Opening a hotel no matter what size always involves numerous stakeholders, including the owner, the general manager, the operating company, suppliers and more. Due to its high stake nature (financial & emotional), countless actions that need to be taken and unexpected surprises that come along, pre-openings are high stress projects.

As an owner your involvement is undeniably crucial. Following are the top 3 aspects that owners should look out for.

1.   Lack of a detailed Checklist

Amongst the plethora of things to be done, the likelihood of missing certain task or forgetting to order an equipment is much higher if there is a lack of active usage of checklists. Not a roughly drawn to do list but rather a well thought out and detailed checklist of tasks to be accomplished. People often overlook or omit steps in the multitude of tasks we have to perform every day or have been performing regularly. Checklists ensure that nothing is forgotten and everyone on the team is on the same page, literally! An interesting insight into the effective use of checklists in various professional fields is highlighted in the book The Checklist Manifesto: How to get things right by Atul Gawande.

The development of checklists and their co-ordination must be done by the General Manager with close supervision from the operating brand’s head office. It is advisable that owners have regular meetings with the General Manager to monitor the progress on all activities and ensure timely completion of tasks.

2.   Commitment in approving pre-Opening budget

The pre-opening budget allocates expenses associated with activities required to prepare for a hotel’s opening, including hiring of management and associated costs, staff recruitment and training, office space, sales, staff meals, equipment, marketing etc.

While the General Manger creates the pre-opening budget, it is the responsbility of the owner to raise any questions, critically evaluate it against market realities and approve it. Commitment in evaluation of the pre-opening budget from the owner is extremely important at this step to avoid any nasty surprises later or delays in the project. Owners should weigh the expenditures against anticipated benefits, priority of the expenditure, coupled with a reasonable contingency plan.

Mutual trust between the owner & General Manager and the ability to anticipate & accept unforeseen expenses are key traits in the process of a pre-opening budget.

3.   Cohesion between the pre-opening team

It cannot be emphasized more how vital it is to have a good understanding amongst the leadership team. It is a well-known fact that hotels die and survive because of their staff, at all levels. It becomes equally important at the pre-opening stage to have an energetic and motivated team.

The timing of recruitment should be carefully considered by an owner. For instance, a General Manger should be brought on board between 12 to 15 months prior to the opening date. It is advisable for owners to participate in the interview process, especially to explain a candidate about the owner’s investment objectives and more importantly to see if they can work well together.

Besides the usual criteria’s to assess employees, owners should be attentive to the functioning of the team, especially if the executives work well together, how does rest of the staff feel working under pressure with the General manager and so on. There are no quantitative indicators to measure the cohesion and comfort levels of the team, hence owners should take time to look out for any signs of tension or disgruntle and talk to the staff in a casual and friendly setting to identify issues, if any.

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Abhishek Jakate Consultant at Lausanne Hospitality Consulting SA

Abhishek joined LHC in June 2014. His role involves working in management consulting and supporting the executive education and development of learning centers.

Prior to joining LHC, Abhishek worked in Saas-Fee, Switzerland as a Financial Controller for a private hotel company, where he was responsible for the financials and assisted the general manager in operations. He was part of the team that took the company through the restructuring period after the addition of two new hotels with different ownership structures. In South Africa, he gained experience in operational restructuring at a luxury boutique property re-opened after extensive renovations.

An alumnus of the Ecole Hoteliére Lausanne graduating in 2012, Abhishek speaks English, German, Marathi and Hindi and is currently working on improving his skills in French.

While not at work, you will find Abhishek catching up on reading, enjoying good food and wine and working out in the gym.