of sales revenue. For this reason, most front-office computer systems
are sales-revenue-oriented rather than cost-control-oriented, and are based on
the reservation, registration, and guest accounting needs of the property. They
can also be linked to food and beverage POS system terminals. However, frontoffice
systems can provide cost control in certain areas. Front-office computers
can be linked to the telephone system to monitor and bill guests’ accounts for
charges of local and long distance calls to preclude the hotel from paying for
telephone costs not recovered through charges on guest accounts.
The front-office system can also provide constantly updated information to
other departments such as housekeeping, food, and beverage areas relating to
room occupancy and guest counts, so that adequate staffing can be arranged,
thereby precluding departments from being overstaffed.
Finally, front-office computers can prepare and print room department operating
ratios such as occupancy and double-occupancy percentages, average
daily rates, and the daily yield statistic. In this latter regard, front-office computer
systems can be immensely useful in maximizing yield by providing information
to form a database of guest history and reservation patterns by type
of guest for yield management.
More recently, front-office systems have been keyed to security control. A
computer can be programmed to allow certain keys to open doors during limited
periods each day. This may mean that housekeeping staff will have access
to rooms only during the room makeup period. The system can also issue “keys”
to guests, which are simply plastic cards a little smaller than a credit card that
have data encoded on them on magnetic strips or have a series of holes punched
through them. The guest room door has a device that reads the card and allows
the door to be opened.
As guests register, the computer issues new guests a key card with a unique
code on it for each guest and for each specific room. At the same time, the computer
erases the old code for that room in the device on the guest room door.
This procedure ensures a departed guest’s card will not function, and creates a
new code corresponding to the arriving guest’s card. Departing guests do not
have to turn in their keys; on checkout, they can be discarded. In cases of emergency,
a conventional key may be used by authorized hotel personnel to override
a card reader device. The key cards can also be used as internal credit
identification cards so that guests can charge to their room account food or beverages
consumed in the hotel’s dining room and bar areas.
For small hotels and motels, computerized equipment is now available that
can be located at the front office to be operated by an arriving guest. The computer
accepts specified credit cards and automatically charges the rate for a specific
room to the credit card, prints a paid invoice for the guest, and issues a key
card coded to the door of the assigned room. An all-night employee no longer
is required to register late-arriving or early-checkout guests.