Launching a New Hotel Under a Franchise Brand
Opening a brand new hotel is the most enthralling, exciting and invigorating experience any hotel manager can be involved with. While admittedly it can be relatively long process, if completed in an organised manner it can be both fun and enjoyable, resulting in great pride and job satisfaction.
Jonathan Smith, general manager from Holiday Inn Express, Oxford Road, Manchester, shares his advice on how to open a new hotel under a franchised brand.
When opening a franchised hotel certain decisions are already made, for example, the site location, contract builders and the name of the hotel, but the general manager still needs to make a lot of decisions.
Set the Date
The first key consideration is the timing and opening date and it’s important to set a target completion date that is achievable. From experience, it can take up to a year from start to finish to ‘open a hotel’ so time needs to be allocated for planning, snagging issues, implementation and, of course, the launch. A comprehensive checklist needs to be completed with timings allocated for each task so that it can be worked through in a methodical way, by charting everything from start to finish.
There will be a period where access to the hotel is prohibited due to health and safety and the hotel being a building site, so planning, preparation and supplier liaison needs to be completed off-site by the general manager.
However, it is important to be able to work from the site as early as possible so that day-to-day management can be conducted more effectively, as well managing deliveries direct to the site so provision needs to be made for a temporary office to be installed on site as quickly as possible. When arranging this, it is crucial to install a phone line and internet access at the earliest time so that direct contact with suppliers can be maintained.
Choose your Suppliers
One of the first suppliers to choose is for fixtures, furnishings and equipment. The chosen company needs to demonstrate creativity while being able to work within the constraints of any stipulated brand guidelines. Areas that need to be considered include the public spaces, reception and bedrooms.
The process can be externally managed by the supplier, but, the general manager may choose to manage the process themselves for quality purposes. Relationships with suppliers is crucial to ensure an efficient partnership, so spend the time to build this relationship so that everyone is clear on the expectations of the project.
Where possible, allow for creativity, however, if brand guidelines must be adhered to, clearly define the limitations and the needs, wants and desires for the specific task.
While the construction is being done, time can be spent to meet with as many suppliers off site as possible to discuss their service and prices. All suppliers must be confirmed prior to the completion date so that when access to the hotel is available, equipment and supplies can be moved into the building.
Marketing and PR
Marketing and PR should also be considered as part of this planning process. The local community needs to be aware that a new hotel is opening in the area for various reasons, including possible employment opportunities, a new venue for events, as well of course as a place to stay for visitors to the area. To enable this, adverts, press releases, marketing materials, including posters and leaflets and a website will need to be created. This can either be done by the general manager or via specialist agencies.
The next big area to focus on is recruitment of staff. In the early stages it is important to recruit senior support staff, as they can work with the manager and support them with administrative duties and liaising with suppliers, allowing the general manager to focus on more HR and legal tasks.
On the day of practical completion ie when the building work is finished and all the fixtures, fittings and equipment have been installed, the general manager will be given the keys to the hotel. Ideally this should be at least two weeks before the official opening date as it gives ample time to make sure all equipment is installed correctly, works and that snagging issues can be resolved. Any last minute changes can be made at this stage along with staff briefings and final checks.
Plan the Opening
The official opening needs to be planned three months in advance. Again, this can either be planned internally or an external marketing agency can be employed to plan and execute the whole event. Factors needs to be considered, including timings, guest list, entertainment and catering.
The launch is the first official introduction of the hotel, general manager and team and everyone knows how important a first impression can be, especially in this industry.
Once the hotel is launched, the real work begins, running the hotel 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.
Enjoy the first stage – it is hard work but fun and unveiling the hotel at the official launch will be the most memorable moment ever.
By Jonathan Smith