design include: “cost-effective-yet-cutting design,” “budget-Ikea-meets-pricier-West-Elm sort of look,” “a room that maximizes space, utility, and style,” and more.

The bad news is only 60 out of the 1,000 Motel 6s in North America have been “transformed,” which are located in Baltimore, Dallas, San Diego, Houston, and Chicago. I like the new look of Motel 6. It is clean, simple, and contemporary. How about you? How would you like to stay in an updated Motel 6?

We have discussed hotel designs in W Hotels and Holiday Inns (http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/02/how-would-you-like-to-work-as-fashion.html; http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/01/upgrade-of-holiday-inn-from-logo-to.html). What’s next? Are we expecting a “hotel-design” campaign soon?

References:
USA Today: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/hotelcheckin/post/2010/02/motel-6-receives-2010-design-award-from-tra…

What Is Your Company's Cell Phone Policy?

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Today, 87% U.S. residents own at least a cell phone; the number increases to 92% among Americans with jobs. People may also use “smart phones” to stay in touch with their Facebook or Twitter friends. No matter how important cell phones are, many hotels and restaurants prohibit employees’ improper cell phone usage --- seriously, how would you feel if your waiter and waitress pays more attention to his/her cell phone than you as a customer? Improper cell phone usage affects service quality, company image, and productivity. So, what is your cell phone policy?

If your hotel or restaurant has not had a cell phone policy yet, probably it is time to make one now. McCorvey discusses at Inc.com about what decision makers need to put into considerations when creating a cell phone policy. In addition, a link of http://www.epolicyinstitute.com/ is provided for those who want to start with online “fill-in-the-blank sample policies.”

If how to create a cell phone policy does not apply to everyone, “c…

Say Good-bye to the Front Desk

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This afternoon, Starwood Hotels introduced the “Smart Check-in” pilot program at its Aloft Hotels brand. Selected Starwood Preferred Guests (SPG) who choose to participate in this program will receive an “enhanced SPG/Aloft-branded RFID (radio frequency identification) keycard.” Here is how it works:
On the day of arrival, SPG guests will receive a text message with their room numbers. Then, they can skip the Front Desk and go straight to their rooms. They can open the door with the enhanced SPG keycards. Starwood is testing this program in its Aloft Lexington location. In the future, guests will be able to use the enhanced SPG keycards for other purchases during their hotel stays, such as cocktails and food.

Many frequent travelers have already used express check out and skip the Front Desk. We are also aware that people can check-in in a hotel with an iPhone app (http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/01/how-will-iphone-travel-apps-change-our.html). Now that guests do not even need to s…

Dare to Say “I Don’t Know”?

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When was your last time you hear somebody telling you: “Sorry, I don’t know”? How about yourself? When was the last time when you admit you don’t know something? We understand nobody knows everything. If that’s the case, why do we sometimes refuse to say “I don’t know”?

Janine Popick discusses an interesting topic of “The Power of Saying ‘I Don’t Know.’” She encourages people to say “I don’t know” to her. Admitting “I don’t know” eliminates confusions. That’s the way we can make sure our messages are delivered.

This is also the case when dealing with guest services. Working in the hospitality industry, we often feel we are obligated to answer guests’ inquiries right away. It is truth that we need to address every guest’s needs in a timely manner, but it is fine to tell them “I don’t know” or “I am not sure” in some cases --- the key is we need to find out the answers for our guests as soon as possible and let the guests know we are trying our best to help them. People respect our ho…

Are You Ready to Try Something New On the Table?

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Today’s ABC News proposed a “new” strategy of dealing with the threat of Asian carp, the fish imported from China to the southern states in the 70s to clean algae in fish farms. Since it “migrated” in the U.S., it breeds quickly and eats other fish’s food in the lake. What can we do to save other species? ABC News suggests a solution --- EAT ‘EM. The fact is “(Asian carp) has 70% more Omega-3 than in catfish and tilapia,” and Chef Philippe Parola is promoting his new Asian carp dishes in the National Grocers Association Convention in Las Vegas.

Over the years, creative chefs think out of the box and come up with innovative ways or menu items to deal with the recession. We see trends of going green, using local ingredients, and putting healthy nutritional items on the menu. A column by “Something Special From Wisconsin” suggested chefs these days may buy more than just steaks, chicken breast, and pork chops. They purchase whole cows and pigs from local farms, and they want to use as muc…

Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year

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This year, February 14th is more than just Valentine’s Day; it is also the start of the Year of Tiger according to the lunar calendar. How special?! Well, if you miss the opportunity of celebrating the Chinese New Year and the Valentine’s Day at the same time this year, you may have to wait until 2048 to do so.

Hotels and restaurants that serve Asian clientele may prefer people to celebrate these two occasions in tow different days. After all, Valentine’s Day is more for lovers while the Chinese New Year is a family holiday. Managers may find it challenging to market and promote these two distinguishing occasions at the same time.

Can people celebrate a traditional family holiday with “love”? Besides lovers, a lot of us share our “loves” with family. How about celebrating a Valentine’s vacation instead of a Valentine’s Day? Many companies in Asia have a long holiday during Lunar New Year. What are your ideas?

References:
China Blog: http://chinablog.cc/2010/02/feb-14th-2010-chinese-new-ye…

Coupons Are Back --- In What Way?

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After 17 years of decline, consumers use more coupons in 2009 than they did a year ago. Probably because of the recession, consumers redeemed 3.3 billion out of a total of 367 billion coupons, a 27% increase from 2008’s 2.6 billion. Even though “traditional newspaper inserts are still the prime territory for bargain hunters” (newspaper distributed 89% of coupons; more than 50% of them were redeemed), online coupon increased 92%. In particular, one out of five (1/5) people have cashed online coupons they received. Overall, coupon users can be describes as women (60%) and those of 25 – 34 years old, followed by those of 45 or older.

Another research found that more and more cell-phone users are interested in receiving special offers through cell-phone apps and text-messaging programs. There are several free mobile apps available, such as Yowza, MobiQpons, and Cellfire, allowing customers to search businesses with special offers. Believe it or not, some of these apps are very effective. R…

Mixed Signs of Recovery

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Finally, I read two pieces of good news today. Both Gaylord Hotels and Wyndham Hotels reported increase in revenue in the 4th Quarter of 2009. Here are some statistics from their 4th Quarter reports:

Gaylord National Resort (a Washington D.C. hotel):
Revenue: $56.8 million, 9.8% increase.
RevPAR: $125.64, up 12.1%.
Other Gaylord properties in Nashville, Orlando, and Dallas posted a quarterly loss of $600,000.
Gaylord foresaw the rebound of meetings and convention business. Overall, its performance is impressive (you may read more discussion about resorts under recession via the following link http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/01/resort-fading-word-in-lodging-industry.html)

Wyndham Worldwide Corporation:
Revenue: $913 million, 2 million increase.
Vacation ownership: increase 3%; Exchange and rental revenue: increase 3%
RevPAR: down 11.9%
Wyndham expected the return of business travels in 2010.

These reports give us some hope, but it seems industry-wide full recovery is still some distance away…

“Ingredients” of Famous Amos Cookies ---Passion, Persistence, Attitude, and Teamwork

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This evening, the Hospitality Management Association and the Entrepreneurship Club at SU co-hosted a guest speaker session. Mr. Wally Amos, the founder of Famous Amos Cookies spoke with SU students about his key “ingredients” of being a successful entrepreneur --- passion, persistence, attitude, and teamwork.

“Hold to your dream, be passionate about it, and don’t let anybody talk you out of it,” Mr. Amos said. “Have faith on yourself, don’t give up.” People might have failed a hundred, a thousand, or a million times, but they want to keep trying because they are passionate about what they are doing. If they give up, they will never succeed. If they don’t, they may succeed the next time they try. Those who laugh last laugh the longest and loudest, right?

Mr. Amos wore his beloved yellow t-shirt today, not because of its color, but because of the abbreviation of “AIE” on the shirt. AIE means “Attitude Is Everything,” and Mr. Amos wears this t-shirt often. We can see how important AIE is…

Eye on New Orleans

Probably because Saints is playing the Super Bowl 44 this weekend, the nation’s attention also focuses on the city of New Orleans. The city has been struggling since Katrina. I was in New Orleans for the Special Event Show in January. I noticed the city was quite different from the last time I was there in 2003 because I no longer felt the excitement from the local residences.

Super Bowl 44 could be a life time opportunity of changing people’s perceptions of New Orleans. I cannot predict the result of the game, but I believe no matter what the result will be, New Orleans has won the hearts of Americans. The city is delivering a message to the world --- New Orleans is coming back.

The videos today were downloaded from ABCNews.com. The video on the top is about the city of New Orleans; the other is about some snack ideas for the game (you may get an idea from this video of what it takes to work in a stadium and arena as well). Let’s enjoy the game tomorrow!

References:
http://abcnews.go.com…

How Would You Like to Work as A “Fashion Director” in a Hotel?

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It is not difficult to imagine people working in a hotel as event planners, banquet sales managers, guest service managers, restaurant managers, or accountants. How about Fashion Director?

According to a news article reported by Christina Binkley in the Wall Street Journal, the boutique hotel chain W Hotels is going to announce their first Fashion Director on Feb 11, the day when the New York Fashion Week starts. The Fashion Director’s job responsibilities include designing staff uniform and special collections that are sold in the hotels, as well as styling the hotel rooms and public areas.

I can see why hotels use “Fashion Director” as a marketing tool to target a “chit” market, especially in the boutique hotel segment. There are a group of customers who like their hotel stays so much that they want to decorate their homes like hotels (unable to upload the video; please watch the video online at http://www.metacafe.com/watch/370699/latest_home_decorating_trend_hotel_chic/). Selling h…

Hilton Should Have Known “Game Theory” Better

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Hilton is often in news these days. This time is not about its Denizen brand; it is about InternationalContinental’ (IHG) reaction to Hilton’s decision on its loyalty program.

While Hilton devalued HHonors members’ points by 20%, IHG announced the “Luckiest Loser” campaign. IHG offers its Priority Club Rewards member who has the highest HHonors points 2 million Priority Club points, which is good for 80 hotel stays. In addition, another 20,000 “lucky” HHonors “losers” will gain a total of 400 million Priority Club points to make up their lost in HHonors points.

Probably, nobody will argue that it takes more money and time to retain existing customers than to “create” new clients. This “Luckiest Loser” campaign not only helps the IHG gain more “loyalty” customers but also “attacks” its major competitor’s loyalty program. What a brilliant strategy!

Under game theory, competitors’ expected reactions will affect the decisions of an organization. Before making the decision of devaluing its HH…

Would You Like a $20 Credit or Extra Reward Points for Your Hotel Stays? How about a Full-Body Scan in Airports?

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Today’s Travel Watch in the Wall Street Journal reported two trends (by Sarah Nassauer). One is about hotel housekeeping service, the other is about full-body scans in airports.
According to this report, many Westin and Sheraton hotels now offer guests $5 credit for dining in their restaurants or 500 points per night for up to three consecutive nights if they opt out the housekeeping service. The Marmara Manhattan gives guests $20 credit per night if they do not use housekeeping service for three days. I think this is a great idea because it not only offers an alternative to guests but also helps properties cut operation costs. In luxury hotel segment, cleaning a room may cost an average of $22, which includes labor, laundry, worn-out of linens, and other amenities. Starwood calls this “Make A Green Choice” program. I can see guests who concern about the environments or want to have additional discounts will take advantage of this offer because it helps save soup, water, energy, and m…

Obama's Plan of High-Speed Rail --- Not An Impressive Change

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President Obama announced an $8 billion stimulus plan of building high-speed rail projects across the nation. I don’t know when local governments will receive the money and start working on this project, but I believe high-speed rail will more or less impact the service industry. I just question how much the impact would be.

High-speed rail makes travel between cities faster and easier. Airlines may not like Obama’s plan because people would probably be more than happy to travel by high-speed train than air. I will probably visit NYC or Chicago more often if it takes less time to commute by train. Likewise, more people from the hubs might also want to get away and see what Upstate New York offers. As a result, restaurants, bars, fairs, parks, and events may be able to attract more patronage. The bad news is people might not want to stay in a place overnight unless they have to. Then, local CVBs really need to pull things together and market a place well in order to keep visitors stayin…

Revenue Management: Are Your Guests and Staff Educated?

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The January issue of Cornell Hospitality Report discusses the relationships between guests’ familiarity of a hotel’s revenue management practice and guests’ perceived fairness of differential room rates. Taylor and Kimes (2009) collected 815 scenario-based questionnaires in the fall of 2008 and reported the following:

1. Compared to the group who were less familiar with differential pricing policies, those who were more familiar believed the scenarios fairer and less unfair;
2. Respondents who read the leisure scenarios rated fairer and less unfair than those who read the business scenarios;
3. Men, compared to women, and younger respondents, as opposed to older respondents, rated fairer and less unfair.

In addition, frequency of hotel stays is positively relative to perceived fairness and negatively relative to perceived unfairness --- in this case, is “higher frequency” correlated with “more familiar”? There is no statistical difference between perceived fairness or perceived unfairness…