Palm Holdings Webinar: The Supply Shortage Struggle with Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando – South Lake Buena Vista’s Kelly Cowan #19

On our last Palm Holdings Hospitality Webinar, we discussed a hot button issue with Holiday Inn Express & Suites Halifax – Bedford’s General Manager, Carmella Facchin…Navigating Labor Shortages. On this webinar, we are following up with another significant challenge we at Micrometrics hear from our hospitality customers over and over again, The Supply Shortage Struggle! 

Holiday Inn Express and Suites Orlando – South Lake Buena Vista’s General Manager, Kelly Cowan has first hand experience developing strategies and processes for overcoming these hurdles. Kelly will walk us through the initial impact of supply shortages and procurement issues on the guest experience at her property, the steps she took to find creative solutions, and most importantly she will outline the operational considerations a hospitality leader must make to pull off these new approaches. 

If you’d like to watch the webinar instead, click here.

Kelly has worked in the hospitality industry since 1995 when she came to Florida to work for Walt Disney World on a college internship, where she would stay for 6 years and work in a variety of areas. After leaving Disney, Kelly spent several years as a Hampton Inn General Manager and then over a decade as GM at Country Inn & Suites in Orlando. She joined Palm Holdings in 2017 as the General Manager of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando S Lake Buena Vista.

Kelly explained that things were very different pre-covid in terms of supply shortages, most vendors would deliver stock or supplies within a day or two of ordering and items that were on backorder were minimal. Kelly and her team never thought of par levels or had to know what they had on hand and what the forecast looked like coming up when they were ordering items pre-covid. 

The initial impact of supply shortages and procurement issues on the guest experience

“As we’re coming out of the recovery of covid-19, the infrastructure for supply and demand is at a breaking point right now,” Kelly stated. “What we’re seeing from an operation standpoint is that linens are hard to come by. Linen is a huge deal for most hoteliers and now we can’t get towels, duvet covers, or sheets because they’re on backorder and it could be months at a time before we receive them.” Kelly is also seeing a shortage in smallwares like coffee-makers, coffee cups, and even food products like coffee creamers. These shortages affect the guest experience and she and her team have to keep making different operational decisions on how to counter the shortages each day.

Creative solutions to solving supply shortages

Some of the operational decisions need to be done on the fly as each day brought about it’s own challenges and fluctuations. Kelly and her team would look at the current stock and try to forecast how much they should be ordering of certain items and when. She often asked herself “is it something that’s going to affect the guest to the point that I can’t afford to sell the room? Maybe I have to take rooms out of order at that point and not have as many guests because we can’t get enough towels, sheets, or soap.”

Kelly had to get creative with her sourcing so she oftentimes looked to local vendors in her area. “One of our biggest issues has been Coca Cola, we couldn’t get it delivered and that’s an IHG preferred product. So we’ve had to run to BJs or to Walmart to supply water or chips on our own if some of our other suppliers couldn’t get them.” It was mostly her breakfast team that would head to grocery stores, Walmart, and corner stores to balance the day to day fluctuations of what they needed.

Their parent company, IHG, was very supportive and aware of the supply chain issues that Kelly and the rest of the industry was experiencing. They understood that it was impossible to get certain items so they provided alternatives that still fell within the brand standard. “With other vendors they’ve actually stepped in because IHG is pretty big and has a lot of buying power. They’ve given us alternatives as far as linens, breakfast products, and they’ve also helped reduce the number of items in rooms. We no longer have a lot of tactile in the room so there’s no notepad and pen anymore. We’ve been able to reduce the number of Keurig coffee pods and we’ve taken the disposable lids out of the room as well. So they’re helping us to bring the building back as far as things we have to put in the rooms so therefore we’re not having to source quite as much.”

The local community of Mom and Pop shops have also been more than happy to help her team get the products they need. Kelly explained, “we’ve gone in within a couple of hours and said ‘listen, this is what we’re paying for it from XYZ vendor, can you come close? We’d rather give it to somebody local and help a small business.’ They’ve been able to price match for us almost every time. They’re happy to have the business and if they can get it for us we’re happy for that too, because that does assist the community and those who have their own businesses in the area.”

Key learnings for hospitality leaders

Some key learnings that Kelly and her team found during the pandemic were:

  • to support local business because it is great for the community and it speaks volumes to have a big brand support small businesses;
  • to cross-train staff from various departments;
  • and to learn what your strengths are as a team and know that you can get through any challenge together.

Kelly and Dave go into even more detail in the webinar, feel free to listen to the whole conversation HERE

As a reminder, Micrometrics believes that businesses should create more meaningful connections with the people they serve by enhancing face-to-face interactions and creating connections with guests at scale. Our hospitality clients leverage powerful messaging automations to improve customer experience and operational efficiency at their properties. You can learn more about us at

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