Holiday Inn Select Northeast: Starting From Scratch

Sales And Catering Automation Saves Time, Organizes Staff
by Allison Hearn, Cynterpubs
When Mark Wilson was appointed Director of Sales and Catering for the nearly 10,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space at the 244-room Holiday Inn Select Northeast in Dallas, TX, three and half years ago, he was surprised at the state of the technology the hotel had to offer his department. Possessing years of experience on high-end, large-scale sales and catering software solutions, he was disappointed to see the antiquated DOS-based system the hotel had in place which was able to save guest records but do little else.
Without even a mouse to guide him and tired of the cumbersome process of manually producing each event order via word processing, Wilson knew it was time for a change and made it a priority to bring the hotel's sales and catering solution up to par.
So six months later, the hotel sent out its controller to find a solution that would meet Wilson's needs and the needs of the hotel. Using the Internet, the controller researched several sales and catering solutions and narrowed the choice down to the five that had the desired features and were within the hotel's price range. Those five vendors brought their solutions in and showcased them to Wilson. After the demonstrations, a choice was clear.
"Being able to produce a whole contract in a matter of minutes and get it out to the client is wonderful." - Mark Wilson, Director of Sales
Wilson selected Maestro Sales and Catering from Northwind Inc. "It just seemed more user friendly than everything else," he says. "And Maestro fit into our budget and is able to effectively get out our contracts, do banquet orders and keep track of everything." The Holiday Inn implemented Maestro Sales and Catering in November of 1999. After installing the application, which only took about one day, Northwind sent trainers to the hotel to teach the department how to use their new system. "We did five days of training, and that helped tremendously. Northwind really got us up and running," says Wilson.
Event Order Automated
A far cry from the old system, the Maestro system automates the entire event order process. When Wilson or one of his staff receives a request, they look up the client or add him if he's not in the system. The client record contains all of the pertinent client information, including client/ company name, address, phone and fax, etc., and tracks each client by a unique identifying number.
To create an event order, you just pull up the client and create a new order by blocking space on the meeting space grid, entering food items and reserving any necessary audiovisual equipment. After you've completed this process, you simply print out the event order. The system also produces contracts and customized customer correspondence and has full integration to Microsoft Office tools. Wilson comments, "The ease of being able to produce a whole contract in a matter of minutes and get it out to the client is wonderful. And the clients like that, too; they don't have to wait a day and a half for a contract to get typed up."
The meeting space grid, which gives users the ability to view and man-age all of their function space availability from one screen, is one of Wilson's favorite system features. "It's really easy to see if there's anything available, "he says. "And basically at the click of a button, you can see your availability and block the space you need."
Another of Wilson's system favorites is the tracing features it provides. Maestro provides both automatic and customized traces that help users manage their customer service and account follow-up in a timely, efficient manner. "The tracing system is a nice way to track all of the people you need to call during a week and everyone you've entered along the way. We go through a thorough training process to make sure all of our employees use the traces because it is such an effective system." Traces that are being utilized by Wilson's team include:
  • Follow-up on contracts;
  • Follow-up on menus;
  • Thank you letter reminders; and
  • Customized reminders to en-sure quality customer care.
Wilson has also found that Northwind has done an excellent job of growing the solution to the hotel. Initially, the software came with a generic event order that did not include the name of the hotel or contact information, which made it difficult for customers to identify where the event order was coming from. Northwind personalized the event order with the hotel contact information so that customers can more clearly identify whom the correspondence is from. In addition, Northwind has assisted Wilson in customizing his department's reports so that all of the desired in-formation prints out. Wilson says, Northwind has been very responsive to our needs, and I’ve had very good relations with them all along the way."
Among the other benefits of the Maestro sales and catering system are the following:
  • Activities Scheduling and Billing to facilitate operations with custom package planning of third-party services;
  • Data mining and productivity tools such as analysis components, spreadsheets, word processors and report writers including yield management and forecasting; and
  • System interfaces to back office General Ledger and the Maestro Property Management System.
Big Benefits
But Wilson says the greatest benefits for him are timesavings and accountability. "Compared to where we were at," he says, "Maestro is a tremendous time saver. And because of the reporting capabilities of the system, I can do weekly reports and review everybody's bookings for the week. It helps with accountability."
Although Wilson doesn't plan to expand the system beyond current us-age right now, he is excited about the future of the product. "I just got a diskette from Northwind, and I’m anxious to see what the upgrades to the system are."
Wilson also hopes to make some other additions to his department's technological savvy, and is hoping to make arrangements with the hotel to purchase a reader board for meeting attendees. Hopefully, he says, North-wind will be able to interface with the reader boards so they'll be automatically updated. In the end, Wilson is happy with his decision to purchase Maestro. "Overall, I'm very pleased with the system. I think we made a good choice.