Tag Archives: hospitality

Help Springwood Hospitality “Stick it to Hunger” Today!

Springwood Hospitality gladly supports the local food bank and is conducting a food drive April 11th to April 28th.  Thank you for joining us in the fight against hunger!

Please click on the link to read all the details and where food donations are accepted.  Springwood Hospitality Food Drive Details


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Maximizing House Profit using Flex/Flow Calculations Part 3: How to calculate Flow performance.

At this point, it is fair to say that you know the difference between Flex and Flow and you have an idea where your goal should be for each.  If not, please review Part 1 and 2 of this series.  With that knowledge and understanding under our belt we are ready to discuss the calculations.  First, I am going to give you the formulas and then I am going to play out 3 different flow scenarios with some brief explanations of each.

Let’s start with everyone’s favorite (or at least it should be)…Flow.

To calculate what your house profit target (HPT) should be based on your flow goal is really simple.  Multiply the revenue variance (RV) by the goal percentage (GOAL%) to get the house profit target (HPT).

RV  x  GOAL%  =  HPT

The next thing I recommend is determine if the property met the house profit target.  This gives you the first indication on whether you made the flow % or not.  This is calculated by subtracting the house profit target (HPT) from the house profit variance (HPV) to get the house profit goal variance (HPGV).  Positive numbers for the house profit goal variance are great and negative numbers are never good.

HPV  –  HPT  =  HPGV

To calculate your actual flow, just divide your house profit variance (HPV) by your revenue variance (RV) and that equals the flow percentage (FLOW%).  This gives you your actual flow through percentage.


Now let look at some examples of how this process works.  I am using a flow goal of 70% in the calculations below.

Example #1:  This is a basic flow calculation.

Actual Revenue Budgeted Revenue Revenue Variance
$300,000 $280,000 $20,000
Actual House Profit Budgeted House Profit House Profit Variance
$150,000 $140,000 $10,000

Step #1 is to determine the house profit target.  We should multiply the revenue variance by the flow goal.  In this example, that would be $20,000 x 70% which equals $14,000.  $14,000 is our house profit target.

Step #2 is to determine if the property met the house profit target.  We just subtract the house profit target from the actual house profit variance.  For this situation it would be $10,000 – $14,000 = ($4,000).  In essence we are $4,000 short of our target.

Step #3 is to determine our actual flow percentage.  We just divide the house profit variance by the revenue variance to get the number.  For this scenario it would be $10,000 ÷ $20,000 = 50% Flow.  The 50% flow is less than our goal, but we already had that indication from step #2.

Step #4 is always to analyze the financial statement to find efficiencies and inefficiencies.  In this case it would be to analyze your financial statement, paying particular attention to variable expenses to determine if the property could have saved the $4,000.  There could be a fixed cost overage or something unexpected that caused this as well, but the goal is to focus more on what can be controlled.

Example #2:  This is a flow calculation with a huge flow percentage.  The best of the best sometime question themselves when they get some of these numbers.  The question usually sounds something like this, “it that even possible?” and the short answer is yes.

Actual Revenue Budgeted Revenue Revenue Variance
$280,200 $280,000 $200
Actual House Profit Budgeted House Profit House Profit Variance
$150,000 $140,000 $10,000

Step #1 is $200 x 70% giving us a house profit target of $140.

Step #2 is $10,000 – $140 giving us a house profit goal variance of $9,860.  At this point you know the property far exceeded the flow percentage goal, but by how much?  Let’s see…

Step #3 is $10,000 ÷ $200 giving you a flow percentage of 5000%.  I know what you’re thinking, “Is that even possible?”  It is calculated just like example #1 using difference numbers and it is correct and therefore possible.

Step #4 would investigate the cause for the huge house profit goal variance with so little additional revenue.  This is obviously an extreme case, but you are probably looking for a large item that was budgeted but wasn’t used.  Maybe an electric bill or franchise bill was missed.  It is import to know why there is such a huge shortage because chances are pretty good that the expense has hit in a previous month or will be hitting at a later date which will give you a financial statement equally as bad.

Example #3:  This is a really bad financial statement showing a negative flow percentage.

Actual Revenue Budgeted Revenue Revenue Variance
$285,000 $280,000 $5,000
Actual House Profit Budgeted House Profit House Profit Variance
$136,000 $140,000 ($4,000)

Step #1 is $5,000 x 70% giving us a house profit target of $3,500.

Step #2 is the same as it has been in previous scenarios, house profit variance minus house profit target.  Some of my mathematically challenged colleagues look at the numbers and in their head come up with ($500) because the difference between $4,000 and $3,500 is $500 but that would not be correct.  Our equation is ($4,000) – $3,500. Not to get too far into math class, but because the $4,000 in this case is negative and you are subtracting a positive number you actually get ($7,500) as the house profit goal variance.  Example #2 was really good, now this one is really bad.

Step #3 is to find out your true flow percentage and given what we know from Step #2 it isn’t going to be pretty.  (4,000) ÷ 5000 gives us a flow of -80%.  That is negative 80% flow through because you spent $7,500 more than your goal.

Step #4 is always to find inefficiencies or efficiencies in the financial statement.  Although the property missed house profit by $4,000, the house profit goal variance was negative $7,500 and we should be looking for that amount of expense variances because of the additional revenues generated.  This is the opposite situation from Example #2 because you are looking for double posted bills and things of that nature.  Don’t forget to focus on the variable expenses even if you find a double posted bill or something of that nature.

As you can imagine there are literally trillions of flow situations that can happen, but the formulas are the same no matter the numbers.  I would encourage you to grab a financial statement or two or ten and run these formulas to see how you did.  Are there some inefficiencies that can be improved to meet the goal set in Part 2?

In Part 4 we are going to discuss the scenarios where you fell short of budgeted revenues.  The flex formula is a little different and gets more complicated, but like flow the formulas do not change only the numbers going into it.

Hospitably Yours,



Filed under Expense Control, Justin Shelton

Maximizing House Profit using Flex/Flow Calculations Part 2: How much should “Flow” to the bottom line?

The answer to this question can be as simple or complicated as you wish to make it, but you will want to set a goal you find acceptable based on the parameters discussed in this post.  Please keep in mind that I am speaking in generalities and there are certainly a number of ways to get a final answer. 

Where do I start? 

Start with a full year financial statement in hand and you will want to identify every line item to determine if it is a variable or fixed cost.  The fixed costs would be the items that do not fluctuate based on the number of rooms sold for a given period.  Some examples of these costs would be associates that are on salary, cable or satellite service, billboard advertising, and other items of that nature. When going through this process you are going to have to make some decisions. For example, maintenance expenses; some of these can be either fixed or variable.  My belief is that each room and piece of equipment should be kept on a set preventative maintenance schedule regardless of occupancy, which results in accounting for most of the maintenance expenses, including most wages, as fixed expenses.  The other train of thought is that if your occupancy is down you can cut your maintenance expenses because your rooms and equipment isn’t getting as much use so it will not need it.  In this case, some of those expenses would be considered variable.  This is but one example you will need to consider when going through this process.  How you account for these items is completely up to you and how your properties are run. 

I have determined what is fixed and variable, now what?

Now it is time to set goals.  Add all of your fixed line items and divide them by your total expenses to get the percentage of fixed expenses.  That would be your percentage of fixed costs and in turn should also be very close to your flow through goal.  The reason this works is because all of these items are (hopefully) already budgeted and therefore any additional revenue will have no bearing on these line items.  That means the additional revenue will only be affected by the variable expenses and the fixed percentage should “flow” directly through the financial statement to the bottom line.  If you subtract that number from 100%, it will obviously give you the variable expenses and it should be very close to your flex goal.  The theory here is that when you fall short of budgeted revenues you still have the fixed costs, but shouldn’t have the variable expenses.  The property should save or “flex” the variable expenses and that savings should be reflected in the house profit variance.  To be fair, the flex and flow goals should equal 100% when added together.   I have heard flow through goals anywhere from 50% to 80% and it really is dependant on how much of the expenses are variable.  You are basically putting a percentage on your fixed costs (flow goal) and your variable (flex goal) costs.  At Springwood Hospitality our goals for flow is 70% and our flex goal is 30%.  Basically we are saying our fixed costs are 70% and variable costs are 30%.  You may find that you are more comfortable with a lower flow number and a higher flex number or vise versa.  It is really your call. 

Don’t go throwing those numbers around just yet; in Part 3, I will discuss how to calculate flow to improve performance.          

Hospitably Yours,


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Maximizing House Profit using Flex/Flow Calculations Part 1: What is Flex/Flow?

It is surprising how many hotel managers, operators, and owners do not have an understanding or an appreciation for flex/flow calculations.  The flex and flow percentages are a measure of efficiency when managing revenue shortages or overages through the financial statement to the house profit line.  While I certainly remember what it was like to just be happy to exceed bottom line; I have seen the light when it comes to maximizing it using these calculations as a guide.  If you were over $15,000 in revenues and only $1000 on the house profit line, would you be happy?  If so, you should keep reading this series and you’ll see why you shouldn’t be satisfied so easily.  Technically speaking these flex/flow numbers and goals will vary from hotel to hotel based on their variable costs.  In this series, I will give you an understanding of flex/flow, how to determine goals for each, and how to calculate it based on your goals.

What is the difference between Flex and Flow?

Determining if the property is in a flex or flow situation is very easy.  Just look at the revenue variance for the given period and use that as your point.  If the property is over budget they are in a flow situation and therefore you are looking for how much you flowed through to the bottom line.  If the property finished less than budgeted revenues, they are in a flex situation and as a result you are looking to see how well they flexed or controlled their variable expenses.  I realize that some companies look at both situations as flow.  Personally, I like to make the distinction between each situation.  You will see in part 2 the goals are most likely different for each situation and it makes it a little easier to grasp when they are each separated. 

Why is Flex/Flow important?

We have to face the reality that some expenses are fixed and some are variable.  The majority of the rooms’ department expenses should be based on Per Occupied Room (POR).  This means that if you rent more rooms than budgeted you will have more POR cost and conversely if you rent less rooms you should have less cost.  An easy illustration of how this works is bath soap, assuming the property has it in every room.  If the property doesn’t rent the room tonight, the soap will still be there tomorrow.  As a result we can conclude there is no cost for soap in that room for the day because you don’t have to replace it.  If you had sold that room, you would have to replace it and costs would be associated with that.  Another example is room attendant wages, continental breakfast, and the list goes on and on.  This is the theory behind POR costs.  The more rooms you sell the more of those expenses you are going to have.  We all instinctively know this, yet some fail to measure it.  The flex/flow calculations give you a way to measure that efficiency.   

In Part 2, I will give you some ideas on how to establish a flex/flow goal.

Hospitably Yours,



Filed under Expense Control, Justin Shelton

Green is Green


We run a for-profit business.  We search for technologies that will help us improve returns for our investors.  That’s how we first became involved in green technologies – they can be profitable.

This is why we have a white roof on our newest hotel in Hershey, PA.  It would not ordinarily be prudent to go with a white roof in our climate on the 42nd parallel, where the heat gains and cooling losses of a white roof come close to canceling each other out. In the Hershey market, though, it makes lots of sense.  We expect to run essentially full all summer, when cooling loads are highest.  In the winter, we typically take the third floor out of service so that it forms a “blanket” of insulating airspace for the operational lower floors.

That’s how we save the most energy possible in Hershey: reflectivity in the summer, an insulating blanket in the winter.  That is why we installed a white/reflective roof on our new Country Inn & Suites by Carlson®, Hershey, at the Park.  It’s profitable.

Carlson has just announced that it is going to a standard of reusable plates in all of their hotels.  We are ready.  The dish washing system in place.  We were just waiting for the green light to stop buying disposables.  We’re delighted that Carlson has decided to take this approach, because the guests appreciate it when they see businesses taking a responsible approach to the environment.  Our investors also appreciate that our breakfast costs will go down because we won’t be throwing our dishes away any more.  It’s a win for everyone.

In the four most recent apartment communities we developed, we have installed full-building, ground-source heat pump systems consisting of up to 80 wells each.  These provide for all of the heating and cooling needs for the entire apartment complex.  We found that this technology saves up to half-off of our entire energy bill.  We can then include utilities in the rent, the residents are delighted, and it’s a profitable move for our investors.  An apartment complex is fully occupied year-round, so ground source heat pumps are fabulous green technology for that application.

If developers match the green technology with the application, the exercise can be profitable and environmentally friendly at the same time.  That’s a win-win!

Dave Hogg

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Is your hotel too hip for you?

The hallway of the W Atlanta Downtown illustrates the writer's comments.

By Jayne Clark, USA TODAY (Edited down to “blog length” – with apologies – by Dave Hogg)

Some of the hallmarks of cutting-edge urban hotel design — lobbies that double as party lounges, low-slung seating that (for those of a certain age) make getting up gracefully a challenge, complicated in-room control panels that bewilder, oddly placed fixtures (think bathtub in the middle of the guestroom) and lighting so dim it’s hard to see what’s where — are signs that your hotel might be too hip for you.

Joan Eisenstodt, a Washington hospitality industry consultant, recalls having to fumble for a flashlight as she made her way to her room in the W hotel in San Diego. “Ws are fabulous and funny. But they’re clearly not designed for anyone over the age of 35,” says Eisenstodt, 63. “The halls are too dark. They’re not even safe.”

“There are people who skew older but are young at heart and want to hang out in a more youthful environment,” says Chip Conley, 50, executive chairman of Joie de Vivre Hotels. “If the type is too small on the menu, they’ll just put on their glasses and deal with it.” The 35 boutique hotels in the Joie de Vivre catalog were created by using magazines (Real Simple meets Dwell) or movies stars (Gwyneth Paltrow meets Harrison Ford) as guiding principles in their design. The idea is to appeal to guests’ lifestyles.

Boutique hoteliers like Conley may have pioneered this approach, but in recent years the major chains have followed with their own “lifestyle” brands that convey the message: You are where you stay. (Among the new-ish lines: Hyatt’s Andaz; InterContinental’s Indigo; Starwood’s W and Aloft; and Marriott’s Edition.)

But can a hotel be too hip? Yes, says Conley, if it isn’t mindful of its target audience. Hotel consultant Daniel Edward Craig says some hoteliers have gotten so immersed in cutting-edge design, they’ve neglected service. “If the service and staff are warm, they can overcome the initial intimidation you feel when you walk into a foreign environment. The problem is that some hotels have put so much money into design and hired the wrong staff,” he says.

Craig, the former general manager of Vancouver’s trendy Opus Hotel (which created buzz when it opened in 2002 with its glass wall that separates the men’s and women’s restrooms) believes a hotel can do one of two things: “It can make you feel a bit cooler for being there, or it can make you feel not cool enough.”

Greg Myers, 42, was firmly in the latter camp when he checked into the W Chicago last year. “I felt like a senior citizen at a senior prom,” says the York, Pa.(!), sales director. “It was dark. The music was loud. It was the worst experience.”

Adam Goldberg, 43, encountered a similar scenario upon arriving at New York’s Hudson (whose website touts it as the Ultimate Lifestyle Hotel for the 21st Century). “It was like checking into a nightclub,” says the Fairfax, Va., digital TV consultant. “Dance music, dim lights, dark surfaces.”

Other frequently travelers are confounded by the tech-tronics of cutting-edge hotels. Tracy Kulik, 55, spent a fitful night at the James Hotel (now the Hotel Theodore) in Scottsdale, Ariz., when she couldn’t figure out how to turn off the LED illumination on the headboard and bed base. And she found the shower in her room at Washington’s Donovan House hotel so peculiar (it protruded into the bedroom and glowed), she snapped a photo with her cellphone.

Even Steve Carvell, associate dean of the Cornell Hotel School, admits to occasionally being confounded by how things work in some lifestyle hotels. But just as you might trade in your sports car for a van when you have kids, you might have to change hotels as you get older. “The brand doesn’t have to shift. It’s a question of whether you (now) belong in that demographic,” says Carvell, 54. “That’s why (hotel chains) create a family of hotels. They’re looking at you as a lifetime customer.”

Eisenstodt, who spends about 180 days a year on the road, has a different take. “I think hotel designers are going a little crazy in trying to be hip. There are (Baby) Boomers who may want to stay in a cool hotel. But they want light they can read by and furniture they don’t have to struggle to get up from,” she says. “When you’re 60-something and not totally cool and you’re not made to feel welcome, you wonder, ‘Isn’t the hospitality industry supposed to make you feel welcome?’ ”

COMMENTARY:  My family will be staying at the leading-edge-style Curtis Hotel in Denver this summer.  I’ll report back to you how the middle-aged parents – vs. the two teenagers who will be with us – view the atmosphere. I agree with consultant Eisenstodt that hotels’ pursuit of an ever narrower target market can repel some of the fat part of their market. (Double entendre intentional)  Time will tell if these moves are wise.  I have my doubts about them except in the largest U.S. markets.

It’s also cool that Jayne Clark shares an interview with a traveler from our home base of York, PA.  Trust me, we don’t often see that!

Dave Hogg

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Reality Check: US Hotel Room Prices Repairing

In a Feb 16, 2011 article in MarketNews.com, Claudia Hirsch chimes in on what all of us are seeing.  The following are some quotes from her article.

“After discounting prices throughout the recession, U.S. hotels have begun gently repairing room rates as occupancy levels increase, but full price restoration is still far off, according to hotel executives, travel agents and meeting planners.  Lodging prices began edging higher in 2010.  Stronger leisure and business occupancy has prompted the turnaround in room prices, and early 2011 signs point to guest counts trending upward throughout the year.”

(We’re also seeing a strong return of the vaunted Business Traveler in the central PA markets that we serve.  It’s been helping us to register some strong revenues.  In October through December 2010 our Holiday Inn Express & Suites actually logged its best 4th quarter revenue ever.   It’s been open for 17 years.  There are other competitive factors at work in that local market, but it’s an indication of the resiliency of the industry.)

“Still, a return to pre-recession room prices is likely a year or more away for many hotels… At a three-star hotel off New York City’s Times Square, room prices have nudged 6% to 7% higher year-to-date vs. last, despite a growing glut of inventory in the metropolis.  ‘Our occupancy is up, and the consumer is more confident. We can see it and feel it. But at the same time, they want value,’  said John Canavan, general manager at the Hotel Edison.”

Springwood has seen the same trend.  Our rates are up across the board, and occupancies are improving, but we have yet to see pre-recession ADR’s.  It could be a couple more years until prices fully recover.

by Dave Hogg

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U. S. Business Travel to Grow 5% in 2011

According to a recent study conducted by the National Business Travel Association and reported by Bloomberg, business travel spending should grow 5% in 2011.  They credit both a growing economy and stronger corporate profits.

Business travel in 2010 grew 2.3% in 2010 according to NBTA estimates.  We saw this impact anecdotally in our hotels that cater to business travelers, who started showing up again in stronger numbers in 2010.  This factor helped fuel the nearly 16% revenue increase in 2010 at our Homewood Suites by Hilton (a great brand, by the way).

NTBA points out that international business travel rose a whopping 16.9% in 2010, fueled by export-driven commerce.  That’s a huge gain, and it is an actual benefit of the weaker dollar.  Let’s hope that the federal government someday sees the wisdom of promoting this valuable export as a way to grow the economy and ease our trade deficit.

I predict that NTBA is right about the coming 2011 increase in business travel.  As its spokesman said in the article, “Companies are once again recognizing the value of face-to-face meetings … to build relationships.”

At Springwood, we build our business on relationships, because we believe that relationships drive not just our business, but all business.  There is no better way to build them than face-to-face!

Dave Hogg

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As always, we encourage your response. We look forward to connecting you with success in the hospitality business.

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