PUTTING TECH ALL TOGETHER

Whether you're a franchise or an independent, consider your future needs when you budget for technology and make sure your systems “talk” to each other.

Take PCH Hotels and Resorts, a Fairhope, AL-based operator of luxury properties, mostly Marriott-affiliated. High on PCH's technology list are the front office system, reservations — and the phone system. It's only the last that PCH has real control over, however, says Tony Davis, PCH's chief financial officer.

According to the franchise agreement, front-office and reservations systems are “sole source,” dictated by the brand, he says. Here, Marriott rules via its preferred vendors. At the Battle House, a Renaissance Hotel, that PCH just opened in Mobile, PCH bought a MICROS 9700 point-of-sale system for food & beverage and a SpaSoft POS for its spa. Micros and SpaSoft are Marriott preferred vendors. “We get as much information as we can from the brand,” Davis says, and “then we go to market.” For PCH, “going to market” means dealing with Marriott-approved vendors, even for ancillary software.

Back office is different, however. There, PCH bought the most sophisticated Avaya phone switch it could. “Once we defined which vendor and system we were going to use,” Davis says, “it got into what level we were going to buy. We have a phone switch that is IP address-capable, because as phone systems become more computer-based, new phone switches are much more digitally based.

“These systems are fairly expensive,” Davis says. “It's not like you're going to be trading out anytime soon.”

PCH uses Newmarket International's Delphi for sales and AptechProfitVue for back office, Davis says. It houses four enterprise servers it built at a “server farm” in Jackson, MS.“We connect those back-office servers to a Citrix server over DSL lines through a VPN tunnel,” Davis says. “That virtual private network provides us with the security we need so no one else can get into these servers.”

Because these servers were built with excess capacity, “when we add a hotel, we don't have to deploy those [software] systems again,” Davis says. “We just buy more licenses, give log-ons and there you go.”

Where PCH toes the franchisor line, the 87-unit Highlander Inn and Conference Center, an independent in Manchester, NH, takes its cues from the local market. When it had to update its system, “We went to surrounding hotels with a similar amount of rooms, amenities and function space, to see what they were using,” says Matt Oliver, assistant general manager.

A committee of managers and department heads eventually settled on software from Northwind; Maestro handles front-desk functions, including sales and catering, POS and accounting, while ResEze handles booking. Now, “anyone who wants to make a reservation through our website is basically interfaced with our inventory,” Oliver says. For hardware, the Highlander chose Dell PCs.

“If you're going to budget, don't do it alone,” advises Oliver. “It should be done collectively, and it's probably within your best interests to investigate as much as you can.” Visit nearby, similar properties, then do a “site survey, where you assess all of your hardware needs. That's where we determined how many work stations we needed to make the upgrade possible hardware-wise.”


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