In a hotel, the Front Office can either mean simply the reception desk, or something much bigger. The broader definition covers a number of different departments, all of which have direct contact with the guests. Here we will take a look at five key Front Office Departments and the work they do to keep the hotel functioning smoothly. Of course, not every hotel would break down its operating tasks in exactly the same way, with small properties tending to merge their functions, and large hotel groups relying on property management system (PMS) software to undertake many of the tasks.
The role of a Reservations Department is to work with customers and agencies to maximize revenue through the sale of rooms. This means that close cooperation is needed with the Sales and Marketing teams, and also with the receptionists. At night, when the Reservations Department is closed, it must ensure that all the immediate information for the night and following day is available to the Front Desk, so that guests can be checked in and out according to the schedule. Up-selling is also a part of the Reservations Department’s role as they persuasively offer higher-priced alternatives to customers in an aim to increase revenues.
The Housekeeping Department is responsible for keeping the hotel bedrooms, bathrooms and public areas clean. They will ensure that all linens such as bed sheets and towels are cleaned and changed, and will re-stock bathrooms with toiletries and bedrooms with items such as cups, glasses, mini bar items, and so forth. Housekeeping will also be on call to provide guests with additional items such as blankets or pillows when necessary. They will also work closely with the Maintenance staff, reporting problems they find within the hotel to be fixed. Given that Housekeeping staff have access to guest rooms, where guests may keep valuable items, it is essential that they are trustworthy, and full background checks should be carried out to make sure this is the case.
Sales and Marketing
The Sales and Marketing Department will work alongside Reservations in selling rooms, but while Reservations will take a largely administrative role, Sales and Marketing will also be responsible for organizing promotional campaigns and for projecting the image of the hotel to raise awareness among potential guests and agents. Marketing staff will carry out market research and then create a marketing plan to drive sales. It is important that the Marketing Department works closely with other hotel departments to ensure that the promotional ideas they create can actually be supported in reality by the other hotel staff.
Concierge and Guest Services
This department is responsible for ensuring that the guests’ stay is convenient and enjoyable. Staff working in Guest Services have the closest contact with guests and are therefore required to serve as brand ambassadors; they are the people who will be remembered by guests and thus shape the brand image. They will provide information about the services offered by the hotel, and should also be able to offer information about the local area and its attractions, including opening times and transportation. They will assist guests with luggage, and may offer help with bookings for onward travel. They will also work closely with the Front Desk to arrange airport transfers, and will be available to greet guests on arrival. In luxury properties, the Concierge Department may be able to handle all kinds of unusual requests from guests, using their connections and initiative to exceed guests’ expectations.
The final department which may be a part of the Front Office is Security. In larger hotels there will always be large numbers of people coming in and out of the property so it is essential to ensure the safety of guests by keeping a close eye on everyone. While surveillance cameras will provide one means of monitoring, security staff should also patrol the property regularly. However, since security staff cannot be everywhere at all times, it is also essential that they are able to spot suspicious or unusual behaviour patterns which might alert them to a potential threat. A background in law enforcement which included practical training is therefore advantageous. The security department may also be responsible for planning and preparations in the event of fire, accidents, or other safety-related incidents.
All of these departments have key roles to play within the remit of the Front Office. Their activities complement one another and the departments must therefore work closely together to support the brand image of the hotel and to ensure that guests enjoy a smooth and trouble-free hospitality experience.