Sanitation and Cleanliness Standards. Hotel employees and guests must participate in a complete upgrade of sanitation and cleanliness. Each brand has added a different touch, but there are now two levels of room cleaning — the second level being a supervisor who provides the extra sanitation of each room. These protocols are here to stay and guests are willing to play their part by washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and distancing.
As part of my series about “developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Robert A. Rauch, Certified Hotel Administrator, is an internationally-recognized hotelier, regular contributor on Hotel News Now, and CEO/founder of RAR Hospitality, a leading hospitality management and consulting firm based in San Diego. A genuine thought leader, Rauch has more than 35 years of hospitality-related management experience in all facets of the industry and releases anticipated yearly lodging forecasts and travel trends on his blog, Hotel Guru. Rauch owns and operates branded hotels in the U.S. including Hilton Garden Inn Del Mar/San Diego, Homewood Suites by Hilton Del Mar and Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott in San Diego/San Marcos.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
While studying at the University of Illinois, I was a part-time banquet dishwasher who was quickly promoted to bus person, server and then supervisor. Immediately, I saw this as a career opportunity as I was not impressed with the management team at this hotel. I thought I had better skills, better natural abilities in communication and should switch my major from English to Hotel Management.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
When I was a general manager and partner in a hotel in 2005, I traveled to an event in Memphis, a city where I had completed a stint as a Manager in Training. I checked into my former hotel where 31 years had elapsed since my training. I selected the hotel because it was across the street from the convention hotel where all my colleagues were staying and my staff had told me I had a reservation — there was none but the hotel where I had worked got me in based on my story (they were sold out as well) but they knew there was one employee in the restaurant who might remember me. I came down to breakfast and this former employee walked to my table and said, “Oh my God! You hired me 31 years ago!” She was 18 and I had hired her for her first job as a bus person. She had made a great career out of this industry. I was in tears.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
My first assignment after hotel school was an interim General Manager job at the Ramada Hotel Disney World in Orlando. I was told the food and beverage costs were extremely high and they had terminated the general manager. After touring the property and meeting the staff, I implemented my new “tight controls” fresh from hotel school. I locked the refrigerator and freezers on day one and on day two, the Chef and most of his staff walked out. First, I was technically correct as they had been stealing. Second, I handled it like a dictator and nobody likes a cocky, young dictator. I was left alone with my admin to cook for hundreds of guests as it was Christmas week and we were full. Lesson learned, communicate professionally, not like a dictator!
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
I worked ridiculous hours in an attempt to move up the ladder quickly. It worked but I made more mistakes by rushing my learning curve. It doesn’t matter if you hit your goals at age 30, 40, 50 or 60+ — smell the roses, take time for yourself and enjoy your life, even if your hours are long, find time to breathe!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I did not respect most of my bosses but several stand out — Jerry Robin, the first GM who was asked to mentor me remains a friend of mine, even after 43 years. Jerry showed me everything he knew and his knowledge of food, beverage, sales and catering were incredible. He had me with him so that he could show me first hand exactly how he handled things. Jerry, like all people, had a flaw. He would not accept crap from a guest if he felt we were right. Unfortunately, I took on that quality until his boss said to me one day, Bob, why would you mimic the one problem that Jerry has?
Thank you for that. Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
Using a limited-service portfolio of hotels, we are able to make our hotels the center of the universe for locals. We creatively have meetings and events that are traditionally at large, full-service hotels. My background in food, beverage and catering are central to this. Further, I believe that robotics will replace humans for mundane tasks. We have had a service robot at one of our hotels for almost four years now and the guests love items being delivered by a robot — so much so, that they will post videos on social media!
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
The night auditor of a limited-service hotel is alone from 10:30 p.m. to 6:30 a.m. in most hotels. When a guest calls for an item, rather than leave the desk with a sign that says, “back in five minutes”, the service robot is sent to the guest. This is a major safety feature as leaving the lobby empty is a bad idea.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Unions believe we are eliminating jobs with robotics but this is not the case — we are merely providing an additional guest service and adding safety and security. The robot is able to determine if there are problems on the guest floors, if the wi-fi is out and can capture photos of activities. They quickly deliver items to a guest room and will eventually be able to do more and more. Those activities, such as serving as a personal butler for guests, can be game changers if deployed to competitive advantage.
As you know, COVID19 changed the world as we know it. Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers will prefer to travel?
- Sanitation and Cleanliness Standards. Hotel employees and guests must participate in a complete upgrade of sanitation and cleanliness. Each brand has added a different touch, but there are now two levels of room cleaning — the second level being a supervisor who provides the extra sanitation of each room. These protocols are here to stay and guests are willing to play their part by washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and distancing.
- Use of Outdoor Spaces. Meetings, dining and recreational activities have all shifted outdoors. Even as the weather turns, it seems guests prefer to spend time outdoors where the virus is less likely to be contracted. Further, the simple pleasures of hiking and biking, visiting state parks and traveling closer to home are able to satisfy the pent-up demand to get away.
- Meetings, Restaurants and Hotel Technology. Contactless food and beverage is paramount to restaurant success today. No menus, no checks that require contact, just a simple QR code and a knowledgeable server to review specials and answer questions are all that is needed. All meetings must also be designed to be properly distanced either with diagramming software or by carefully measuring out tables and chairs. Automated check-in via smart phone is preferred by guests — no contact with employees.
- Value Consumers are here to stay. We have seen the re-birth of the value traveler in this new normal. Value travelers want booking platforms that provide transparency about cancellation and refund policies, trip insurance options and lift and re-book options in the event the destination has new travel restrictions. They love safe activities added at little or no charge and shop both price and overall value. They are looking for quality as well as a low price.
- A New Type of Hospitality. Savvy hoteliers need to find creative ways to repurpose these now underused spaces. Hoteliers are looking to get extra revenue from guests who want month-to-month apartment-like units. Since hotels are set up with high-speed internet and a work-friendly desk, they have also made a fairly easy transition to co-working spaces and business offices. Many guests are remote workers who are looking for a tech-package that suits their remote working needs.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
I like flawless service, like at check-in, the desk staff has either pre-registered me so I can go to my room and use my phone as a key or has my envelope and does not fiddle like airline agents looking for my reservation. I like a spotlessly clean room, a mattress without blood stains (bed bug sign) and bathroom amenities that are as good or better than what I chose not to bring on my trip. I like a bar with a good glass of wine or craft beer and good, basic bar food reasonably priced. I like a gym and a pool and I am then a happy camper.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I have hired, mentored and trained many employees and also have been teaching at the college level for over 30 years. Education and training are where I excel, even though I have a passion for writing, marketing and finance.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would start an e-learning organization based on my online teaching skills and vast knowledge of hospitality, entrepreneurship and training. I would encourage every single hotel employee to get trained professionally and would have a significant amount of any profits returned to scholarships to support those entering our noble profession.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!