Marriott finds a way to slice the bacon

The hotel company Marriott is cutting some fat out of its business by switching the breakfast meat to irregular cuts of bacon, according to a report in Fortune magazine.

The company says its executives pigged out on the odd-shaped pieces and were practically in hog heaven over this money-saving breakfast. It would be easy to roast Marriott for being piggish, but Fortune reports that times are tough at the company – as they are at most hotels now that legions of us are unemployed and don't travel any longer for business or pleasure.

For the first three months of 2009, Marriott's revenue per available room, an industry metric known as revPAR, fell by 17%. So it's understandable that they need to skinny down the costs and even a ham-handed approach to savings really isn't an oinky way to do business these days.
The Fortune story says Marriott is looking at other money-saving moves as well, including getting rid of the no-charge morning newspapers delivered outside of room doors. No more USA Today to trip over certainly won't hurt my feelings.

But there are other revenue-conserving approaches that I think they ought to reconsider. A month ago, I visited my son in New Orleans and stayed at the J.W. Marriott in the French Quarter. There was no hot water for my overnight stay. It's true that the temperature in June in New Orleans is blistering, but even so, it's hard to argue that cold showers are a customer amenity.

I complained – mildly – and the pleasant man behind the desk took $50 off the bill, which reduced the total to well under $100. At that price, it's no wonder the company isn't having a great year.

In March, my husband and I stayed at the Marriott-brand Ritz-Carlton in Grand Cayman for two weeks. It's a little piece of paradise. My husband was there to work, and I was there to put my feet up. In previous years, dinner reservations were impossible to get and snagging a lounge chair around the pool meant rising at the crack of dawn. But this year, it was quiet. No need to make a reservation at all and chairs in the sun or the shade were readily available.

I felt sorry for the people who worked there. But they assured me that the management hadn't laid anybody off, although no overtime was coming their way and tips were stingier.

It's a tough year all around. I reported a story several years ago for Newsweek International about Marriott's commitment to providing economic opportunity for any employee who worked hard and did a good job. It made an impression on me and I've been a good customer ever since.

Treating employees well is hard in good times and particularly difficult in tough times. If Marriott can save its bacon by things like serving odd-shaped breakfast meat, as a customer I probably won't even notice. And if I do, I'll applaud.
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