Industry News
June 11, 20247 min read

Empowering Great Hospitality: Hospitality Tech Pioneer Dexter McKenzie Shares His Entrepreneurial Journey and Secrets to Over 3 Decades of Success

Empowering Great Hospitality: Hospitality Tech Pioneer Dexter McKenzie Shares His Entrepreneurial Journey and Secrets to Over 3 Decades of Success — Photo by Puzzle Partner Ltd.
Property Technology MICE Lodging Industry Innovation
By Alan Young, Hospitality Industry Advisor, College Professor, and Co-Founder of Puzzle Partner

Most of us look back on our first job with a mix of nostalgia and relief; after all, the traditional entry points into the job market are typically far from glamorous. From serving fast food to stocking shelves, bagging groceries, babysitting, or summer hours spent running a paper route and cutting grass, these jobs typically require no shortage of elbow grease in exchange for a modest paycheck, a small taste of independence, and a life lesson (or many).

For Dexter McKenzie, who introduced the STS sales and catering platform to the hospitality industry – it all began at the age of 14, dutifully scrubbing dishes at a Holiday Inn in Portsmouth, VA. Little did he know, his first foray into the world of hospitality would not be his last; instead, that job working behind the scenes at a local hotel would pave the way to a lifelong career in hospitality. Today, McKenzie has over four decades of hospitality experience, including 14 years of hotel operations and a reputation for bringing affordable, cutting-edge hotel sales automation technology (built by a hotelier for hoteliers) to market.

Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Dexter to discuss the evolution of his career, his lifelong passion for personal customer service, the roadmap moving forward, and more.

“The Holiday Inn I worked at when I was 14 was a corporate-managed hotel, and I was the F&B manager by the time I was 19,” McKenzie shares. “The property was sold when I was 20, and this transition nudged me into the next leg of my hospitality career.” After several years of various positions in the Northeast, that experience culminated in a regional position. “My responsibilities included overseeing staffing and productivity standards for our hotels and, eventually, managing the automation side of our operations. This was around 1983, when computers were just coming onto the scene, and since I was the youngest staff member, it was determined that I would be best suited to implement the first computer systems at our front desks. This was where my love for technology – and how it could help power the hospitality industry specifically – first materialized and, inevitably, took hold of my career.”

McKenzie left Holiday Inns four years later – not for another hotel chain, but to launch his own endeavor: Simple Solutions. “I had spent the last four years working to identify appropriate technologies for our hotels,” he notes. “But time and time again, I encountered a platform that was too expensive or a vendor that offered what could only be described as uninspired and unreliable customer service. Clearly, there was a gap in the market for the kind of solution I was always looking for as a hotelier, and I was determined to build that solution.” With that, customer service became a cornerstone of Simple Solutions. “I made it my mission to provide the best customer service to hoteliers at the best price and to grow the company organically,” McKenzie adds.

“STS was everything I wanted it to be, but I quickly noticed that many of my customers had another need to be met – a better proposal solution. More specifically, they needed something other than a Word doc,” McKenzie shares. “Soon, they began using a product named ProposalPath from Bluebuzzard, a leading hospitality online proposal tool. Not long after that, Bluebuzzard’s co-founders, Ryan Hamilton, and Brian Eng, reached out to inquire about integrating STS with ProposalPath. By this time, we shared a number of clients, and, more importantly, those clients raved about their product and customer service in equal measure.”

McKenzie continues, “As I got to know Ryan and Brian, it became clear we were cut from the same cloth and had the same goals in mind.” Around this time, McKenzie decided he wanted to take STS to the next level by making it a pure cloud platform, and the idea of forming a third company alongside Hamilton and Eng took shape. “Just like that, SalesAndCatering.com was born.”

After years of a successful integration partnership, Simple Solutions and Bluebuzzard joined forces to officially form SalesAndCatering. com. These are two best-in-class platforms with a simple yet lofty goal: to provide the best functionality, user experience, and outstanding service. Since its inception in 2012, SalesAndCatering.com has been an award-winning solution provider that has grown to serve over 10,000 users in the hospitality industry.

When asked what makes SalesAndCatering.com different from other solutions on the market, McKenzie cites the importance of simply practicing what you preach. “Every company says customer service is their first priority, but at the end of the day, most of them get distracted with other priorities,” McKenzie notes. “We never do. Our commitment to delivering truly affordable solutions, coupled with our commitment to service, makes it easy to compete against other players in our market.”

The hospitality landscape has always been competitive, but data is an increasingly powerful (and non-negotiable) currency in today's market. Hotels need data to better create and maintain relationships with their customers through a modern CRM and the metrics required for forecasting and revenue management. “To capture and effectively harness that data, hoteliers need affordable, easy-to-use, and easy-to-implement technology – minimal training should be required for their teams to be productive,” says McKenzie. “We’ve all heard the term “power user” when referencing other systems. However, that typically means a system is so complex that only a few can truly take advantage of its capabilities. We want to make every one of our users a “power user” by giving them the technology they can understand and use with minimal training. We believe that STS Cloud meets this challenge.”

Today, SalesAndCatering.com is much more than a technology provider. The company, known for its outstanding customer service, has effectively created a positive environment where everyone feels valued, encouraged, and involved, from employees to users. Dexter's advice rings true for anyone diving into a new business venture or project: "Create something you can be proud of."

Looking to the future, SalesAndCatering.com plans to maintain the strategic direction while using continued product innovation to ensure customer needs are not only met but anticipated. “We want to ensure stability for our customers in an environment that is often anything but stable. Our products are always evolving with practicality, innovation, and affordability in mind. We marry our commitment to customer service with our deep knowledge of market needs and trends to ensure our solutions remain equipped to outperform competitors in a rapidly changing industry landscape. The hospitality industry is ripe with opportunity right now, and we are thrilled to be along for the ride and one of the vehicles driving it forward.”

Alan Young
Alan Young
Hospitality Industry Advisor, College Professor, and Co-Founder of Puzzle Partner

Puzzle Partner Ltd.

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