SaveMoneyCutCarbon talks to founder Austen Bushrod about the idea behind Hotel Cost Clinic and the multiple ways they guarantee cost savings for independent hoteliers
What is Hotel Cost Clinic?
We are a group of experts in hotel services, everything from food and beverage, non-food, revenue techniques, marketing techniques and the rest. It’s about independent hotels being able to get access to experts for bite-size chunks of focused advice via video conference calls.
And it’s obviously very current because of the COVID-19 and Brexit pressures. Independent hoteliers are having to review their costs. At the moment, the industry is truthfully like a rabbit in the headlights – nobody knows what’s coming with regard to different Covid rules, which change from week to week. But what they can all be assured of is that they all need to keep their costs tight and manage their bottom line.
So I would say that 80 to 90 per cent of all the Treatments we serve at the clinic are based around cost-savings and 10-20 per cent on guidance, advice and management support.
What’s the concept?
The whole concept is founded on the principle similar to a chiropractor. You know, people go to a chiropractor because they’ve got a problem and need help. They know where the problem is and they know where exactly the pain is pinpointed so they ask an expert to sort it out, address the symptoms and work with them to cure the problem.
I figured that on the same principle you could provide hoteliers, who know where the problem is, with expert help that is focused on that area, rather than listening to a consultant go on for hours about everything they know – at £1,000 a day. It’s about getting straight down to the specific treatment.
We have over 50 Treatments on the system delivered by different experts in their fields, varying from laundry management to how you should optimise your bar layout, or how you improve your local marketing initiatives, and more. All those little elements can be effectively accessed by the customer for a low cost – from £59 to £129 including VAT – from a business perspective, it’s not that painful.
So hoteliers can talk to experts and get the answers to their problems straightaway as opposed to faffing around without resolving much. For instance, if I am a hotelier and I suspect that I’ve got quality problems in my housekeeping performance, I can go online and choose from a range of Treatments dedicated to Housekeeping and Cleaning. Very quickly I can talk through my challenges and learn all the tricks from a true expert in that area.
One of our experts, Tom McDermott was the Director of Operational Effectiveness for Hilton working across the whole of the EMEA region. His knowledge and experience means that within the space of an hour he can easily share with a hotelier the top five things they should consider to improve the efficiency of, for example, housekeeping. Of course, as housekeeping is a big (labour intensive) expense, there are significant cost-savings to be achieved.
How does it work?
Access is online and very simple. Hoteliers go to www.hotelcostclinic.com and sign up for free, which creates a personal portfolio for them to keep track of their support activity. They can then access the Treatments page with all the 50+ categories – Cost Health-check, Energy Purchasing, Laundry Management, Beer, Coffee etc. There are directories of Treatment areas as well as a powerful search tool that allows you to type in key words to (e.g. “beer”) to find the help you need.
Our Clinic members can then book a Treatment right then or read more about it and the expert offering the service. The booking system allows them to choose an available slot to suit their own schedule. It’s that easy!
When they book, we send confirmation by email and a link for a Zoom or Teams video call. They also receive a Pre-Treatment Questionnaire. This is a brief, focused list of around 10 questions specific to the treatment topic. This means that our experts can identify the areas where they can best provide effective advice, are primed, aware of the issues and ready to hit the ground running on the Video call. And remember the experts have worked with hundreds and hundreds of hotels of different shapes and sizes and brands, so they have all the knowledge and expertise to enable them to identify the opportunities for direct savings and more effective management.
How can you guarantee savings?
If I said to you that a consultant would come and give you advice – and charge you £1,000 a day – and we would guarantee at least £1,000 in savings, then you would probably turn round and say, “Really?” If you are a small hotel with 15-20 rooms, that’s going to be hard to believe. But, on the other hand, if I say, that we will give you the best advice in the areas you are looking at, and the fee is, say around £100, then I can definitely guarantee that you will make at least those savings, and usually much, much more. There is no way that an expert, who has spent years and years focused on that specific category cannot find those savings in that particular area.
Take laundry for example. I was the author of the global best-practice document on laundry for Accor Hotels, which meant heading up a global team of team of laundry experts on a six-month project looking at best practices across 3,600 hotels. As you can imagine, you learn a few things! There’s no way that I can walk into a hotel and fail to save them money on their laundry services. I do believe that this type of expertise should be open to all hotels though – not just big groups like Accor who can invest in these initiatives.
I’m confident that we can save money for our clients but we’re prepared to refund fees if we cannot do so. So far, we’ve not had to do that! With the levels of expertise we have at our disposal it’s truly not that hard to find the savings that at the very least cover the costs.
What is your focus on COVID and Brexit?
Right now, I believe hotels need to be told that they’re generally doing the right things. The impacts felt this year on the industry are totally out of our control. Everybody is struggling with occupancy and Christmas is not going to bring the revenues we would have hoped for.
If you are operating your hotel, a small family hotel say, normally you’d have a stream of guests and they would be providing the feedback – telling you that you are doing a great job. If suddenly you are plunged into below 10% occupancy by the pandemic, it’s not necessarily anything you are doing wrong, the whole market has just shrunk.
It’s in these times of doubt that talking to an expert can provide you with the feedback and confidence to go on. Sometimes people need to be told that they are managing things right and that they need to keep faith because it won’t last forever.
We’ve just launched a new Treatment called “Survive until Spring” and for some hotels out there, that is the key challenge. Amongst the full range of categories that we can support a hotel with, it has been important to create some Treatments that address the difficult current needs and challenges and now have a range of Treatments focused on COVID-19.
We are also launching a Treatment on Brexit food prices because it’s going to have an impact, and people will be better off being prepared for it, rather than just waiting for it to happen. When you are open for business and then get hit by a disruptor like Brexit, you can be faced by further availability issues of products coming from Europe, already affected by COVID.
Really, Brexit is only 10 per cent of the current challenge, COVID 90 per cent, but Brexit could drive prices up, especially on fresh food.
What is your advice on carbon savings?
We also focus on savings outside of the typical, in the same way that SaveMoneyCutCarbon provides expert advice and solutions to reduce energy and water costs, while cutting carbon emissions.
We can provide expert advice on how independent hoteliers can reduce their carbon footprint and reduce waste across virtually every category of spend. This can be as diverse as pack size reviews to avoid food waste or laundry rotation techniques to optimise deliveries.
There are initiatives that can be applied in every category which produce some kind of environmental, sustainable improvement, that also reduces costs.