The Hub of Everything

What is the key to success in Revenue Management? Even if you have all the proper tools and the right team behind you, is that enough to yield maximum results? If you were to look back on the evolution of First Hospitality Group, you’d know that in the beginning revenue management was only executed by small teams of Regional Operations and Sales for just 17 hotels. Over time, we came to realize that one of the biggest areas of opportunity in our industry was refining our revenue strategies: monitoring, restricting, having the right pricing strategy, knowing the hotel vs. market – the list goes on.
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Since then, we’ve grown our revenue management department from one to a very robust team of six. Our strategies have become so much more complex than they ever were before. Revenue Management used to be responsible for just what the title suggests – managing revenues – demand, pricing, etc. Now, it’s connecting the dots; revenue management has become the hub of everything. With Corporate Director of Revenue, Jenna Smith, in place we have been able to maintain a team that is inspired to ask so many of the questions posed below and diligently seek out answers.
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There is now a critical marriage between sales, marketing, and revenue management that didn’t exist before. Online reviews reflect how confidently we can price. There is absolutely a premium on consumer sentiment – price often takes the back seat if our product is valued. Strategy has to be deliberate and consistent on all channels. You have to understand how to access those channels armed with the knowledge of which will be the most profitable for the hotel. How are we reaching the most relevant audience? How do they want to book?
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Do we understand what the consumer values? What is the price value comparison and how can we market that in the most successful way? We have low demand strategies executed by revenue management including but in no way limited to prospecting, implementing cost per click placement optimization, and leveraging our market knowledge to understand competitor activity. The objective went from solely managing revenues to asking ourselves “how can we assist in generating revenues in a bigger way?”
Are the revenues coming in as forecasted? Are we forecasting correctly? Are we falling within a 3% margin of accuracy? What channels are open or closed and how is that impacting us? Is our website optimized to convert? These are all questions that our regionals have to ask themselves when trying to assist in generating revenue. We are only able to uphold an effective team by instilling the principle that nothing falls outside of their job description. In my mind, once you’ve got the right people supporting you, the key to success lies in the relationship that those people have with each other.
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If we are not connected and aligned on our most crucial objectives, then we are not the best team that we can be. As we continue to develop, we are in the process of cross-training all regionals to understand the work of each of their counterparts and how it impacts the big picture. As a result, we’ve been able to grow 2.4% in RevPar index YTD, all of our city center hotels are #1 in RevPar, and over 50% of the remaining portfolio own the #1 and #2 rankings in their markets. We firmly believe that we can operate most effectively when the silos are broken down and we are fully emerged in a collaborative environment. As we continue to grow, our teams are rising to the occasion and we have never been more proud of those powering Team FHG.
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FHG Celebrate Forbes!

Forbes Facebook Banner

As I hope many of you know, First Hospitality Group was honored by Forbes as #28 of the 250 best midsize employers in the country. Some of you may also know that we were ranked #1 in the travel category, as well as #3 amongst all of America’s best travel companies, right behind Marriott International and Hyatt. I myself am deeply proud and humbled to receive this outward recognition of the culture that we strive to create every day. The victory is a huge testament to the unparalleled spirit unique to Team FHG.

To share our enthusiasm around this achievement, we will be hosting a collective celebration August 29, 2016. All of our teams will take part in the occasion at their individual hotels, or at our corporate headquarters in the case of the home office team. The event will be broadcasted live via video conference, so that we can celebrate together across all regions. To make things even more exciting, we’ll be hosting a video contest to collect stories from associates who have been inspired by FHG. Stay tuned for more information including hints about our awesome, secret first place prize!

In the end, this honor is something that we are all unbelievably proud of and we want to share that pride with every single person that helped make it possible. Thank you for helping us co-create this award-winning team. Let’s celebrate!

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FHG Does Summer Solstice

What does it mean to be “sales focused”? Believe it or not, it’s actually more than just focusing on sales. In an age where interpersonal communication has become a dying art and majority of conversations occur on a five inch screen, we at FHG are trying to refocus our teams to believe that relationships sell. When you know your clients and their needs, you’re equipped to play a direct role in providing them service and accommodations that exceed expectations.

We believe in performing above and beyond when it comes to the needs of our clients. That can’t be accomplished through written word, in text, or email; you can only get that from engaging. Hospitality does not translate into words. It’s powered by conversations and actions that translate into experiences. We’re not trying to sell somebody something, we’re building a rapport. We’re not salespeople or revenue generators, we’re relationship builders.

When you really get down to it, to be “sales focused” means to be client focused. Our teams angle the bond of sales to share the common goal of connection. When we put our heads together for a blitz like Summer Solstice, we have the opportunity to make building relationships our ultimate, unfailing focus for one whole day. We’ve been able to entrench ourselves in the needs of our clients and, as a result, have made over 1,800 connections as a team in less than four months.

Every relationship that you build is an opportunity to ignite curiosity and passion in others. So, ask yourself, “Who did I ignite today?” Who will you ignite tomorrow?

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Hospitality Lead-her-ship

Lead-her-ship Collage

I recently had the opportunity to author an article for STR, Inc.’s “Hotel News Now” about a topic that I personally believe deserves more exposure – the rise of strong female leaders in the hospitality industry. Change is a natural result of society’s evolution and it effects our field like it would anything else. The “glass ceiling” had been alive and well in the hospitality industry for generations.

Fast-forward 40+ years and, though we still have a ways to go, women commonly take command at levels of high influence for multi-million and billion dollar companies. Approximately half of the senior executive leadership positions here at FHG are occupied by women; key players like Wendy Stevens, Mary Pat Knight, Carol Wrobel, Jenna Smith, and Kelly Mascari truly are the champions of Team FHG. Though our success is a collective effort, it wouldn’t have been possible without the firepower that they bring to the table

It’s truly incredible that a group of individuals who were once limited to roles of servers, clerks, and front desk staff, are now recognized for the value that they bring to the industry as managers, directors, and CEOS. Women are a reservoir of talent shown to increase profit margins and positively impact culture. Our perspective is driven not by a desire to be politically correct or to convey an empty gesture toward diversity, but by recognizing the simple and obvious fact that anybody, regardless of gender, can make a positive contribution.

To read more about my feelings on this topic, check out the original article at: http://www.hotelnewsnow.com/articles/43640/Lead-by-example-Hiring-more-women-in-hospitality

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FHG Does National Tell a Story Day + Star Wars Day

When you think about hospitality on a grand scale, we as stewards are peoples’ compass. No matter where they’re going or how they get there, we are ready to welcome them home. Even when you’re lost – especially when you’re lost – you go to your compass. There is relief in knowing that we are always there; that you have somewhere to go and find comfort, no matter where your journey has taken you.
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We generate that comfort through the connections we make with people. Being hospitable is something that comes from the heart. The experiences that we create every day demand genuine care and sincerity. It’s more than just providing a pillow to rest one’s head on. It’s building a sense of arrival and warmth that allows someone to feel the safety of home, even when they can’t be there. Hospitality can’t just be taught. You can hand out the right tools, but true hospitality has to come from within.
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To be successful, everyone who walks through those sliding doors needs to feel like a part of your family. That feeling isn’t something that can be manufactured, no matter how hard you might try. As our teams head out each month, creatively igniting curiosity within their clients and their communities, we reinforce our commitment to the satisfaction of our guests as well as our unwavering dedication. Team FHG is unlike any other because of how deeply we care. With us, you know that you’re going to start your journey on the right foot. With us, you can rest assured that you’ll never be without your compass.
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Dining Trends of 2016 That are Taking the World by Storm

Dining Trends of 2016

In late 2015 everyone, myself included, attempted to prognosticate what trends we would see in Food & Beverage during the coming year. Here are some of the culinary fads in F&B that seem to be taking hold in 2016. To satisfy the customers of this year, the chefs, restaurateurs and hoteliers are having to tighten their innovative muscles even more than in years past. People in all walks of the culinary world will need to be creative to stay on top.

Vegetable as a Star

Vegetables have reached their tipping point; this year vegetables are starting to rival animal protein in a typical meal. They have become the center of the plate – no longer just a side dish. Chefs, whether you’re talking restaurants or hotels, are starting to use meat as a “spice,” rather than the focal point of the dish. Now is the time to say hello to “root to stem” dinning and become “vegetable forward”. If you think that being vegetable forward is only relevant to vegetarians, I’d have to say that you’re wrong. Creative ideas to spice up the traditional usage of vegetables offers the potential to introduce more new flavors to consumers. If you’re wondering why this food group is starting to grab the spotlight, it would be fair to attribute the shift to increasing meat prices, quality concerns, and growth of health consciousness over the last few years.

Natural Food

Consumers have been worrying about the use of chemicals and additives in their food. They like to have natural ingredients, free from artificial flavors, ingredients, and coloring. As they become health conscious, they abandon the companies providing chemically altered food products. Well established restaurants trying to stay on top are starting to dump the artificial and not-so-good-for-you ingredients from their menus. One survey shows that 40% of consumers agree upon the use of all natural ingredients in their food being very important to them (Consumers seeking “free-from” foods, 2015). Restaurants are developing healthier menus after those consumers attacked “Big Food” companies about their lacking product. For a start, people are looking for more from restaurants; including water conservation, humane treatment of animals (and employees), regulation of waste, and other eco-social issues. While sit-down restaurants and hotels remain relatively quiet, casual chains like Chipotle, Panera Bread, Subway, McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts are starting to come under fire for use of undesirable ingredients. Unfortunately, getting rid of unhealthy ingredients is not a yet a trend of the majority. “Everyone in the culinary industry has to struggle to purify the menus…” (Huen, 2015).

Poké – Hawaiian Cuisine

Poké is a raw fish salad served in Hawaiian cuisine. We’ve already started to see an up-tick in popularity surrounding this dish. It is made with chopped or cubed raw fish served over rice with soya sauce, fruits, and vegetables. As many Americans are starting to gravitate toward healthy food instead of heavier food, it is sure that poké will fulfill their needs.

Snacks with New Trending Flavor

Most assume that one can be healthier by having meals thrice a day. In recent years, this concept has been diminishing at an increasing rate. People like to have periodic snacks with new and interesting flavors. According to a survey, it is seen that a large numbers of Americans are having snacks even four or five times a day (Lumsden, 2015). In 2016, there will be a need to provide more unexpected flavor combinations. For example high-carb bites are shifting to protein rich, sweets are shifting to spicy; spicy-salty-savory ethics will become favorite and thr sour will replace the sweet.

New-ish Jewish Cuisine

What does it mean? This means that there is a recreation to Jewish food and modern Jewish cookery that is starting to be more widely embraced. The question that arises is how it came to popularity now. It has been observed that chefs are really exploring their food recently. They are reinventing their styles because people like to experience different types of food now. The stories and character behind “heritage cuisines” are being adapted by chefs to maintain their culinary tradition, while keeping up with modern demand.

Açaí Bowls

An açaí bowl is a basically a big bowl smoothie – one of the next trendy, hipster foods. These are made from açaí pulp and milk, in addition to banana, bits of other fruits, and lots of ice. Sometimes, extra toppings of chocolate chips, seeds, peanuts, etc. will also top off this rising dish.

Waste-Based Cooking

Every year, 70 billion pounds of food have been going to waste; it’s impossible to ignore it. As a result, a large number of kitchens and restaurants are starting to declare themselves waste free. Chefs, farmers and other helpers of the food world are cooking something up – something versatile and delicious – out of unused food. Big thanks to activist chefs who have made no waste their primary cause. This year kitchens and restaurants on a large scale will commit themselves to preserving our resources through waste-based and conscious cooking.

Digitalization

In 2016, tech driven delivery will continue to expand on a large scale. These entities are becoming the big disrupter of food retailing and services. They are the middlemen between customers and restaurants, collect fees and personal information about who orders what, when, and from which restaurant. They are providing a stay-at-home opportunity for food shopping in a world that is quickly deferring from face to face interactions. The culinary industry should turn their focus to concentrate of these types of customers, to prevent losing profit to services provided by by the likes of Google, GrubHub, Yelp, Postmates, and many more.

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Introducing: Training Tuesdays

Training Tuesday GIF
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When I look in the mirror, I see myself staring back at me; nothing more, nothing less. We struggle with getting caught up in criticism of self, when it’s often the least productive way of spending our time. When I take the mirror away, I see so far into the distance that my mind can’t help but wonder what’s out there. As my curiosity grows and I ask more questions, my knowledge grows too. The more knowledge I have, the more power I have. When the world leaves you with nothing but questions, you are compelled to seek answers and your curiosity is ignited.
As a company that is all about looking ahead and pro-activity, we have decided to launch a new opportunity into our arsenal of resources. “Training Tuesdays” are soon to be an outlet for the questions that we want you to be asking. We offer training for the promising Assistant General Managers of today, to create curiosity in the outstanding General Managers of tomorrow. We have company-wide blitz days to creatively connect with our clients and guests, inspiring curiosity in them about us and our culture. Now, we will host internal training sessions each week to ignite the curiosity in all of you even more.
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Each week over lunch, Team FHG will connect through training sessions hosted live from our headquarters in Rosemont. Your regional team, maybe even a surprise guest or two, will present topics based on industry trends and your feedback. This opportunity will open up your minds and assist in creating more open dialogue. It may even be a way for you to train your own teams and grow together! Team FHG is looking ahead and you’re going to love what’s still to come.
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Let’s COLLABORATE. Let’s GET EXCITED. Let’s GAIN KNOWLEDGE.
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FHG Ranked Among Top Employers in 2016

This past week First Hospitality Group was presented with an honor that I’m thrilled to share with all of you. Forbes Magazine recently released their list of America’s Best Midsize Employers; we are not only privileged to have been included, but to have secured #28 out of 250 companies and #1 in the Travel category. If the numbers alone don’t blow you away, consider that FHG was rated higher than nationally recognized brands like Mercedes, Avon, and New Balance. We are grateful to have a world class team behind us that allows us to play ball with these big guys.

Our strength, without a doubt, is our people. So, thank you for all of the hard work that you put in every day – it did not go unnoticed. Holding the same expectations of our hotels, we recognize that third party accolades are hugely impactful; some might say even more so than anything we could ever say about ourselves.

Looking ahead, FHG has some extraordinary projects in the pipeline. Over the years, we have received many awards and, for a small firm like ours, the things that we have been able to accomplish are simply unbelievable. Our 30+ years have carried a lifetime of incredible recognition and it wouldn’t have been possible without all of you. Thank you!

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The Inner Circle – A True Example of Hospitality

At First Hospitality Group, everyone knows that when you’re talking about the “Inner Circle,” you’re talking about the best of the best. Each year, our top performers are hit with the spotlight, based on metrics ranging from associate satisfaction to sales yield, and awarded the greatest honor available to the senior management team; an all-expenses paid trip somewhere exciting overseas for each winner and a guest. What I feel really sets this incentive apart is that our fearless leader, Stephen Schwartz, takes the helm, committed to exposing our top performers to true four and five star hospitality. Dubai, Morocco, Israel, Japan; through thick and thin, we’ve had 20 life-changing years and counting.

In March of 2016, FHG’s best General Managers were brought together to experience the true example of hospitality that is Japan. Over the course of our trip, I witnessed extraordinary bonding and felt genuine friendships emerge. Being immersed in the Japanese culture was mind-blowing for us all. From shopping in the Ginza District and being exposed to the formality found in the traditional Japanese lodging of the Ryokan, to the youth based, borderline bizarre party scene in Shinjuku; we were able to bring together the very different and still quintessential pieces that coexist to create the Japanese experience. It was an incredible living example that helped expand the views of hospitality for all of us.

The Inner Circle truly is a life-changing travel opportunity, as well as a unique way to say “thank you.” The reason I say that is because it offers the chance to expose the cream of our crop to the culture of a place that they might have never even thought about going before. In addition, these talented team members get to experience the extraordinary hospitality of Stephen and Terry Schwartz. Our hosts’ attention to the nuances of our experience mirrored what we enjoyed at The Imperial Hotel Tokyo. The staff at the hotel, dedicated to every little detail down to the traditional Japanese bow as we entered the elevator, resulted in a higher appreciation for those details and a greater awareness of what the guest sees and experiences.  I wonder what new hospitality details we will find in one or more of our hotels!

With the Inner Circle, we aim to offer the comfort to collaborate, forge friendships, and have new experiences. The trust that we build together, the intimate exposure with our incredible leader, and the endless possibilities that are presented with this opportunity expand minds and fuel exponential growth.  In one word…Awesome!!

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FHG Does National Potato Chip Day

Blondie said it best….”one way or another, we’re gonna find you, we’re gonna get you.” Isn’t that what life is about? Showing up, connecting with people, and building relationships? Finding out what needs they have? And, at the end of the day, just having some good old-fashioned fun? One bag at a time we connected with travelers all over the country this National Potato Chip Day. Making the most of these quirky holidays and working together to drive results is going to be an important part of our culture as we continue to embrace it. Coming together around a common theme, flooding our markets with creative communication, breeding positive energy and using that enthusiasm to make lasting connections.

Not only is this an opportunity to engage with people, it’s an opportunity to be remembered. People remember positive and engaged people; they look forward to seeing them again and again. We are not just looking for a few new leads. We’re looking to create change. Getting to connect with travelers from across the nation over a salty snack or really showing even just one client what our culture really looks like – that’s the point of this new initiative. On National Potato Chip Day, First Hospitality Group hit 15 cities, completed over 500 calls, and made countless positive connections. I urge you to hold onto your enthusiasm and keep this momentum rolling. Take a look for yourself. The passion and creativity that you were able to exude was incredible and, to me, it is clear that uninhibited success lies in our future.

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