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Software Cooks Up Profits

Food and beverage directors and caterers are boosting profits and cutting waste thanks to catering and event management software programs.

GETTING A GRIP David Grant, owner of David M. Grant Caterers in Shelton, Conn., has been using CaterEase catering and event management software for two years. "The biggest benefit is it keeps you organized," he says. "My business makes a little more than $1 million a year, and I am able to handle the office by myself.

"The feature I like most is that it keeps a schedule of all my parties and events, so I can find out what the sales will be for that week," he adds.

Horizon Business Services in Naples, Fla., manufactures the software. Chris Kopriva, a consultant with Horizon, says, "Clients can book orders, write contracts, reserve rooms and run various reports."

The company is constantly adding new features to the software, he says. "We upgrade a minimum of two to three times per year. The last upgrade included more than 150 new features."

One new feature is a field layout wizard. "It allows users to rearrange what they are looking at on their screen," Kopriva says. "Just by changing the order of columns in a graph, each user on a network can be looking at a completely different representation of the same data."

On the horizon, "We'll be addressing Web service, so users can book functions over the Web," he adds.

THE BIG PICTURE Robert Hatt, director of catering at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto (Canada), says he uses Delphi catering and event management software primarily for sales and catering functions.

"It helps us access specifics of our data base," he says. "We can pinpoint where our business is coming from and what market segments are performing well. From a booking standpoint, we can monitor when we are able to confirm a function space so that we don't double-book."

Hatt adds that the program has enabled catering managers to become more sales focused. "Using it for a reference gives me a better picture on how to sell to clients."

Charlie Hoppensteadt, executive director of development for Newmarket International of Portsmouth, N.H., says the company's Delphi software is a Windows-based program that lets nothing fall through the cracks, from important customer calls to banquet event orders.

"Group sales is a major part of a hotel's operations, ranging anywhere from 20 percent to 80 percent of total sales," he says. "Users can key in information and easily evaluate how profitable a piece of business is going to be."

Hoppensteadt says the program also makes reporting quick and easy. "It has the ability to compile information such as reports on sales productivity and occupancy."

Newmarket International also manufactures Breeze, an application with the core functions of Delphi minus some of its yield management and query capabilities, designed for properties with fewer than 200 guestrooms.

TAKING STOCK Carol Osborne relies on Food-Trak food and beverage management software to control her restaurant inventory. Osborne, office manager at University Club of Phoenix (Ariz.), a private membership restaurant that seats 190, says, "It saves a lot of time because I just enter numbers and don't have to do any of the adding functions."

Paul Grogger, a software consultant at System Concepts, Inc., in Scottsdale, Ariz., developer of the software, says it can build and cost a menu as part of its program.

"The program can cost, size and determine the ingredients necessary for a function based on the chef's recipes and today's market prices," he says. In an era of growing health consciousness, "The program also provides a full nutritional analysis based on a recipe."

Grogger says the software offers several inventory control reports including item usage, cost of goods and perpetual inventory (what's left on the shelf after sales), as well as forecasting reports.

New features are constantly being added, such as the recipe designer sheet, which allows users to attach a picture or an audiovisual file to a recipe sheet. "You can click on a recipe file and watch a video file on how you make the dish," Grogger explains.

"The program can usually return from 2 percent to 5 percent of a company's food and beverage usage dollars by offering timely information," he adds.

Resources: David M. Grant Caterers, 203/924-2623; Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, 416/928-7310; Horizon Business Services, 800/863-1616; Newmarket International, 603/436-7500; System Concepts Inc., 800/553-2438; University Club of Phoenix, 602/254-5408

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