Chapter 8 – SALES AND CATERING APPLICATIONS
8.1 HOTEL SALES OFFICE AUTOMATION
A typical hotel sales or food service catering operation relies on a large amount of paperwork, with a significant portion of each day spent managing the information collected through prospecting, selling, booking, and reporting. With the development of specialty application software, many of these time-consuming and expensive procedures are handled with automation.
- Sales and catering application software can:
- Accomplish manually tedious tasks quickly and efficiently.
- Access sales information rapidly.
- Facilitate personalized mailings through database marketing.
- Reduce data-handling errors.
- Decrease staff training costs by implementing standardized procedures.
- Access customer profile information for targeted promotions.
- Enhance communication linkages among affiliated properties.
The following sections explore hotel sales office automation, as well as banquet and catering software
Sales Office Automation
Sales records are a vital part of sales office communications. Records can be helpful in establishing new accounts, servicing existing accounts, and generating repeat business. In a non-automated sales office, it is necessary that salespeople familiarize themselves with sales form preparation and filing in accordance with office procedures.
Group Guestroom Sales
In most non-automated sales offices, a guestroom control book is used to monitor the number of guestrooms committed to groups. Since front desk, reservations, and sales office employees are capable of booking guestroom business, it is important that all personnel be aware of timely and accurate group allotments to avoid overbooking.
Properties often implement revenue management strategies designed to maximize room’s revenue by establishing a desired mix of group, tour and travel, and individual guest business for specific time periods. Typically, a guestroom control book is used to guide guestroom booking activity by providing the sales office with the maximum number of guestrooms it can sell to groups on a given day. This quota is usually set by hotel management in consultation with the hotel's marketing and sales department. The remaining guestrooms (and any unsold guestrooms allotted to groups) become available for individual guests. In general, these guestrooms will be sold by front desk and reservations staff at higher rates than they would be sold to groups.
A major challenge of non-automated sales offices is maintaining a current and accurate guestroom control book. Difficulties arise during busy periods when bookings or cancellations are not properly recorded as they occur. Therefore, before booking guestroom business, it is not unusual for a salesperson to double- check the reliability of guestroom control data by inquiring of other sales staff members. Automated sales offices overcome many tedious operational problems simply because every salesperson with electronic access gains immediate access to guest-room control information. Bookings and cancellations can be quickly processed as they occur-even as the salesperson is in contact with the client. This helps ensure that every salesperson has access to exactly the same information, and that "definite" and "tentative" bookings are clearly identified to prevent errors.
Function Room Sales
In non-automated properties, the key to successful function and banquet space control is the function book. The function book indicates the occupancies and vacancies of specific function rooms and banquet rooms and is central to effective facility planning
Function books normally are divided into pages for each day of the year, with sections set aside for each meeting or function room. Information recorded in the function book includes the organization or group scheduling the space; the name, address, and telephone number of the group's contact person; the type of function; the duration of the function; the total time required for preparation, breakdown, and cleanup; the number of attendees expected; the type of setup(s) required; the rates quoted; the nature of the contract; and any pertinent remarks to help property personnel stage a successful function. Function book entries tend to be recorded in pencil because changes can occur even when a commitment seems firm. As with the guestroom control book, only one function book should be maintained to prevent mismatching of entries or double bookings. Information from the function book and other files for events involving food or beverage service is eventually transcribed onto a banquet event order (BEO) form. Since a BEO generally serves as a final contract for the client and as a work order for the catering department, problems may arise should the function book contain inaccurate or incomplete information.
Automated sales office systems generate a BEO record as information is gathered and input into a client's account file. Advanced sales and catering software packages are generally able to supplement information contained in a BEO. For example, for a specific date or range of dates, an automated sales system can produce aggregated kitchen production reports (listing all menu items needed by preparation area), facility setup reports (listing all resource items requested for current events), and revenue forecast reports (based on anticipated revenue derived from business described on BEOs).
In an automated sales office application, a salesperson could respond much more quickly as rapid access processing is applied. Availability of both group guestrooms and function room space will be checked simultaneously. The sales person will initiate a special search function to match the meeting planner's needs with the hotel's offerings. If there is not an equation of availability and inquiry, the system may generate a list of best available dates to accommodate the group (based on projected occupancy). This approach allows a hotel salesperson to quickly check the status of the meeting planner's preferred dates and to suggest alternative days if the requested days are booked. If the property's revenue management strategies are programmed into the system, the system would also provide a range of rates that the salesperson could negotiate without authorization from department management.
Each function room is listed down the left side of the screen with each hour of a particular day listed across the top. Functions are blocked by room and time of day, with easy access to individual account information and room setup requirements. The program enables sales, banquets, and convention service managers to maximize function space and minimize room turns by attempting to schedule groups with similar or identical setup requirements in the same room at different times of the same day.
With sales office automation, a booking is entered into the system and is automatically integrated, tracked, and traced for management reports, contracts, proposals, and BEOs.
Sales Filing Systems
For maximum efficiency in the sales office, an effective filing system is required. Current information is essential for a successful sales effort, and information must be available quickly. Most non-automated systems use three separate files for client information: the trace file, the account file, and the master card file. The exact contents of these files may vary from property to property.
In non automated sales offices a trace file ( also known as a tickler file, brink-up file or follow-up file) is used as an aid for following up an account. The system is designed to remind the users of correspondence, telephone calls or contacts that he/she must handle for that particular date.
In automated system all traces input within the system are activated on the appropriate dates and printed for each salesperson every morning. Those traces that have been completed will no longer appear on the report, while those traces awaiting action will continue to appear on future report until action is taken.
In a non-automated sales office, client accounts are maintained in standard-size file folders. An account file is started at the time of initial contact with a prospective client and may include historical information related to previous conventions or meetings, convention bureau bulletins, or information relating to the organization that has appeared in the media. Sales reports and correspondence relating to previous sales efforts will also be placed in the file. All information in the account file should be in reverse chronological order, beginning with the newest paperwork first. Account files are usually filed alphabetically and colour-coded by geographic location or market segment.
In an automated sales application, current account information is accessible by sales staff networked to account manager files. Typically, the salesperson accessing the files is able to determine the extent of the information displayed. From the main menu, an authorized salesperson can simply point and click to access current customer contact information (decision-makers, telephone numbers, etc.), account activity, past and future bookings, traces, and call reports
Master Card File.
In non-automated sales offices, a master card is created for each potential new account. The card contains a summary of information needed for an effective sales effort: the organization’s name, names and titles of key executives, addresses, phone numbers, and months of business meetings or other events, size of group, group meeting history, the group's decision-maker, and other pertinent data. Master card files can also be used to create mailing lists and to index addresses and phone numbers.
In an automated sales application, the functions of a master card filing system are performed by search routines using select criteria. For example, a salesperson can access specific information needed for an account, whether it be the names of contacts, notes on follow-up calls, or remarks that can help other members of the sales team become knowledgeable about the account. In addition, a salesperson can use a search routine to search the database for accounts with specific characteristics or profiles. For example, a salesperson could search for only those accounts in northeast states that book in the month of July with a Sunday night arrival. If, on the first run, the generated list is too long, the salesperson could run a subsequent search with more narrow criteria, such as rate range or meeting space requirements.
Sales Performance Reports
An automated sales office application can produce reports that provide information on accounts, bookings, market segments, sales staff productivity, average room rates, occupancy, revenue, service history, lost business, and marketing data.
8.2 REVENUE MANAGEMENT
Revenue management, sometimes called yield management, is a set of demand- forecasting techniques used to determine whether room rates should be raised or lowered and whether a reservation request should be accepted or rejected in order to maximize revenue. The application of revenue management is based on factors related to supply and demand. Prices tend to rise when demand exceeds supply; prices tend to fall when supply exceeds demand. Pricing is a key to profitability. By increasing bookings on low-demand days and by selling rooms at higher prices on high-demand days, a hotel can significantly improve its profitability. In general, room rates should be higher when demand exceeds supply and lower (in order to increase occupancy) when supply exceeds demand.
One of the principal computations involved in revenue management is the yield statistic, which is the ratio of actual room revenue to potential room revenue. Actual revenue is the revenue generated by the number of rooms sold. Potential revenue is the amount of revenue the property would receive if all of its rooms were sold at full rack rates.
8.3 CATERING SOFTWARE
While catering is similar in many ways to traditional restaurant operations, there are unique characteristics that are addressed by targeted software applications. There are two types of catering for which software applications have been developed: off-premises catering and finished product (or home delivery) catering.
There are many details involved in the proposal, planning, and execution stages of an off-premises catering activity. Initially, the caterer suggests a standard menu or set of menus to a client for consideration. The client either selects from available offerings or requests a special meal plan. In either case, the caterer develops a proposal for the function.
Caterers are responsible for food and beverage service and may also be contracted to provide furnishings, entertainment, decorations, and the like. Before an event, the caterer typically plans for necessary purchases, personnel, production, transportation, service, and rental equipment. Generally, the caterer arrives at a catered event with all these requirements, because supplemental equipment, product replenishment, and additional staff are usually not available at the catered site.
Catering software monitors and controls the activities associated with each stage of off-premises catering service. Many of the files created through the use of catering software packages perform functions similar to automated restaurant management applications.
Typical files contained in a catering software package include:
- 1. Ingredient file (FIDF).
- 2. Recipe file (RIDF).
- 3. Menu item file (MIDF).
- 4. Proposal/contract file.
- 5. Inventory file.
- 6. General accounting files.
In addition to containing data on all purchased food and beverage products, the ingredient file includes data on such non-food items as labour, serving utensils, production equipment, rental equipment, disposable items, and entertainment options. The more complete this file, the easier it becomes for the caterer to assemble an entire catering service package.
While standard recipes for food service operations list ingredients and a set of assembly instructions, an off-premises catering recipe generally contains "ingredients" for non-food items as well. A table that seats eight persons could be entered as a recipe into the catering (RIDF) file. The recipe for an eight-top table would have nine ingredients: a table and eight chairs. If the caterer were planning off-premises catering activity for 240 persons, the table and chairs recipe would be automatically multiplied up to 30 tables and 240 chairs
The menu item file contains meal plans for specific catered activities. Catering menu Item files contain recipes for edible as well as non-food items. Some catering software packages allow users to create recipes for determining required gratuities, Insurance, and taxes. All of these recipes are stored within a menu item file for the specific catered events.
A proposal/contract file accesses data contained in the menu item file, applies prices for menu items, and maintains a record of commitments. The inventory file and general accounting files perform functions similar to inventory and back office accounting applications.