Your client wants a hospitality management program that will be acclaimed by employees, students, residents and guests. They are looking for a program that is sustainable for years to come—and one that’s negotiated at the right price.
Most times, your client relies heavily on your expertise so they don’t make any costly missteps like spending too much money on kitchen equipment or on management fees. You are working with a group of professionals who are experts in their fields but not in the unique and nuanced hospitality industry and process of moving from RFP to signed contract.
As if that doesn’t make your work enough of a challenge, there is typically more than just one decision-maker. You need to get as many as ten people to agree on one hospitality partner.
Each stakeholder comes with a perspective and agenda based on their particular role in the organization. A wellness manager wants the healthiest food options possible. The CFO wants the best value. The VP of Student Affairs wants whatever makes students happy. Varying desired outcomes and conflicting priorities complicate the decision-making process. Here are three key considerations—starting with the RFP—that will help you orchestrate a smooth bid process and help your decision-makers reach consensus around the right option.
You can lay the groundwork for a unified decision simply by making your client’s RFP specific. What is your employee dining participation rate? Which rate should potential hospitality management partners use? Sales volumes? What’s the average check amount? By providing this level of specificity to bidders, you’ll get detailed bid submissions based on the same assumptions. They’ll be easier to compare.
Being specific is especially important when it comes to investments. In certain instances, bids will read, “We are open to investment opportunities.” Your client’s willingness to be clear on what they are expecting in regards to an investment allows hospitality companies to determine if this is a viable partnership opportunity and avoids the process turning into a blind option.
“Investments are not gifts,” explains Chuck Melchiori, VP of Business Development at Creative Dining. “No hospitality company is going to give clients a big check and not expect to make up that investment inside the business model. Knowing the investment expectations allows hospitality management companies to gauge feasibility and clients to compare apples to apples.”
With a clear and specific RFP, your client can review bid submissions that are based on the same assumptions, enabling them to accurately compare proposals and more quickly reach consensus. They’ll also understand that an offer for a check does not necessarily mean a better dining program.
Your client wants to meet the individual who will run the onsite hospitality program. While that’s understandable, it can be a disservice to your client to require potential hospitality management partners to identify the director prior to an award.
What’s the downside of having the potential director in the room?
The reality is that it’s too early to pick who will be the best manager to oversee the operation during the bid process.
“During the sales process, we’re learning more and more about the client’s culture and assessing which food service director would be the best cultural fit,” says Melchiori. “Selecting the best FSD is more than just getting one of our talented operators and having him or her at the presentation. We care deeply that our leader has a strong rapport with the client.”
To appoint the right leader, Creative Dining Services has new clients interview two potential dining directors once we have been awarded the business. Our directors compete for the role, and clients are engaged in the selection process.
At this point in the process, after the business has been awarded, we have a clearer view of what the program needs and can recommend candidates that we believe will best manage and meet the client’s desired outcomes.
Consider coaching your clients to request realistic time frames. Asking hospitality partners to submit a five-year plan for a new dining program is challenging at best, considering the multitude of unknowns and uncontrollables.
What will the economic factors be in five years? Cost of living? Payroll and product costs? The state of the economy? Population service levels? Potential hospitality partners will be forced to make projections based on so many guesses that it becomes speculative and irrelevant.
Melchiori says, “We [hospitality management companies] can make two-year projections with confidence based on variables that are mostly known. Anything beyond two years becomes guesswork that doesn’t give clients a solid projection.”
Coach your clients on the best questions to ask potential hospitality partners. Download our interview scorecard and share it with your clients so they have the key questions to help discern which hospitality partner is most transparent and flexible and will provide the greatest oversight.