NEW PROPERTY COUNTDOWN
The pre-opening calendar for any property starts two to three years ahead, but it’s unrealistic to suppose that every executive housekeeper can be hired far enough in advance to take part in the original planning with top, management and the architects. However, in some cases, it is possible to plan ahead who your housekeeper will be and consult him or her in advance about the entire housekeeping operation.
If the actual person has not been selected, then it is most important that a housekeeping consultant be hired to help with the initial planning of the department to settle such matters as where the department will be; is it logically located with respect to traffic flow; is there enough room for the many maids and housemen to check in and out at the beginning and end of their shifts? Where will the electronic room status board be? Is the linen room located near enough to the loading dock if the laundry is to be done outside? Is there a sufficient storage area? These are just a few of the questions to which most architects do not devote sufficient research.
Just as a kitchen plan is based on a menu, so the services which you intend to give guests, patients, or residents must be anticipated and accommodated in the building plan. Top management must arrive at a number of decisions before being able to direct the architects and planners intelligently. For example, using no-iron sheets could change the entire design of a laundry or of the “back” spaces in guest corridors. Also, if you plan to provide extra rolling beds, hair-dryers, and cribs, these will require considerable storage space.-
When the time comes for the conferences with the interior designers regarding furnishings—particularly the fabrics—it is essential that a housekeeping consultant is in on discussions.
Make very sure that the interior designer’s contract clearly spells out who will do the installation of draperies, the unpacking and placing of furniture, and that some provision has been made for storage of furnishings before installation. Another responsibility of the interior designer is to make up a complete list of furnishings for each room, or type of room, along with colour schemes, so that the housekeeping department can be relieved of making this very time-consuming inventory.
Interviewing for the permanent executive housekeeper should begin approximately one year in advance of opening. By eight months before opening day, the housekeeper should be fully involved in the operation. Six months before CC-Day, he or she should report to the area of the new property.
In order to help housekeeping do first things first and attend to planning in the proper order, there is a count-down chart accompanying this article. It includes activities from eight months to Opening Day.
A large chart of this sort should be set up in Housekeeping’s temporary headquarters, with some sort of system to check on the progress being made. For example, put red tacks next to an item that hasn’t been done yet, green if it is underway, and remove tacks when the job is done.
Some might find it easier to put the time in months, then weeks, then days, so that the chart runs horizontally rather than vertically as shown here. In any case, there should be some sort of master list, “lest you forget”; no one can possibly keep track of all the many things that must be thought of simultaneously prior to opening.
Further explanation is needed on the items with footnotes listed in the chart. The following will help to clarify terminology and detail the complex activities:
1. Discuss bath linens. Because many thousands of towels are involved, and many more thousands of dollars, it is wise to have top management decide the following about bath linen: quality (thickness), size,colour, whether name-woven or plain, and whether or not disposable washcloths are advisable.
2. Discuss cleaning equipment. Another large investment is in the heavy-duty floor machines, so plan to have top management actually in on the demonstrations of these machines.
The American Hotel and Motel Association does an excellent job of disseminating information about new maintenance products, and top management may have gleaned some valuable information about cleaning equipment through bulletins or seminars, and may want to compare performance of equipment.
3. Punch list. Before an institution’s owners or operators can accept the building from the contractors, a “punch list” must be prepared and checked off for all areas. This is a list of items that must be inspected to ascertain that the contractors have carried out their responsibilities. It is up to the executive housekeeper to prepare such a list for his or her department—linen rooms (headquarters and on floors), sewing room, costume control, offices, uniform storage area, etc.
The guest room punch list is usually prepared the rooms division, together with the engineering department and top management. But it is still important that housekeeping go over that list to make sure that nothing has been overlooked. Whatever is not working properly will have to be repaired by engineering or housekeeping if it is not found on the final punch list inspection.
4.Guest room supplies. These individual items may seem trivial at a point three months before opening when perhaps major construction still is not completed, or an electricians’ strike is on, but despite giant obstacles, management must take time to decide just how many “goodies” are to be included in the guest rooms and baths. Since large supplies of these items will have to be ordered, and many of them will be custom-made or monogrammed, it is essential to start researching early enough to enable your department to shop wisely for them and try to save a few pennies on each, for in such large quantities, any savings will add up to many dollars.
Some of the supplies to decide on include: telephone pad, pen, guest directory, number and quality of ash trays, Bible, clock, phone book cover, utility bags- paper or plastic—stationery folder and contents, quality and quantity of hangers. In the bathroom, what type and color of toilet tissue and soap? What type of bath- mats? Is the bathtub coated with a non-skid surface or are tub mats required? What about mending kits? Shoe bags? Hooks and other hardware? Shower caps? Waste baskets?
5. Design forms to be printed. Some of the forms which should be set up ahead of time to be ready for the opening of the hotel include: attendance record, super. visor’s report of accidents, lost-and-found records, and security sheets used as AM and PM maids’ reports, inspect reports, housemen’s vacuuming instruction sheets, and supervisor’s check sheets.
Forms such as the employee warning report, the clearance slip and the separation notice are usually set up and provided by the personnel department.
6. Hire the clerk-typist. This versatile person is actually a combination of many things—she probably will, do the payroll, be in charge of the lost-and-found and may often act as a secretary to the executive housekeeper. In some cases it may be possible, or even necessary, to have her prior to two and a half months, but generally, at this early stage, the clerical help can be shared by several department heads.
7. Establish labor pars. After you have become thoroughly familiar with the local union regulations, if they apply in your area, you should set up:
the number of rooms that a maid is expected to do
the number of rooms and halls that a houseman will cover
the number of maids each inspectress will have
the number of floors for supervisors, etc:
8. Temporary clean-up supplies. The heavy-duty cleaning supplies which the temporary clean-up crew will use (after the construction work is completed) differ from the cleaning supplies which will be used every day after the property is open. These first cleansers are abrasive; the ammonia products will take color out; all the various chemicals are too strong for maids and housemen to use daily. If they did, there soon would be no finish left on plumbing fixtures or woodwork, and bleached spots would appear everywhere.
9. Review and revise standards. Radical changes of plans may have to be made due to delays in deliveries of equipment or furnishings. Or the entire organization of the housekeeping department may require revision, based on employee availability.
10. Check furnishings punch list. The rooms division is usually responsible for making up the rooms furnishings punch list, based on conferences with the interior design firm. The rooms department knows what items should be in the room and where they go. But the housekeeping department will want to be sure that the punch list is checked as soon as possible and that rooms are released for cleaning far enough in advance to enable clear up crews to work properly.
11. Interview employees. Most of the interviewing can be done during this week, one month prior to opening.
It was very satisfactory to handle interviewing as , the- Century Plaza did—all departments interviewed for long hours during the same week, The hotel was set up to handle the large influx of strangers. Applicants were first screened by the personnel department, then, as each department was interviewing, they could refer prospective employees to one another,
12. Prepare cart layout. The maids’ carts will have to carry many items and thus must be carefully arranged so that everything will rit. It will be necessary to set up diagrams for maids to follow when they load their carts (probably in the floor linen rooms). Also, it is helpful to have a diagram for maids to keep on their carts in case there is anything complicated adopt the way supplies are stored or displayed in the guests’ bathrooms. Almost every item listed in the Count-Down Chart is discussed in detail in preceding chapters.
To be present at the opening of a new hotel is an exciting and valuable experience and one should try to gain this opportunity if it possible. Before a company builds a hotel they conduct a market survey to ensure it is a viable project that will make money. Next the hotel is commissioned and designed. The builders usually work under a penalty clause. This means if the hotel’ is late they pay a fine, because naturally a hotel company will take bookings from the opening date. Most hotels however operate a phased opening, i.e., not all restaurants and floors of rooms open at the same time, but gradually.
At the finish of the builders work, the “builders clean” is carried out. This is sometimes done by the building company and sometimes by the hotel company in either case it is best if the hotel supervises this. Next the hotel is furnished. (This is done usually by the interior design company). A “turn key” job is when the builders undertake all the previously mentioned tasks until this point.
The Hotel Company meanwhile needs to recruit it’s staff and have them on site for training, they also need to get used to building and learn the rules of the company. (Generally hotels must expect a turnover of staff at an opening as it is very hard and rather rough work). Just prior to opening, hotels usually operate a countdown to opening system, i.e., goals are established and a meeting is held at the end of everyday to check and discuss progress and reschedules goals if necessary. The best system is not to open to the public directly but to have a trial-run using HoDs of the hotel, teachers in hotel-schools and such guests to test out the systems and service and get the staff introduced to the idea of guests. On opening day the atmosphere is generally very exciting. Usually the first guest or the party of guests to arrive is sent a bottle of champagne.
There is a great buildup of tension to opening day and the adrenaline is really running in all the staff. However then each departmental head must continue the motivation and boost the activity of the staff so that they do not relax after the build up but continue efforts. In a phased opening the official opening usually takes place when all the facilities are ready. For an artificial opening there is generally a banquet and some personality is invited to cut the ribbon on the doorway as an opening ceremony.
PROBLEMS THAT ONE CAN ENCOUNTER AT OPENING
Friction between builders, furnishers and the hotel staff. Continually the builders and furnishers return to rooms, to finish work and the hotel staff continually has to re clean after them. This is annoying but inevitable. Delays in building tend to put great pressure for the hotel staff that is naturally at the end of the flow of work. Unpacking of supplies, linens, etc. poses problems one must dispose of huge amounts of packing materials a relay system is needed for this. Deliveries, if late, are a great problem.
Printed materials need to have early delivery to get staff trained in their use. Removing maker’s stickers from glasses, trays, etc. One must get all the staff in uniform, but often to cope with the dirty pre-opening work one does not allow them to wear the uniform early as it will be too dirty. When staff are working in a building without guest, they become noisy and one must question them when guest arrive. On a phased opening with staff, guest and builder all still in the building, tensions and frictions occur. Often top complete the staff training and the pre-opening work leaves so little time that it is best to repeat the training again after opening. New staff does not have the speed developed so one has to pressurize them. Therefore it is better at an opening to employ a mixture of experienced and inexperienced staff. One must aim post-opening at a setting down of staff, systems and the atmosphere should calm somewhat.