The Franklin Marriott Cool Springs Conference Center, which is owned in part by both the city of Franklin and the Williamson County government, has seen a dramatic loss in revenue over the past few months, as well as a series of permanent layoffs.
During the month of August — the latest monthly report — the conference center incurred a loss of around $25,000 according to the Franklin Marriott General Manager Matt Lahiff.
"Obviously there’s a great deal of uncertainty moving through the remainder of 2020," Lahiff said during the October meeting of the Williamson County Commission.
"We think that we’ve kind of gone to the end of our cancellations, at least on our larger events. We’ve tried to hold off and push these groups from making that cancellation decision as long as possible to see if there’s any kind of change in the pandemic."
The August report for the conference center shows a gross revenue of $142,794, down significantly from August 2019's gross revenue of $660,499. To date, this year has seen the conference center generate $288,128 in gross revenue. By the end of August last year, the center had generated $988,216 in gross revenue.
While the drop in revenue has been significant since the onset of the pandemic, Lahiff said that the conference center has been able to soften the blow through the collection of cancellation fees.
"What has helped us to make up some of those margins of loss is the collection of cancellation [fees]," Lahiff said.
"March through September, we were able to collect $257,000 worth of cancellations. [For] many of those groups, we worked with them because they’re long-time partners of the Conference Center, so many of these groups were 50% cancellation plus 50% deposit towards a future event."
Staffing, Lahiff explained, had also seen severe cuts.
"We’re still operating at a minimum staffing level in all departments," Lahiff said.
"We’ve permanently eliminated positions; the assistant banquet manager, a sous-chef, director of loss prevention, HR manager, catering manager, the list goes on. The managers that are still currently employed also took a 20% pay cut, and we don’t have a time frame for that to stop."
Despite the downward trend in profitability for the conference center, Lahiff remained optimistic that its fortunes would soon turn around, pointing to the increasing number of events booked in September.
In total, 67 events were booked at the Franklin Marriott, 48 of which utilized the conference center.
"The positive thing [in] all of this is we’ve actually booked more than we’ve had cancel in the last month," Lahiff said.
"For November and December, we have 29 groups and local events on the books that are definite right now, some of those [being] high-end impact groups [such as] Tennessee City Managers Associations and Spiro Health."