Hotel Impossible Southern Oaks Inn

Jun 7, 2012

Stuart Smith

Stuart Smith

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This week’s episode of Hotel Impossible featured the Southern Oaks Inn located in Branson MO. One major difference about this episode is that ongoing hotel maintenance was not one of the primary issues. In fact, for the most part the hotel was very clean and although it needed room renovations the hotel was suffering because of management and marketing issues.

Episode Recap and Hotel Maintenance Issues

In a nutshell, Southern Oaks Inn is a family run hotel operation that was being run and managed by four family members who were given their roles out of necessity and had tremendous difficulties communicating. The communication problems essentially left the hotel completely unfocused and mismanaged. Revenue had been declining since 2002 and the hotel had not seen a profit in a couple of years.

As previously mentioned, not everything was bad, the hotel was very clean and housekeeping even used a black light to identify stains. On the other hand, the inability of management to communicate could easily be considered for a college case study of the impact of poor hotel management.

The Impact of Poor Hotel Management

The effects of management communication problems had led to a high degree of tension between the owners. The effect was a lack of confidence for key managers that left no one in charge and prevented the hotel from even doing some very basic marketing. The results could be seen by:

  • No cars in the parking lot in contrast to the next hotel over which looked full
  • 18 rooms occupied out of 142 or 12.67%, average for the area was 35%
  • Lobby full of brochures on multiple and redundant kiosks
  • Best asset the heated indoor pool was hidden from view by numerous small signs
  • Heated indoor pool was empty
  • 30 minute response time for guest services because there was only one person on the night shift.
  • Night shift desk locked the doors when handling guest request, stopping any potential new guest from entering.
  • Unprofessional looking cleaning crew, very old bedspreads, some toilet bowl rust
    stains, a few broken bathroom fixtures
  • No ironing boards or irons in rooms, signs saying no irons allowed, guest were leaving iron marks on carpets
  • Walk-in rate was 35-40% versus 15% for competition

The Southern Oaks Inn Fix

What was obvious from the outset (empty parking lot and walk-in rates) is that few people knew the hotel existed. Host Anthony Melchiorri, quickly pointed out to the hotel owners that “85% of hotels fill their rooms through the internet”.

So how does an outdated hotel, inexperienced hotel management with a cash shortage revitalize hotel operations? The answer for Southern Oaks Inn came in four parts centered around attitude and energy.

Challenge the Hotel Owners (Management) to Step Up to the Plate

The first step was getting the hotel owners to recognize that each had a part to play and that they must take responsibility for their areas. The general manager was told to start making the tough decisions and lead. The owner in charge of marketing was challenged with creating a room renovation design and to use her people skills to create events for highlighting the pool. Both rose to the challenge.

Renovate the Lobby

The second step was taken by Mr. Melchiorri when he had his own crew redesign the lobby for a more modern look. Out went the kiosks full of brochures and in came new wallpaper, a single wall of information (brochures) and new furniture.

New Hotel Staff and Housekeeping Attitude

The hotel housekeeping team was expanded and given new uniforms, a dress code was enforced. Supply rooms were better stocked. Hotel employees were encouraged to speak up when they needed something. Although this may seem minor to an outsider, it was a major breakthrough given their historical communication issues.

New Website

Lastly, Anthony unveiled a new hotel website highlighting the pool as an important selling point and enabling online reservations. He made an interesting point that the website now loaded quickly because 40% of online shoppers don’t wait more than 3 seconds for a webpage to load.

The issues faced by the owners of The Southern Oaks Inn can be found across the nation’s hotels as well as any family run business. Good communication is critical in every organization regardless of size or type of ownership. Turnaround management is about finding the right combination of energy and attitude and then empowering staff to take action.

Tell us about the best hotels you have stayed at. Was maintenance noticeable? Come back next week for another recap of Hotel Impossible.

Stuart Smith

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