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A guide to hotel departments, operational areas and building functions

  Posted in Resources

A hotel is very much like a swan swimming on a lake. Even when all is seemingly calm on the surface (or, rather, at reception), there is a flurry of activity going on behind the scenes to make sure that things run smoothly.

So who are the people who make sure that a hotel building functions properly? Where are all the different hotel departments located and what exactly do they all do?

If you’re new to the hotel industry, opening a new property, or expanding your brand, this blog will help you understand all the key departments in a hotel and their responsibilities, as well as the various job positions in the hotel industry.

Table of contents

Front office department

The front office department can also be referred to as the reception, front of house, or front desk. Of all the various hotel departments, this is the one that interacts the most with guests. In fact, this is the first and last department that they interact with.

Job titles and roles within the front of house department vary depending on the size and type of hotel. However, some of the positions you might expect to find at front of house can include:

  • Receptionist
  • Concierge
  • Reservations agent
  • Hotel manager (or front of house manager)
  • Assistant hotel manager (or assistant front of house manager)
  • Night duty manager (or night auditor)
  • Porter

The duties of these roles can vary significantly but many of them also overlap. Customer service is the main purpose of these roles, so the department must be designed in a way that allows for easy and comfortable customer interaction.

Front of office functions

As the main guest service department in a hotel, front office functions include:

  • Answering phones
  • Taking reservations or bookings over the phone
  • Greeting guests upon arrival
  • Checking guests in
  • Checking guests out
  • Assisting guests with changes to their bookings
  • Making restaurant reservations and booking taxis on behalf of guests
  • Assisting guests with luggage
  • Troubleshooting and dealing with any guest complaints

The front of house area should have comfortable seating in case guests need to wait. It should also have space for multiple customer service stations to ensure smooth and quick check-ins. For hotels with concierge services, there should ideally be a separate space to avoid long queues and overcrowding. This can however be situated next to reception to ensure coordination and teamwork during busy periods.

Front of house staff need to have easy and instant access to the hotel’s booking system as well as the internal communications system so that they can quickly resolve any queries that guests have.

Management department

Other than the front of house managers and night managers, a hotel’s management staff go largely unseen by guests. However, this team is tasked with overseeing all aspects of the hotel’s operations. From hiring all staff to scheduling maintenance to creating new revenue management strategies, the hotel management team is extremely busy.

Again, the specific job titles and the amount of personnel within the management team will vary from hotel to hotel. However, some key roles within a hotel management department can include:

  • Hotel general manager
  • Operations manager
  • Night duty manager
  • Front of house manager
  • Assistant front of house manager
  • Director of purchasing
  • Revenue manager
  • Sales manager
  • Director of marketing
  • Human resources manager
  • IT manager
  • Security manager
  • Facilities manager
  • Cleaning manager
  • Spa manager
  • Restaurant manager

It’s worth noting that while all of these roles combine to form the core management team for the hotel’s functions, most of them also cross over into various other hotel departments. An open plan back-office space could be beneficial as it allows easy communication between departments. However, this should be evaluated and balanced against specific job functions. For example, the director of purchasing may benefit from being in the same office as the revenue manager, but the director of marketing will not have many (if any) cross-over of duties with a cleaning manager. Grouping various management teams into separate differing office spaces may therefore be more beneficial.

Whether the management team are seated in the same room or are spread out across various offices and locations, a centralised digital communication system is essential for ensuring that all departments coordinate and collaborate effectively.

Housekeeping department

The housekeeping department is in charge of cleaning all areas of the hotel. Although it’s not a direct customer service department, it is often highly visible to guests.

Hotel housekeeping jobs

The roles that make up the housekeeping department vary depending on the size of the hotel. Larger hotels may have staff in charge of specific duties whereas others will have general housekeeping staff who take care of all duties as part of one role.

Some job titles that often appear in hotel housekeeping departments include:

  • Cleaning manager
  • Assistant cleaning manager
  • Floor supervisor
  • Public area supervisor
  • Linen supervisor
  • Laundry supervisor
  • Room attendant or housekeeper
  • Public area attendant
  • Linen room attendant
  • Laundry attendant

Hotel housekeeping functions

Although the role may vary from hotel to hotel, the primary duties of the housekeeping department often include:

  • Cleaning public areas within the hotel (corridors, lobbies, lifts etc.)
  • Cleaning guest rooms
  • Cleaning back of house offices and spaces
  • Changing linen and towels
  • Making beds
  • Restocking mini bars and fridges
  • Restocking bathroom amenities
  • Removing rubbish
  • Collecting and delivering laundry items
  • Performing quality control checks
  • Reporting issues to the maintenance team
  • Washing, drying, folding and ironing laundry

Housekeeping is a department that is situated in every part of the hotel. In terms of hotel building functions, it’s useful to have housekeeping stations and supply closets on every floor as well as centralised back of house facilities for laundry and so on. Smaller hotels, however, may only need one supply closet in a centralised location.

Food & beverage department

The food and beverage department of a hotel can include everything from room service to restaurant management. From purchasing produce and pricing menus to taking orders and serving customers, a lot goes into making the food & beverage department functional.

Managerial positions in hotel food & beverage include:

  • Restaurant manager
  • Executive chef
  • Kitchen manager

Large hotels may have several bars and dining spaces, in which case there would be a larger management team at play.

Food & beverage managers need to be able to coordinate and communicate with the hotel management staff while also focusing on their individual establishment. As such, an office space next to the kitchen is usually the most functional.

Kitchen and food production department

From preparing room service to breakfast buffets to restaurant dining, the kitchen at a hotel is a very busy place. Kitchens can be extremely stressful and a poor layout can have a significant impact on operations. So, if you’re designing a hotel kitchen from scratch, make sure you consult with your executive chef and kitchen manager before you commit to anything.

When designing a kitchen in a hotel, make sure you have space for:

  • Food storage (including cool room, freezer and pantry)
  • Storage of cleaning equipment
  • Food preparation area
  • Cooking area
  • Dish washing area
  • Service area (for waiters to collect dishes to take to guests)

The size and type of kitchen you have will depend on a number of factors. However, as a general rule, experts suggest that for each seat in the restaurant, at least 5 square feet of kitchen space should be allocated.

Maintenance department

Most people assume that the maintenance department is called upon when something needs fixing. And while this is true, there is a lot more to it than that. In fact, most of the work for a facilities management or maintenance department is actually scheduled or preventative maintenance. This means regularly carrying out checks and maintenance to ensure that things stay up to health and safety standards and do not reach the point where corrective or emergency maintenance is necessary.

From screwing in lightbulbs to fixing refrigerators, hotel maintenance covers a wide range of duties and trades. This department therefore needs adequate space to store tools and equipment. For larger hotels, it’s also useful to have a small workshop space with an adjacent office for the facilities manager or maintenance supervisor.

To ensure minimal disruption to guests and hotel operations, the maintenance department must also have real-time access to maintenance requests and scheduling updates.

Accounts and finance department

The accounting department in a hotel oversees all incoming and outgoing payments. From processing invoices to producing budget reports to paying staff, the hotel accounting team can be extremely busy. At times, they will work closely with the general manager as well as other heads of departments. A seat in an open plan office or a quiet office adjacent to other management personnel is therefore useful for this department.

Security department

Roles in the hotel security department can include:

  • Security officers
  • Security supervisor
  • Security manager (or director of security)

Of course, the amount of security on site depends entirely on the type and size of the hotel. For example, it’s unlikely that a small boutique hotel in the countryside would need a team of ten security officers unless they are expecting a visit from A-list celebrities.

For some hotels, a comfortable position at front of house for one security officer and a room in back of house for another officer with monitors will be sufficient. Many smaller hotels also outsource their security services.

Human resources department

Much like the accounting department, human resources in large hotels can be very busy. From recruiting new staff to coordinating contracts, human resources often have a lot of paperwork to get through. As the department is charged with ensuring that all workers’ rights are adhered to at all times, they will often collaborate with other senior managers and need to be kept abreast of staff scheduling and working hours. In larger hotels, this can involve overseeing dozens if not hundreds of people. An office space either with or near other heads of departments can therefore be useful.

Sales and reservations department

The main goal of the sales and reservations department is to increase room bookings and boost revenue. Depending on the size of the hotel, this department could have both a revenue manager and a sales manager, or one person in charge of both. In small hotels, these roles could even be part of the hotel general manager’s duties.

To boost revenue, this department is constantly analysing the market as well as the hotel’s own key performance indicators. From financial forecasting to competitor research to negotiating with third party vendors, they are constantly looking for new ways to increase bookings for the hotel.

In order to perform their duties effectively, those in the sales and reservations department must work closely with the marketing team as well as the senior management team. A desk in the back of house office near these departments would therefore be advantageous.

Marketing department

Again, depending on the size of the hotel, this department could consist of a team of staff or it could just be a one-man band. For smaller businesses, the role of marketing may be part of the senior management team’s duties.

The main goal for this department is to promote the hotel and create or maintain a positive public image through branding, social media promotion and PR. They must coordinate and collaborate with the sales & reservations team, the events team, and senior management. An office space within easy conversational reach of these teams would therefore be ideal.

Purchase department

The purchasing team is tasked with buying all products that are used in the hotel. Whether it’s complimentary toiletries in guest bathrooms or mops for the housekeeping team, all purchases go through this department.

The role involves negotiating with vendors, managing high value contracts, quality assurance, stocktaking and accounting. In order to ensure that everything stays on budget, this department needs to collaborate with senior hotel management as well as the accounting team. Depending on the division of roles, they may also work closely with the food and beverage team. Therefore, office space in back of house operations for the purchase department is optimal.

IT department

This department oversees all the systems and software used across the hotel. Whether it’s booking systems, maintenance scheduling systems, internal phone lines or guest wifi connections, all digital solutions are the responsibility of the IT department.

From troubleshooting and fixing issues to planning upgrades and researching new software and systems to streamlining operations, the IT team is always busy. For troubleshooting, they need to be easily contactable by all departments.

While some hotels may have used off-site IT assistants in the past, the increasingly automated and digital guest services that hotels now deliver requires on-site IT support. After all, what’s the point in having a QR code booking system at the bar or bluetooth-locked doors if the system is down for several hours?

Event planning department

Events can offer a huge amount of revenue for hotels and having an in-house event planning team is the best way to maximise that income. From acquiring new business to planning, budgeting and staffing events, this team can get very busy.

While some hosts may only want to rent the space and use external vendors, the events team will always try to cross-promote the hotel’s various services and capabilities. For example, if the hotel has an in-house restaurant, they will suggest that they provide the catering for the event. If the event involves a lot of people from out of town, they may want to capitalise on this by offering bulk rates and discounts for guests to stay at the hotel.

It’s therefore important for the event planning department to be able to communicate and collaborate with other hotel departments to maximise revenue from events.

Staff that the event planning team may need to collaborate with include:

  • Marketing manager
  • Social media manager
  • Sales manager
  • Revenue manager
  • Hotel general manager
  • Food & beverage department (most likely restaurant manager and/or executive chef)
  • Director of purchasing

What are successful hotel department operations?

The two main goals for a hotel is to maximise revenue and provide excellent customer service. And as we’ve already discussed, there are countless people working tirelessly behind the scenes to make this happen.

The key to success here is ensuring that all of these departments can work together to achieve the same goal. After all, your revenue manager could run all of the market analysis in the world but it is useless unless your hotel management team can take that information and turn it into results. Your marketing team could promote the hotel on social media until they’re blue in the face but unless your booking system is running smoothly, it won’t translate to revenue.

Finding a way to bring all of these departments together is therefore essential to the success of any hotel.

Useful software for successful hotel operations

Utilising the right hotel management software can streamline your operations and improve collaboration between departments across the hotel. By automating a lot of the day to day tasks, hotel management software can dramatically reduce admin time while also providing you with invaluable customer analysis.

Good hotel management software will allow you to:

  • Create and manage a user friendly website
  • Accept direct online bookings
  • Increase your visibility on search engines
  • Diversify your revenue stream by working seamlessly with OTAs and GDSs
  • Access innovative pricing tools to maximise your dynamic pricing strategy
  • Improve customer relationships
  • Eliminate double bookings and manual errors
  • Easily access market analysis and performance reporting capabilities

Which hotel departments benefit from hotel management software?

Using hotel management software can streamline operations across the entire hotel. With everything connected to one management system, it can simplify communications and ensure that things run smoothly.

However, some departments will benefit significantly from using hotel management software. These include:

  • Front of house team
  • Senior management team
  • Sales and revenue department
  • Accounts and finance department
  • Marketing department
  • Events department
  • Purchasing department

What other hotel technology should you consider using?

As technology inevitably evolves, it will continue to present innovative solutions that can completely transform the way we work. And while keeping up with the latest technology trends is good business, it’s hard to know what’s worth investing in and what’s just a short-term fad.

Some key questions that many hotel managers and owners are considering in today’s market include:

For an in depth look at some of the latest technology trends, check out our complete guide to the hotel industry’s systems and products.

 

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