Meyer Jabara employees get creative while collaborating

DANBURY, CT—Meyer Jabara Hotels (MJH) is changing its food and beverage approach. After searching for the perfect option, the hotel ownership and management company is implementing best practices for creating one-of-a-kind experiences. MJH landed on the F&B IMPACT Committee, which stands for Initiating Major Progress Around Culinary Tactics, to generate higher revenue and enhance guest enjoyment. The program comprises five subcommittees, including the Unique Experiences Committee, Ala Carte Committee, Catering Committee, Purchasing Committee and Limited Service Committee.

F&B represents a major piece of revenue for MJH, giving the company an opportunity to set its properties apart through creative initiatives. “We realized the opportunity we had in food and beverage, and had to look at it differently. We have more than 30 outlets and a couple hundred thousand sq. ft. of catering space among the company,” said Justin Jabara, VP of development and acquisitions for MJH. “Because of that opportunity, we knew we needed to do it differently. We played around with variations restructuring it.”

IMPACT’s focus is on improving guest satisfaction, growing F&B sales and lowering overall costs—and MJH has done just that. By the end of 2017, beverage sales increased by 8.7% and through holiday contests, the Catering Committee increased revenues in December 2017 by $235,000 over the previous year.

The committees are essential in supporting IMPACT as a whole because each are designed to serve a specific area of F&B. The committees also provide an opportunity for MJH employees from different departments, brands and areas of the country to collaborate and grow. More specifically, the Purchasing Committee isn’t just made up of purchasing agents, and the Ala Carte Committee isn’t just restaurant supervisors, which is true for all of the committees.

“You may have a chef or a marketing person on them; there’s a lot of overlap between the two. That also goes for full-service and select-service, as well as across different brands in different regions,” Jabara said. “From day one, we looked at who was going to be on this and we didn’t pick all food and beverage people; we actually looked at the whole company. Who are the top performers in retrospect to sales and marketing, à la carte operations, chefs, purchasing agents all the way through? And then we said, ‘Who are the top performers here?’ and we went out and got them engaged.”

In this way, MJH is able to tap into the different talent among its locations’ employees, fostering an environment for all of its sectors to learn and, ultimately, grow from each other, helping to benefit its F&B practices.

“Instead of corporate oversight, we’re leveraging the talent from within to bring awareness to these areas,” said Eric Churchill, SVP of operations for MJH. “This includes peer-to-peer learning…where everyone can contribute and focus on areas they feel are necessary for improvement in their individual hotels. We decided on where our greatest opportunities were and aligned talent from within the organization.”

Each of the subcommittees is composed of F&B managers from different MJH properties. Joe Kelly, GM of the Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel, said having management from the property level makes all of the difference and helps management to see results faster. “Location is important because there’s proximity to the people who have to make it happen and there’s a real sense of ownership. It’s not filtering down from the corporate office; it’s bubbling up from the hotels themselves,” Kelly said.

The general manager also mentioned some of the specific practices that have been lucrative for MJH, one of which being competitions, where hotels compete for the greatest increase in revenue. These competitions usually take place during holidays. Kelly mentioned how some properties offer large catering areas while other spaces are more conducive to restaurant and retail areas, making competitions a tool to give each hotel an opportunity for revenue growth.

“Some of the hotels involved wouldn’t necessarily be involved if it were a catering-related event. We’re trying to pick our spots and find opportunities,” Kelly said. “We measure at the end of the season and see which hotel benefitted, had the best sales out of this promotion, take it more down to the retail level and not just have it be a specialty event kind of competition.”

MJH currently has a burger and brew promotion in the works, a competition that will award prizes for the best combination of a burger and brew. According to Kelly, MJH will then go back at the end of the season and measure which hotel had the best sales from this promotion. This system also encourages synergy, as employees have access to these results as a means to learn what works best and what may not.

“It’s very transparent; everybody in the committee can see what hotels are doing well and who’s not doing well,” Jabara said. “If there’s a problem—say our à la carte check average is down at a property—and we notice a trend over a certain period of time, a committee will work hand in hand with them.”

Along with the increased revenue that competitions like these are bringing, they also engage employees, making workdays nonlinear. “They [employees] want to get out of the rut of doing their everyday job, and we promoted a culture of learning, growth and engagement,” Churchill said. “People that volunteer to work on these subcommittees really enjoy doing something that mentally stimulates them for results in their hotels. It also brings them closer to their peers so they can share best practices.”

Through this collaboration, MJH is also finding new approaches to its brand standards. From reinvented coffee breaks featuring local beverages to repurposing leftover berries into homemade jam, MJH is taking advantage of its internal brainpower and local flavors.

“We had all this talent in the company and how do we break down silos? At one hotel there can be this breadth of talent of chefs and catering salespeople and restaurant supervisors. They need to be shared among the company,” Jabara said. “We’ve set up the structure so these people can be great not just at their properties, but across the whole portfolio.” HB