Another week and another tale of the woes facing a new hotel owner with no hotel or management experience. Still, this week’s episode of Hotel Impossible can help hoteliers understand why basic management skills are needed to run a hotel.

The show was set in an old gold mining town at California’s oldest hotel and saloon located in the heart of Grass Valley. The Holbrooke Hotel is a classic historical hotel featuring 28 rooms, a brick ballroom, restaurant and a bar. Four U.S. Presidents have stayed there.

The situation was predictable as the new owner (Ian) was losing money due to a variety of factors including; exceptionally high food costs, stagnant room rates and the fact that he was wearing too many hats leaving his staff untrained and ineffective.

In addition, Ian’s lack of management experience led him to promote a housekeeper with no experience into management instead of a better qualified staff member. The result was a huge housekeeping issue that left the hotel with the feel of a cheap hostel.

Episode Recap: No Experience, No Information, No Plan

As the host Anthony Melchiorri arrived at the hotel, it immediately had the look of a hotel needing better care. The back patio area that guests walked through on their way from the parking lot to the lobby looked more like a storage area of worn furniture.

As the show progressed, the usual inspections of rooms and premises resulted in a clear pattern of dirtiness.

The quote below is from the episode Hotel Iguanazul, but it very valid here.

“87% of Americans look at their hotel rooms for cleanliness when they first check-in.”

Source: Anthony Melchiorri

A visit to the head of housekeeping revealed that her office was disgusting dirty, disorganized and pretty much a hole in the ground. There was no way a person who kept their office in this condition would do a better job with the main hotel.

Subsequent discussions with Ian also indicated that he did not have his finger on the pulse of the hotel and hotel operationswere essentially handled on the fly. A good example of this was when Ian was unable to access his own revenue management system.

Ultimately, a list of problems was identified that included:

Opportunities to Improve Hotel Housekeeping, Maintenance and Operations

  • Food costs running 55% compared to industry average of 35% resulting in over 100k being wasted. Much of this was attributed to the overwhelmed Chef.
  • Dead plants at the back entrance.
  • Stained and ripped chairs stacked on the back porch.
  • Room rates not changed in at least 7 years.
  • Grand ballroom blinds were black due to grime buildup.
  • The ballroom doors looked as if they were kicked on a daily basis.
  • Ceiling tiles stained, cracking.
  • Extremely dusty plants in rooms. It reminded me of the Hotel Impossible Corpus Christi Bayfront episode.
  • Sweat stains on pillows.
  • Bathroom vent caked in dust/mold.
  • Bathroom tub finishes ruined by glued mats or just cracked and peeling.

In essence, the Holbrooke Hotel was operating blind and things were not going to get better until Ian could focus his attention on hotel operations. To address the issues Anthony spent a fair amount of time teaching Ian the basics of hotel and time management.

The Fixes and What Hoteliers Should Learn

This episode was just as much about general management as it was showing what can happen when an owner has no hotel experience. What hoteliers can learn is that decisions to promote people based upon their seniority instead of their skills or competence level can have severe consequences both for the hotel and the individual placed in a role they are not able to handle.

I was very happy to see the housekeeping management situation rectified by promoting the housekeeper Allison. On the other hand, I was disappointed that Anthony was the person who executed the change and not the owner Ian. A good manager has to be able to confront staff with difficult decisions.

As stated in the opening paragraph, basic management skills are needed to run a hotel or any other business. Time management is critical for hotel entrepreneurs and hotel managers.

With the housekeeping situation now under control, Anthony was able to provide Ian with some other changes for the Holbrooke Hotel. These included:

Other Holbrooke Hotel Fixes
  • Having the Chef (Dylan) revamp the menu for better food cost control. Savings were to be used to hire additional staff.
  • Bringing in a hotel vendor for a top to bottom deep cleaning of the hotel.
  • New linens and pillows.
  • Bringing in a temporary banquet manager to Ian could learn how to manage events more effectively.
  • Cleaning up and remodeling the back patio.
  • Renovating the Banquet room to restore its stature and glory. The banquet room looked fantastic afterward.

At the conclusion of the show the trailer screen indicated that since Anthony’s visit, bookings are up 35%, food costs have gone down and a part-time events manager has been hired. This is all good but I am left wondering if Ian has really made the transition from musician to hotelier. It will be a good hotel to return to a year later to see how things turned out.

Tell us about the hotels you have stayed at. What were their opportunities to improve? Come back next week for another recap of Hotel Impossible.