How Channel Management Works - A Hotel Restaurant Comparison

by Fiona Cooper, SmartHOTEL Customer Success 

I recently asked one of our Developers to explain to me how the message flow works for rate, restriction and inventory updates in the Channel Manager.  If you’re like me, you click the button and the magic happens but there is never really any thought as to how the information gets to its destination. To help me in my support role, I wanted to get an understanding of it works and, after a couple of hours of intense training (and this was the dumb-down version), I think I finally get it and wanted to share it with you.

Everything seems to revolve around API’s, Dispatchers, Servers and Databases. This is how it looks visually;


Now, I can see your eyes glazing over so, to explain this better, let’s take a familiar example: your hotel restaurant.

Imagine you’re sitting at a table in a restaurant and are choosing your meal from the menu. The kitchen is the part of the system that will prepare your order. What is missing, however, are the critical links to get your order to the kitchen and deliver your food back to your table. That’s where the waiter (or API) comes in. The waiter is API that takes your order and gives it to the kitchen so they know what to do.

Channel Management Explained Waiter API The waiter (API) takes your order and gives it to the kitchen


We need to expand this example a little more to explain how different types of messages work.  You have Rates, Restriction and Inventory messages so let's imagine these are your Starter, Mains and Dessert orders.  The waiter will take the order into the kitchen and the Head Chef will then pass on the order to the different kitchen sections for preparation. The Head Chef becomes another API as he is communicating to different sections. Then, the individual section chefs need to prepare the food. This is where the XML message is created in the Dispatcher ready to be sent to the booking site. As soon as the food is ready it will sit in the Queue, waiting for the waiter to collect it and bring it to your table.


Channel Management Explaine -Chef Queue api Individual section chefs need to prepare the food (XML Message) and store it for serving (queue).


Sounds simple enough so far?

Now, let's imagine that the waiters collecting the food all speak different languages. When they come into the kitchen to collect the food, the chef needs to speak to them in their own language so they know which table the food is for. Our waiters here are the various booking sites. Each booking site speaks its own language so we have to make sure were translating the order so they can understand the message and deliver it correctly.

“Main Course for Table Two

Hoofdgerecht voor tafel twee

Plat principal pour la table deux"

"Hauptgericht für Tisch zwei

Once the food is delivered to your table, the waiter will check that everything is ok with your meal and return back to the kitchen to inform the chef (again in their own language) that you’re happy with your food. This is the response message the system receives for every dish that goes out and, again, has to pass through all the different staff (or APIs) involved to complete the order as successful.

On occasion, the food being delivered to the table gets rejected. It could be that you didn’t order it, you asked for extra sauce, the meat is undercooked, you’ve already left the restaurant, etc. These will be the error messages that show in the channel manager which your support team handle for you. In most scenarios, these are easy to fix and we get the new dish out straight away but sometimes we may need to check with you what your order was.


Channel Management Explained Message Booking Site The waiter (API) serves your dish (Reservation/Availability update).


When we look at message volume, the above example works but that was for just one person sat at a table. Can you imagine if there were 10 people at the table, all with different orders?  And let’s expand that a little more – the restaurant has 100 tables all ordering at the same time. All the staff are trained to work with this volume and the chef will work chronologically and in batches to get everything prepared.  But, please be patient, you’re food will be with you soon!

And there you have it. That’s the message flow from the Channel Manager R&A screen to the Booking Site. There will be comparable “restaurants” in operation for your PMS and the booking sites and they all have APIs that talk to each other. So, the next time you make a rate change, have a thought for all those wonderful waiters, chefs and servers that deal with your order and know that they will have it all cooked and served - usually within 3 minutes!


About SmartHOTEL
For more than 16 years, SmartHOTEL has been helping hoteliers navigate the exciting world of online distribution. From our office based in the Netherlands, our team serves independent hotels, hostels and chains worldwide by providing channel management and tailored online distribution solutions. A lot has changed over the last years, but our goal remains the same: simply connect hotels to the world. For any questions regarding our services, please contact us at or call +31 (0)182 75 11 18.

By SmartHOTEL | February 13, 2018

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