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Showing posts from May, 2010

A Cell Phone App for Diners in a Rush

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Snapfinger, a web and mobile app provider for chain-restaurant takeout orders, will expand its service to independent restaurants soon. Investors will add $7 million to Snapfinger and hope to serve more restaurants and more diners in a rush.

Snapfinger is free for diners. With this mobile app, people can search a restaurant nearby. Then, order and pay with their cell phones. Tools for group ordering, ordering favorite items, and getting location-based coupons are also available. Because Snapfinger “prompts people to add more items,” such as sides or disserts, people using this app spend about 25% more than those who order from a menu.

Snapfinger charges restaurants 3 - 10% of each bill for the service. Profits for Snapfinger could be huge. Think about it, there are 400,000 chain restaurants in the U.S., and the takeout business reaches $50 billion a year.

Cell phone apps and technology have changed consumer behavior significantly. If we cannot change the way how consumers do business wi…

Hotel Music Director

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I remember last year, a friend of mine told me he did not like his stay in a W Hotel in East Side. One reason for that is he felt the hotel’s music was too "pop" and too “noisy.” Probably, my friend was not the only guest who says so. W Hotels listen to customers and hire Michaelangelo L’Acqua last year as the hotel’s Corporate Music Director. Michaelangelo, with a background of New School Jazz and Contemporary Music, also serves as the Music Director of Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. His collections for W Hotels include music like Bebel Gilberto, The XX, Little Dragon, and Empire of the Sun. These CDs are available at the hotels’ onsite retail or online stores for $15 each.

Many hospitality products have utilized five senses in branding. In your opinions, what kind of music goes along well with W Hotels’ brand image? After W Hotels hire a Fashion Director (for sight and touch) and a Music Director (for hearing), what will be the next? Will a Director of F&B and a Director…

E-Mail Marketing

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God knows how many e-mails a person receives every day. Many e-mails either go directly to the jump-mail box or get deleted without even being opened. Only a few of them are read by recipients. Is e-mail still an effective marketing tool?

Tiffany Black at Inc.com offers several suggestions to help companies improve the effectiveness of e-mail marketing:
· Keep it short and simple. Few people have time to read long e-mails. Then, why shall we spend much time in writing long e-mails? I also believe visual aids and hyperlinks to the company’s webpage are critical. If readers are interested, they can read more with a click.
· Send the right messages to the right recipients. Why will a person open an e-mail that means “nothing” to him/her?
· Create value. For example, offering e-mail exclusive discounts and sending out a series of e-mails --- after reading the first one, people might want to open a follow-up second, third, or forth e-mail.
· Allow users several ways to opt-out.
· Don’t waste mon…

Ten DOs and DON’Ts in New York City Suggested by Concierge.com

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1. Do NOT take a Pedi-cab (unless one wants to go green). Do take the subway because it is cheap, fast, and convenience.
2. Do NOT eat anything from a hot dog cart. Do try the classic, all-beef deli dog ($3.10) at Katz’s Delicatessen (205 E Houston St) or other alternatives such as Dogmatic (26 E. 17th St) and Crif Dogs (113 St. Marks Place).
3. Do NOT go to the top of the Empire State Building for a view. Do enjoy a view with a drink in the Rainbow Room on the 65 floor at the Rockefeller Center.
4. Do NOT get cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. Do visit the Rocco’s Pastry Shop (243 Bleecker St) and Cupcake Café (545 Ninth Ave).
5. Do NOT take a twilight carriage ride in Central Park. It sounds romantic, but the horses and drivers seem tired, and the street is not as clean if it is not dirty yet. Do go early in the morning and walk.
6. Do NOT east at Tavern on the Green (been closed in 2009 anyway). Do enjoy a real meal at the River Café (One Water Street; price is not cheap though). Or, go to Du…

Hotel Royalty Programs

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Last week, I read two news articles about hotel royalty programs. One is about InterContinental, which allows members to use Priority Club Reward points at competitors’ properties. IHG (InterContinental Hotel Group) royal customers can now enjoy a vacation in a place where there is no IHG hotel. The other is about a newly introduced “Stash Hotel Rewards” for upscale, independent hotels. So far, the Stash Hotel Rewards program includes 65 hotels in 50 cities.

What do these changes mean to the hotel industry? How do you assess IHG’s strategy? Is it a smart move because it offers more options to its preferred guests? Or is it taking a risk of losing its preferred guests because they may switch to another brand after they try a competitor’s property?

A related discussion about the strategies of managing royalty programs between Hilton and IHG in this blog can be found: http://linchikwok.blogspot.com/2010/02/hilton-should-have-known-game-theory.html.

References:
AH&LA SmartBrief: http://t…

Event-Planning Software: A Must-Have Tool for Event Planners

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Not long ago, people managed business solely with manpower. In today’s business world, few people can accomplish that without an Internet-accessible computer and/or a smart phone.

Event-planning tools enable event planners to keep the “team,” including clients, informed with the planning process. With a finger click, people can find out if keynote speakers and guests have accepted invitations, when a “to-do-task” has been taken care of and by whom, to whom a task should be delegated, how much payment has been received, etc.

As in hotels, people use property management system to manage the business. Event planning professionals also need reliable tools for their operations. The question is which software/tool is reliable and used by most event planning firms. Also, should a school teach event management majors event-planning software and tools? If so, what should be taught?

Related news articles about event planning software for smart phones and/or software: http://tinyurl.com/linchikwok…

Eat As-What-You-Need, Pay As-What-You-Want

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Panera Bread in a St. Louis suburb is different from other Panera Bread Restaurants. This eatery refuses customers payments. Customers are asked to “take what you need, leave your fair share in wood-and-plexiglass lockboxes.”

According to Stephanie Strom’s report in New York Times, there are about 12 “pay-as-what-you-want” operations in the U.S. These restaurants provide free or low-cost food and operate with donations. This concept was initiated under the influence of “social entrepreneurship,” where restaurants keep enough money to cover operation expenses and leave the extra to “help needed people by feeding them or giving them jobs.” Does it work? Here are the examples of some customers:

· Two unemployed workers donated their labors by volunteering in the restaurant.
· A music promoter, paid 50 cents extra for a $5.48 “suggested funding level” for a potato soup and soda.
· Two college students left $15 for a meal with a suggested price of $24.95.
· A few people took advantage of such …

From Yield Management, Revenue Management to Profit Management

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Neil Salerno suggested profit management will become the “future” of hotel revenue management. Theories of yield management and revenue management were introduced to the service industry decades ago in helping decision makers manage fixed and perishable capacity. Yield management is about reacting to demands. When demands increase, rates of a hotel room or airline seat go up. Managers in hotels, for example, need to control room prices and allocation of rooms to different market segments according to estimated demands. The goal is to yield a high occupancy and maximize revenue. Often, yield management is also referred to as revenue management in the lodging industry.

According to Neil Salerno, profit management focuses more on “profit” rather than “revenue.” Its goal is to “maximizes gross revenue while optimizing potential room profit.” Under profit management, a hotel may prefer 78% occupancy with an ADR of $94 to 84% occupancy with an ADR of $87. Here, “profit” is the key.

No matter …

A Waitress Got Fired Because of a Facebook Update

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A waitress in North Carolina got fired because of a Facebook thread. She was kept at work by a couple who stayed at a table for more than three hours and left her $5 tip. She actually worked one hour overtime because of this table. Afterwards, she posted an update on her Facebook page, calling the couple cheap, and mentioned the restaurant by name. Now, she became a famous unemployed waitress.

People recognize Facebook and other social networking sites as an effective communication tool, but not everyone notices the possible costs of social media. Here are some examples I heard over the years:

· Some Ivy League Schools check applicants’ Facebook pages for screening.
· Employers “background-check” applicants’ Facebook pages before making an offer.
· Several KFC employees were fired because they uploaded a YouTube video in which they took a shower in the restaurant’s kitchen sink.
· Burglar robbed people’s house after they found out from Facebook that the family was on vacation.

Such examples…

Become a Mobile Food Entrepreneur

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One of the newest food trends in Southern California these days is “mobile food.” Patrons follow a food truck’s tweets and will get their gourmet mobile food on a street or in a “mobile food court,” but they have to be “quick.” Otherwise, the restaurants will drive away.

Hudson Riehle, the senior VP of research for the National Restaurant Association (NRA), believes that there is an increasing demand for mobile food venders, especially in big cities like LA, New York, and San Francisco. Their typical customers are those of 18 to 44, who demand freshly prepared, yet restaurant-quality food. Being quick and cheap is important. A complete meal at a “food truck court” typically runs from $5 to $10. When a truck is packed, people are willing to give another truck with a shorter line a trial.

I feel food truck business offers a great opportunity for young entrepreneurs. Compared to regular restaurants, investing in a food truck has several advantages:

1. Capital investment could be very low.

Is Your Business on YouTube Already?

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Courtney Rubin at Inc.com reported that YouTube now receives 2 billion hits a day, which doubles the number of people who watch ABC, CBS, and NBC combined and doubles the number of hits on YouTube recorded in October. Being visible on YouTube becomes as important as on Facebook and Twitter.

Although nobody wants to watch a poor quality or boring videos online, a YouTube video does not need to be “perfect” or “professional.” In my opinions, being SHORT, FUN, and REAL is the key. Different from TV viewers, who may stay in front of “the box” for 5 hours a day, YouTube viewers only spend 15 minutes on the site daily. A 2 to 3 minute video is probably how much time most people can handle for each video. If I am a viewer, I only want to share the video that is fun, real, and possibly useful to the recipients, no matter if I use e-mails, Facebook, or Twitter. Oh, did I mention the importance of making sure the video is saved with the right "keywords" that are searchable on YouTube,…

McDonald's New Look --- by Chicagotribune.com

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Hotels are updating looks and designs, so will the big fast food giant. McDonald's short-term goal is to finish remodeling 400 to 500 restaurants in 2011.

Interested? You may visit the full story at Chicagotribune.com:
McDonald's new look; 400 to 500 McDonald's restaurants to be reimaged - chicagotribune.com

Pictures were downloaded from: http://www.thefranchisemagazine.net/images/articles/1-2470.gif and http://www.i5design.com/images/394/rest_mcd_01.jpg

Have You Planned Your Summer Vacation Yet?

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In the last couple years, consumers might want to wait until the last minute to plan their vacations because they bet they could find a better deal when hotels and airlines had difficulty in filling up their empty rooms or seats. This may not be the case in the summer of 2010. The Wall Street Journal (May 6; by Scott McCartney) suggested travelers to arrange their summer vacations now because of the following reasons:

1. The economy has shown signs of recovery (probably not in the European market for a while). Several recent indexes, including retail sales, company expense, consumer confidence, unemployment rate, and even hotel occupancy rates, are moving upwards.
2. Airline capacity has been reduced during recession. Even without the merger of Continental and United, consumers may find less available seats in the summer.
3. Gas price continues to climb, which further challenge airlines to lower fares.

The good news (for consumers, yet bad news for hotel owners) is that consumers may stil…

Top 10 Hotel Features Suggested by a Business Traveler

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Meeting customers’ needs is not new to hospitality industry. An open forum by American Express listed a business traveler’s top 10 preferred hotel features, including:

1. Free Wi-Fi. Limited service hotel is not a concern anymore. I see more full service hotel brands offer this service to their reward-program guests.
2. A multitude of electrical sockets. Several newly-developed boutique-style or full service hotels now have iHome or at least a station where technology savvy guests can charge their gadgets.
3. U.S. adapted plugs, or U.S. adaptors.
4. Free local calls. International locations where local calls are charged per minute may find this suggestion impractical.
5. Quality and complimentary in-room coffeemakers and water bottles. Water bottles are nice. In-room coffee makers vs. complimentary coffee in the lobby, which one sounds better?
6. A pleasant and attentive staff that follows through on requests. Guest service is always important.
7. A solid business center. I think it depends…

Fees: A New Revenue Stream for Hotels?

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Airlines are well-known for collecting fees: from changing a ticket, cancelation, baggage, selecting an exit-row seat, to carry-on luggage (by Spirit Airline only, at least for now). It seems that airlines can charge flyers almost anything they want. In 2009, the airline industry collected $7.8 billion revenue because of fees, a 42% increase from 2008. Decades ago, hotels “learned” from the airline industry about revenue management. This time, will hotels follow the airline industry again and start charging guests extra fees to boost their bottom line?

An NYU hospitality professor Bjorn Hanson expected revenues of hotel surcharges will increase from 2009’s $1.55 billion to this year’s $1.7 billion. Joseph McInerney, chief executive of AH&LA agreed to the increasing trend but estimated that such increase will not take place until 2011. Surcharge fees may vary city-to-city and property-to-property, some of the “normal” hotel fees include:

· Internet access: $9.95 to $19.95 per day.
· R…

The Impact of the Oil Spill Accident: A Sustainability and Supply Chain Issue

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It is not exaggerated to name the recent oil spill accident in the Gulf of Mexico a man-made disaster of the year. I live in Syracuse, New York, a place far, far away from the South. Yet, there is no way I am immune to the negative impact of this disaster.

I feel deeply sorry for the fishermen in Louisiana, who need to worry about their jobs and lives. If losing jobs and giving up a person’s normal life sounds terrible, I cannot find an appropriate adjective to describe the long-term impact of this disaster. For quite a while, many species will die or be poisoned. The whole ecosystem in the gulf will be destroyed. If we look at this accident as a supply chain issue, what can we expect?

· Many species in Mexican Gulf will struggle to survive, from seaweed, shrimps, oysters, fishes, birds, and many more.
· Other species in the Atlantic Ocean may also get affected if they rely on the “food” from Mexican Gulf.
· Seafood price will go up in restaurants and superma…