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Showing posts from September, 2011

Does Guest History Interfere with Guest Privacy?

As a hospitality professional, I understand the importance of “Guest History” for hotels and restaurants. Hotels and restaurants want to remember the special requests of their guests and the guests’ anniversaries, especially those of VIPs or repeat guests. Hospitality companies are doing that, not because they are nosy, but because they want to be hospitable and welcome the guests by addressing their special needs and celebrating the special dates for guests. For example, hotels may send a small setup or a cake to the room where a guest spends a birthday; restaurants can make sure that they do not serve anything cooked with peanut oils if they know a guest is allergy to peanuts (Cantonese use peanut oils for cooking).

As a customer, when you are staying in a hotel or dine in a restaurant, would you like being recognized and called by your last name? Being greeted with a sincere smile? Would you also like your servers to anticipate your needs? Know your preferences so that you do not n…

The Tour of Hotel Skyler

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Today, the Hotel & Resort Operations class and I toured the newly-opened and the only LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified hotel in Syracuse, NY --- Hotel Skyler. What impressed me the most is that the developer transformed a historic building into a modern, boutique style hotel that meets the LEED Platinum standards, with 30% used materials that were shipped within 500 miles from Syracuse.

The property was built in 1921, first as the Temple Adath Yeshurun, then the Salt City Theatre, and now a 58-room boutique hotel. The developer blended the boutique hotel concept in this historic building very well. Based on the pictures here --- Coffee & Wine Bar, the lobby, and the Tree House Suite (from top to bottom) --- would you agree with me that this is a nice looking hotel?
Overall, I feel that Hotel Skyler reflects the hotel trends very well, such as the boutique hotel concept, the green concept, the new lobby concept, the mini market concept, the hote…

Will Social Media Change Company’s Organizational Structure?

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I am taking a MBA class on designing high performance organizations this fall. I can tell from the case studies that a company’s organizational structure can make significant impact on its bottom line. Accordingly, I have found it extremely interesting when reading this month’s cover story on Forbes about how social media may cause a new wave of corporate revolution. I wonder what transformational changes social media will make to Corporate America’s organizational structure.

The “new world” demands companies and leaders show “authenticity, fairness, transparency, and good faith,” according to the report. Through social media, people can tell whether a company or a leader cares about employees or customers. The era of dictating CEOs has gone. A successful CEO needs to be exposed and open to share his/her problems. The more s/he shares, the more trustful s/he becomes among customers and employees. Those who are still reluctant to share fail to show transparency and thus, will very lik…

What Does It Take to Run a Megahotel?

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I know some students who completed an internship in megahotels and others in limited service hotels. They all had great learning experience. The big difference between these two options is that students can learn how to deal with a large volume of business in one specific department within a megahotel, or they can learn different functions of operating a limited service hotel.

Last Thursday, The Wall Street Journal published a report about MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In the second quarter of this year, the MGM Grand reported an OCC of 96.8% with an ADR of $125. On average, there were 12,000 guests staying in the hotel. The following statistics provide an idea of what it takes to run a megahotel like MGM Grand on a busy day: It opens 36 check-in counters during peak hours. It has 26 limousines and 3,000 poolside deck chairs. It hires more than 8,000 employees, 900 of which work in Housekeeping. It process 46 tons of linens. It has a 65,000 square-foot laundry facility and employs 165 laundr…

How Do You Define “All Natural” Food?

Even though I understand that “all natural” or “organic” products are not necessarily equal to “healthy” food, they get my big attention. As a result, I end up I buying and eating a lot of “all natural” or “organic” food. Well, after reading Ashby Jones’ report (news + video) about “all natural” food in The Wall Street Journal, I have learned that I cannot trust these labels any more.

According to Ashby’s report, even FDA does not have a clear definition of what the term “natural” means. FDA’s “informal policy” or explanation of “natural” reads: “nothing artificial or synthetic… is included in, or has been added to, the product that would not normally be expected to be there.” Probably because of FDA’s vague definition, there are a number of lawsuits regarding the all-natural-labeled products recently. For example:
The “100% Natural” Arizona Green Tea contains high-fructose corn syrup. The “All Natural” Kashi “allegedly uses unnaturally processed and synthetic ingredients.” The “All …

Privacy vs. Efficacy: Which One Would You Choose? (Using Facebook in Job Search)

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People often ask me: why they have no choice but to manage their online images on social media, including Facebook. In their minds, Facebook is an exclusive place for their private lives, and they want to keep it that way. For professional connections, they will use other social networking sites such as LinkedIn and Academia.edu. My advice to these people is: Please think again! First of all, there is no such thing of “privacy” on the Internet. Second, they are not leveraging the power of Facebook in job search and career advancement.

As suggested in this ABC News video, the number of Facebook users has reached three quarters of one billion. Most people probably know more “friends” on Facebook than in their real lives. When 60% of job seekers find jobs through someone they know, why can’t people, especially job seekers, use their connections on Facebook to land a new job or a career? In order to find a job through people’s connections on Facebook, however, job seekers do not have to us…

What is the Future of Hotel Minibar?

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The Wall Street Journal featured an interesting story about hotel minibar (report + video). For decades, hotel minibar was a must-have amenity for hotels. Now, things have changed. Hoteliers are taking the minibar concept to two directions.
Some hotels (mostly limited service hotels) get rid of the minibars. From the operation standpoint, it does not seem worthy of keeping a minibar because the labor costs of purchasing, managing inventory, and preventing thefts are not cheap --- this is one of the reasons why hotels have to put a higher price tag on the minibar items. From the traveler standpoint, not everyone wants to pay a high price for food and beverage items in the minibar. Accordingly, some hotels replace the in-room minibar concept with the lobby mini-market concept.
Another group of hotels, mostly in the luxury or boutique hotel segment, customizes the minibar with a local flavor or makes it free for guests. For example, travelers can find ham-flavored Chilean almonds in th…

Do You Measure Your Influence on Social Media? How?

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Many of us have more than one social media accounts, but not everyone is interested in measuring how much influence a person has on social media. Even for those who are interested, they may not necessarily know how to measure their impact.

This summer, I discovered a tool called “Klout,” which reports a person’s or an organization’s influence on major social media sites. It looks at the factors like how many friends and followers a user has, how many friends and follower a user can truly reach, and what attention and reactions a user can get from his/her/its friends and followers. “Klout” rewards those true influencers with a variety of “perks” according to the topic(s) of their influence.

Marketers will LOVE “Klout” because they see the opportunity of amplifying those top influencers’ power on social media. I am not a marketer; but I am active on social media, and I do research on social media. Despite the fact that I am not able to evaluate the scales used by “Klout” for its relia…

September 11, 2011: Looking Back and Moving Forward

This year’s September 11 is very special for two reasons: it marks the 10th anniversary of 911, and it is the day before the Moon Festival*. 911 has changed everybody’s life forever --- even for those who do not know anyone who lost his/her life in 911 or in wars. After 911, nobody could travel the same way as it used to be.

According to the Chinese tradition, family and friends will get together under the full moon during the Moon Festival. When we enjoy the moon cake and seasonal fruits/snacks, we think about our beloved, including those who are with us and apart from us.

Looking back and moving forward, our presence reflects our past and points to the future. I remember I first came to the U.S. for graduate school in 2001. Back then, nobody talked about boutique hotels, Facebook, Twitter, Groupons, iPhones, iPads, or anything about social media or smart phone trends. Now, they all become the must-know terms in the field.

Looking ahead, this Fox News video reports the online trav…

What Do You Think of the Idea of Accepting Food Stamps in Fast Food Restaurants?

There is a conversation of whether fast food restaurants should be allowed to accept food stamps as a form of payment. According to this CNN News report, food stamp use surged from $30.3 billion in 2007 to $64.7 billion in 2010 (the recession began in December 2007). Some believe that it is a good idea to let people use food stamps in restaurants because many food stamp users are the elderly or homeless people --- they may not be capable of shopping in grocery stores or cooking at home. Others worry that it would cause a even more severe diabetes problem among Americans because few people order healthy food in fast food restaurants.

I am not a gourmet chef, but I enjoy cooking at home. I know I have saved a lot of money as well just by eating at home. I, however, have to admit that there are also times when I do not feel like cooking or when I want to go out and celebrate a special moment. In that case, I will treat myself a nice meal in a restaurant. I am not sure if it is because o…

One Has No Choice But to Manage His/Her Online Image

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I agree with the mainstream media that people, especially job seekers, must manage their image on social media. This ABC News video, once again, reinforces this idea, but what’s new in this video?
80% recruiters looked up candidates online, and 80% of them had denied job candidates based on what they found online, which is higher than what I stated in my previous discussions.  Recruiters are looking for “person-organization” and “person-job” fit from a candidate’s online profile, which does not sound new to me but is a very important point.  The screening process on social media takes place even before interviewing, which is way earlier than what I talked about (e.g. at the background check stage).   The bottom line is --- if a job seeker wants to get a job, s/he must “look sharp” all the time --- online or on the spot (i.e. job interviews). Now, we have no choice but to manage our online reputation; and we had better do it well. Do you pay attention to your online reputation? How do y…

What Should Be the Boundary of “Friending” People on Social Media?

Last month, I shared a news video, reporting that the State of Missouri passed the law of “limiting” the amount of contacts that a teacher may have with his/her students on social media. According to this NBC News video, the City of Dayton, Ohio is moving a step forward --- the city’s public schools’ teachers and staff are prohibited from communicating with their students online or over text.

Jill Moberley, who spoke for the Dayton public schools, acknowledged that students are leading the social media trends and that they heavily use social media in communication. And because of that, she believes that the School District should be “forward thinking” by “prohibiting” the communications between students and teachers/staff on any form of social media or texting. “Children and teachers have to be protected,” says Dr. Dianne Parks-Love, a grandma of a student, “when you set parameters, then the protections are there; and there is no room for misunderstand.” Parents who support the Scho…

What is the Outlook for the Lodging Industry?

AAA estimated that there would be 2.4% less people travelling in this Labor Day weekend than last year. The Wall Street is worrying about the future of the lodging and leisure industry. So, how is the industry doing? What will the future look like?

Starting from 2010, I have heard from my industry network that hotels are picking up business. If we look at the 2011 Lodging Industry Profile by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, we can see that the ADR (average daily rate) is up slightly from $97.85 in 2009 to $98.07 in 2010 and that the occupancy rate is up from 54.7% in 2009 to 57.6% in 2010. Even though 2010 is not as good as 2008 (ADR: $106.84 with an occupancy rate of 64.37%) and everyone is still very concerned about the job market and their spending, we are able to observe some positive signs of recovery in the lodging and leisure industry. The issue is probably some market segments perform (or recover) better than others. In general, it seems that boutique hotels are…

Do You Know How to Present Yourself with 140 Characters?

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I will not claim that social media is the only reason why people have little attention to long letters or articles, but I believe social media plays a critical role in how communications evolve today. “Short and sweet” is the norm.

I know the fact that many employers recruit and select job candidates on social media, but I still find it very interesting when it comes to yesterday’s Wall Street Journal article about selecting M.B.A. candidates based on what they tweet. Business schools are embracing the “short and sweet” communication trend and challenge candidates to present their best qualities in a very brief form.

Top business schools such as Wharton (UPenn), Booth (University of Chicago), Harvard, and Haas (UC Berkeley) are shifting from essays, which can be “carefully crafted” with the aids of professionals, to those “non-traditional” methods of selecting innovative and well-rounded candidates. The Tippie School of Management at University of Iowa, for example, offered a full…