Hospitality is a tough business in which to be. Rising costs, punitive tax regimes, a diminishing labour pool and a plethora of competitors can seem a huge headache for hoteliers and restaurateurs.
Happily there are people out there who can be brought in to take an independent look at the business and bring fresh, positive ideas to turn today’s challenges into tomorrow’s opportunities.
Here are ten quick-fire tips for choosing the right hospitality consultants.
- Experience. You need consultants who have a track record of delivering the results you seek. The best professionals working across, for example, IT, recruitment, training, business improvement, marketing and PR will have done so for years. That counts for an awful lot.
- Accessibility. This may sound obvious, but if the people you are evaluating don’t return your calls, ignore emails or just appear invisible, don’t bother. Approach someone who wants your business.
- Empathy. Look for signs that your prospective hospitality consultants really understand your business and have been in your shoes.
- Chemistry. The people-fit has to be right and you need to be sure that you’ll be comfortable working with the individual(s). Try before you buy via a free initial consultation, if that’s offered.
- Size matters. There are hundreds of hospitality consultancies out there, so you don’t need to engage the first firm you find. Take your time and seek an outfit which suits you, size-wise. Huge consultancies may not be right for smaller independent hospitality businesses, for example.
- Approach. Your business is different to your competitors’, so don’t accept an off-the-shelf approach to consultancy. What worked for the consultancy’s last customer may not work for you, so look for a truly consultative approach in their work. The clue is in the name, after all.
- Rates. Obviously you should expect to pay a fee for the consultants’ work, but it should be fair, transparent and agreed beforehand. Big fees don’t always equal big results, so once you have been quoted, talk to some previous customers and ask them how beneficial the consultants were. And remember, value is the key, not just a low fee.
- Diversity. Look for a firm which covers a broad range of strategic niches, with specialists in those areas. It sounds obvious, but a firm leaning towards, say, IT won’t be great at spotting opportunities for improving your marketing or removing bottlenecks in your F&B operations.
- Lateral thinking. Find a consultancy firm which will consider the broader picture of your business, rather than going head-first into the obvious (you can do that yourself) or rattling off text book answers. You’ll want to see evidence that they can research and review your specific issues before suggesting new pathways.
- Knowledge. We started this list with experience, which is about the past and certainly no bad thing. However, knowledge is about current and future best practices, techniques, technology and methodologies. You’ll be paying for new knowledge, so walk away from any consultancy firm which appears to re-package old thinking.
Your business is unique, as are its operating environment and challenges. There are plenty of hospitality consultants for you to choose from, and they come in many shapes and sizes. Use the above tips to ensure you choose a partner who will genuinely dovetail with your needs, culture and ethos, while becoming a life-long critical friend of the business.