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IndustIndustry News - October 8th 2010



Restaurant Loyalty Programs Drive Customer Spending

In the first in-depth loyalty study of its members, the National Restaurant Association (www.restaurant.org), partnered with Loyalty 360: The Loyalty Marketer's Association (www.loyalty360.org) and rDialogue (www.rdialogue.com) to identify the level of penetration of loyalty programs in the restaurant industry, the types of practices being used, and the level of dedicated resources supporting strategy, implementation, and management of the programs.

The results reveal that customer loyalty is a key restaurant business driver; 77 percent of respondents indicate that loyalty programs helped them drive business during the economic downturn, while 90 percent reveal that loyalty programs helped to give them a competitive advantage.

"Repeat customers are a very important demographic for restaurant operators to grow their business, and loyalty programs can provide strong incentive to increase visits from those individuals," says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the research & knowledge group with the National Restaurant Association. "This new research clearly shows the value of operating guest loyalty programs, and offers great insight into loyalty strategies."

McLoone Management (www.mcloones.com), owner and operator of six table service restaurants in New Jersey and Maryland, told Hospitality Technology in a September article that building customer loyalty has been a crucial component in helping the organization to grow its operations. The company is currently on track to grow its number of locations to 10.

McLoone developed its Premier Club program in 2007 with Radiant Systems' (www.radiantsystems.com) Aloha Loyalty and Aloha Stored Value; the club has more than 5,000 members and averages 1,000 new members annually. Guests pay $25 to join, but membership comes with $20 pre-loaded on the card.

McLoone's management identified that one of the things that makes the Premier Club successful is all of the perks that are offered to members. For example, McLoone offers half-priced bottles of wine, preferred seating, discounts off of retail purchases and $40 rewards loaded back onto cards for every $500 spent at their restaurants.

McLoone's net revenue of purchases from Premiere Club members has increased 8.8 percent annually for the past three years, and they are on track to have more than $1 million in revenue from loyalty club purchases in 2010. They have learned that customers see value in their programs, and in some cases, they will load up to $1,000 on their cards in order to receive a 20 percent rebate during select periods.


Drury Hotels Signs Five-year CRS Renewal with Pegasus Solutions

Drury Hotels has signed a five-year central reservation system (CRS) renewal with Pegasus Solutions, which will also includes the migration of the chain's 130 hotels in 20 U.S. states to Pegasus' award-winning next generation CRS, RezView NG. Drury's brands include Drury Inn & Suites, Drury Inn, Drury Plaza Hotel, Drury Suites, Pear Tree Inn by Drury, as well as other hotels in the mid-price hotel segment.

A Pegasus CRS customer since 1999, Drury Hotels has consistently reaped the benefits of RezView's industry-leading uptimes and response times. With this renewal, which extends the relationship through 2015, Drury will also become the largest family-owned chain to implement Pegasus' next generation CRS, RezView NG.

"When we last renewed with Pegasus, we cited consistency of service and RezView's reliability as key considerations," says Eric Strand, vice president of sales and marketing for Drury Hotels. "Our decision to continue our decade-plus relationship with Pegasus after a thorough review of other CRS providers remains founded in these factors, as well as the delivery of Pegasus' RezView NG CRS, which will allow us to enhance our revenue management practice and support our continued growth. As a family built, owned and operated chain, our first commitment is to our guests and our brand, a principle that Pegasus understands and supports through its solutions."

RezView NG's flexible design allows hotels to operate and adapt their business in the manner in which they choose, not based upon the constraints of the system. This flexibility includes support for a wide variety of revenue management strategies, the ability to sell and manage non-room inventory, high-level customization, real-time reporting, close integration with property management systems and automated distribution content management.


Hilton Looks to Create 'Workplace of the Future' with Investment in Microsoft Platform

Hilton Worldwide today announced that it is adopting Microsoft Corp.'s collaboration and productivity tools as part of the company's Innovation Collaborative initiative. Under the terms of this new agreement, Hilton Worldwide will deploy Microsoft SharePoint 2010, Microsoft Office Communications Server, Microsoft Office 2010 and Windows 7 to its employees and business partners at more than 3,600 properties around the world.

"Microsoft truly understands the 'workplace of the future' and is uniquely positioned to deliver on that vision through its collaboration solutions," says Robert Webb, Hilton Worldwide's chief information officer. "These technologies remove communications barriers across our global enterprise, allow for a recommitment to a common platform and provide a renewed focus on our core mission to deliver the best possible experience for our guests."

With this agreement, Microsoft becomes a founding member of the Hilton Worldwide Innovation Collaborative. Through the Innovation Collaborative, Hilton Worldwide is joining with world-class technology providers to maintain its position as a leader in hospitality technology.

Built upon Hilton Worldwide's long-standing relationship with Microsoft, the new tools also represent the company's deep commitment to a socially connected and innovative workplace. Hilton is also leveraging Microsoft SQL Server and Visual Studio to power the OnQ property management suite of products servicing guests worldwide.


Newk's Express Café Chooses Web-Based Solution for Fast, Efficient Labor Mgmt

Newk's Express Cafe has chosen HotSchedules' online employee scheduling and labor management solution. Created by the founders of McAlister's Deli, Newk's Express Cafe is a fast casual restaurant serving fresh, made-to-order salads, oven-baked sandwiches, California-style pizzas, soup and homemade cakes. HotSchedules Enterprise was initially piloted at three locations before being rolled out to all 27 Newk's restaurants. 

Prior to selecting HotSchedules, Newk's stores were using a variety of different scheduling methods. The lack of a unified solution was time-consuming for management, difficult to teach to new employees, and required continuous updating and maintenance to remain accurate.

"We were looking for a user-friendly solution that would allow our management teams to schedule quickly and more efficiently," says Chris Newcomb, co-founder, Newk's. "From the numerous ways that employees can access their schedules to the powerful Digital Logbook, HotSchedules has made work easier for our team at all levels."

With HotSchedules' robust scheduling and labor management solution at their fingertips, Newk's managers and staff have experienced:
  • Cost- and time-saving scheduling: HotSchedules enables Newk's managers to forecast labor costs more accurately each week and create and edit schedules faster than ever. Best of all, the HotSchedules portal is accessible from the web or a smartphone, giving managers the flexibility to approve shift changes, see schedule requests or review the most up-to-date schedule no matter where they are.
  • Improved logbooks: HotSchedules Digital Logbook provides the Newk's management with a customizable and searchable web-based logbook for communication and documentation. This powerful tool allows managers to access shift notes, information on food and beverage issues, safe count tills and more, accessible anytime, anywhere.
  • Enhanced communication: The HotSchedules online portal provides a quick and centralized way for managers, employees, and corporate executives to communicate, keeping the entire Newk's team on the same page at all times.
"Newk's has seen immediate benefits since the switch, including decreased payroll thanks to labor-tracking tools and reports," says Newcomb. "Our hourly employees value the ability to access and request changes to an up-to-date schedule online, and the more efficient scheduling process has freed up time for our management team to focus on key operational issues and building sales."


AmericInn Names Telkonet Preferred HSIA Vendor Following Proven Success

AmericInn hotels has chosen Telkonet, Inc., one of the nation's largest hospitality High-Speed Internet Access (HSIA) networks, as a Preferred Vendor for wireless Internet access services. The EthoStream Hospitality Network was selected because of the success demonstrated across a number of corporate managed and franchised locations over the past five years. In the past year alone, more than 176,000 users have accessed the EthoStream Hospitality Network at an AmericInn hotel. The EthoStream Remote Management Console will allow the monitoring of the performance of each location from a single application, ensuring a consistent and high-quality Internet experience at every participating location.

With more than 215 hotels spread across 22 states, and growing, AmericInn's key to success is its dedication to providing the highest level of customer service and the amenities that value-conscience travelers look for when on the road. This is further strengthened by the selection of the EthoStream Hospitality Network as a Preferred Vendor for AmericInn's property-wide wired and wireless Internet connectivity, keeping guests connected while on the road.

"We continue to be very pleased with the outstanding level of service and support from EthoStream. From our new build properties to our existing properties, the reliability of the EthoStream Hospitality Network has been excellent," says Howard Anderson, vice president at Three Rivers Hospitality, which manages AmericInn's 21 corporately run properties. "Installation of the equipment has been completed in a professional manner, the training is always thorough, and the guest support has been well received. We will continue to choose EthoStream for our future projects."

Telkonet will also be working closely with AmericInn to improve energy efficiency throughout the brand through the offering of its SmartEnergy solution for energy management. In working closely with Telkonet on property improvements such as the installation of the Telkonet SmartEnergy solution, AmericInn will be able to achieve significant energy savings and cost reductions as well as a positive environmental impact.


Hilton: Revenue from Mobile Apps Soaring 200% Monthly

The surge that Hilton Worldwide has seen this year in its iPhone application downloads and mobile room bookings surprises even Chuck Sullivan, the company's senior vice president of global online services.

"It's interesting how quickly consumers have adopted the use of mobile phones to make and change hotel reservations," Sullivan told USA Today reporter Barbara De Lollis recently during a phone interview.

Hilton in November 2009 launched the first of its chain-specific apps, and last month launched the seventh - and final - app for its luxury Waldorf-Astoria brand. Just three months later, Sullivan had told De Lollis that Hilton's iPhone apps had been downloaded 126,000 times. So today?

As of August, travelers have downloaded Hilton-brand apps 340,000 times, he says.

Furthermore, revenue generated from room bookings across Hilton's brands via the mobile apps soared 200% in May vs. May 2009, and has continued at that pace through August on a year-over-year basis, he says.

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