Here's a sampling of recent entries from Lodging Hospitality's blog, The Front Desk. Check it out at

Unions speak louder, faster

May 2, Ed Watkins

You've got to hand it to the brains at Unite Here, the hotel union that plans to stick it to the industry this summer through a series of hard-nosed negotiations and possible strikes in as many as six North American cities.

Last month, the union (through the New York Hotel Trades Council) agreed to resume talks with the owners of 100 properties in New York City to find an agreement on a new contract. As part of the deal to return to the bargaining table, the union and owners jointly agreed not to talk to the press during the ongoing negotiations. That's a little bit like closing the barn door after the horses escape.

Just a few days earlier, the union released a scientific-sounding study outlining the pain and suffering hotel housekeepers supposedly suffer as part of their jobs. The study, conducted by a group of “occupational medicine experts“ obviously in the back pocket of the union, was also presented at a government symposium to give it additional credence. It worked, as newspapers and other media outlets from coast to coast picked up the story.

A feeble response by the hotel industry got very little coverage, so all the public will remember in a month or two as the unions do battle with the owners is that hotel workers have tough jobs and aren't justly compensated for them. Public opinion is one of the most powerful weapons in labor negotiations, and Unite Here clearly won this battle.

A cool Chicago hotel

April 28, Ed Watkins

I recently attended a one-day conference in Chicago on condo hotels sponsored by the International Society of Hospitality Consultants. Great speakers and great content, but more on that at another time.

I spent the night at the Hotel Amalfi, the Hostmark Hospitality property across the street from Harry Caray's restaurant in River North. The property, which Hostmark hopes is the foundation for a new chain, is a condo hotel with a cool vibe that's also warm and friendly. Everyone from the doorman to front desk clerk was inviting and friendly in a genuine, non-programmed way. As a non-hip Baby Boomer, I felt as welcome as my 27-year-old son would have been.

From a facilities and services point of view, the Amalfi has a few touches other hoteliers could emulate. The front desk is unconventional in that agents sit behind desks, and guests are invited to sit across from them during the check-in transaction. This isn't a new idea, but it's a great one, and I'm surprised more hotel don't adopt it, especially those properties that also have lobby kiosks.

One of the Amalfi's unique approaches is its breakfast service. First of all, it's free, a nice touch in an urban hotel. Instead of serving the meal in a sometimes-bleak, often-impersonal breakfast room, the hotel sets up its juice, coffee and carb offering in the elevator lobby on each floor, making it easy for guests to go get breakfast in their robes and then head back to their rooms to watch Matt and Katie (and soon Meredith), Imus or Mike and Mike. Obviously, the service is more labor-intensive for the hotel, but it does save a space that in most hotels is only used a couple of hours a day.

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