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Five Tips for Hotel Refurbishment that will make FF&E last longer

Durable Hotel Design: Five Tips on Hotel FF&E That Will Last Longer


In difficult economic times, especially in this current downturn that hotel owners find themselves in, investing much needed cash or securing financing for Furniture, Fixtures & Equipment (“FF&E”) refurbishments becomes a sensitive topic. Hotel brands require owners to follow brand standards and comply with often strict property improvement plans and timelines. The guest as well has high expectations and often seeks to get more and pay less. This puts a lot of pressure on owners and it becomes critical to make the right decisions for the operation in regard to renovations. It is a fine line between guest expectations and the operation’s balance sheet. In the end you cannot put off a renovation, but you can make smart decisions in regard to value for your money, or in other words, return on investment. Durable design or longer lasting FF&E is not necessarily a question of good or bad times. It is always an important factor that should be on an owner’s mind when considering renovations.


During healthy economic times and with higher hotel occupancies, newly installed FF&E needs to be able to withstand more use and abuse. Owners have to consider the opportunity cost of taking rooms out of their inventory as well as longer, and often unreliable, manufacturers’ lead times. During times when manufacturers’ production capacities are maximized, cost of product to the buyer goes up and it would not be unusual to see quality going down just because corners are being cut, or quality control processes are not strictly followed in order to meet the increased demand.


A recession such as the one we currently find ourselves in should be considered an opportunity to upgrade a hospitality asset. If there only wasn’t the pressure on maintaining a positive cash flow and/or obtaining financing. With the hotel operation being less busy, it is easier to take rooms out of order and in a very competitive manufacturing world, production lead times decrease and the value that can be expected for goods purchased should be much greater.


Obviously, in times like the current times, for most hotel owners it is not realistic and not in their best interest to tie-up much of the urgently needed cash reserves and invest into new FF&E. It therefore becomes important to prioritize and spend money wisely with long-term value in mind. Following are some thoughts and ideas as to what you can do to extend the life of your hotel FF&E:

  1. If not already implemented, follow a strict FF&E maintenance program. With lower occupancies, take advantage of taking rooms out of order for a couple of days and have them undergo regular deep cleanings. Repair case-goods and seating rather than replace them. Following a strict maintenance routine can extend the life-cycle of case-goods by several years. The same applies to fabrics; wash and dry clean them on a regular basis. Consider opportunities for achieving energy/water efficiencies by using the appropriate light bulbs (ideally fluorescent if applicable) and install low flow shower-heads for example. Take advantage of your manufacturers’ or distributors’ resources. Most of them will be happy to come in and train your staff on proper maintenance. In the end, it is in their best interest to have their goods look beautiful.


2. Evaluate which improvements can create a “wow” factor and at the same time are cost efficient and durable. For example, consider bamboo or Lyptus(R) flooring – these are rapidly renewable materials; they are sustainable, attractive, durable and affordable. Look at stone for heavy foot traffic areas. If carpet has to be replaced, think about product made of wool or branded nylon and select a simple and neutral design. On first thought it might be more expensive, but suppliers are willing to negotiate during difficult times. The initial higher cost will provide you with a product that looks and feels better and has an extended life span.


3. If you do not have the budget to replace case-goods, refurbish them. Experienced Hotel refurbishment companies are happy to assist in this process.  If surfaces are worn out or damaged, protect them with either glass tops or take advantage of affordable granite which always looks good, is easy to maintain, as well as long lasting. If you can replace case-goods, explore different materials such as rice husks and resin composites instead of plywood or MDF for structures. It could also help with LEED(R) Certification if that is a concern or of interest.

4. Should you be in a position to replace FF&E, take advantage of the competitive environment and buy quality at lower cost. It is no secret that quality goods will last longer. Work with suppliers and do your best to “bundle” manufacturers and sources per product category. Make it your and the manufacturer’s goal to find ways to increase durability and life-cycle, but decrease cost. Prioritize your investment in areas where the guest will notice it the most and/or where higher traffic patterns require it. As an example, use hand tufted rugs in sight-line areas and Axminster carpet in sections that walk off directly to the outside and/or food and beverage areas. Try to cut construction/installation costs as it relates to FF&E. Use embossed over smooth wall-coverings; it requires less preparation work by the contractor when re-installing and creates more streamlined and shorter installation schedule. Furthermore, consider decorative reading lamps rather than investing in architectural lighting for reading purposes. Most importantly, make sure you understand upcoming hotel brand requirements. You do not want to invest in new bed or television sets only to find out that the brand will require you to invest in a new specification within a three-year time-frame.


5. Be practical. Use the proper materials and try to be timeless and not too trendy. In regard to fabrics, use vinyls, polyester blends, Crypton(R) finished and high double rubs – they sustain spills, are less expensive and more durable. Select subtle patterns. Stay away from light colored materials for longer potential lifespan. Go for classically designed pieces as opposed to trendy designs that will be in style longer and could apply to multiple brands. They can also be re-upholstered with new fabrics for an update. Instead of replacing entire light fixtures, replace lamp shades only. Think about how pieces interact with their surroundings. For example, take a desk chair and the desk. Assuming the desk is wood, and the desk chair has arms, simply considering the materiality of the arms can have a significant impact on the durability of both items. A hard surface material on the arm rest, which may not even be at the appropriate height level, will damage the desk and damage the chair with each impact. Evaluate if items that can be reused. For example, unsightly glass panels recovered with a hand-painted style mural wall-covering could be turned into a creative way finding/signage system for the guest.



The thoughts outlined above are just a few ideas as it relates to extending the potential lifespan of your hotel FF&E whether it is in regard to your existing furnishings that suddenly cannot be replaced this year as originally planned, or your new FF&E that will have to remain a couple of years longer in order to achieve the desired return on investment. For the most part, it comes down to understanding your operation, being practical and most importantly, taking care of your investment by regularly following basic but strict maintenance schedules. Experienced Hotel Fit out companies will guide you on the schedules, and greatly simplify the refurbishment process.

Hotel Bedroom Solutions latest project gets rave reviews.

Xenia ReceptionXenia Hotel  London continues to get rave reviews. It was London’s most liked hotel on Trip advisor for most of 2013. This formerly shabby back packer hotel has been utterly transformed. Its outside has been restored to its previous Victorian Grandeur. The vibe inside the Xenia is thoroughly modern. Vivienne Westwood tapestries hang on the walls, giant vaselike artworks compete for attention with the sparkling reception desk and hyper-padded chairs that dazzle with the illusion of snakeskin.

More subdued than the lobby, the rooms are light and airy. Tech smarts are shown in the free Wi-Fi, multinational plug sockets, air con that switches off if you open the window and a bedside Samsung tablet loaded with information about the hotel and the area. Black-and-white London photography on the walls, pillows from Harrod’s and plush towels elevate above the generic.

Hotel Bedroom Solutions were delighted to be involved in the project, from Design to completion. All of the bedroom furniture/ Customised joinery and most of the specialist finishes were supplied by and installed by ourselves.

We wish them well for 2014.

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How to Keep Hotel Renovation under budget

Rejuvenation of your hotel, whether it be new carpets and curtains in guest rooms or an upgrade in the ambience and functionality of the common areas, goes a long way towards protecting your assets as well as maintaining superior guest services. However, to achieve or exceed your long term ROI goals, it is crucial that hotel renovation costs stay in line with your budget. It is very easy for even the smallest project to get out of control and create a “money pit” of unexpected expenses, cost overruns, labor issues and inconvenient delays.


There are many twists and turns that can occur during a hotel renovation that can strain your patience and assault your project budget. Fortunately, there are tried and true practices that will help you navigate the minefield and complete your project on time and on budget. The key factors to keep in mind when planning your renovation are:

•Choose an experienced project manager

•Create a detailed scope of work

•Assess cost estimates and timelines

•Document the budget

•Hire the appropriate Hotel fit out contractors.

•Manage the process If care is taken to properly address all of these areas, your renovation project should go off smoothly with minimal disruption to your operations and your guests.


Engage the Right Project Manager

The project manager is key to success and should possess a number of skills …. time management , attention to detail, ability to develop a work schedule, set goals, create/implement actions plans, monitor progress towards goals, and make clear, timely decisions. He or she is the project maestro, organizer and traffic cop and needs to fully understand every component of the Hotel refurbishment project. If there are multiple fit out contractors involved, the project manager is the one who will ensure that each contractor has fulfilled their part of the project as expected and be sure that the next contractor is ready to go. If your Hotel renovation project involves plumbers, drywallers, painters and carpet layers, for example, there is an orderly progression of work that needs to be completed before the next stage can begin. It only takes one fit out contractor to muck up the schedule – perhaps they can’t start when expected, they may be having labor issues, or encounter other unexpected problems. Any of these problems can contribute to project delays and cost overruns.


Who should manage the project? For larger projects involving multiple contractors, it often makes most sense to hire a construction firm and use their experienced supervisor to manage the project and oversee the various stages and subcontractors involved. They should have the expertise and understanding to keep the project on track, from both a timeline and cost perspective. For smaller projects, it might make sense for the hotel general manager to oversee the project, but only if they have had some experience dealing with contractors. And it is important to understand if your general manager truly has the time, skills and inclination to manage a project as well as perform their daily management tasks. If not, your project may be at great risk.

Create a Detailed Scope of Work

The project manager needs to precisely determine the scope of work to be performed, the length of time required to complete the project, and create a plan to execute the project without major disruptions to guests. At this time, it may be determined that it will be necessary to close the hotel during the renovation for a period of time or map out a plan where only a certain number of rooms are renovated at a time, enabling revenue to be generated during the process. Either way, detailed requirements and specifications for each phase of the project should be identified and documented.

Choosing the Right Contractors

Once you have an accurate assessment of the project and have created a detailed scope of work, it’s time to go out to bid.

You should obtain at least three proposals. Keep in mind that while you will be attracted to the lowest bid, you may not be satisfied with the lowest bidder. Each bidder should have a long list of references and they should be diligently checked. Understand who will be doing the work – the construction company or their subcontractors – and be sure that they have actually performed this type of work. It is not uncommon for a general contractor to submit a bid on a project without having their own internal experience, then hire a subcontractor with expertise in that specific area once the bid has been accepted. It is imperative you know that everyone working on your project is reputable and trustworthy and that they are licensed and insured.

Your contractors should also have experience in dealing with building inspectors and other building officials and be capable of pulling the appropriate permits.

And, ask your colleagues for referrals. If you know other hotel owners in the area or attend business meetings with your colleagues, ask them if they have had any personal experience with a contractor or have recommendations. Often times they will be your best source of information to assess and select the contractor as well as providing valuable input in the planning and execution of the project.

Make sure that you also build in accident contingencies into the contracts. If a plumber changing a fixture accidentally breaks a pipe, who is responsible? Or if a dry Waller accidently cuts a wire in the wall, who pays for the cost to bring in an electrician?

For small renovations, often times owners will use their own staff to handle the project. In this case, be sure they have the expertise to do the job, they adhere to the project timeline in addition to handling their regular responsibilities, and understand expectations and overtime guidelines in advance.

Document a Project Budget

Once you are aware of labor and material costs, document your assessment in a budget and be sure there are not hidden costs. For instance, your carpet installer may give you a fair estimate for the carpet and installation, but is there an additional fee for disposing of the old carpet? The budget should take into account labor charges, keeping in mind overtime, night or weekend fees. The budget should also reflect accurate materials costs – if it is a long term project, is there any chance that materials costs could increase over time based on changing market conditions? If so, it is a good idea to anticipate cost changes (they rarely go down) and build in any potential material cost increases into the budget – better to be prepared upfront.

Build contingencies into the budget. Sometimes accidents are unavoidable and costly and its best to set aside a contingency fund for worst case scenarios.

Communicate Regularly

It is the project manager’s job to lay out the guidelines for each contractor – be sure they know when they can start work and when they need to finish so the work in progress is seamless or minimally disruptive to your guests. Determine how and when they will clean up on a daily basis. It is also imperative that the project manager communicates regularly with the contractors – meet weekly and go through the checklist of project milestones to be sure that everything is progressing as it should. Changes are inevitable and it is the project manager’s responsibility to be sure that the owner is aware of and signs off on any change orders.

Good communication will identify potential snags, delays or potential cost overruns. Upon completion of work, it should be quality inspected to be sure it meets the agreed upon specifications before moving to the next phase.


Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labour

A well-managed Hotel renovation project will be on budget and on-time. You will have improved the value of your physical assets while improving your guest satisfaction and repeat business. While the project may seem daunting, proper management will ensure a smooth execution.


Jed C. Heller is CEO of The Providence Group LLC, which provides management services to hotels and timeshare resorts.

10 Areas of FF&E Hotels Should Focus On

Some aspects of Hotel design and purchasing are easy to overlook but deserve your attention

Every hotelier is familiar with the “furniture, fixtures and equipment” process but not every hotelier approaches it the same way. Some people are more structured in handling FF&E while others are more casual.

Regardless of your approach, remember that FF&E is one of the largest categories of expenses, behind only the Land your hotel sits on and the “bricks and mortar” used to build it. Unfortunately, when certain aspects of design and purchasing get overlooked, both your budget and your property suffer.

Here is my version of a “top 10″ list – this one for making your hotel stand out from the crowd while making your Money  stretch further. So whatever you’ve done in the past, the next time you undertake FF&E – whether it’s for a renovation or a new construction – use these tips to guide you.

1. Decide Your Budget & Your Style Preferences

Setting a budget and picking a style preference are somewhat like the chicken and the egg – which comes first? The answer is that you can’t have one without the other – they’re interdependent.

Whether you’re shopping for a car or a new piece of clothing, you have an amount in mind you think you’re going to spend. Of course, the amount you eventually spend will be determined by the quality, style, and amenities you select.

It’s no different with your FF&E budget. You need to set a figure – if not a specific  amount then certainly a range – for what you think you’re going to spend.

Your designer and purchasing agents can then help you decide how realistic you’re being based on the “look” you want to achieve.

So what is the “look” you want?

You may be able to explain your preferences very thoroughly and clearly to a designer – or you may prefer to assemble photos that capture your taste in furnishings and color combinations.

Use magazines and the internet as references. If you have time, visit local furniture shops. If you admire the d’ecor at a particular office or restaurant you patronize, ask the owner or manager for the name of their furniture brand or design company.

Bring all these photos, magazine clippings, color ideas, and other style information to your first meeting with the design and purchasing company. These materials will be important visual references in shaping your design specifications, solidifying your budget, and simplifying your communications with a designer.

2. Select The Right Design & Purchasing Firm

When selecting a company to handle your design and purchasing, remember that this firm is going to be your partner for hundreds of decisions and thousands of dollars in expenditures – so select someone you feel comfortable working with.

For example, every hotel brand focuses on slightly different details and requirements in its FF&E package. You want a purchasing agent who is familiar with your flag, but who will still represent your interests as the owner.

You also want a company with a proven reputation, so ask for references – and if possible, visit a few of the properties that the company has designed and furnished.

During your evaluation or interview process, ask candidate companies to name the manufacturers they usually use – and why. The advantages and disadvantages of various manufacturers should include such factors as reliability, shipping costs, craftsmanship, durability, and pricing.

In addition, ask for an explanation of the difference in “hard” costs between various manufacturers – namely, price – and “soft” costs – namely, poor quality or late delivery. These problems can quickly eat up any price savings and can actually double or triple the real cost of a product over its usable life.

There is no hard rule of thumb, but a good purchasing professional can extend your original budget by 10% to 20% – plus considerably reduce your headaches and sleepless nights.

To make your project go especially smoothly, find a company that provides one-stop “turnkey” service for the four stages of FF&E – design, purchasing, transportation, and installation. It’s preferable that the company performs these services in-house, without sub-contracting them to other vendors.


3. Put “WOW” in the Lobby

You’ve covered the basics – namely, selecting a budget, a look, and a design/purchasing partner – so now you can start focusing on the property itself, and there’s no better place to start than the lobby because that’s the first thing a visitor experiences.

Create a “wow” factor that will get people’s attention, make them think favourably of your hotel, and cause them to want to return. For example, prominently feature a floor-to-ceiling stacked stone wall, a dramatic over-sized fireplace, or a large waterfall.

4. Step Up to Distinctive Flooring

Before you – and your guests – leave the lobby, use the floor to make a high impact in a high traffic area. While many brand standards recognize the importance of upgraded lobby floor covering, you should consider going beyond what is “required.”

For example, use materials that have upscale appeal such as granite or marble. Enhance these even further with decorative medallions or with a distinctive border around the room perimeter.

If you have a dining area, especially one adjacent to the lobby, upgrade the carpeting by using a denser product made of a branded nylon or wool – this creates a richer, plush look and the improved quality will considerably improve wear. The increased cost of higher grade carpet will be offset by its longer durability.


5. Better Furniture Makes A Better Lobby

One last focal area in the lobby is furniture. You want to create the feeling of a comfortable, welcoming living room – so use higher-end upholstered pieces plus lots of accent tables.

Table surfaces can be granite or can feature patterns of inlaid wood. These special treatments make a strong favourable impression and granite in particular has become very affordable.

6. Make Corridors A Moving Experience

Too many hoteliers invest in their lobby and guest rooms, then neglect the corridors that guests use to travel between those well-decorated areas. You can avoid that big mistake by giving attention to these small details.

Lighting provides both style and substance. Get style with a combination of ceiling fixtures and wall sconces, perhaps as a continuing of your lobby motive; get substance with bulbs that are fluorescent instead of incandescent – they use up to 75% less energy and can last five times longer.


In addition, upgrade the corridor carpeting, use a chair rail and crown molding, plus add touches of “home” such as artwork, foyer tables with lamps, and greenery. All of these elements liven the corridors and enhance your property’s upbeat, upscale image. And if your budget is limited, use these ideas only on the first floor.

7. Add An Exclamation Point To Guestrooms

Enhanced brand standards mean enhanced guest rooms, but you can add still more pizzazz with one or two strategically placed design elements. For example, put a granite surface on night stands, use crown molding, or select an unusual piece of accent furniture or artwork – such as a three-dimensional framed object or the photograph of a local landmark.

It goes without saying that the Mattress must be very comfortable.


8. The Bathroom Isn’t Just for Bathing Anymore

Studies show that guests spend more time in the bathroom than any other area of the guest room, other than the bed. You can make time spent “primping and prepping” in the bathroom special with: Good Lighting to allow you to put on Makeup properly. Mood lighting for a bath would be wonderful.  Ensure that the Shower controls are easy to use, and water pressure sufficient.

9. Make Your Fitness Center Really Fit

More and more travellers, whether they’re on vacation or on business, want a comfortable place to work out so hoteliers are responding by putting some extra muscle into their fitness centres’.

10. Everyone Into The Pool!

If your hotel features a pool, be sure to add a few extra accents that will make this area of the property even more dramatic, lively, and enjoyable.

There you have my “top 10″ areas of design and purchasing that are easy to overlook but deserve your attention. How have you done in the past keeping your focus on these items? More importantly how will you do in future Hotel Refurbishments,  how will you do in the future?

Amy Locke is director of interior design at Hatchett Hospitality. She works with franchisers and franchisees on a wide variety of hotel brands, styles, and themes – from economy to luxury, from resort to business conference, and from traditional to modern. Previous to joining Hatchett, she held a position in interior design with Ethan Allen Interiors. Ms. Locke earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the Art Institute of Atlanta. She is completing a degree in feng shuiand is an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID). Ms. Locke can be contacted at 770-227-5232 or Extended Bio…

By Amy Locke, Director, Interior Design, Hatchett Hospitality

Tips for Keeping Guests Happy During Hotel Renovation

Generally, all hotels go through some level of renovation every five to seven years to update the physical aspects of the asset in order to remain competitive–and to remain in compliance with required franchise brand standards, when applicable. How effectively management strategically plans for and executes an asset renovation program can have a significant impact on the hotel’s level of guest satisfaction and inconvenience, and on the hotel’s bottom line during the renovation process. Removing room inventory and access to public areas of a hotel during a renovation can cause both inconvenience and discomfort to the hotel’s guests – and also result in significant displaced revenue.


To mitigate the deleterious operational and financial effects of a renovation program, the following actions are essential in order to initiate a “painless as possible” renovation of a hotel – while concurrently minimizing the financial impact on the hotel’s bottom line.

1.Review franchise quality standards for required renovations that are provided by the various franchise brands for the renovation (when applicable).


2.Assess historical comments and input from the hotel’s guest base to hear from the customer what specific areas of the hotel operation may be obsolete or in need of modernization. Of particular interest should be areas of technology, such as Internet access and speed (bandwidth), televisions, radios and other amenities that have become front-of-mind to the technologically savvy traveler.


3.Clearly define the entire scope of the project, and receive input and approval from the franchise brand involved (if applicable).

4.Speak with other hotel operators and general managers that have recently completed a similar project to gain valuable input from their experience, and to assist in the planning and execution of the program

5.Based on the scope and magnitude of the renovation project, determine if the hotel needs to be closed in its entirety and reopened after the renovation, or if the renovation should occur while the asset continues to operate.

6.Based on the scope of the project, evaluate and strategize the optimum time of the year to perform the renovation in order to minimize both customer discomfort and revenue displacement.

7.Select a general contractor to oversee the project that has experience with the type of renovation that is to be undertaken. It is crucial to enlist a general contractor who understands the challenges of renovating a business that will continue to operate throughout the renovation process, and who also understands the need to work quietly and cleanly.

8.During the general contractor selection process, personally visit hotels the contracting firm has already renovated to evaluate the quality of workmanship, and discuss the firm’s on-time performance with the onsite management team.

9.Identify the architect, interior designer and purchasing agent for the project (as may be required by the scope).

10.In consultation with the general contractor, determine the timeline for the project, including scheduling the number of rooms that will be removed from inventory and the length of time the rooms must be taken from inventory, as well as the public areas that will be impacted during the renovation.

11.Prior to commencing the renovation, communicate early and often with the hotel’s guests, alerting them to the upcoming renovation and keeping them fully informed of the progress of the renovation as it occurs. This communication process is imperative for the in-house or long-term guests, as well as the businesses with which the hotel interacts.

12.Create a displaced revenue report that contains financial information capturing the negative impact on top-line revenues that have been displaced, both in the rooms department as well as in the food and beverage and meeting space areas. The revenue displacement reports are used to accurately explain to ownership the financial impact on the operation. These can also be used for future budgeting and planning purposes by providing accurate revenue comparison data.

13.At the conclusion of the renovation, use the appropriate media outlets to inform the public and all guests that the renovation is complete.

14.Renovating an operating business is a difficult but necessary aspect of the hotel industry. Through careful planning, coordination, communication and execution, a hotel can pass through a renovation process relatively unscathed, resulting in an improved facility offering an elevated level of customer satisfaction and competitiveness.

By Michael Goldstein, President & CEO, Packar Hospitality Group