Keeping a hotel running the way it should is like simultaneously keeping juggling balls in the air. There are tons of factors at play, and one oversight could cause scores of issues. That’s why all hospitality team members must be organized and use a system that keeps potential problems at top of mind. Until the recent proliferation of smartphones, another, simpler, tool was used—the humble notepad.
For every hotel team member, from general managers to cleaning staff, jotting down notes throughout the day has been a basic function of successful hotel operation. Yet this management tool is often overlooked, despite the fact that the notes scribbled down likely saved hotels both money and embarrassment.
There are records of hoteliers’ reliance on notepads going back almost 100 years. It was even in hotel training literature. In 1926, Clifford Lewis of the Lewis Hotel Training booklets wrote, “The note making habit will be found of great value.”
Early hotel notepads are documents of history. They held valuable—if not priceless—information for hoteliers. The notepads of a hotel manager are akin to a diary of his enterprise’s daily operation. The jottings reflect the author’s knowledge of his property and employees. What problem required a solution? Which issues needed to be watched for potential problems or addressed quickly? Which employee is excellent and which employee is not meeting his goals?
In 1925, when Conrad Hilton attended the opening of the first Hilton Hotel, he spent his trip jotting down key bits of information about the property. When we flip through his small notepad (just 2.5 by 4.5 inches), it is chock full of statistics, measurements, notes on prices, names, telephone numbers, and addresses. One page is devoted exclusively to the content of two different types of mattresses and their prices.
But Conrad Hilton is not the most famous historical note-taker. Fast-forward a few decades and consider Eddie Carlson, head of Western International Hotels, now Westin Hotels. Carlson was known for being particularly thorough in his inspections when walking a property. He looked for any and every potential flaw—unclean windows, an employee’s appearance, etc. The accompanying hot manager was expected to record everything Carlson spotted
While most Western managers were ready to note the comments of Carlson, he became frustrated when any were unable to deliver. Typical of Carlson, he came up with a solution—the “Ready Eddie.” The Ready Eddie was a small (3.5 by almost 6 inches) leather-bound notepad with a wallet-like side enclosure designed to fit a coat pocket. In its day, it was the ultimate notepad, especially for Westin hotel managers. The Ready Eddie moniker was acquired after the notepad’s introduction, in tribute to Carlson.
Fast forward a few more decades and the hotel manager’s notepad would eventually give ground to the early hand-held electronic devices, such as Palm Pilots and Blackberrys. However, it wasn’t until the introduction of the iPhone in 2007 and the iPad in 2010 that a transformation took place. With their launch, notepads were largely relegated to the history books. Now, iPhone, iPad, and various Android devices have become de rigor for the hotel manager and email, text, and electronic file-sharing allow the right department or person to be alerted to a potential problem instantly.
About the Author
Mark Young, PhD, is director of the Hospitality Industry Archives at the Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel & Restaurant Management, University of Houston.