The Professional's Voice

Technology growing in influence and importance

We’ve had a remarkable, and at times exhausting, 12 months at Intelligent Business Systems. Recently we have added Itsu, Rick Stein and Harry Ramsden’s to our client portfolio. Up-and-coming operators Bone Daddies, the Inception Group and Rift & Co have also been welcomed on board.

Account managers, Mark Bagnall, Justin Atkinson and Damian Dunkley, and myself have been clocking up the miles demonstrating our business management solutions. We’ve met a diverse array of operators embracing every sector of the hospitality industry, although they share one similarity: they have a clear vision of what they want to achieve with their EPOS-led technology investment. Gone are the days of asking us what we can do for them. Instead, it is about operators showing us what they want to achieve.

Increasingly technology savvy

This actually makes our task much easier as technology providers because we can tailor our solutions to their exact operational and head office requirements without everyone undergoing a major sea change to accommodate new technology.

Our decision to migrate all our products to the cloud several years ago has really captured the interest of operators looking to purchase their third or fourth EPOS-based management solution. Increasingly technology savvy, they have far greater expectations compared to a dozen or so years ago.

Itsu, led by Julian Metcalfe, is a great example of what I mean. Julian, who also founded a former client of ours, Pret A Manager, currently has a collection of 58 healthy fast casual stores, primarily based in London. There are ambitions to expand Itsu nationwide and then globally. A dedicated store opening team will be busy launching an anticipated 10 to 15 new sites by the end of 2015. This is typical of Itsu’s attention to detail, leaving nothing to chance, including investing in cloud technology.

Stores have saved seven seconds per transaction compared to their previous system

An independent consultant approached us with a no-nonsense brief about what Itsu wanted to achieve in terms of speed, ease of use and appearance. We’ve worked for Julian before and know all about his passion for look, feel and quality. Our initial response saw us shortlisted alongside other EPOS providers and after a successful trial period we won the full contract. Ever since, we’ve been busy installing three sites a week overnight, starting at 10pm on a Thursday (the end of Itsu’s trading week) ensuring the stores are ready to open 12 hours later.

Every aspect has been thought through in thorough detail to optimise the customer experience. Cash drawers are hidden out of sight under the counters and sleek touchscreen terminals are mounted on poles to save space, leaving counter displays uncluttered and aesthetically pleasing. Credit card terminals are housed on black PED arms attached to the poles and can be turned away when not in use. All the buttons on the sales and kitchen video screens are either hi-res floating graphics or product images so the screens look just like a printed menu. Understanding written English isn’t necessary to operate the system.

Identified specific challenges for us

Performance is just as important, especially speed of service. Feedback from Itsu’s Head of Technology & Infrastructure Terry Rose reveals stores have saved seven seconds per transaction compared to their previous system.  Wave and pay for transactions under £20 are even quicker, taking literally three or four seconds. Our StockLink Online management software automatically sends live sales data to head office and passes real time data to the latest Fourth Hospitality solution. Our kitchen management system contains a hot pass system similar to McDonalds. Within a few seconds of an order being placed, the items appear in the kitchen and transaction data is available for tracking and analysis in the cloud. Streamed transaction data to Live Store software links CCTV and tills to monitor potential fraudulent activities.

Itsu’s high expectations are mirrored by other clients like Harry Ramsden’s and Rick Stein, both of whom clearly identified specific challenges for us when we pitched for their business.

Growing influence and importance of technology

Harry Ramsden’s, under the direction of CEO Joe Teixeria, has ambitious expansion plans, including franchising here in the UK and overseas. Outlets are a mix of takeaways and full service restaurant styles with their kitchens serving both. Our kitchen management solution differentiates between the orders to ensure the kitchens run smoothly without any confusion. As floor staff carry cash pouches we wrote a bespoke cash management report to track clerk floats and clerk declarations. These are fed into weekly business sheets. There is also an in-house stock control system, which lowers staff costs and increases the speed of ordering and changing menus. A purchase and delivery module ensures purchase orders can only be generated  for approved Harry Ramsden’s suppliers.

Rick Stein, headed by the eponymous TV chef, is a very diverse business combining fish retailing, food-to-go and high level dining as well as hotel accommodation. One of our primary tasks was to join up all aspects of the business using one system, which also incorporates table reservations and loyalty and gift cards across the business.

All three examples encapsulate the growing influence and importance of technology within the hospitality sector. This was further highlighted earlier in March when another client, Revolution Bars Group, joined the London Stock Exchange to fund the growth of its Revolution and Revolución de Cuba brands. During the run up to the floatation the directors of the company said amongst its many strengths they “believe that the operational, financial and IT platforms within the Group are capable of serving a bigger business without material additional expenditure.”

 

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