Conference problemsWhy don’t I get a detailed banquet revenue forecast monthly? I first diagnosed conference services director disease (CSDD) at Hotel Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada where I held the position of Hotel Manager in the early 2000s. I call it conference services director (CSD) disease because this position seems to develop this disease more often than other leadership roles in hospitality. However, it’s important to point out CSDD is not limited to just CSDs. Other leaders can also develop this debilitating disease, and if you’re a CSD you are not predisposed to developing CSDD you just might have a greater risk of developing it.

The symptoms of CSDD are quite easy to spot once you know what to look for. People who have CSDD are always too busy. Too busy to attend important meetings, too busy to make administrative deadlines and the telltale sign is, it is always their clients that need them and this important “fact” precludes them from keeping their commitments and obligations. Too busy to get their colleague reviews done, too busy to make the payroll cut off, too busy to attend the department head meeting; you know the drill.  

Managers inflicted with CSDD believe the client’s needs come first, which we all know in hospitality that this is the golden rule. Behind the golden rule lies the reality. The reality that our guests needs come first however we need to organize ourselves, our team and our world so the guests needs get looked after, and we can consistently deliver on our agreements and perform to a high standard in all our work areas. People with severe CSDD believe the very fact that they interact with the clients in real time excuses them from their other leadership responsibilities. This conditions gets acerbated by their leadership who allow and even encourage this excused standard. Normally CSDD starts when this individual is a Conference Services Manager or a similar guest facing position. CSDD is caused by a legitimate event taking place in your hotel that requires the personal attention of your CSM or like position and then this euphoria transmutes itself into everyday hotel life. CSDD is not something that happens overnight it is a progressive disease that takes hold after long periods of being busy.

Behind CSDD is a mindset disorder that has been learned and in fact it’s just a habit. The habit is formed in the victim part of the brain. It starts out very innocently, usually taking root when the CSM or like position is directly servicing clients on the banquet and event floor. The junior CSM is a full-on position that services guests. Now the conference services manager finds him/herself as the conference services director. Why? He or she is the best at handling the grueling hours, customers and all the internal goings on that it takes to pull off a successful group in your hotel. This skill is an incredibly valuable one and its critical for any hotel group/catering operation to have.

The conference services director in your hotel manages the second largest revenue stream in your hotel and the engine of profitability in your food and beverage department. They need to manage all the functions of the department and quite often what’s missing is the business acumen. They are now not just directing the movements of groups and the utilization of the space they are the needle point of your F&B success. Knowing what will transpire with groups means a day by day forecast by meal period by group. Without this kind of detailed focus the entire banquet, food prep and stewarding departments are lost. The number of hotels that operate today without this level of information is a lot more than you can imagine. The reason for this is CSDD. Your conference services director must be capable and master the numbers as well as the service. Generating this meaningful forecast not only provides valuable top line information, but more importantly it allows for planning and efficient use of the resources in the kitchens and the banqueting departments. The amount of resources it takes to staff and supply these areas is huge, arguably the largest portion in some hotels and without a detailed forecast that the other leaders can rely on you’re not going to be efficient and you will not be productive. A telltale sign of this is the number of days out your Conference Services Department gets their banquet event orders out? The shorter the BEO window the greater the chaos. The greater the chaos the lower the labor productivity and the higher the cost of sales.

CSDD can be treated and even cured. Your CSD must step back and look at their role and realize they can manage the numbers. They move in this direction by slowing down and taking the first step which is to prepare a day by day, group by group, meal period by meal period forecast. Try to pull it all together for next week. Then, try two weeks and then one month. Once you have a month down, do 12. This is the only way to master the groups that have booked, the tentatives and the prospects. 

Without a solid daily group conference services and catering forecast the entire operation is lost. If you run a hotel without this valuable tool there is a cure. Get your CSD some help. They really do want the chaos to end and it’s only a habit. Your bottom line will thank you.

By David Lund

David LundDavid Lund is an international expert who has been branded ‘The Hotel Financial Coach’. Just as any great hotel is true to their brand, so is David. His client commitment is about exceptional service. And his #1 focus is to help his clients gain a fast Return On Investment from his workshops and personalized coaching. David’s background includes over 30 years as a regional controller, corporate financial director, hotel manager and controller throughout North America.