When Hilton Hotels Corp. was set to open a major conference center and hotel in Omaha, Neb., several months ago, the company reserved a room for Hospitality Solutions International Inc., of Scottsdale, Ariz.
HSI designs POS (point-of-sale) hospitality systems for major hotels and restaurant chains around the world, and the solutions providers relationship with Hilton blankets 150 locations, including three major conference centers that opened within the past few months.
“HSI is our preferred POS partner,” said Brenda Burke, Hiltons director of hotel technology. “Ive worked with the same two people from HSI—Scott Lampman and Amy Hill—for eight years. Its a great partnership.”
HSIs sales force and consulting teams first connected with Burke nearly a decade ago, when she was a technology manager at Red Lion Hotels, a prominent hotel chain in the Pacific Northwest. At the time, Red Lion depended primarily on POS hardware and software from NCR Corp., of Dayton, Ohio. But as NCR gradually discontinued selected software updates, Red Lion prowled the market for alternatives.
The chain ultimately standardized on IBM desktops and servers running multiple flavors of Microsoft Corp.s Windows. That opened the door for HSI, which focuses much of its development and integration on IBM environments running Windows.
Through a series of mergers and takeovers, Red Lions Burke eventually transitioned to Hilton and emerged as the hospitality giants POS expert. With Burkes steadfast support, Hilton turned to HSI for multiple POS projects that involved front-office ordering systems, back-office servers and credit card transaction systems.
Burke said her confidence in HSI is based on the companys focus on the hotel and retail industries. “Whether youre speaking with HSI or using their point-of-sale solutions, its abundantly clear that they understand the hospitality marketplace,” she said.
Some of Hiltons competitors agree. More than 3,500 hotel and restaurant locations worldwide depend on HSI, which is owned by Micros Systems Inc., a $400 million solutions provider in Columbia, Md.
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Burke turned to HSI, once again, as Hilton early this year prepared to open three major convention centers in Omaha and in Austin and Houston, Texas. The project called for 60 IBM SurePOS systems running Windows 2000. Unlike traditional PCs, IBMs POS systems are designed to withstand harsh retail and hospitality environments—where food, grease and grime are the norm.
Moreover, a small footprint makes the POS systems ideal for confined work spaces, and an infrared touch-screen display speeds customer transactions. SurePOS is ringing up strong sales among retail and hospitality customers. Recent converts include Sears Roebuck and Co., of Hoffman Estates, Ill., and Pathmark Stores, Inc., of Cateret, N.J.
Of course, the IBM hardware is worth little without POS applications. Enter HSI. During the recent Hilton projects in Nebraska and Texas, HSIs consultants spent a few weeks deploying, configuring and customizing the POS software within multiple Hilton settings.
“HSI designs solutions that work in banquet halls, catering facilities, gift shops, spa areas and just about every other point-of-sale location,” said Burke. “And HSI designs its code to interface very easily with credit card vendors and other transaction systems.”
Once the software and POS systems were properly configured, HSI offered training seminars to Hilton employees. “They were also on hand during our grand openings to answer employee questions and give everyone the confidence that they can handle the tasks at hand,” said Burke.
With the POS systems in place, Burke is exploring additional technology solutions. In particular, Hilton is considering deploying wireless handhelds at its Omaha conference center. If the project gets the green light, the handhelds may speed poolside service for Hilton clientele.
Hilton has also deployed wireless kiosks in the lobbies of some of its hotels. The kiosks integrate with Hiltons OnQ front-desk management system to speed customer check-in and checkout and to issue digital room keys to clients who have reservations.
Naturally, HSI hopes to have a hand in Hiltons upcoming technology projects. Key focus areas for the solutions provider include biometrics, wireless handheld support, Internet reporting and menu maintenance.
“We tend to stay ahead of the curve,” said HSI Director of Business Development Hill. “All of those features are available within our point-of-sale solutions today.”
Joseph C. Panettieri ([email protected]) has covered Silicon Valley since 1992 and most recently served as editorial director of New York Institute of Technology.