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5 ways to achieve continuous improvement in your hospitality business

Management theories like the Kaizen method or Six Sigma combine to form the principles of continuous improvement, which is essential in the hospitality industry, as consumer standards continue to rise

The tourism and customer service industries that make up the hospitality sector are characterized by a clientele becoming accustomed to increasingly personalized levels of service and an increasingly polished customer experience. For example, cleanliness in hospitality is central to the way your customers perceive your business.

The emphasis on operational excellence in hospitality is driving more companies to consider how they can implement continuous improvements in their businesses. This means revamping several aspects of operations planning and reshaping organizational culture.

Table of contents

1. What is continuous improvement?

2. What are the benefits of continuous improvement?

2.1. Improve efficiency

2.2. Higher quality

2.3. Save money

2.4. Engaged employees

3. How can you apply continuous improvement in the hospitality industry?

3.1. Leverage feedback

3.2. Set measurable goals

3.3. Switch to green cleaning products

3.4. Streamline communication

3.5. Make data-driven decisions

What is continuous improvement?

Continuous improvement is an idea that comes from manufacturing, and specifically, from lean manufacturing. Continuous improvement in lean manufacturing is the idea that you can always identify, analyze, and implement improvements to your processes. As such, a continuous improvement process is a change in the way your business functions.

The idea is to identify which business activities generate the most value for your customers, and then to focus your energy on those, cutting out as much wasted time as you can. There are eight types of waste that can occur in a process, and these wastes are grouped into three main categories. Those are:

  • Muda: Muda is actually seven wastes grouped together. These are transport, inventory, motion, waiting, overproduction, over-processing, and defects.
  • Mura: Mura translates to unevenness, or inconsistency in your processes. This inconsistency is responsible for many of the wastes classified as Muda.
  • Muri: Muri means that you are overburdening either your team or your production system. The extra stress this places on your business often results from inconsistent processes.

In order to implement continuous improvement effectively, you need to get rid of these wastes as thoroughly as possible. When you work in hospitality, you will face slightly different challenges than in manufacturing, but the wastes of lean still exist in some form.

For example, a restaurant making too many meals or preparing too much of a certain menu item is an example of overproduction. In a hotel, failing to implement a cleaning schedule might lead to defects in your sanitation protocol.

Wastes can also occur along your supply chain, particularly when it comes to inaccurate inventory management. Your supply chain may also transport goods wastefully or run into frequent bottlenecks that leave you waiting for supplies.

A man at his computer managing business matters


What are the benefits of continuous improvement?

It’s in the name; the philosophy of continuous improvement is all about making your business and your processes better. But how does it do this?

Improve efficiency

The core of any continuous improvement process is wasting less time on things that don’t deliver value to customers. The mindset of continuous improvement trains you to look for business practices which could be streamlined or are redundant altogether.

Higher quality

Continuous quality improvements happen in two ways. First, managers and ideally employees are always looking for ways to deliver a better product or service. Second, the consistency demanded by continuous improvement means that process standards are implemented and followed across the entire business.

Save money

In manufacturing, continuous improvement saves money by reducing the number of defects present in final products. In hospitality, continuous improvement entails a revamp of operations planning, enabling your employees to complete tasks and serve customers more quickly.

Engaged employees

You can’t succeed in implementing continuous improvement without the support of your employees. That’s why obtaining regular feedback from your workers is essential, so that you understand what is succeeding, what is not, and how to improve. When you engage and respect your employees, you make collaboration easier.

A woman holding a spray bottle and cleaning the area

How can you apply continuous improvement in the hospitality industry?

Improving efficiency by introducing continuous improvement to your hospitality business entails combining the principles of continuous improvement in lean manufacturing – also called Kaizen – with the Six Sigma system. Both philosophies are based around small, incremental improvements that gradually shift the way your establishment operates.

1. Leverage feedback

If continuous improvement is all about bringing value to customers, what better way to find out which improvements make an impact than with customer feedback? Accessible feedback forms make it easy for you to collect data on the success of your quality improvement efforts.

Basing your decisions on customer feedback also improves efficiency, since it helps you avoid wasting time perfecting elements of your service that really aren’t relevant to the customer.

2. Set measurable goals

Goal-setting is a necessary step in improving anything. To evaluate the impact of a change, you need to know what you’re measuring. For example, you could analyze the number of customer complaints received in a given period, the number of guests each of your staff assists, or the amount spent on utilities.

When deciding on a metric, remember to set a concrete value. Instead of aiming just to increase the speed of room inspections, aim to spend 25% less time on each inspection by the end of the month.

3. Switch to green cleaning products

Adopting sustainable cleaning practices in your hospitality business works in tandem with other continuous improvement measures. Green cleaning brings you several of the benefits of continuous improvement, including:

  • Saving you money: Use of green cleaning products, and sustainable cleaning is general, is all about wasting fewer resources
  • Streamlining processes: Many environmentally-friendly cleaning solutions are more effective than their industrial chemical counterparts, sometimes drastically so
  • Adding value to customers: In addition to being more effective and empowering your staff to work faster, green cleaning expands your market, as many customers patronize hospitality establishments based on their environmental awareness
  • 4. Streamline communication

    Continuous improvement thrives on standardization, and that means employees need to be able to communicate with one another. Operations planning becomes much easier when it’s possible to deliver instructions and implement changes in real time.

    Hospitality management software or digitization of some kind is invaluable for improving communication between team members. Consider using hospitality checklists as a way to communicate seamlessly with your staff.

    5. Make data-driven decisions

    Your knowledge of internal processes and of areas where improvements are needed should come from data you’ve collected. Data-driven decision making is the most objective and least risky way to make business decisions. Another reason data-driven decision making is so vital is that continuous improvement processes are never really finished. If you’re always collecting data after each change, you can track the impact of those changes.

    Continuous improvement in hospitality is much easier when you use Lumiform. The intuitive mobile app reduces downtime by allowing you to instantly send employees checklists to complete. Facilitate process standardization by making sure everyone has access to the same information, and improve efficiency by eliminating the need for constant meetings and lengthy training sessions.

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