Put curb appeal and upkeep in this spring’s budget
Kevin Parker, Andrea McCurry
“Successful investing is anticipating the anticipations of others.” – John Maynard Keynes
As winter turns to spring, many of us feel a sense of renewal and excitement at the idea of new beginnings and the prospect of new opportunities. We throw open the windows, deep clean the house, and mend any damage caused by the long, cold winter.
Do you and your staff have the same anticipation when it comes to your gaming facility? Has the property’s senior leadership provided adequate budgetary resources to allow the staff to keep the facility clean and fresh?
If our goal is to attract new customers to our casino resorts, the resort must offer clean and comfortable accommodations in conjunction with an engaged and knowledgeable staff. While we, as an industry, understand the need for and invest in a well-trained staff, we generally under-plan when it comes to the upkeep of our facilities.
Our facilities are very much like our homes; the value lies as much in the curb appeal as the functionality of the structure. When we forgo upkeep, it negatively influences the perception of the customers we are targeting.
A carefully designed and well-executed reinvestment strategy is a necessity for the long-term health of any facility.
If we underinvest to boost our short term gains at the expense of renovation or modernization, we ultimately endanger our long-term revenue stream.
There is any number of reasons that a property might delay or cancel capital equipment purchases or improvement projects, but many of these delays are shortsighted and some are dangerous. Those of us who have been through the budgeting process understand that at the end of each year, required items submitted to the capital budget remain unfunded, while the issue that the funds were intended to address remains unresolved.
Revenue production dictates the availability of reinvestment resources, and there will always be expensive situations that present themselves which were not considered during the budget process. While we must address the most pressing matters first, we must plan on increasing reinvestment funding to cover both the current unresolved issues and the needs of the coming year. As property leaders, we must do our best to champion reinvestment in the facility if we want to continue attracting new customers and increasing profits. We recently evaluated a property that had reallocated large amounts of the slot capital reinvestment budget for four years running. The slot floor is now underproducing and the out-of-date slot mix requires significantly increased parts and labor costs related to its aging machine base.
There was a time when a property could hide its condition until the customer arrived onsite, and then attempt to placate their displeasure with dynamic customer service. Those days are over! If your customer is thorough and minimally computer-literate, they already know the current condition of your accommodations.
Travel advisory sites such as Oyster.com, a hotel review site, detail out the true story about a property’s condition and amenities. Similarly, Trippy.com syncs with social media sites and allows your online pals to provide recommendations for your itinerary. Friends don’t let friends stay at dive resorts! If your property is not up to the standards of its immediate competition, or your marketing department has started using the term “shabby chic” to describe your accommodations, you need to rethink your property-wide priorities, immediately.
If you do not have the authority to guide the focus of the capital projects in your facility, we are certain that you have the ability to influence the cleanliness and appearance of the overall property. While customers may forgive outdated decor, they demand clean and serviceable accommodations in return for their entertainment dollar. You get one chance to make a positive first impression, and if you fail, there are simply too many other entertainment venues available to your customers to expect them to give your facility a second chance.
Take a walk around your property with an open mind, beginning at the parking lot, and visit every outlet and public area in your facility. Look at the accommodations from the point of view of the customer, rather than that of an employee.
Outlets and Amenities
Cruise through your outlet areas; the restaurants, gift shop, spa, hotel lobby and pool areas. Look for potential risks to guests as well as team members.
- Ask your team about any safety concerns that have become acceptable because the staff has found a workaround for them. Although the idea of a disregarded hazard is appalling, they can be found in virtually every facility.
- Is the gift shop fully stocked with merchandise, or is it mostly bare with minimal products on display? Sure, customers rely on the gift shop for snacks and cigarettes, but many like to pick up merchandise for friends and family.
- Check the pool area. Is the pool clean and wellchlorinated? Is the pool deck free of tanning oil, dead bugs, and other potential hazards? Are the tiles worn or in need of replacement? The pool should look cool, relaxing and inviting. If that’s not the case, then you have some work to do.
Should you find areas within your facility that require serious attention, but you lack the resources to address them, don’t rationalize away the shortcomings. Remember that the average customer doesn’t care why your facility is in disrepair, only that they are paying good money for a substandard experience.
Remedy the issues you can with the resources you have available, and ensure that proper attention is given to the overall cleanliness and safety of the entire facility. Your efforts will not go unnoticed by your patrons.
Instead of addressing all the issues on your own, take the opportunity to make this a learning experience. Repeat this exercise with your key supervisors and managers so that they are also aware of what your customers are seeing. You can’t assume that your employees understand the standards your facility requires, you must educate them. Through training, follow-up and setting an example, you generate awareness for your staff and a standard for them to follow.