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The Caterer

A time now for clear planning

17 April 2008
A time now for clear planning

Hospitality operators must not be tempted to cut corners, despite increasing pressure on the bottom line, warns Master Innholder Ramón Pajares, former general manager, Four Seasons

Falling consumer spend the rising costs of food and fuel difficulties in borrowing money - all worries facing hospitality operators, and there are a number of measures businesses need to put in place to protect themselves.

There is one thing, however, that we must not do. In these situations, we must not be tempted to cut corners but, rather, the reverse. Customers are more likely than ever to notice any reduction in the standard of services and quality of product. They are seeking better value for their money.

The principle we should always apply is: "If I notice it, the customer will notice it too."

I experienced two deep recessions during my working life with Four Seasons. What was extraordinary was to witness how everyone drew closer together and shared whatever work there was. Some days that would mean working for 12 hours or more on other days, there would be only four hours' worth of work, but they would do whatever was required of them on the day.

It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my professional life. We came out of both recessions stronger, better at our jobs and with a deeper understanding of the principle that, although the aim of any business is to make a profit, the way in which profits are achieved is as important to the future prosperity of the business as the profit itself.

Our industry is particularly vulnerable to anything that affects our consumers - for example, a decline in economic activity and increased costs. It will also have an effect on our employees, who will have to cope with their own extra expenses, mortgages and costs of travelling to work. To manage all this requires excellent leadership, managing the situation by example.

I do not believe that the situation will be as severe as the two recessions that I mentioned above. However, we need to have a plan, a strategy which has been discussed, formulated and agreed upon by the team. The action should be in keeping with different stages of business volume.

Like all change, this needs to be very well communicated and it must be ensured that everyone has understood and agreed.

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