Industry NewsHigh-Level Execs Dissect Key Franchising, Labor Issues In Hospitality

High-Level Execs Dissect Key Franchising, Labor Issues In Hospitality

During a recent one-on-one interview with Wyndham Hotels president/CEO Geoff Ballotti, Cinnabon president Kat Cole shared her insights on operating a large franchise company emphasizing the importance of communication and working together with franchisees to find solutions that move the brand forward.

The keynote session took place recently during The Hospitality Show in Las Vegas and was entitled “Innovation and Progress: How To Iterate, Adapt and Succeed Faster.” Ballotti asked Cole if she felt more government oversight was needed with regards to the franchise model within the lodging industry, specifically, or if there should be less involvement.

“Who knows your business best? It’s the franchisees, not an elected official. An elected official can be very helpful for shaping policy, but it requires franchisees to talk about the power of the franchise model, even if it’s imperfect and even if there are frustrations,” she said.

Cole further suggested that any additional government regulations would effectively prevent franchisors from doing what’s best for their franchisees.

“If you create punishment and punitive elements on the side of being creative they [companies] are not going to do it. You’re going to stay in a safe zone, which means you’re going be focusing your efforts on an even smaller portion of the franchise system for the safest possible approaches to investment and holding standards, instead of actually doing what’s right in business,” she said.

Cole further discussed her preferred approach to working through any potential franchise contract issues and finding solutions together.

“I always say you want commitment not compliance. I don’t want to lean on the contract of what I’m supposed to do and what you’re supposed to do, I want to sell the vision for what actually is going to get guests and customers to come in, or lower operating costs and increase revenue, or improve occupancy. Let that be 90 percent of what guides how we make our decisions together and then 10 percent of the time we need to lean on the way the contract is structured because there are just circumstances that require that,” she noted.  

Meanwhile, during a panel entitled “Where Hospitality Talent Will Emerge In The Future,” several C-level executives shared some of the hospitality labor trends they’re focused on.

As an example, Daniel del Olmo, president, hotels & restaurants, Sage Hospitality Group—a Denver-based owner/operator—discussed the potential impact of employees who are not fully engaged.  

“Everybody’s heard of quiet quitting, but there is also something called loud quitting. It is people that are actively being very cynical about your organization,” he said.

Del Olmo went on to add, “Your associates are really the most important stakeholder you have. It’s not your shareholders and it’s not your guests. So what are you doing to make them feel like full human beings as opposed to just a cog in the machine?”

Larry Cucilic, President/CEO, BWH Hotels—a Phoenix-based multi-brand company—talked about the shift in expectations from today’s work force and how companies communicate with them.

“It used to be when we hired somebody we would evaluate them a year later, that was it. That doesn’t work today, the feedback has to be almost constant. Every interaction has to help or work. When you have those quarterly or semi-annual reviews it’s not necessarily about performance, it’s about how they can develop and get better. You can’t focus on past events in reviews you have to focus on the future and what those opportunities are,” he said.

Cucilic further commented, “I’m also a firm believer in promoting from within. To me somebody who has shown a dedication for our organization should be looked at seriously with regards to any upcoming opportunities. You have to recognize them and let them know those opportunities exist and help them grow professionally.”

Ben Erwin, president/CEO, Encore—an event technology company—pointed out that both companies and associates need to consider that many of these positions don’t need to be filled in traditional ways.

“The non-linear career path is an option. It doesn’t need to be ‘I was at level one, I need to move to level two and level three.’ Geographically and organizationally, the non-linear career path is something I think organizations can embrace,” he said.