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Amping up the Pool Experience

Having a pool is not enough, here’s how to maximize your revenue around this critical amenity.

Monday, August 11, 2014
Steve Pike
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The most popular areas of a resort or hotel in the summer – or any time of year – is the pool deck and beach. They’re the dynamic duo that drives guests and business to some of the more popular properties around the world.

But any hotel or resort can have pool – the lucky ones have a pool and beach – it’s how they service their guests at those venues that help happier guests and increase revenue. In other words, it’s not good enough to simply have a poolside bar or restaurant, it’s important to have a poolside bar or restaurant that provides a unique experience and seamless service.

Nick Velardo, director of food and beverage at The Breakers Palm Beach, breaks down poolside and beachfront service into four categories: People, products, proximity and promotion.

“Like everything else we do here, it starts with the team,’’ Velardo said. “Part if it is having the right people and the right amount of people.

“Guests are constantly moving around the pool deck to the beach to the bar or to the showers. In order to keep track of people and give them what they want, you have to have a good system. Our beach and entire pool deck is set up in a grid system. Every single chaise lounge and every single chair is assigned. You set it up like a restaurant where every table is numbered.’’

The grid system eliminates the scatter shooting service that many guests experience at pool decks and beaches.

“A lot of places have separate people for cocktail service, towel service and cleaning up around the pool,’’ Velardo said. “We train every single person on everything. Every person who works around our pool deck is trained to take drink orders and trained to handle towel requests. That allows us to be more productive.’’

Being more productive also means better promoting the menu items, whether it’s a frozen drink or a hot dog.

“The key is offering people what they want,’’ Velardo said. “Pool guests don’t want heavy items. They want something light and something cool. Many places miss on this point because they forget about of the mentalities of the guests. If I’m in a bathing suit, right away I want something to eat that’s not heavy. Our guests might not ever drink a Pina colada or daiquiri up North where they live, but down here they want those product offerings.

“We offer frozen drink samples and cocktail samples in little cups throughout the day to give people samples of what we’re offering. That really does a lot to spark sales.’’

In regards to proximity, it’s important to get the pool deck and beach F & B venues as close to the guests as possible.

“Eating, dining and soaking up the sun go hand-in-hand,’’ Velardo said.

Sometimes closer than others.

For example, the recently-opened Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World in Orlando presents a poolside picnic at PB&G (Pool Bar & Grill), a smokehouse and rotisserie with platforms that suspend over the lake.

The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson features Sabino’s, Swim Up Bar & Grill, where guests literally swim to place their drink and food orders.

“People come here year and year just to enjoy the pool area,’’ said Mason Malesevich, Westin La Paloma’s director of restaurants & bars. “The challenge is fast service. At the pool area, you see food go out, but there is a lot more business on the beverage side. It’s all about fast, efficient and friendly service.

“One of the new things we’ve added this year is portable terminals that enable the staff to shoot a ticket right to the restaurant. It probably saves five or 10 minutes in service time.’’

Being able to find employees who can multi-task, Malesevich said, also is important to efficient poolside service.

“They have to be able to be fast and composed,’’ Malesevich said. “A lot of the staff here, particularly in the summer time, will handle 15 or 20 tickets at a time. Being able to manage all of those is the challenge.’’

The Hilton Los Cabos also has a swim up bar/restaurant, with sitting stools under the water.

“Poolside bars are different from other restaurant outlets,’’ said Gabriela van der Lee, the resort’s director of sales and marketing. “Keeping the captivity of our guests for an extended length of time is what our marketing and management strategies focus on, as time in the pool area is not as regimented as that of a restaurant, where you expect the guest to remain for a certain period of time while enjoying a meal experience.

“We create an environment where the guest wants to remain. The acknowledgement of repeat customers and the fact that we have long term team members are a testament to the key marketing strategies in our pool/bar restaurant outlets.’’
Steve Pike
Hotel Interactive® Editorial Division

Bio: Steve Pike is an award-winning golf writer and author who helped define golf business reporting in the early 1990s as the first Golf Business Editor for Golfweek magazine and later at Golf World and Golf Shop Operations magazines for Golf Digest. Pike further pioneered this genre at the PGA of America and Time Warner as the golf business writer and editor for PGA.com. He started in newspapers more than ...
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