Hotel checklists detail multi-step standard operating procedures, both complicated and mundane. Going to the grocery store with a checklist yields dramatically different results than going to the grocery store without one. In one scenario, you have grocery bags filled with a week's worth of ingredients for well-balanced meals and healthy snacks. In the other scenario, you end up with four bags of potato chips, two bags of lettuce, but no salad dressing, and a few items from the frozen food aisle. But the consequences of not having a grocery list are minimal. Imagine performing surgery without a checklist, or temporarily suspending operations at a 1,000 room hotel property.
Managing hotel standard operating procedures through COVID-19 without checklists will likely yield a similar scenario as grocery shopping without a list (but replace well-balanced meals with a properly shuttered hotel, and replace four bags of potato chips with a leaking mini-fridge and musty smelling rooms). For hoteliers right now, hotel SOP checklists are absolutely essential.
Who Uses Checklists?
Just about everyone...from airline pilots to doctors, to chefs, to hoteliers. Checklists are both reminders for routine activities as well as instructions for procedures never completed before.
As a global pandemic swept across the globe earlier this year, ALICE’s contribution to helping hoteliers weather the storm was a new product called ALICE Checklists. With the input from hotel operation experts, we created a comprehensive digital library of over 190 hotel checklists designed to help hotels operate with low-occupancy, operate with a skeleton crew, or in many cases, temporarily suspend operations, or even briefly shut down.
Why Did We Create ALICE Checklists?
How did we decide that checklists would be ALICE’s contribution to the hospitality industry during this crisis? We had inspiration from Atul Gawande’s book, The Checklist Manifesto.
Gawande breaks failure into two categories -- failure from ignorance (not knowing enough) and failure from not doing something properly. We didn’t want hoteliers to fail for either of these reasons. Pilots, engineers, astronauts, bakers and doctors have checklists to prevent failure, both minor and major. Now, in a time of crisis, is when hoteliers should be using hotel SOP checklists as well.
The Benefits of Hotel Checklists
Hoteliers are extremely good at what they do. And what they do so well is welcome guests. They make guests feel at home and want to come back. Every hotel member is trained to put guests and their safety first, but what happens when there are just a few, or no guests to welcome? How do you keep your guests (and staff) safe? Or, what if you have a skeleton crew that is doing all of the work that is usually done by a staff five times the size?
Right now, many hotels are staying open with minimal guests and minimal staff, or they’re temporarily closing their doors all together. This is unchartered territory for most hotels (with the exception of seasonal properties which have experience closing their doors annually).
A skeleton hotel staff is now doing hotel operations they have never done before, and many hoteliers are unfamiliar with the following hotel SOPs (all of which we have checklists for):
1) Operating with low occupancy
Taking rooms out of service
Closing floors or buildings to guests
2) Operating while closed to guests
Ensuring cleaning and sanitizing is still happening, and is following Centers for Disease Control Standards
3) Temporarily shutting down the hotel
Scheduling security patrols
Alerting vendors and stopping services
4) And hundreds more
Comfort in Hotel Checklists
When talking with hoteliers we found that there was a lot of anxiety and confusion associated with shutting down hotels: fear and anxiety about suspending operations, shutting down properly, and doing those things safely. Hoteliers were afraid they weren’t doing it right, and failing to shut a property down properly could have catastrophic consequences when reopening.
What if a hotel closes down so quickly that the proper attention and detail to each task and process isn’t given? An improper shutdown can lead to a nightmare reopening that could have costly financial implications: vampire power sources draining electricity for months, leaking ice machines, critters coming in through open windows or unsecured doors, and security breaches on property.
The cure for overload, anxiety, and distraction is a well built, simple, and logically ordered checklist. Not just one checklist, but many...including maintenance checklists, housekeeping checklists, and guest room checklists.
Our hotel checklists mimic those created for airline pilots. A typical pilot’s checklist consists not of just one checklist but of many. Each one is wonderfully brief, usually just a few lines on a digital read-out in large, easy-to-read type. And each applies to a different scenario. Combined, they cover a vast range of flight situations. First is what pilots call their “normal” checklists - the routine lists they use for everyday aircraft operations. Checks before starting the engines, before pulling away from the gate, before taxiing to the runway, etc. In all, these are short and repeatedly used. Each checklist offers specifics, and when put together, the whole compilation of hotel SOP checklists touches just about every hotel department.
Digital Hotel Checklists Are Critical
As hotels reopen, closing procedures will have been well documented, which makes the reversal of each item on the checklists easy to accomplish. There is also a layer of accountability in being able to assign checklists or tasks to specific employees, and having them initial after completing each list.
In a perfect world, the employee who helps suspend operations and take rooms out of service at a property will be the same person who reopens and brings those rooms back into service. But, with no specific timeline for most hotels to reopen, it’s possible that different employees will be involved in these processes, which is why having digital hotel SOP checklists is critical.
How to Use Hotel Checklists Effectively
ALICE Checklists have been designed by hotel operations experts with experience closing and re-opening over 1,000 hotels. Processes are outlined with hotel operations workflows in mind.
Providing staff with digital hotel SOP checklists, especially for rare procedures, increases the likelihood that tasks are not missed and reopening is easier (and more efficient). Each task is a reminder, and each reminder ensures that reopening the hotel will be as seamless as possible when the time comes.
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