Langham Hotel Banquet Services A WIL Report – Executive summary
WIL is a learning process that requires students to integrate their class work or theoretical learning to field work practical applications. In WIL, students are required to take responsibilities in their respective areas of study to manage their learning process effectively, under the supervision of the respective departments. The banquet and service department is part of the tourism industry that involves interaction with guests most of who are regular guests holding meetings or other functions in the Hotel. In the tourism industry, service delivery is of utmost importance as a value addition service in the operations of the hotel. Langham Hotel International is one of the leading hotels in Melbourne with a well-established banquet and service department, which mostly takes care of the regular guests in meetings and other functions.
Communication might be interdepartmental; in this case between the sales department and the banquet and service department, or between the employee and the guests in service delivery. Many 5 star hotels such as Ritz Carlton and Intercontinental Hotel Group have elaborate strategies put in place to ensure effective and quality communication among all the concerned parties. One to one communication and the use of extensive database in communication among the leading hotels has proved to be effective in offering effective service delivery to guests. In Langham Hotel, communication strategies are not well enhanced, having some weakness that would need to be enhanced to ensure effectiveness and competitiveness in the hotel industry. The over-reliance on networks in all operations has proved to be counterproductive in hotels with the need for a one on one communication and the use of database reserved for information relaying and management purposes.
Work integrated Learning refers to the university’s program that enables students to integrate their learning process with on hand practical applications in their respective fields. WIL is meant to introduce students to the practical world in the field where they are required to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in class work, to the life practical applications in a professional way. In the tourism industry, WIL is carried out in hotels and other organizations that are related to the tourism industry. More important, WIL in tourism offers students a golden chance to learn not only practical skills, but also interacting with a wide range of guests in the global market. WIL in tourism sector is therefore more than a learning experience that is modeled within ones area of study, but a professional based learning that enhances interaction and communication skills between the students and guests having a rich cultural mix. The professional development involved in the process is based on a rich program designed by the university and other professionals in the industry, making it an ideal introduction to the professional world in the hospitality industry.
2.0 Summary of WIL
The WIL was attended in Langham Hotels International Limited in Melbourne, in the department of Banquet and Catering. Banquet and catering contribute the major income in food and beverage in Langham Hotel Melbourne (Langham Hotels International Limited, 2011), and this explains the importance of this department in the hotel. The success of the banquet department largely depends on the skills in marketing and communication, which enables the department to meet the goals of the hotel (Chang & Liu, 2007). The complexity of the catering department requires that the hotel has to have experienced and skilled employees who can professionally handle services in food and beverage, enhance an entertaining environment to the guests, ensure high quality interaction with the guests and offer personalized services to enhance satisfaction and quality service to guests.
In the Langham International Hotel, the structure of service delivery is designed in such a way that the banquet and service department has to enhance interaction with the rest of the departments. Though each department has its own goals and objectives, the overall mission and vision are directly linked to the vision of the Hotel at Large. Langham Hotel Melbourne aims at establishing an enduring and profitable business that would benefit all the stakeholders and the hotel at large. The hotel has a mission of anticipating the need of guests and delight guests with world class services.
The sales and marketing department is responsible for welcoming and showing guests around the hotel for site inspection. This involves inspecting rooms with the clients for the client to asses the suitability of the room for the function. After this, the banquet department takes over from the sales department, in running and ensuring that the function is successful. This department is involved with setting up the rooms and preparation of foods and beverages that would be taken by the participants. Working together with some staging companies such as Staging Connections, the banquet department ensures that the guests have a successful event. Staging Connections is a company outsourced by Langham Hotel to ensure that events in the hotel have been well coordinated through staging, technical, styling, design and webcasting of the event. Generally, through interaction with other departments, the main role of the department was offering high quality services and ensuring that guests hold successful events within the organization.
Bowdens, Orrell & Cooper (2010) argue that work integrated learning might be either concurrent or block. In the fomer, students are supposed to attend both the university and the workplace at the same time. This system enables the university to better manage the students’ development in work integrated learning. For example students might be required to be in the workplace 2 -3 days per week and spend the rest in the university. This is the best learning method, since it would facilitate proper management of the learning process in the university. The block work integrated period that was attended involved students participating in the work learning experience for a semester or so continuously. Judging from the two learning processes, the concurrent type of integrated work learning might be more effective and would be recommended for future Integrated work learning programs. This mode of learning would enhance more integration of the learning process with the classwork.
In the work integrated learning, a few weaknesses were noted in Langham International Hotel that might have a challenge in its competitiveness in the hotel industry. Below is an intensive analysis of the weaknesses and areas of improvement in the hotel.
3.0 Reviewing the Operation Process at Langham Hotel
3.1 Communication strategies
Ktoridou, Papadamou & Vrontis (2008) stress the ultimate value of communication in the hospitality industries such as hotels. Communication is a versatile tool that establishes the link between the guests and the Hotel in the hotel industry as well as other customers. In a communication platform, the relayed information has to be effective , timely and to the right department for action taking in the shortest time possible. In the highly competitive market as Sigala, Mich & Murphy (2010) elaborate, communication has the niche to achieve a competitive advantage in the global market. The communication process in Langham Hotel in Melbourne, has some weaknesses that makes it to perform below the benchmark levels in the global market. In the competitive hotel industry, customer focus and value creation in service delivery are always to be the central focus in operations of any hotel. This would ensure that customers are served within the least time possible and to the best quality in service delivery.
Ritz Carlton Hotel one of the leading five star hotels is an example of a hotel with benchmarks in communication within the hotel industry. The communication process in Ritz-Carlton is called the ‘line up’, a concept that was derived from the early restaurants of France, where the chief chef used to get the other employees on around table in readiness of learning skills in communication process (Flamholtz & Randle, 2010). Effective communication is the face of the Hotel and the communication channels are routes of value delivery in the hotel to customers. The Ritz Carlton culture recognizes the need for personalized communication with the guests rather than over reliance on internet services. According to Flamholtz & Randle (2010), a culture in leading hotels such as Ritz-Carlton that specializes in communication skills is very essential as the face of the hotel. Employees are reminded about the mission and objectives of the hotel and required to operate to attain these goals, with the customer as the center of all operations in the hotel. Person- to –person communication is very essential in offering personalized services.
Personal values and talents are very essential in service delivery in Hotels. Therefore, in person-to person communication the values of the hotel are well disseminated through personalized service delivery, which is not only faster but shows the regard in which guests are appreciated (Flamholtz & Randle (2010). The value proposition in Ritz Carlton, one of the leading hotels is to ensure that guests leaves well satisfied and dreams to come again due to the special services that they are accorded. Integrity and loyalty to customers is the key that has to make Langham Hotel International to adopt the more personalized employee-to guest service instead of over reliance on networks, that in some cases do not add value to customers (Lucas, 2005).
In banquet services, the customer needs to have a clear picture of the service delivery to expect from the planning to conclusion of such functions. Through internet communication, such a customer cannot realize the value proposition in the company. This is only realized practically on one to one communication between the guests and the banquet department. According to Decosinis (2003), employees have to be trained on the culture of holding guests in a high regard and this involves anticipating and meeting the needs of the guests fasthard, before they request for such services. In short, value proposition in Ritz-Carlton as Decosinis elaborates much rests in small details that are usually ignored in the corporate world. Meeting with guests one to one might be one of the simple things that Langham Hotel has been ignoring and that can add more value to its operations.
Hotel Intercontinental from the Intercontinental hotel group is another five star hotel , with a high value and regard for communication between the guests and the employees in service delivery. A survey of more than 300,000 frequent travelers ranked the hotel as the Best Member Communication in America and best Member communication in Asia; in 2004 (Pasiuk, 2005). Communication in hotels is therefore offered a high priority in five star hotels, due to the value that communication has to such hotels. The communication routes in hotels have a large bearing to the satisfaction of employees in the hotel. Personalized services in intercontinental hotel led many guests to rate the hotel as the best in communication strategies and personalized services. Decosinis (2003) further argues that through effective communication, the hotel has been able to cultivate a culture focused on the needs of guests that enable them to serve guests in a more informed manner. One to one communication assists in valuation of the guests and anticipating possible requirements that guests might require even without paying for them. This is value addition process that enables guests to develop loyalty to such a hotel.
The weakness of over relying on internet connections to interact between marketing and service department make Langham netcentric, and kills the idea behind a hospitality industry where service delivery involves one to one contact between the guests and the service employees. Though networks are required in booking, keeping records, and other important functions that require use of a database (Lucas, 2005), computers do not enhance personalized communication that is much required in the hospitality industry. Wienclaw (2008) further stresses that computers are incapable of enabling people to interact, develop a close rapport necessary in service delivery, effective coordination of tasks. This creates a barrier between developing a rapport between the guests and the employee, which should otherwise be capitalized in creating value through service delivery. In addition, developing a rapport between the guests and the employees over computers as Wienclaw (2008) argues, kills the team work approach between employees that can only be attained through employee to employee communication.
Decosinis (2003) explains that in Ritz-carlton Hotel, there are regular round tables or meetings between the management and the employees, that not only encourage the employees to learn the operational culture of the Hotel, but to communicate with one another. This communication enhances a unified approach towards the objectives and goals of the Hotel, and explains the success of the Hotel in the global market today. This is further cemented by Pasiuk (2005) who argues on the importance of communication at all levels, in Intercontinental Hotel Group, which were rated as the best hotels in Asia and America in communication in 2004. Communication fosters learning, making employees to improve their professional skills in service deliverly to the advantage of the Hotel. Therefore, communication in Langham International Hotel Melbourne has to be improved, both inter departmental and guests- employee communication.
3.2 Departmental Organization in Langham Hotel
Rumambi & Djati (2007) argue that hotel industry involves intensive interaction between the customer and the employee. A hotel that performs in perfect manner will have any mistake on the process costing the hotel heavily in terms of customers, and lowers value of the brand name in the mind of customer. This calls for better services to customers as well as ensuring that customers obtain services fast and in the least time possible when needed. Langham Hotel has a weakness in this aspect in their departmental organization. The banquet department closely interacts with guests during service delivery, but it is the sales and marketing department that is involved in planning and handling all the requests from guests. This is formation of bureaucracy in the line of operation that not only increases the time of service delivery, but also makes the whole system cumbersome and unattractive to guests.
Pasiuk (2005) stresses on the importance of managers to enhance service delivery in the shortest time and in the most effective and efficient way possible. Decosinis (2003) explains that one aspect that has led to the success of Ritz Carlton Hotel is giving each worker the environment they need to do the job and the freedom required to do the job. According to Decosinis, all employees in Ritz Carlton are proud to have the feeling of ownership and purpose and this leads to superior standards of performance where each employee utilities their best skills and talents to make their areas a success. The banquet and service department in Langham Hotel lacks this freedom and a sense of ownership in performing their duties. The sales and marketing department seems to take more of the bargain by centralizing all the records in their departments, while the banquet and service department is responsible for close contact with customers. This creates a disjoint between the guests and the banquet department as all records have to be retrieved from the sales and marketing department. As Decosinis (2003) argues, operation exellence in these departments can only be achieved when there is the freedom to operate in the banquet department, which will moreover save the time required in retrieving the records from the sales department.
4.0 Recommendations for Langham Hotel
One of the recommendations that is required to be implemented at Langham is the installation of advanced database both in the sales and marketing and banquet and service departments that will enable the departments to effectively manage operations during and after functions. Though being net tricic may not solve the service delivery problem, it is required in managing operations in the hotel. The Hotel would be required to design an effective database that links the banquet department to sales department and other departments as well as to the management. A well designed website operates as the heart in online marketing, focusing on all marketing communications and the single most tool required in coordination in an industry (Ktoridou, Papadamou & Vrontis, 2008). Guests can use the website designed to make bookings in addition to enhancing an inter departmental interaction and coordination. The website will reduce centralization of records from the sales and marketing department and make them accessible in real time by all departments, including the banquet department.
Through a marketing oriented website, the Hotel will not only enhance communication, but will also attract and engage guests and other site visitors (Ktoridou, Papadamou & Vrontis, 2008). Such a well planned database will enhance usability by all stakeholders. It has to be designed in such a way that it has to answer the questions of other departments and guests, provide value in terms of time, be secure and easy to access and integrate all the required needs in terms of guests booking, preparations and services required from the banquet department. The broad and extensive operations by the management require a system that would allow proper, reliable and effective implementation of the above policies as well as enhancing a strategic communication and response route from other departments. This would call for the abolition of the traditional management systems, replacing them with a new system that supports the operational excellence culture in the hotel (Heneman, 2002). A well designed database will ensure that this management objective has been met for smooth operations in the hotel. Hotel Intercontinental has capitalized on well designed database to enhance its operations in the entire Hotel (Pasiuk, 2005).
The aspect of enhancing one to one communication would be another area worth improving. Hilton Group (2007) explains the importance and the need to centralize all operations around the guests and ensure that they are recognized and adequately catered for, as one of the winning strategies in the hotel. Hilton in addition has several designed programs that are suited to the needs of the customers; an example of this being the Hilton Meetings program which would fit perfectly in the banquet department of Langham Hotel. In addition, the Customer Really Matters program in Hilton Hotel makes communication with the guests of utmost importance. These are some of the programs that would be required in Langham Hotel, to enhance its service delivery. This will improve its competitiveness in the market.
4.1 Cost of Implementing Recommendations
Installation of a complete database system that would enhance effective management of the above functions might be prohibitive, but will be advantageous on the long run. According to five star Systems, a full version of a five star hotel will include groups management, guest preferences, travel agents, field management, package plans, market source analysis and report generators. Such a system will be comprehensive and will integrate operations in all departments in the hotel the cost might be as follows:
Estimated cost of implementing system upgrade
|Acquiring the software||100,000|
|Acquiring necessary accessories||30,000|
|Switch over to the new system||5,000|
|Total cost +10%||170, 500|
4.2 Cost Benefit Analysis
Wober, Frew & Hitz (2002) argue that the cost-benefit analysis in technology involves determining the opportunity cost of implementing the technology compared to use of conventional ways of operations. The cost required to purchase a database or software that would facilitate data management and communication might be comparatively high on the initial investment. However, comparing this to the time required to enter data and locate data from the centralized records in sales and marketing department, staff allocation in sorting records, possible errors in data entry and communication and taking documents to relevant departments, training and reorganization, installation of the system will be cheaper on the long term. There is a comparative advantage in implementing such a system to enhance customer satisfaction and efficient service delivery in the hotel. This would offer the hotel a competitive edge in the market today. Improving communication would not require any added cost, but will only require time where the employees in the sales and marketing and banquet department meet to organize and chart the way forward. All events management will be handled by the software.
4.3 Time plan
|1st month||2nd Month||3rd month||4th month||5th month||6th month||7th month|
|Acquiring the system and software & accessories|
|Trail period & training|
|Deactivating old systems|
Work integrated Learning is a process through which students integrate their learning process with practical field applications. It is a process through which students are introduced to the practical world. The WIL in Langham International Hotel Melbourne was very successful and enhanced the learning process in banquet and services delivery in the tourism industry. From this learning process, it was possible to make several recommendations, which if implemented would improve service delivery in the hotel. These include enhancing one to one communication and enhancing a database integration that would improve service delivery in banquet services, marketing and sales departments and the entire hotel departments. This would ensure that the hotel retains its competitiveness in the market.
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