Industry Update
Opinion Article 5 November 2018

Design Matters, Again and Again

By Ad Rezaei, Graduate Student at Conrad N. Hilton Collage, University of Houston

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As one of the few people in the hospitality industry with a background in design, it strikes me that the concept of design has been lost in the process.


With investors and operators focusing on marketing, technology (still not enough), and quantity (versus quality), chasing deep pocket corporations to get their business, and running around like a headless chicken all the time with exhausted staff, they have lost most of their service quality.

I want to say that working in the hospitality industry should and could be a fun job and an exciting position for those who work with all their passion. However, I haven't heard from anyone who works in hospitality that they are having fun or at least the difficulties are normal. It seems there are two types: those who picked this industry because there was no other choice at the time, or two: they have the passion for it and are trying to make something out of their hardworking days and a lousy salary.

Design in the sense that I intend refers not only nonfunctional décor or uncomfortable furniture in the lobby, or the rusted chairs that seem to be present in every corner of the trendy places in town. Even in terms of interior design and amenities, middle-class houses and apartments are more chic and sophisticated than the guestrooms at top brands. That's why people are using Airbnb for example. The guestrooms in most 4-5 star hotels are not even at the same level as "normal" apartments in big cities.

However, my point in discussing "design" is to address the quality and smoothness of the services.

My mentor in design used to tell me: "Do not ever forget: form follows the function. If not always, at least 80% of the time".

What is the function?

In this sense, if the function is the spirit, then design would be the body - the way the system works in its best form, the layout of staff and furniture together with the imagined movement circulation, the designated railroad in the kitchen so that no one can get off of it.

The design is the thinking from above. It is the creation of a functional, systematic movement (like an algorithm) to answer the needs of the operation to not end up with overwhelmed staff and guests with an attitude of "whatever". Sometimes I look at operations (hotels/restaurants) and wonder: don't they see what's going on? Has this kept happening until it became the norm? Who is running these places?

I believe that there are disappointed guests in heart all over the place. They have just accepted it for a long time as "it is what it is" because of its prevalence in the industry. These guests can't experience anything better than service lacking quality except at high-end places with high-end charges. I believe that the quality of service can be far more than what is currently being offered in the common places of our industry by involving design in our perspective for every aspect, including service and if and only if we do not insist on operating like the 1950s just with the modern face.

Ad Rezaei

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