Hospitality Management Tools and Software

Long gone are the days of pulling up to quaint lodgings and checking in via pen and paper in a registry book. With a lot more to keep track of than just when someone arrived and when they checked out, the hospitality industry today employs more sophisticated tools and software to keep everything running smoothly.

Streamlining Service

While hand-written registry books and accounting ledgers, when done right, can successfully monitor activity in hotels, doing financial reporting and inventory tracking by hand leaves room for error, as Sequoia Group expounds upon HERE. It also lacks efficiency, something hotels have to focus on if they want to eliminate overhead and turn bigger profits.

From Keys to Key Cards

Do you know when and why hotels switched from using traditional keys to electronic key cards? In the late 1700s, inventor Robert Barron created a lock and key technology implementing a double-acting lever tumbler lock. A few years later, a cylindrical key system using wafers was created to allow a deadbolt to be retracted in a door.

 

By the late 1800s, Linus Yale Jr patented the Yale pin tumbler cylinder lock. With the advent of this locking mechanism, hotels started offering guests keys for their rooms. The keys, however, usually had to be retrieved and returned to the front desk after each use, and could not leave the property with the guests.

 

In the 1970s, key cards were issued in some hotels. While they offered increased security and convenience, each card had to be thrown out after a guest left; since the cards contained a series of punches that had to match the lock on the door, they couldn’t be reused for the next guests and still offer security. 

 

Downsides to Punch Cards

 

  • The pattern is easy to copy

 

In the 1980s, instead of using punch cards, hotels moved on to using electronic keys with magstripes on the back. In addition to being more secure than punch cards, they were also reusable. Magstripes can be recoded with new data so the keycard can be issued to a new guest without compromising security.

 

Downsides to Magstripes

 

  • They can be (intentionally or accidentally) demagnetized
  • They can be hacked

 

By the 2000s, hotels began implementing radio frequency ID keycards. Instead of a magstripe, the keys contain a tiny chip that communicates with the door lock. These chipped cards can be coded for entry to various parts of a hotel in addition to the room

 

 Downsides to RFIDs

 

  • They can be hacked when in close proximity

 

Keyless entry to rooms was offered as recently as 2014 to hotel guests. Instead of being issued a keycard of any kind, guests are instead granted room access with their mobile phones, or even a wristband like at Disney World. In addition to being a keycard, the MagicBands at Disney World allow guests to charge items to their rooms and enter the theme parks. Mobile keys can also allow gets to check-in without having to stop at the front desk, which is convenient if arrival is at an odd time.

What Kind of Software Do Hotels Need?

You may be wondering what type of software hotels need just to keep up with the security demands of room access. Some hotels want software that allows a room key to grant access to the elevator, the fitness center, or the pool if it’s included with the rate. If not, the key cards need to be programmed for just allowing access to the assigned suite. At a hotel like Virgin in Las Vegas, your keycard may also grant access to VIP experiences or live events at the property. 

 

Besides supporting keycards, hotel management software should eliminate human error, and streamline tasks carried out by employees. It should also enhance the guest experience and increase profit margins. Software should help manage the following aspects of the hospitality industry:

 

  • Accounting
  • Banquet management
  • Central Reservation Systems (CRS)
  • Front desk
  • Housekeeping
  • Inventory management
  • Loyalty program
  • Point of Sale transactions (POS)
  • Task management

 

Ideally, a hotel can find software that offers most, if not all, of these operations. It may mean paying for software based on a per-room basis, a tiered model, or a one-time license fee. 

Pay-Per-Room

Because this model is based on the number of rooms at a property, it’s extremely popular in the hotel industry. A hotel with fewer rooms will only pay for what they need, while a hotel with more rooms may get cost breaks for having larger inventory. 

Tiered Model

Different tiers of service are available with the software depending on the needs of the property. Often subscription-based, tiered models can be cheaper when relying on cloud storage vs physical hard drives. 

One-Time License Model

Instead of renewing a subscription-based software, you pay more upfront to have use of the software for as long as you need. The price will also be affected by room number, and how many functions the software will be automating.

 

Popular Software Used in Hospitality

 

  • EZee Front Desk
  • Hotelogix (offers pay-per-room pricing)
  • Maestro PMS
  • Hoteliga (offers tiered model pricing)
  • FCS CosmoPMS
  • Skytouch Hotel OS
  • Cloudbeds
  • Smart Hotel Software
  • Tracktik
  • Monkport

How Does Software Help a Hotel?

Think of each hotel guest as a domino. Every interaction they have with a hotel employee is like the interaction between dominoes lined up on a table. A guest checks in, and they set off a chain of events that includes ensuring the room key is properly coded, housekeeping knows the room may need daily attention, the restaurant should be prepared for the number of guests on-site, parking attendants, bellhops, and others all need to carry out their duties.

 

With a few keystrokes, hotel management software can ensure that each department of the hotel knows what’s expected of them. Notifications can be created to tell housekeeping when to clean a room after checkout. Alerts can be created to remind staff to reorder supplies if inventory gets low, ensuring no room is left without clean towels or complimentary toiletries. Point of sale software can track guest food preferences so repeat guests receive customized recommendations on their next visit.

Hospitality software also helps with the following:

 

  • Pricing the cost of food and bar stock
  • Managing events (in conference rooms or banquet hall) as well as guests in one system
  • Automating task assignments for all staff
  • Monitoring room bookings for hotels with multiple locations (so staff always knows a guest is a repeat visitor even if they usually stay at a sister property)
  • Booking engine (so guests can book directly with the hotel rather than via a third party)

 

Although you may miss how charming it was to receive a metal key from a key cubby and sign your name in a ledger, the hotel software of today is meant to make your stay more secure and more enjoyable.

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Smart Financial Steps to Take After Retirement

When it’s finally time to retire, what should you focus on besides your bucket list?

Smart Financial Steps to Take After Retirement

If you haven’t already started the task of organizing your finances for your retirement, it’s not too late to start. Whether it’s investments, downsizing, or creating a will, here are some things you should know.

Don’t Go it Alone

There are often deadlines and requirements to meet when it comes to retirement. If you have questions about where to start, or how to make sure you’ve crossed all the “t’s and dotted the “i”s, there are a lot of resources available. 

 

If you’re a member of a Credit Union, check to see if they partner with Medicare Solutions or offer estate planning guidance. You can also refer to a lawyer for help with legalizing a will, and you should always rely on an experienced realtor if you plan to sell or purchase property.

Downsizing

Speaking of property, maybe it’s finally time to downsize. You may have had children living at home who have finally moved out, or maybe you no longer have time for the upkeep that your current home requires. You have options when it comes to downsizing, including renting out your current home, or selling it and investing the equity in something better suited to your current lifestyle.

Renting Your Property

Whether or not you have the time, energy, and know-how to act as a property manager for your home, hiring one is often a better option. A property management company can give you the freedom to focus on other things in retirement while they handle rent collection and property maintenance.

 

The current housing market is unable to meet demand, making now a good time to own rental property. With so many people relocating thanks to the flexibility that working from home allows, there’s a shortage of homes available. As a homeowner, it gives you leverage (since it’s a seller’s market right now) when pricing your rental. If your home is already paid off, rental income can serve as supplemental income to whatever you’re drawing from retirement funds. Even if you still owe on the mortgage of your home, a seasoned property manager can help you find the ideal price point that allows you to cover your expenses as well as have some left over.

Buying a Vacation Home

Maybe you’re finally ready to invest in that dream vacation home. From the Rocky Mountains in the West to the white sand beaches of the East, there are a lot of options available to you. But is now a good time to purchase a second home? 

 

Current real estate trends show that mortgage interest rates may go up in 2022; this means locking in the 3% rates now could be a great investment. If you choose to wait, however, it could also be beneficial as there may not be as much competition between buyers. If you want to learn more about whether or not it’s a good time to purchase a vacation property, you can read THIS ARTICLE from Lakota Real Estate Colorado.

 

Of course, maybe it’s simply time to sell what you have and move into a cozy condo with a homeowner’s association that will shovel your walks, mow your lawn, and provide recreational activities in your neighborhood such as tennis courts and a pool. If that’s the route you want to take, by all means, go for it! A real estate agent can help you price your current home appropriately so you can get the most equity possible and invest it in a place where you can enjoy your Golden Years.

Estate Planning

You may not want to bring attention to a time when you’re no longer around, but it’s important to take care of your estate planning when you have the ability to do so. Leaving the division of your assets up to loved ones after you die is not the kind of legacy for which you want to be remembered. Adding legal woes to their grief is not helpful.

 

As mentioned previously, some credit unions and banks have estate planning guides. Or you can refer to a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. Investopedia recommends the following when getting your financial affairs in order:

 

  • Itemize your assets
  • Itemize your debts
  • Consolidate retirement accounts
  • List your memberships – clubs, charities, AARP, AAA, recreation centers, etc…
  • Update your insurance policy beneficiaries
  • Draft a will
  • Assign “Transfer on Death” designations
  • Assign an executor of your will

 

Most importantly, share these documents with anyone who will be involved in managing your estate after you pass away. Your financial advisor and/or attorney can ensure you’re covering all the bases if you have any questions.

What to Include in a Will

A will designates who is in charge of your estate when you die. It should list your assets (real estate, money, physical items of value) and who the beneficiary of those assets will be. You can leave your belongings or wealth to an individual, divide it up, or bequeath it to an institution, such as a charity or a museum. 

 

If you neglect to name specific beneficiaries in your will, there is no guarantee they will inherit the items you intend for them. Being in a committed relationship with someone doesn’t offer them legal recourse to inherit anything from your estate at the time of your passing. Additionally, your children do not automatically inherit your assets if you die without a will that leaves instructions.

 

Be sure you also indicate what you want to happen for any dependents or pets you have at the time of your death. Be specific about who will care for minor children or your beloved dog so their needs can be promptly met.

 

After taking care to leave detailed information about your assets and beneficiaries, be sure your will is signed by yourself and the required witnesses. You should also include a notarized “self-proving affidavit” to your will so it cannot be contested for validity.

Medicare

Did you know you may actually need to sign up for Medicare before you retire? Depending on when you plan to step away from the workforce, it could happen after the deadline for your Medicare application. 

 

In order to be eligible for Medicare, you need to apply before you turn 65. If you neglect this deadline, you run the risk of paying more for your healthcare coverage, as well as having a lapse in coverage before Medicare begins. Even if you plan to continue working after the age of 65, you’ll still want to enroll in Medicare so you have continued health coverage when the time for retirement does come.

 

With a little planning, you can sail into retirement and know that you’ve tied up loose ends. Not only will you have the opportunity to enjoy yourself, but you can rest assured that you’ve done what you can to provide for your family after you’re gone. There’s no better legacy to leave.

 

Current Supply Chain Woes

For the last couple of years, supply chains have been affected by myriad factors: lack of labor, increased demand, and the increased cost to ship goods around the world.

 

When you’re running a business, these supply chain issues can lead to financial ruin unless you can get creative regarding sourcing materials. You may need to reevaluate your manufacturing process to save money or pivot your business plan. Is there another avenue you can explore in your niche to help you overcome issues with supply?

What Has Caused a Shortage of Goods?

At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, consumers began hoarding goods. Toilet paper, over-the-counter medicine, and soap were purchased in bulk due to fear of the unknown. Businesses that manufactured and distributed these items couldn’t keep up with demand, especially as many ceased operations due to lock-down requirements. Despite the progress being made when it comes to living in a world affected by this virus, it’s been hard to make up for the lost time.

Worker Shortage

Lack of labor affected every link in the supply chain. Let’s look at the lumber industry, for example. If there isn’t a full crew harvesting the timber, it will take longer to get raw material to the mills. The mills themselves are understaffed, so it takes longer to cultivate the wood into usable lumber. Then, when the timber has been prepped for distribution to wholesale and retail markets, there are fewer truck drivers available to haul the goods. 

 

Due to many people being stuck inside the same four walls day in and day out, they decided to tackle home improvement projects to make living, schooling, and working from home more bearable. This created an increased demand for lumber, which could not be met. It was like a perfect storm; materials were scarce to begin with, and then people wanted more in the midst of the shortage.

 

When it takes longer to source and deliver raw materials, they cost more so each link in the supply chain can earn the money they need to continue operating. They aren’t producing as much as they were in years past, so they have to make up for it somehow. 

What’s Causing the Labor Shortage?

You’d think people would be anxious to get back to work after lockdown restrictions were lifted around the world. However, there are a number of reasons that may be preventing people from rejoining the workforce.

 

Fear of Illness

Some people are still being cautious when it comes to potential exposure to illness. As a result, they don’t want to work in an environment where they don’t feel safe. In this same vein, many immigrants returned to their homelands during the pandemic and were never able to return to their previous employment. Whether it was due to the fear of getting sick, or the need to live somewhere they could be financially stable, it left a gap in the workforce.

 

Lack of Skills

Although working from home is now more common than ever, some people don’t have the skills necessary to do so. Whether they work in a field that doesn’t compute with telecommuting, or they don’t know how to use a computer or they don’t have access to the Internet, working from home isn’t feasible for many.

 

Dissatisfaction with Wages

In these times, many of us have simply had enough of being underappreciated. If the work we did pre-pandemic was so essential, why didn’t the wages and compensation plans reflect it? Many people are no longer willing to settle for low pay rates, and that’s reflected in understaffed businesses around the nation.

 

Tempting Unemployment Benefits

Finally, some economists surmise that robust unemployment benefits offer no incentive for people to return to the workforce. Why clock in every day at an underpaying job when you can fill your day with other activities while still receiving unemployment pay?

Materials Shortage

Whether it’s raw materials like gypsum for drywall or finished products like computer chips for vehicles, there’s a shortage worldwide. Industries that produce these items and more have been brought to a halt due to labor shortages, or straight-up closures of businesses during the pandemic.

 

As the economy recovers and consumers feel comfortable spending once again, there simply aren’t enough materials to meet demand. Even if they could be shipped quickly from the source to the consumer, they’d have to exist first.

Power Outages

China, a main supplier of goods for the US and Europe, is experiencing an energy crisis on the heels of the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of labor shortages and expensive shipping costs, power outages and power use restrictions affect businesses around the world. Brands including Apple, Mercedes, Tesla, and Volkswagen are experiencing shortages due to power rationing in China. Industries producing steel, aluminum, cement, fertilizer have been negatively impacted as well.

Increased Overhead Costs

Freight rates for items coming to the United States from China have skyrocketed, compounding the supply chain issues. Even if a manufacturer has resources, getting them to wholesalers, retailers, and then consumers is expensive. Companies with smaller profit margins are impacted more heavily when overhead costs increase, and they’re usually the first to close their doors.

Overcoming Supply Chain Woes

So what is a business to do when so many factors are out of its control? Sequoia Group has suggestions for improving supply chain agility, which can be found HERE.

 

Additionally, we need to shift our way of thinking. We can no longer expect same-day delivery for goods. We have to accept that instant gratification is no longer feasible for goods and services; we have to be willing to wait.

 

Nick Vyas, executive director of Kendrick Global Supply Chain Management, has shared that we may be looking at at least six more months before we see a positive change in supply issues. We have to get through the 2021 holiday season, and then the shifts might start to occur.

If your business or personal finances suffer as a result of supply chain woes, it’s not a sign of failure. Bankruptcy lawyer Rulon T. Burton reminds clients that filing for bankruptcy is “a path towards improvement.” We can’t all come out of this historic time unscathed, and there’s no shame in altering the way we do business or live our personal lives.

The Benefits of Integrating Your Company’s Inventory Management

As we march steadily on into the digital age, the demand to become more integrated with technology, and to avoid letting that technology become obsolete, grows more essential with each day that passes. Just as the old adage says that your new car loses value the moment you drive it off the lot, business owners can feel a similar sort of exasperation at the thought that despite their best efforts, they may be losing untold amounts of money as a flaw in their operations remains undetected.

Supply Chain Management in the Digital Age
Company’s Inventory Management

 

These operational faults come in many forms. In fact, some exist merely because the processes they affect have not adapted quickly enough to remain relevant in an ever-changing market. Truly, for these hiccups that have been “grandfathered in” it’s important to remember that what worked for Grandpa’s business won’t work here.

 

Supply Chain Management in the Digital Age

Of course, it’s unlikely that your business is run entirely through the fax machine and the power of a graphite-tipped pencil. You have daily meetings with distributors, weekly stand-ups with your procurement team, and analytics on every facet of your business broken down to the minute and the penny. However, it is the very multifaceted nature of your operations that can lead to the type of oversight where these obsolete processes slip through.

 

Companies that have inventory management as a significant part of their business model are particularly at risk of this type of hazard. They may have great processes for onboarding new clients, or a wide breadth of partnerships that help them expand into more and more territories each year. But managing their inventory—from production to distribution to warehousing—and being able to give accurate estimates on project completion, is an ever-evolving puzzle that demands a host of time, money, and energy to solve. Throw a crisis like a recession, a natural disaster, or a pandemic into the mix, and having forward-thinking operations in place suddenly becomes a matter of life and death for your business.

 

Keep it Simple

Luckily, there is no shortage of tools to help you simplify your inventory management, and finding the right one will help you reap the benefits of a fully integrated business model.

 

  • More integration in systems means fewer errors. If you have an inventory control system that is made up entirely of Microsoft Excel and QuickBooks, you will constantly be having to rely on the accuracy of your employees as they enter the data manually. As keystroke or computational errors give way to problems down the road, more time will have to be spent monitoring and updating work that has already been done. As you start to integrate your business processes, you will find that there is usually a piece of technology that can exchange two tools for one.

 

  • More integration in systems means more time saved. Not only will you gain efficiency by reducing the time spent monitoring data entry, but having access to more accurate data will make for more accurate reports on improved key performance indicators. Standardizing these processes will increase productivity and reduce the amount of time spent holding redundant meetings.

 

  • More integration in systems means a more agile business. Ultimately what we have been discussing is utilizing technology to hone efficiency within supply chain management. As companies integrate more of their processes they will become more flexible when encountering unforeseen challenges (like making informed decisions on the fly to shift operations to meet a need), and more resilient in the wake of a crisis (because more of their digital presence will be better protected).

 

Utilize & Move Onward

Utilizing technology to promote best practices within an integrated supply chain is the key to longevity in today’s ever-evolving digital marketplace. Choosing the right tool for your business will be made easier by identifying which one best simplifies your operations. Not only will this lead to greater revenue and time saved, but morale will improve as people’s jobs become easier, and productivity will increase.