Organisations can thrive in a market environment only when they effectively compete and adapt to new trends by improving the quality of goods and services they offer (Fen & Lian 2010). In the hotel and restaurant industry, indicators of quality services include adherence to standards set forth by laws and customer satisfaction. In order to be effective, any change project aimed at enhancing services must be managed well. It is then important to understand the process of change and the role of leaders/managers in it.
In this paper, I propose a change project for a hotel in Nigeria, which I will refer to as Hotel Nigeria, where I had a less than ideal experience regarding its food services. To effect changes in the hotel’s food service, I will conceptualize a step-by-step change plan applying Kurt Lewin’s model which describes in general the different stages of change for any organisation. I will use management tools in the analysis of the issue. I will also use information from management research to define the appropriate method of change. Finally, I will propose an evaluation strategy as a way of determining whether the change is successful.
The State of Food Service in Hotel Nigeria
Hotels offering food services in Nigeria are covered by national and local laws being implemented by the Federal Ministry of Health (Omotayo & Denloye 2002). By regulating food services so that these satisfy hygiene standards, these laws protect against food-borne illnesses. Hotels offering food services are required to obtain permits to operate, a process which requires an inspection to see if the kitchen, equipment, storage facility, water supply, staff and procedures are in accordance with regulations (Business Day staff 2012).
Compliance with food hygiene regulations is an aspect of the objective quality of food service. From the perspective of consumers, however, quality is often subjective and is indicated by customer satisfaction. In many studies, satisfaction is associated with the quality of the food, the services rendered by the staff and dining ambience among others (Abdullah & Rozario 2009). Customers would have a higher level of satisfaction with food services if they like the ambience, are served by the staff in a prompt and polite manner, and enjoyed the food. There is also high customer satisfaction if they perceive that the quality of food services is commensurate to the cost (Iwarere & Fakokunde 2011).
Considering regulatory and customer satisfaction issues, much is wanting in the food service sector in Nigeria. First, there is a perceived inadequacy in the monitoring and enforcement of regulations (Osagebemi, Adbullahi & Aderibigbe 2010; Isara et al. 2010). This is substantiated by Hotel Nigeria’s continued food services operation given its practices and facility. During my stay there, food was not covered when being brought out to be served. The kitchen is cramped, disorderly and manned by three people without hats and aprons. Inadequate staffing resulted in orders taken after considerable time and food that was always served late. Further, the taste and presentation of the food was less than expected. As such, I was dissatisfied with the hotel’s food service, an experience which equates to service failure.
What Needs to be Changed and Why
Evidently, Hotel Nigeria needs to improve its food services, referred to as service recovery (Mount 2010). Customers are the lifeblood of the hotel and restaurant industry and their satisfaction has been linked in many studies to the retention and expansion of clientele (Abbasi et al. 2010; Fen & Lian 2010; Sim, Mak & Jones 2006) as when customers continue to patronise the hotel’s services and recommend it to many others. The benefit of service recovery to the client is an optimal food service experience or value for money while benefits to the organization are increased and sustained revenue (Mount 2010).
At the other end of the equation are the service employees and management. Inadequate knowledge and skills regarding food hygiene and quality service are common barriers to poor food preparation and handling practices (Mulugeta & Bayeh 2012). However, having the proper education and training does not automatically translate to excellent employee performance. It must be coupled with motivation which is greatly influenced by the work environment and the quality of management (Salazar et al. 2005). The benefit to the employee is job satisfaction and for the organisation it means committed and very productive employees (Upchurch et al 2010). Overall, the change process links the different value chain activities leading to a greater profit margin (Porter 1985).
The How of Change
According to Kurt Lewin, the process of change in an organisation consists of three stages: unfreezing, moving and refreezing (Armstrong 2005). In the unfreezing stage, the task of the change manager is to analyse the problem, call attention to its existence and propose its resolution by changing how things are done. In the moving stage, the new way of doing things is implemented and in the refreezing stage new behaviours consistent with the planned change are reinforced so that these become the new norm. This theory of change is applicable in the Hotel Nigeria organization using the framework of the HACCP.
A milestone in the food service industry in Nigeria is the adoption of the hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) which is an internationally accepted food hygiene guideline (Omotayo & Denloye 2002). The HACCP entails tracing the flow that foods go through, i.e. from receipt to storage, preparation, cooking, reheating and serving (Al-Kandari & Jukes 2011). This process mapping is followed by an analysis identifying points of food safety hazards. HACCP principles can be used to guide an improvement initiative in the hotel’s food service. The other components of change encompassing facilities, employee performance, staffing and supervision will be integrated with hazard management.
Since change is geared towards increasing quality by improving food hygiene and service delivery, quantitative measurements need to be made to determine if change does take place. The best measurements are those that indicate where the organisation is in terms of the factors that are associated with food service quality at present and where the organisation is after change implementation. These measures, as mentioned above, are customer satisfaction as a subjective indicator of quality, job satisfaction which is a contributory factor to excellent service and therefore quality, and compliance with legislation as indicated by Ministry of Health inspection results which is an objective indicator of quality. At the same time, if quality increases then profits should also increase and hence this is also an indicator of service quality food services and will be included. These measurements will be obtained at baseline or prior to implementation and then after implementation.
In order to identify the facilitators and barriers to change, a SWOT analysis must be made which involves identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation as well as the opportunities and threats it faces (see appendix) (Iles & Cranfield 2004). The moving stage poses the greatest challenge to managers implementing a change plan as it is here that employee resistance, a major barrier or threat, is encountered (Randall 2004). Resistance arises out of employees’ reluctance to let go of the familiar work routine in order to learn and do things differently. However, food service employees are part and parcel of the problem and using participative change management has been shown to empower employees to take part in the effort (Atwood 2003; Randall 2004). Employee involvement fosters change ownership or a sense that they can contribute to a more positive outcome which encourages participation (Randall 2004).
The Plan of Action
In order to objectively say that implementation was successful and determine if adjustments still need to be made, a post-implementation review must be done using measurements (Berwick 1996). To determine whether food service employees comply with guidelines, conduct an observational study noting the amount of time it takes to take to fulfil each task. Carry out another customer satisfaction survey to see if there are significant changes compared to baseline. Similarly, conduct another job satisfaction survey to also determine if employee satisfaction with their jobs has increased with the enhanced facility, increased supervision, supplemented staff and education/training on food hygiene and service. Lastly, conducting a financial analysis one month after implementation will show if change implementation has translated into greater revenue. If measurements show no increases in values then further modifications need to be made.
Organizations need to embrace change in order to grow and survive. In the services sector, obtaining high customer satisfaction would necessitate an organisational culture that is open to learning, oriented towards continuous improvement in service quality, and values the employee. By linking these components of culture, high-quality service by committed staff is assured to the customer. In turn, satisfied customers create much more revenue. The process of change towards increasing service quality begins with identifying a problem, analysing it using tools and planning what needs to be done. Change is about modifying how employees think and behave and their support and participation to change implementation is necessary to success. Buy-in can be achieved through participative change management. Following implementation, an evaluation quantifies and qualifies the impact of the change, indicates what else needs to be done and provides learning insights for future change initiatives.
Good business in the hotel and food service industry entails being able to deliver quality services. The objective indicator of quality is adherence with international, national and local regulations such as the HACCP framework, federal food laws and state regulations. These define the standards in the industry. On the other hand, a subjective indicator of quality is high customer satisfaction. Meeting these quality indicators translates to increased customer retention and expansion of the client base. In a highly competitive business environment, larger market shares and higher revenues spell competitive advantage and growth. Thus service quality should not be ignored but should rather be made a number one priority.
In Hotel Nigeria, the quality of food service is below optimal based on customer feedback of less than expected dining experiences. The wait time before food is ordered is long and the wait time before food is served is similarly long. The number of kitchen and wait staff is insufficient to meet the needs of customers which include prompt taking of orders and serving of food as well as resolving client problems in relation to dining. Food hygiene or food safety practices deviate from standards where kitchen staff prepare and cook food without using barriers such as aprons and hats. The kitchen facility is unsanitary being small, cramped and disorderly. The taste and presentation of food is also wanting. These customer observations negatively impact food service quality and need to be addressed.
Change requires recognition that service recovery needs to be done. With this goal in mind, the organisational structure and its systems and processes must be aligned with it. In a broad sense, the process requires convincing the organisation that a problem exists and gaining employee participation and support for the change plan and its implementation. It also entails motivating employees to render excellent performance and reinforcing such behaviours. Specifically, Hotel Nigeria needs to perform an analysis of the problem. Using the hazards analysis and critical control points (HACCP) framework, the flow of food is mapped out so that it is easier to determine the associated hazards and what needs to be done to reduce food safety risks. The latter requires drafting guidelines for kitchen and wait staff which cover personal hygiene and safe food service operating procedures, greater supervision, maintaining adequate staffing, providing education and training, ensuring the availability of needed supplies and facilities.
Baseline customer satisfaction surveys and employee job satisfaction surveys provide objective data on the current perception of food service quality and highlights added areas of change, as well as provide insight on employee motivation and commitment which impact service delivery performance. Further, the capacity of the organisation to effect the necessary changes and achieve its goal must also be evaluated and doing a SWOT analysis fulfils this need. The organisation must optimise its strengths and opportunities while addressing weaknesses and threats. Finally, baseline financial status reports are noted to see if improvements bring about benefits in terms of revenue. At the end of implementation, an evaluation must be done to determine the degree of success in meeting the goal, further enhance implementation and learn from the experience.
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