An Accommodating Offer

04/03/2016


Accommodation can be a lucrative and prestigious addition to a venue’s offer,  with rooms 
generating revenue in their own right, as well as encouraging further sales.

WORDS: CHARLIE WHITTING

The advantages of offering accommodation are twofold for operators. Rooms add another revenue stream into an operation, but they also increase the scope and potential to operators and customers alike in terms of what the rest of the offer can encapsulate.

Accommodation is a driver of weekday trade from businesspeople, can be a deciding factor when people consider where to hold a special event, and with the increase in staycations in the UK, can make your venue more desirable for holidaymakers. The rooms themselves can work as a promotional tool, encouraging visits from further afield, creating more reasons for customers to visit and broadening the overall offer.

However, there are costs and implications to consider when delving into accommodation. Cleaning staff, porters and chefs are all required for the extra work. Operators need to be sure that they can deliver enough turnover to make the effort and cost worthwhile, and this will be determined by the number of rooms, their price and their occupancy.

“Turnover figures are hugely dependent on the number of rooms,” says Patrick Dardis, retail director at Young’s. “However, as an average, the percentage turnover for our pubs with hotels is 23%.”

A good night’s sleep
the essence of on-trade accommodation is the bedroom experience and operators need to do everything they can to make their rooms reach the standards customers expect. No matter the age of a building, people will still expect the fixtures and fittings to be of modern standards, especially in the bathrooms. Operators need to invest into their bedroom facilities and ensure that they are maintaining standards throughout.

“Operators must start by ensuring their accommodation offering is of a high standard – regardless of their star rating,” says Sean Donkin, operations director at The Inn Collection Group. “Unless your product is spot on, you will not be able to grow your reputation. We have a rolling programme of protective and enhancement spends across our units to provide the perfect bedroom environment for our market in terms of comfort, cleanliness and visual appeal.”



In addition to the rooms themselves, the level of service also needs to be considered, with staff employed to offer a welcome and assured assistance throughout the night. Customers should be enjoying an experience that they could not recreate elsewhere at chain hotels, and ensuring that every detail has been taken care of goes a long way to building the reputation of your venue and increasing future sales.

“Reputation is built on a daily basis,” says Tiago Figueiredo, general manager of Honesty Group venue The Crown and Garter. “Manage the customer experience, from the moment
they arrive to their departure. Add value to the stay (i.e. a complimentary late checkout). some homemade cookies to go with the coffee, etc.”



Breakfast
An integral part of the accommodation offer is breakfast, and operators need to treat this with the same reverence as other meals of the day. For many customers, this will be the last meal they eat at your venue and the final memory should be as positive as possible. Chefs and staff should be briefed as to what is expected to ensure that, while the breakfast might be included in the overall cost, it feels like something extra special and reflects the rest of your offer.

“Great produce is what people are about,” says Michael Ibbotson, director of Provenance Inns. “Breakfast is an area where it’s easy to do that. We do a fresh bread basket to order. When you get it, you’re getting freshly baked croissants: its cutting waste and improving the customer experience.”



The Full English has remained a staple part of the hospitality breakfast, offering opportunities for customers to indulge, chefs to flex their creative muscles and operators to showcase the provenance of their products. However, in these increasingly health-conscious times, it is important that operators offer wholesome alternatives, and that culinary trends are not ignored.

“There are developing dietary requirements overlaid on these breakfast types which operators need to be aware of,” says Nic Townsend, marketing manager for UK and Ireland at Farm Frites. “Growing concerns over health mean that operators will need to pay attention to products which can offer low sugar, salt and fat, and allergen-free options.”

There is also a significant opportunity for operators to use their breakfast offer to extend trading hours and footfall regardless of whether customers are staying at their venues or not. Whether it’s offering something quick and nourishing for people on their way into work, or focusing on the increasingly popular late breakfast or brunch over a weekend, operators can use these untapped hours to increase interest and profits.

“These days, breakfast is big business, and speciality coffee is right at its heart,” says Richard Green, head of beverage solutions at Nestlé Professional. “Britons spent a staggering £7.9bn in coffee shops in 2015 and, adding to this, we’re seeing a growing trend for ‘all day breakfasting’ (being dubbed ‘brunch’ and ‘brinner’). For pubs, this presents a new opportunity to drive added revenue.”



Promoting occupancy 
When one considers the significant costs of installing and maintaining accommodation, as well as extra staffing and food costs, having a high occupancy rate is critical. Operators need to ensure that they have an offer that can adapt for weekday and weekend trade, but also that they are engaging in promotional activity with new and existing customers to
encourage people to visit and see what your offer is all about.

“We regularly engage with locals and previous guests through social media platforms and our newsletter, to keep them informed of our latest promotions, which again helps generate return visits,” says Enterprise Inns publican Lesley Benson of The New Inn, Clapham, North Yorkshire. “As spring approaches, to help promote our accommodation to large parties, we’ll be offering a series of activity packages, such as shooting weekends, pampering sessions and golf trips.

One of the major trends when it comes to accommodation has been the rise of online bookings and online reviews. With this in mind, it is important that you have got your booking systems properly put in place to avoid any confusion and that your website is clear and easy to navigate. Then it is a case of ensuring that what you say you offer is what you offer. Consistently high quality experiences are key, as more and more customers will judge you via TripAdvisor than ever before.

“It’s all about communication,” adds Ben Stackhouse, managing director of Love Pubs. “If you tell them what to expect before they arrive, then deliver what you’ve told them and more whilst they stay, they should (mostly) be happy and leave good reviews. Strong reviews are vital to generate higher bookings revenue. These days it’s also important to choose the right bookings channels so you are what guests expect you to be.”

Accommodation is not a service that all operators can or might want to offer, but it does add another string to their bow, attracting more customers for more reasons and encouraging them to interact with their venues even more. With staycations on the rise, accommodation’s importance and benefits are only set to grow.