Ultimate Hotel Operations Management Guide [+10 Free Checklists]

Updated on:
February 24, 2023
Published on:
February 24, 2023
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Hotel operations make up everything you and your team have to do to keep your hotel running. It’s no small feat, and it takes proper planning and coordination to make sure you have the processes in place to keep things not just running, but operating seamlessly. 

Every hotel is different, and operations management isn’t just one-size-fits-all. To keep everything at your property streamlined, it’s critical to plan for operations across your hotel based on the type of hotel you run and how your departments and teams are organized. 

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That’s why we’ve put together this hotel operations management guide: to help you maintain efficiency and anticipate operational needs for your hotel, no matter what kind of hotel you run. To continue your learning, check out our comprehensive Hotel Maintenance Management Guide

What is Hotel Operations Management?

Hotel operations encompass the core activities necessary to keep a hotel functional. This can include everything from housekeeping, laundry, room service, front desk tasks, security and more. Hotel operations management can span a wide variety of tasks and types such as: organizational structure, hiring and training staff, task management, facilities upkeep, guest experience, technology systems, and more. 

Operations Management Across Hotel Types 

Operations management needs also vary across hotel types. A large hotel belonging to a brand chain typically has different operational needs than a small independent or boutique hotel. This doesn’t mean less operations management tasks though, it just means that the operational needs at each property differ. Use a hotel business plan template for guidance on what kind of hotel would be feasible to open and generate the most profit.

Comparing Hotel Operations by Property Type
Comparing Hotel Operations by Property Type

Chain Hotel vs Independent Hotel

Many chain hotels feature large properties with hundreds of rooms or even property portfolios with multiple hotels in one area, each with hundreds of rooms to keep track of. While chain hotels typically do not offer specialty services such as spa treatments, valet parking, or fine dining, they do face challenges relating to the sheer magnitude of the operation. Because of the size of chain hotels, they often require a large staff to operate smoothly, and the larger the staff, the increased need for repeatable brand standards. 

The operational needs of a chain property include: 

  • managing maintenance across all those rooms, facilities, and common spaces 
  • training and management of staff including housekeepers, technicians, team leads desk attendants, and more
  • task management and work order tracking for guest requests, routine maintenance, risk prevention, and more 
  • asset tracking for guest room and facility assets 
  • process oversight and training
  • setting up and supervising standard operating procedures
  • documenting, logging, and tracking brand compliance needs 

And that’s really just a few of the things on a large hotel’s plate when it comes to operations management. When it comes to independent properties, operations management needs might be less of a pull, but these hotels still have similar management needs. Oftentimes these needs are simply scaled down due to the difference in property size.

Independent Hotels Have More Freedom, but Less Resources, to Craft a Guest Experience

An independent property likely only has one location and generally has fewer rooms than a hotel that’s part of a large chain or known brand. Many independent properties feature a smaller team running the property too, with the manager of the hotel often taking on the duties of several roles to keep operational costs down. Because of this, independent hotels tend to prioritize task and asset tracking highly when it comes to operations management.

Boutique Hotel Operations Management

A small hotel really refers only to the size of the property: generally less than 200 rooms. Small hotels are typically independently owned and feature a much smaller staff than its larger counterparts. Small Hotel Operations Management can span roadside motels all the way to luxury boutiques with the difference coming in the property cost, amenities and service.

Boutique Hotel Reputation Resides in a Well Crafted Unique Selling Proposition (USP)

Boutique hotels and small hotels can be similar in size and general management needs at surface level, but what makes a boutique hotel different is their high value unique selling proposition, such as an attractive location or comprehensive service offering. This likely means that boutique hotel operations management needs to span additional areas of work, including food and beverage operations, spa services or specialized guest facilities or attractions. It is in mastering this unique selling proposition that a boutique hotel thrives and builds a lasting brand image.

For example, a boutique hotel might offer a park or garden on site for guests to enjoy during their stay. This area would likely require regular landscaping, maintenance to any equipment or facilities within the garden such as tennis courts, public guest restrooms, benches, fountains, etc. The operations needs at a property like this might seem minimal at first because the property is smaller, but depending on amenities, management needs can greatly vary—that’s why resorts and destination hotels often still have high operations management needs too. 

Resorts Operations Management

Resort and destination properties often have many rooms or small rentals available in one location, campus, or resort destination. Beyond the operational needs of maintaining rooms or rentals, these hotel teams must keep up with dozens of facility assets such as: 

  • common-space entertainment items such as foosball tables, volleyball nets, tennis courts, etc. 
  • amenities such as pools and hot tubs, shared gym spaces, outdoor showers, fountains
  • public guest assets such as beach chairs, tents, umbrellas, etc. 
  • food and beverage facilities across the resort or destination campus 

Beach Resorts Require Consistent Inspections for Ocean Damage and Deterioration

In addition, these properties require additional maintenance simply because they’re near the ocean. The natural effects from salty sea air and ocean water can cause damage to certain assets and often require a higher capital expenditure budget to keep up with deteriorating facilities. Good operations teams can identify potential issues and raise the work order ticket to the maintenance team, all without disrupting their current task. Team communication and work order software can make this easy for staff while creating a record of requests, costs and resolution times.

Hostel Operations Management

Hostels are a unique operating challenge due to the increased number of residents and common areas. Hostels typically have private rooms as well as bunk rooms with 4 to 16 beds per room. The facilities such as bathrooms and lounge areas are shared by all residents. Hostels often offer breakfast and night activities for residents because they rely on the income from food and beverage purchases to increase the revenue per guest. Hostels also offer residents transportation and excursion planning assistance to get the most out of the local area.

Hostel Operations run on Lean Budgets, Low Average Nights per Guest and After Booking Upsells

With the large amount of people coming and going, often only for one or two nights, hostels have little time to make a lasting impression. Proper housekeeping operations are paramount in this effort and can be the difference between a thriving brand and a low rated cheap stay. This is important as many hostels operate in small chains with locations in major tourist hubs across a country or geography. By providing an ideal guest experience, the hostel has the opportunity to provide transportation, excursions, food and future housing in one of their sister properties.

Operations Management Across Departments and Teams

Just as operations management needs change based on hotel type, these requirements also vary based on department and team need. Different departments across your property have different communication styles. Each team may also contain staff members from vastly different backgrounds with varying education levels and varying motivational drivers for success. It’s important to look at all of these things when examining the operational needs from department to department and across teams at your property. 

Hotel Operations Elements
Hotel Operations Elements

💬 Communication Styles Differ Between Employees and Roles in a Hotel

Some teams may require more direct management styles and continued oversight, meaning these teams need an on-site manager or team lead to oversee tasks and goals in real time to keep everyone on track. However, other teams may be able to work more autonomously with the right SOPs and tools in place. Determining individual team and department managerial needs is the first step in understanding the broad operations management needs at your hotel beyond the general facility management needs of a property. 

Common Hotel Operations Management Challenges

A few common operational management challenges that come up at hotels often include things like miscommunication, lack of clear logs, data or reporting, unclear or unidentified standard operating procedures, and employee motivation or accountability issues. Decentralized communication systems and lack of procedural oversight are a couple of general causes for managerial challenges like these. 

👎🏽 Negative Reviews are Easier to Obtain and More Detrimental to Success than Ever Before

And unfortunately such issues can quickly lead to things that reflect poorly on your property, like inefficient quality control, inadequate risk prevention, failure to meet brand standards of compliance, and more. Letting a few small things slide is a slippery slope to negative reviews and public reputational damage that can seriously impact your property’s goals and your bottom line. That’s why it’s so crucial to identify operational management needs early. 

Core Elements of Hotel Operations Management

When you’re first understanding or re-examining the operations management needs of your hotel, it’s important to understand the team roles and responsibilities within each department across your property. Take a look at where your property is at right now with its operations management and note any areas for improvement so you can set clear goals for processes. You might even consider taking polls or conducting departmental interviews to get clearer insights into what’s working and what isn’t across your property. 

✂️ Segment Operations to Identify Root Processes Needed for Team, Department and Property Success

Break up the objectives and goals by department and show how each team contributes to the overall company mission. Continue breaking apart operations into different silos until you are left with the root processes that employees must do for the property to succeed. This is the first layer of standardization in which managers can implement SOPs, checklists and accountability protocols. From there, each managerial position will monitor team success, the directors will oversee department success, and ultimately the general manager guides the entire ship. Be disciplined and collect data to identify bottlenecks in the process. Refine and rework until you find the formula that works for your property and your team.

Hotel Organizational Structure

📱 Use Technology to Gather Data Necessary to Make Smart Decisions

Once you’ve started to gain a deeper understanding of your current management needs and/or existing operations oversights, you’ll be able to establish expectations for improvement and set up processes and protocols to reach departmental and organization-wide goals. From there, you can use tracking tools and logs to monitor progress and optimize over time. Utilizing a digital operations solution to align your team across departments and properties and increase visibility into organizational procedures, goals, and initiatives can help further solidify your management practices as well. 

Solutions like Xenia provide modern, customizable hotel operations management, instant digital communication tools, and comprehensive reporting and data tracking so you can get clear insights and set intentional goals for improvement. 

Importance of a Hotel General Manager

In the end the buck stops at the General Manager. Arguably the most difficult and important role in any property, a General Manager oversees everything from profit and loss to staff operations. Recruiting the right people, training and empowering the frontline staff is a tall task with multiple areas of necessary oversight. The role of a hotel general manager might differ slightly between property types at different hotels, but the core responsibilities tend to remain the same—a hotel general manager guides the adherence of rules, compliance, and performance standards at the hotel and is responsible for overseeing all operations across a property. 

🎩 A Successful General Manager is a Respected Leader who "Wears Many Hats"

At most properties, the General Manager is responsible for all levels of property oversight including new openings and renovations, sales and marketing initiatives, profits and financial goals, facilitating guest experience, overseeing department managers, and more. A hotel’s general manager is at the cornerstone of both front of house and back of house operations management, keeping everyone on the same page no matter how things are segmented at the property. 

Hotel Front of House Operations

Front of house operations at a hotel essentially refer to the guest-facing operations at the property. This includes things such as front desk tasks, concierge services, food and beverage operations, and hotel security work. Keeping front of house operations running smoothly is of chief importance in maintaining a property’s guest reputation since these services likely make up the first impression guests will have of your hotel. 

Hotel Front of the House Operations
Hotel Front of the House Operations

🖥️ Hotel Front Desk Operations

The front desk team is responsible not only for greeting guests and making sure they feel welcome, but also for: 

  • checking guests in and out of their rooms.
  • taking guest requests throughout their stay.
  • providing bell hop and valet services.
  • helping with bookings and cancellations.
  • providing local information and directions when necessary.
  • facilitating the reporting and tracking of lost and found items.

🛎️ Hotel Concierge Operations  

At some properties, especially larger or chain hotels, there might also be a concierge team as part of the front of house operations. In this case, the front desk team likely won’t be responsible for local recommendations, directions, or bell hop and valet services. Instead, the front desk team will direct guests to the concierge for these amenities. A good Hotel Concierge should be knowledgeable of the following:

  • Local restaurant recommendations
  • Local government laws and restrictions
  • Local attractions
  • How to schedule tours or excursions
  • Directions to local destinations
  • Guest package handling and delivery
  • Guest request handling

🍽️ Hotel Food and Beverage Operations

When it comes to food and beverage (F&B) operations at a hotel, management needs and responsibilities vary depending on the type of food and beverage services offered, but generally hotel F&B teams are responsible for:

Food and beverage operations come with additional pull to maintenance and facility management as well—you’ll need to ensure your F&B team has specialized technicians to service and perform regular maintenance on kitchen equipment. You’ll also need to ensure the team has staff dedicated to appropriately cleaning these facilities. 

🚨 Hotel Security Operations

Your hotel’s reputation doesn’t solely rely on the first impression it leaves for guests—it also relies on how you keep your hotel safe and secure for guests and staff. Your hotel’s safety and security department is responsible for ensuring guest safety, taking care of noise complaints and addressing security concerns, following brand standards and local ordinances around security compliance, and more. 

Hotel Back of the House Operations

The back of house operations at a hotel are the ones hotel teams typically want to go unnoticed by guests. These operations include housekeeping, laundry services, maintenance tasks, information technology processes, financial operations, and more. This is where departments often start becoming more segmented and harder to keep track of if you don’t have the right operations management plans in place. 

Hotel Back of the House Departments
Hotel Back of the House Departments

🛏️ Hotel Housekeeping Operations

Depending on the number of rooms and facilities at your property, hotel housekeeping is likely one of the largest operations within your hotel. Your housekeeping team is responsible for ensuring guestrooms, public facilities, and amenities are cleaned and inspected at your property. This includes reporting issues such as damaged linens and inspecting for signs of pests such as bed bugs. The housekeeping team not only conducts cleanings before and after guest stays, but performs turndown service during stays and manages guest requests such as delivering fresh towels, extra blankets, or additional toiletries. 

In a property with hundreds of rooms and multiple guest facilities, the housekeeping team generally has to be quite large to keep up. Tracking room cleanings, inspections, and more can become cumbersome for a fully staffed housekeeping department at a large property without the appropriate operational procedures in place. Digital task tracking tools, like Xenia, can automate the assignment, progress and completion of housekeeping tasks to ensure optimal staffing levels.

🧼 Hotel Laundry Operations

Hotel laundry operations, similar to housekeeping operations, make up a large part of hotel operations. 50% of the cost of internal laundry operations is related to labor. By streamlining labor processes, managers can save significantly while providing an improved guest experience. Laundry teams are charged with managing linens across the property, and this isn’t limited to guestroom linens. The hotel laundry team typically takes care of linens across facilities and F&B services too, meaning there’s a hefty amount of laundry that needs to be accounted for at your hotel every single day. 

This team has to ensure that linens are collected, cleaned and sanitized, dried and folded, categorized and returned to the appropriate location. They’ll also need to note the condition of linens to replace any worn textiles.

🧰 Hotel Engineering and Maintenance Operations

Hotel engineering and maintenance teams ensure that assets across your property are in proper safe and working order for guests and staff. This team also addresses work orders submitted by guests and takes care of groundskeeping and pool maintenance when necessary. Maintenance techs ensure that preventative maintenance procedures are adequately followed on a regular schedule so that property assets from guest rooms to workout facilities function appropriately. 

🌐 Hotel Information Technology Operations

Hotel information technology operations are often managed by an IT professional but can occasionally be rolled into your maintenance team’s responsibilities. IT teams supervise the functionality of property WiFi, CCTV, in-room tech systems, TV sets and more.

☎️ Hotel Sales and Marketing Operations

Your hotel sales and marketing team is responsible for drawing people into your property and meeting organization-wide sales goals. They’re additionally responsible for brand reputation management: ensuring your property is adhering to the brand standards compliance in how it not only represents the brand in its facilities but also in its public language, marketing visuals, and actions. This team provides booking support, especially with large groups, business travel, or hotel event bookings.

💸 Hotel Finance Operations

The finance team makes sure you’re on track with profits and keeps leadership notified of losses. They’ll track the budget for asset expenses and facilities management too. Anything to do with accounting and number tracking is going to fall under the finance team’s responsibility. Since financial models are only as good as the inputs that drive them, gathering accurate operations data is of utmost importance. Using digital operations software allows financial managers to easily view the impact of daily functions on the bottom line.

😊 Hotel Human Resources Operations

Finally, your human resources team is responsible for operations such as payroll and general employee management. Your human resources representative will usually assist with hiring and is often the team member responsible for formally issuing offer letters for new hires and managing communications about onboarding and initial education. This team will handle employee complaints and disputes as well. 

How to Hire the Right People for Your Hotel

When it comes to hotel operations management, one of the most important things is hiring the right people for your property. Once you’ve identified the true span of your operational needs and started to put procedures in place for management, you’ve got to bring on the right team to oversee your property needs and effectively communicate between leadership and staff. 

🎓Identify Core Competencies and Ask Questions to Compare Candidates

Take the time to understand the ideal candidate for your property—identify any must-have traits you’d like to find in your new employee and take the time to formulate questions that will help you intentionally interview potential candidates to seek out those traits you’re looking for. Then interview with patience, knowing it can take some time to identify the best members for your team. From there, set clear expectations for growth and opportunity.

Excerpt from 99 Core Lodging Competency Checklist
Excerpt from 99 Core Lodging Competency Checklist

Ensuring that you’ve established definitive ideals and expectations sets everyone up for success. But don’t stop the communication after the interview and the acceptance letter! Keep communication channels flowing between employees, especially between department managers and the general manager of the property. These are the most important working relationships to foster so that everyone stays aligned on hotel goals and expectations. 

From there, you and your team can start setting up clear SOPs for processes across your property, and you can even utilize a digital solution like Xenia to simplify your management operations from top to bottom. 

What is a Hotel Standard Operating Procedure (SOP)?

A hotel standard operating procedure, or hotel SOP, is a standardized way of completing regular operations that keeps your work processes consistent and maintains efficiency, accuracy, and safety across your hotel, property, or properties. Hotel SOPs ensure brand compliance and quality standards across facilities and locations to keep your leadership team, and your hotel guests, safe and happy. 

Hotel Standard Operating Procedure Examples
Hotel Standard Operating Procedure Examples

Hotel SOPs can include things like daily management procedures, housekeeping protocols, and preventative maintenance—or really anything that needs standard procedure tracking. For example, front office SOPs help to maintain consistency in check-in and check-out processes and ensure efficiency with hotel opening procedures, while facility SOPs might help your kitchen staff keep the facility safe and ensure a standard level of cleanliness for guest dining requirements. 

You can set up an SOP for any area at your property and for any process that needs standardization. It’s made even easier if your property implements an operations management software like Xenia that allows your leadership team and staff to access SOP checklists and process documents all in one plac

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