This research paper will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of Total Quality Management (TQM) in relation to the hotel and leisure industry. More specifically, it will analyze the application of TQM principles to catering services in the hotel industry. Catering is defined as a service including delivery of meals outside the restaurant, for instance, room service, delivering meals to functions in the hotel such as buffets, and catering to outside events. The importance of this service is hard to overestimate: catering ensures the quality of customer experience, especially in cases the hotel is used for high-level events such as business meeting and conferences as well as social occasions. The advantages and disadvantages of TQM in catering will be illustrated by a case study focusing on the delivery of this service in Ritz Carlton chain.
The research paper will have the following structure: first of all, theoretical principles of TQM will be discussed; secondly, different aspects of TQM in catering services will be analyzed using the example of Ritz Carlton hotel chain (including such aspects of TQM as organizational communication, service availability, food quality guarantee, customer focus, organizational integrity, and employee development and empowerment); thirdly, a comprehensive conclusion will be made concerning the advantages and disadvantages of applying TQM in the hotel industry.
There is little consensus among researchers and practitioners concerning the most appropriate definition of Total Quality Management (TQM). This practice is defined by the UK Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (2000) as ‘a way of managing people and business processes to ensure complete customer satisfaction at every stage, internally and externally’ (p. 1).
The key focus of this approach is on producing quality goods or delivering satisfactory services on the first try rather than correcting mistakes. In order to implement TQM, changes have to be made to people, processes and systems of an organization. These changes encompass commitment to quality among both leaders and employees, communication of the quality message, and creating a culture of TQM in an organization.
Quality is defined as comprising ‘performance, appearance, availability, delivery, reliability, maintainability, cost effectiveness and price’ (Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, 2000, p. 2).
Easton and Sherry (1998) suggest that TQM is based on the principles of process focus (including process definition, process management, and process improvement); systematic improvement (cycle-time reduction, cost reduction, and prevention-based orientation); companywide emphasis (quality is a central concept for all functions of an organization, including product development and business support processes); customer focus (encompassing lead-time reduction, on-time delivery, field and technical support, integrating customer information into management system, involving customer into planning and product development); management-by-fact (decision-making on the basis of objective data by deployment and tracking of metrics); employee participation and development (employee empowerment and organizational learning); cross-functional management (enhanced focus on processes that cross several functions); supplier performance and supplier relationships (supplier capabilities, supplier improvement, and supplier involvement and integration); and recognition of TQM as a critical competitive strategy (TQM becoming a concern of employees at all levels).
Achieving quality starts with a research into customers’ needs and expectations. An organization should clearly identify its internal and external customers and measure its own ability to meet their expectations. If this ability turns out to be insufficient, the organization should actively seek ways to enhance it. The organization should also develop a system of monitoring changes in customers’ needs and expectations. Every customer-supplier interaction should be a part of a quality chain, in which all members demonstrate a straight-out commitment to quality.
Additionally, TQM requires leaders to have a strategic vision and to be able to communicate it to the entire workforce. Leaders who do not give clear direction constitute a prevalent case of decreased efficiency and quality. Moreover, competitive positioning should be understood and acted upon. Reactive responses to market moves should be given up in favor of a proactive position. The unproductive thinking that a level of defects or errors is inevitable should be eliminated. Large amounts of wasted effort and energy in organization should be reduced to minimum. Benefit of all stakeholders should become a priority.
Achieving TQM requires an organization to function in a well-coordinated and cooperative manner. Interdepartmental rivalry and hostility should be solved and prevented in the future. In general, the focus of TQM is on prevention and not correction of mistakes and misunderstandings.
Senior management should define and communicate corporate beliefs, values and objectives, act as role models in achieving TQM, and encourage effective employee participation. Supervising and training, teamwork and system thinking and can ensure success of TQM implementation.
TQM principles were first developed for manufacturing. Given the increasing interest in TQM from the side of service companies, there were attempts to apply this approach to hotel and leisure industry as well. Several problems were encountered with quality assurance in service sector, such as ‘the intangibility and perishability of the product, variability of delivery, simultaneous production and consumption of the service, and the changing needs and expectations of providers and users’ (Partlow, 1993, p. 17-18).
Despite the aforementioned difficulties, TQM is nowadays widely applied in all sectors of the economy. The paper will proceed with examining different aspects of TQM that relate to catering services in Ritz Carlton hotel chain.
Organizational Communication and Service Availability
It has been noted above that communicating the message of quality is essential for achieving TQM. Ritz Carlton chain has implemented TQM principles in all management and service processes; it was the first hotel group to win prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. The recipients of this award has achieved excellence in such fields as leadership, information analysis, strategic quality planning, human resource development and management, quality assurance, quality operating results, and customer satisfaction (Partlow, 1993).
Communication between management and employees as well as between employees is widely recognized as one of the key elements of quality service delivery. The chain of communication from kitchen staff to waiters delivering the food to guest has to be fairly long, and failure of communication at each stage can be fatal.
To avoid such blunders in the delivery of catering services, Ritz Carlton focuses on teamwork as one of the most vital aspects of TQM. Teamwork is encouraged by communicating the message that all employees, irrespective of their statuary duties, should help their fellow workers if assistance is required by an employee who is responding to a customer’s complaint or wish. Teams are given a considerable amount of independence: ‘[a]t each level of the company–from corporate leaders to managers and employees in the individual work areas–teams are charged with setting objectives and devising action plans, which are reviewed by the corporate steering committee’ (Partlow, 1993, p. 19).
Speaking about availability of catering services, Ritz Carlton hotels make a genuine effort to ensure such availability at all times. For example, Ritz Carlton Chicago made in-room dining service available 24 hours a day, serving a variety of menus at different times. In-room dining menus ‘include an inspired selection of nutritionally balanced fare that does not sacrifice gourmet presentation and taste’ (Ritz Carlton Chicago, 2008, ‘Specialties’). In-room catering options include a children’s menu, a pet menu, a hospitality menu and a wine list.
Food Quality Guarantee
The staff of a hotel striving for achieving TQM should demonstrate a continuous commitment to providing only the best in freshness and taste. For instance, Ritz Carlton Chicago achieves food quality through recruiting award-winning chefs and developing menus in close cooperation with nutritional experts from Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Wellness Institute. Therefore, catered menus are ‘calorie-controlled, low in fat, carbohydrate-controlled, and high in fibre’ (Ritz Carlton Chicago, 2008).
Another Ritz Carlton hotel, at Lake Las Vegas, serves food that has less butter, more olive and infused oils and relies heavily upon the food’s natural flavors (Ritz Carlton Lake Las Vegas, 2008).
Catering services should be diverse enough to fulfill a wide range of customer needs, both dietary and cultural. One of the principles of Ritz Carlton Chicago is developing diverse gourmet menus without compromising food quality. The hotel ‘prides itself on culinary creativity, and offers an extensive array of menus to choose from’ (Ritz Carlton Chicago, 2008, ‘Wedding Details’, ‘Menu creations’).
Menus for special occasions such as weddings or other social events can be custom-designed, giving the customer an opportunity to make his or her own selection of food items and beverages. As concerns customers’ cultural preferences, Ritz Carlton Chicago (2008) informs that it is ‘proud to offer extraordinary kosher catering’ (‘Wedding Details’, ‘Specialty Kitchen’).
In general, Ritz Carlton is noted for its exceptional commitment to satisfying customer needs. Therefore, the chain can be considered an example of a service-oriented organization implementing a one-to-one customer interaction strategy. The chain runs a database of customer profiles that allow its staff to anticipate customer preferences and, as a result, increase customer satisfaction. The elements of this profile are customer suggestions, preferences, and complaints. The information comes from two sources: the customer and hotel workers (Wells, Fuerst & Choobineh, 1999).
The chain management ‘records guest preferences gleaned from conversation with customers during their stay and uses them to tailor the services that customers receive on their next visit at any other Ritz-Carlton in the world’ (Chen & Popovich, 2003, p. 676-677).
As concerns the second way of gathering information, Ritz Carlton provides each of its workers with a ‘guest preference pad’ for recording information about the customer, based on face-to-face interactions with the customer together with direct observation (Wells, Fuerst & Choobineh, 1999).
As a result, each employees of Ritz Carlton ‘will know the needs of their internal and external customers (guests and fellow employees) so that we may deliver the products and services they expect’ (Partlow, 1993, p. 18).
Quality being defined differently by different departments can be a major obstacle for achieving TQM. Therefore, it is of paramount importance to integrate the message of quality with the message of consistency across departments. It usually starts with top management being clear about company’s values and objectives and encouraging all departments to adhere to uniform standards, senior management acting as role models.
When Ritz Carlton pioneered the TQM model, it united the efforts of its CEO and senior executives in setting up a corporate steering committee and a senior quality-management team. During their weekly meeting, the team devoted one-fourth of their time to discussing ‘product- and service-quality measures, guest satisfaction, market growth and development, organizational indicators, profits, and competitive status’ (Partlow, 1993, p. 19).
A new vision has been formulated and communicated to all employees under the name of Ritz-Carlton Gold Standards. These standards included a credo (a pledge to provide the best service and facilities for guests and fulfills even the unexpressed wishes and needs of all customers); motto (‘We are Ladies and Gentlemen serving Ladies and Gentlemen’); three steps of service (a sincere greeting, anticipation and compliance with customer needs, an warm farewell); and twenty Ritz-Carlton Basics (practical steps aimed at ensuring quality and customer satisfaction).
This vision has been continuously communicated by daily ‘line ups,’ regular recognition for significant achievements, and performance appraisals. All workers are surveyed each year to ascertain their levels of satisfaction and commitment to quality standards. The final measure to ensure consistent understanding of quality issues was designated a quality leader in each hotel, charged with being a resource and advocate as teams and workers develop and carry out their quality plans (Partlow, 1993).
Employee Development and Empowerment
Under the TQM model, training should be offered to enhance the quality of service and to create an excellent experience for the customer. As concern training, Ritz Carlton requires that all new hires receive Training Certification to ensure they understand how to perform to The Ritz-Carlton standards in their position: ‘new employees are versed on the corporate culture through a two-day orientation, followed by extensive on-the-job training, then job certification’ (Partlow, 1993, p. 19).
The second important aspect of employee development is empowerment: ‘[e]mpowering employees and teams requires training them to use their authority effectively…[and]…redesigning some jobs to facilitate a team approach and modifying policies and practices that support rewards for results and other cultural elements that empower employees’ (Partlow, 1993, p. 20).
The philosophy of Ritz Carlton chain in the field of employee empowerment consists of the following principles: 1) At The Ritz-Carlton our staff are the most important resource in our service commitment to our guests; 2) All employees have the right to be involved in the planning of work that affects them; 3) Each employee is empowered; 4) Whoever receives a complaint from a guest will own it and resolve it to the guest’s satisfaction (Nicholls et al., 2000, p. 177).
Employees are given sufficient independence to detect and correct all irregularities of service delivery by themselves. They are encouraged to use the so-called ‘Mr. BIV’ formula, which stands for Mistakes, Rework, Breakdowns, Inefficiencies, and Variations. All irregularities that have been solved should be followed up with a telephone call within 20 minutes to ensure that the issue has been settled to the customer’s satisfaction. Every case of guest dissatisfaction should be reported using guest-incident action forms.
Every work area is supervised by three teams charged with problem solving, strategic planning, and setting quality-certification standards for each set of job duties. Daily quality reports are collected from each of the work areas in the hotel. They can be used as a warning signal for detecting problems that can be an obstacle for fulfilling quality and customer-satisfaction standards. By these means, Ritz Carlton ensures that quality is not compromised and all employees are involved in running the business (Partlow, 1993).
Implementation of TQM in the hotel industry has apparent advantages, such as increased customer and employee satisfaction, elimination of wasted effort, and focus on efficiency. However, there are certain disadvantages as well. By virtue of intangibility of services and subjectivity of delivery evaluation, TQM in the hospitality industry might be hard to ensure. However, if all TQM principles are construed correctly and implemented fully, an increase in efficiency can be achieved by an organization from any field.
Ritz Carlton hotel is a brilliant example of a hotel chain that maintains a competitive edge due to practicing TQM. It was one of the first hotel chains to pioneer this approach to management. Nowadays it is a classical example of a successful organization committed to quality and customer satisfaction, development of employees and strong corporate persona.
Ritz Carlton achieves TQM in catering through ensuring food quality, service availability, anticipating and fulfilling customer needs, and offering well-trained and committed staff.
Chen, I.J., & Popovich, K. (2003). Understanding customer relationship management (CRM): People, process and technology. Business Process Management Journal, 9(5): 672-688.
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Easton, G.S., & Sherry L.J. (1998). The Effects of Total Quality Management on Corporate Performance: An Empirical Investigation. The Journal of Business, 71(2): 253-307.
Nicholls, S., Cullen, R., O’Neill, S., & Hallligan, A. (2000). Clinical governance: its origins and foundations. Clinical Performance and Quality Health Care, 8(3): 172-178.
Partlow, Ch.J. (1993). How Ritz-Carlton Applies ‘TQM’. Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 34(4): 16-24.
Ritz Carlton Chicago. (2008). Home Page. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from http://www.fourseasons.com/chicagorc
Ritz Carlton Lake Las Vegas. (2008). Home Page. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/LakeLasVegas/Default.htm
Wells, J.D., Fuerst, W.L., & Choobineh, J. (1999). Managing information technology (IT) for one-to-one customer interaction. Information & Management, 35(1): 53-62.
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