By Alan Young
There is no denying that 2021 and 2022 were challenging years for the hospitality industry. While hotels remained shuttered and planes remained uncharacteristically desolate amid the COVID-19 pandemic, hoteliers and hospitality technology vendors contemplated the same question – what would the post-pandemic landscape look like, and when would it (finally) come into view? The long-awaited period of industry revival is now undeniably upon us, and hospitality brands have surged back to life as travelers worldwide look to make up for lost time.
In many ways, though, the pandemic served as an opportunity for recalibration across the hospitality industry as hotels began to evaluate their legacy tech. Needing to cut costs, diversify/optimize revenue streams, and streamline tasks in the wake of staff shortages, hotel brands began to appraise their legacy tech with an increasingly critical eye and, in many cases, finally cast it aside for modern alternatives. This long overdue platform overhaul was especially apparent within the group business and events segment, as hotels increasingly sought out intuitive sales and catering systems that promised to maximize the efforts of their sales teams and drastically enhance the planner experience. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Hamilton, the CEO, and Co-Founder of SalesAndCatering.com, to discuss the evolution of SalesAndCatering.com, the resilient success and growth of the STS Cloud platform, and the biggest challenges hoteliers currently face.
The initial conception of SalesAndCatering.com was, in many ways, a happy accident, according to Hamilton. “It was one of those situations where my eyes were open to new opportunities, and this one happened to present itself,” he explains. “My business partner and I were successfully running a company at the time called Bluebuzzard (which is still in operation) and were looking to expand our product line. We had always considered the potential of moving into the sales and catering space, which seemed like a natural expansion for our brand. However, we found ourselves pushing back on the idea due to the complex nature of sales and catering systems. We knew it would take years of research and development to learn, build, and ultimately deliver a quality product to the industry, so creating a product like that from scratch was off the table.” Around this time, Hamilton and his business partner started a conversation with one of their integration partners, Dexter McKenzie, who was already managing a successful sales and catering product. The platform was already 20 years in the making and was seen by many as the “best product at the best price”. However, the technology had seemingly reached an inflection point, where it would soon require an overhaul to reach its next iteration.
“So, really, that’s what led to the birth of SalesAndCatering.com. We got together with Dexter and proposed the idea of a fresh, new sales and catering tool using his existing product as a blueprint,” Hamilton shared. “From there, we jumped in with no reservations. Over the next two years, we completely rebuilt the product from the ground up using modern, cloud-based technology.” The task of reimagining Dexter’s existing platform was a tall order, and SalesAndCatering.com’s CTO and Co-Founder, Brian Eng, did most of the work in-house. “The end result is truly an amazing system. Additionally, we paired the new Cloud system with products offered by Bluebuzzard, which gave our clients additional tools needed to compete at the highest level of group sales.”
Since the official launch of SalesAndCatering.com over 30 years ago, the company has already signed over 2,300 clients. According to Hamilton, this success can be linked, in large part, to the quality and affordability of their offering. “As mentioned, the original STS product was launched in 1989 by Dexter. His business philosophies back then were the same ones we carry on today, which have undeniably influenced our success – maintain a quality product at a reasonable price, listen to your customers, and deliver a high level of service,” Hamilton explains. “There are, of course, other contributing factors, but this is the heartbeat of our success.”
Notably, the pandemic did not deter the momentous success of SalesAndCatering.com; in fact, their business continued to grow over that time. “I attribute much of it to value,” Hamilton reveals. “Nothing tightened budgets more over the past several decades than the pandemic. Hotels had less to spend, but they still needed technology to operate. This led them to favor the products providing the best value, and we provide a tremendous value compared to other products.”
Throughout its evolution, SalesAndCatering.com has distinguished itself from other hotel sales technology with a heavy focus on balancing growth, continued product evolution, and unparalleled support and service. “It’s our commitment to working towards being the industry’s #1 sales and catering system. We avoid mediocrity by working relentlessly to be the best at the things we do,” shares Hamilton. “The industry has recognized this and is saying… [“this is the company we want to partner with for sales and catering”]. The conversations at our office every day don’t revolve around the constant pursuit of 1,000 new clients; instead, we strive to identify solutions to customer issues and improve integrations with our partners. Don’t get me wrong, sales is a part of what we do daily, but it’s not what ultimately drives and motivates us every day. I truly believe that 30 years of sustainable growth cannot be achieved without creating balance in all aspects of your business.
Currently, the hospitality industry finds itself in a period of high demand – but this momentum is not without its challenges. Hotel brands of all sizes and scales are currently grappling with rapid changes in software/technology, while trying to manage multiple systems and keep up with rising costs. “Technology is evolving so quickly it is often difficult for hoteliers to keep up,” shares Hamilton. “New systems are continually being introduced to the market. Juggling all those systems is something our industry has had to adapt to over the years, and it hasn’t been easy, especially as costs continue to rise.” With this in mind, SalesAndCatering.com has evolved in lockstep with emerging industry trends to keep its customers at the forefront of technology. “We know our product will be just as relevant well into the future as it is today. How that evolution happens is where some companies get it right, and some get it wrong.”
Fortunately, SalesAndCatering.com customers have the benefit of using a consistent product, which is proven to help maintain momentum and avoid disruption. “Disruption can sometimes be a good thing, but not for sales [and service] teams working to continually hit their sales numbers and service their groups,” explains Hamilton. “Doing all of this while maintaining a reasonable price-point is what separates us from our competition and offers a huge win for our customers.”
Heading into Q2 of 2023, experts expect in-person events and budgets to continue on an upwards trajectory. With the renewed demand for travel and in-person events/meetings, hotels and venues that have the right tech stack will be the ones to win market share. “Surprisingly, we see many hotels still using outdated or over-engineered software, and it’s slowing them down,” Hamilton notes. “Once that problem is solved, the real opportunity can be addressed, which is booking, servicing, and growing revenue for groups and events.”
As for the future of SalesAndCatering.com, Hamilton says their focus is on continuing to build out their partner network and integrations while maintaining the service and product standards that have set them apart from other platforms over the last 30 years. “We are entering another growth phase, and with that comes a new set of challenges and client expectations, which makes for exciting work. We’re also keeping our eyes open for best-of-breed products [as potential partners] to help our clients assemble the tech needed to compete at the highest level.”