Andrew Furrer, director of information technology for Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants, based in San Francisco, knows how important property-management systems (PMS) can be to business operations in the hospitality industry.
"We cannot be down for more than a few minutes because money goes out the window. We can't check-out guests or charge for routine services when the system's down. Everything grinds to a screeching halt," he explains.
Stability is one things for a property-management system, but increasingly, hotels are focusing on extra features from add-on modules. Increasingly, it is these building blocks that are moving the PMS beyond a simple folio and into the heart of hotel operations.
David Farlin, vice president of information technology for the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, looked for something that would complement casino applications and consolidate the hardware platform. "We looked for applications that control rates, folio, account and casino comping," he says, noting the unique business requirements of casinos.
"There's a comping aspect to casinos that's different from comping a hotel room. We have to pay taxes on a guest comp and assess that guest's worth to us to comply with state gaming regulations," he explains.
Although he didn't go through the standard Request For Proposal (RFP) process, Farlin says that vendors nevertheless, needed "to be proven in start-ups and large-scale projects." He selected Agylisis, (agilysis.com) to install the casino's PMS during the building of the Borgata in 2003.
The IBM (ibm.com) AS/400 system interfaces with the casino's guest master database and its "My Borgata" card, which tabulates redeemable guest points won at gaming tables. Guests can access balance information and cash-in earned points at kiosks located throughout the Borgata, a feature that pleases customers and saves the casino money.
Avoiding the casino boss
"This is a tremendous savings because we don't have to track paper. It's a convenience for customers because they don't have to visit the casino boss to get money," Farlin explains. Borgata isn't the only casino putting the smart money on Agilysys. The Sands Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, and Potawatomi Bingo Casino in Milwaukee, Wisconsin have chosen to install both a PMS and a materials managemet system (MMS) from Agilysys.
Both properties wanted a comprehensive inventory and procurement system for thier casino and restaurant operations. "We're confidant that MMS will improve our overall efficiency, and enhance our ability to meed the needs of our guests," says Rhonda Hasse, controller for Potawatomi Bingo Casino. The software allows both Potawatomi Bingo Casino and the Sands Hotel and Casino to manage their entire procurment process via e-commerce, lowering costs and maximizing thier investment returns.
Features include automatic ordering, automated procurement, full approval routing and variance functionality, menu and nutritional analysis and bar coding. The software has integrated well with other current programs in both properties.
A Harvard suite
Richard Carbone, general manager of both the Inn of Harvard and Harvard Square Hotel, selected a suite of tools to link his two sister facilities and provide remote access to occupancy rates and room availability. The system also needed to provide detailed guest histories for the hotels' repeat clientele: Parents of students attending Harvard University, Cambridge, and its alumni.
In 2004, Carbone "felt it was the right time to adopt a new system" and selected Windows-based Maestro multi-property system from Northwind (maestropms.com). He says, "We shopped different PMS and felt from a training and installation standpoint, that Maestro was the best."
Carbone says, "Maestro gives us check-in/check-out capabilities and lets us customize the system to suit our needs." The real-time PMS also allows staff to "look-up information on either hotel at once or as combined entities" and serves as a general ledger; tool for scheduling conference rooms and managing parking operations; and source of POS information. Most importantly, it retains both hotels' guest records indefinitely.
"If you reserved a room at our hotels two years ago, I can pull-up that information today. With (the old system), the information was purged after 30 days," comments Carbone.
Simarily, McMenamins, a brewpub and hotel company in the Pacific Northwest, recently selected Micros (micros.com) OperaXpress Multi-Property Management System precisely for its ability to offer additional features like a real-time web-booking engine, and sales and catering beyond its property management capabilities.
Intelligent property management
Kimpton's Furrer plans to replace the hotel's legacy system with Epitome, a Windows-based PMS package by Hotel Information Systems (hotelinfosys.com) in 2006 and 2007. Furrer says, "We did an RFP a couple of years ago and outlined exactly what we wanted in a new PMS," adding that HIS "won-out over 20 different vendors."
The new system will provide business intelligence (BI) and centralized data and revenue management modules. Features to be added in 2007 include an email exchange, and virus and spam protection. Furrer, who plans to open a hosting center "to simplify routine maintenance and reduce the number of IT guys hired," explains the BI benefits of centralized data access.
"The decentralized system requires individual hotel operators to manually input data and put the statistics together to make business decisions. With the new PMS, that information will be available at the touch of a button and not just for one hotel, but multiple properties which can be sorted by city, region or nationwide," he explains.
Wireless check-in and check-out represent an advanced PMS capability, already in place at airports, but yet-to-be-adopted by many hospitality operators. Furrer endorses this online capability, which allows guests to check-in and out via their personal data assistants or laptop computers, as a way to promote hospitality efficiency and customer relation management. Farlin agrees, adding that, "We're in the process of evaluating wireless check-in/check-out and plan to test something by mid-summer 2005."