There should be no such thing as “limited service” in hotels or hospitality

In the guides published by the American Automobile Association, there are a number of classifications for lodging types.  By AAA definition, they include general descriptions of differing levels of food/beverage outlets, shops, conference/meeting facilities, ranges of recreation, entertainment options.  The descriptions give an overview of size of the properties and an overview of common characteristics.

In general their range of classifications include:

  • Full Service,  with Resorts and Hotels  in this category.
  • Limited Service include Condominiums, Motor Inns, Apartments, Cottage, Motels and Bed and Breakfasts
  • Moderate Service listings include Ranches, Country Inns and Lodges.
  • Further sub-classifications include: Suite, extended stay, historic and classic properties.

We are certainly not trying to challenge AAA overviews, as their intent is to provide meaningful interpretations of so many kinds of options. Their guides further point out the basis of their various diamond ratings.  AAA has done a commendable job trying to explain the differences to the consumer and they do so substantially in product differentiation.

A major problem comes though, in our opinion , in the phrase  “limited service” versus “full service”.  Full service usually implies those hotels with restaurants, lounges,  meeting rooms and other product amenities.

The phrase “lodge” or “bed and breakfast” implies by name alone certain things to certain travelers, yet obviously these phrases alone do not mean enough. For example, by AAA definitions, bed and breakfast establishments are “usually smaller, owner operated establishment emphasizing an “away-from-home feeling”.  A continental or full, hot breakfast is included.

Many ROOMS ONLY establishments also serve breakfast and many have at least smaller meeting space, ranging from suites to meeting areas,  breakfast rooms, etc.  They have van drivers who act as bellman. They have management team members who are outstanding hosts and hoteliers.

Former AH&LA Small Business Specialist Jerrold Boyer used to become very frustrated with managers who embraced the term “limited service.”  He used to remind hoteliers at educational and advisory seminars that the hospitality industry is indeed the SERVICE industry.  His word of caution was that bigger did not necessarily mean better, nor did smaller automatically mean lesser.

There are many smaller, rooms-only properties that offer exceptional personalized attentiveness to their guests.  It is the responsibility of the managers, owners and sales staff of those facilities to “sell” their staff and guests of the quality and extent of their service.  There are many guests  who might prefer smaller properties and staffs who elect to leave food operations to others.

If this industry is to continue to provide exceptional experiences for its guests and meaningful careers for its’ staff, it must be attentive to its commitment to hospitality and not just “renting rooms.”

“Limited service” – let’s leave that image for the self-serve gas stations.

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Blog of Dr. John Hogan CHE CHA MHS 8.14.2010 ,

 John Hogan is a successful hospitality executive, educator, author and consultant and is a frequent keynote speaker and seminar leader at many hospitality industry events.  He is Co-Founder of a consortium ( of successful corporate and academic mentors delivering focused and affordable counsel in solving specific challenges facing the hospitality industry. is a membership site offering a wide range of information, forms, best practices and ideas that are designed to help individual hoteliers and hospitality businesses improve their market penetration, deliver service excellence and increase their profitability.   Special introductory pricing is in effect for a limited time that also includes a complimentary copy of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD- A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES.