As the hospitality industry continues to deal with the labor crisis, the surmounting lack of truckers is putting even more strain on hotel and restaurant operations. Fewer drivers means an increase in the price of goods and the cost of delivery. With people eager to travel again, hoteliers with food-and-beverage operations are asking, “What can we do differently to run our F&B departments more efficiently?” Meyer Jabara Hotels, an industry leader in hotel food and beverage operations, says hoteliers can easily cut costs, maximize staffing and emerge profitable in today’s challenged economy if they have the right strategy. The company has been boosting operating efficiencies of its 30 hotels and 20 food and beverage outlets, including 137,939 sq. ft. of meeting and event space, for 47 years.
“Meyer Jabara Hotels is expert at developing strategies to propel hotel restaurants to success and make them the most competitive assets in their respective markets,” said Guy Reinbold, corporate director, food and beverage, Meyer Jabara Hotels. “Creating memorable experiences may be a bit more challenging today, but it can be done if you know where to start. At Meyer Jabara, we use creative solutions and data-driven strategies to propel the many hotel restaurants in our portfolio to success.”
Here are seven ways hoteliers can better manage hotel F&B amidst today’s labor and supply chain shortages as the industry works toward recovery:
- Consolidate foodservice deliveries—Hoteliers are getting clobbered with delivery fees. What used to cost operators $1,100 six months ago for four pallets of product now costs $3,900, and tomorrow it may even be higher. By consolidating purchases into one weekly delivery vs. seven daily visits saves fuel and therefore lowers costs. That means receiving a case of tomatoes every day is a “no-no.” The more you plan ahead, the more you can save. Making each order worthwhile for the purveyor makes you more valuable as a customer.
- Maximize labor skills—Giving employees more responsibility is as good for them as it is for you. Training F&B staff to be cross-utilized is an important way to save costs and maximize talent. The hourly wage for a line cook may start at $15 per hour, but once you factor in the cost of insurance benefits and overtime, the actual wage may be closer to $20 per hour. That has a major impact on labor cost. Training a line cook to manage and operate multiple stations maximizes efficiency and makes that person more valuable in the long run and reduces costs and the need for more staffing.
- Hire from abroad—More foreign nationals are in the U.S. on H-2B and J-1 Visas this year than ever before. Whether they are here to fill vacant non-agricultural jobs or they are here to teach, study, receive training or demonstrate special skills, they are ideal candidates to fill F&B job gaps. Time and again these visitors have proven to be hard workers and many rely on these temporary assignments for their livelihoods and career advancement. Although not everyone may speak the same language, most have a good command of English. Those that do not can easily be taught by demonstration. Speak to a human resource professional to identify accredited schools if interested in going the J-1 Visa route. With wedding season upon us and group business returning, this is a great resource for hiring banquet teams.
- Change the menu and reduce portion sizes—Free breakfast is an important differentiator for many brands. Cutting out this expected amenity to save money may tarnish the guest’s perception of the hotel. Rather, work with suppliers to identify alternative products that are high quality but lower cost. For example, instead of using two-oz. sausage patties, replace them with a 1.5-oz. portion size. Guests loyal to the hotel will not notice the difference, but the .10 cents per pound savings will make a big difference to the bottom line, especially if buying 500 pounds of sausage per week. Here’s another example: If you offer four large skillet meatballs on the appetizer menu, reduce the portion size to three meatballs. By keeping the app portion smaller, main menu orders will grow, and so too will the average check per person.
- Negotiate pricing with vendor partners—One of the best and fastest ways to save costs in the kitchen is to negotiate pricing with vendor partners on pre-existing purchases and switch to buying as many items pre-cut and pre-portioned as possible. With reduced teams in the kitchen, no one has the time or the manpower to cut produce or proteins themselves. Buying diced vegetables, pre-sliced meats and even pre-made bakery can be a huge cost-saving depending on the market. Also, ask your supplier to suggest alternative cuts of beef that are equal in quality but just need a little finesse from the chef; substitute a flat iron steak for a strip, etc. This will not impact the perception of value in the eyes of guests but it will make the relationship between the restaurant and the supplier stronger while shaving costs at the same time.
- Leverage rebates—If a property has a program that is rebate-based, it may be required to purchase 90% of all food and beverage products through the brand’s or management company’s purchasing partner. When the threshold is achieved the rebate program can have a significant impact to the bottom line.
- Respect your vendors—Supplier partners are the subject matter experts when it comes to sourcing the best products and negotiating the best prices. Whether your management company is working with a purchasing agent or a foodservice distributor, these companies provide a valuable resource in identifying what you can use and what you can substitute to be profitable. Treat them right, and they will work hard for you. Likewise, leverage the expertise of the management company itself; the corporate F&B team has spent years cultivating relationships with these experts for your benefit. The hospitality industry is built on respect—that regard should transcend beyond just guests and staff and extend to the meat guy, the fish gal, your produce vendors and even local farmers. If you are open and honest with your suppliers and share specifically what you are looking for, they will bend over backward to meet your needs at a price you can afford. It’s not about leveraging the relationship to get great tickets to a ballgame; rather, sourcing great product is all you need to build a fulfilling and prosperous relationship.
“It’s no longer business as usual, folks,” Reinbold said. “The ‘new normal’ way of doing business today is plagued with high prices and labor shortages. From what I’m hearing in the market, the cost of fuel, goods and delivery will not be dropping to pre-COVID levels any time soon—if ever again. Therefore, hoteliers and restaurateurs must do things differently if they are to survive. I hope these tips help. If you need further assistance, reach out to your management company representative; they are there to serve you.”
For more on Meyer Jabara Hotels, check out the upcoming May issue of Hotel Business.