Leading Lake District pub, restaurant and hotel uses information packed EPoS system to help turnaround business:

May 3, 2013

Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Lake District, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in the picturesque village of Arnside is a quintessential traditional English pub; thriving restaurant and bustling hotel business.  Behind the facade of this historic building belies a forward thinking business management system installed by new landlord and runner up of Thwaites “Best Newcoming Landlord of 2013”, Tony Keates, who took over the property in December 2012. He takes up the story:

“I’ve built up a history of invigorating small businesses across all retail environments and I have noticed that some businesses’ simply and unnecessarily fail because they do not have the correct type of management information or automated processes in place in order to run them efficiently. I’m passionate about addressing this and, as such, have used EPoS (Electronic Point of Sale) systems to understand takings; staffing levels; and stock controls from Day 1 of any new business venture. This was broadly the same at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, which experienced large seasonal peaks with fluctuating takings.”

The busy in-house restaurant, Jay’s, was a classic example. With 14 tables, the system prior to December was totally manual and paper based with waitresses noting menu items and then physically taking the order down a flight of 13 steep stairs to the kitchen area and pressing a buzzer for chef service. If a change, or an item such as puddings or coffees were added, the invoice tab was recalled from the kitchen. With covers in the bar area, the problem was replicated further still with 13 tables in one bar area and 25 in the outside/sports bar area. Hotel bookings and guest in-house food and drink reconciliation was entirely based on paper diary entries being updated to read  ‘Paid’.

It didn’t take Tony long to notice the issues. “We loved the new pub, the location, the regulars and the challenge of a potential turnaround in turnover. What we were not prepared for was that in our first month of trading alone, we experience two walkouts from the bar areas and a stay from a hotel room that remained unaccounted for. That was a loss of £130. Simply, at any one time, we were unsure of who had paid for what.” he recollects frustratingly. A previous user of EPoS, Tony instinctively knew that to drive the profits upwards, the two existing standalone cash registers would have to be replaced almost immediately for a solution that provided accountability and automation.

Tony contacted CardSave, facilitators of affordable EPoS technology, who quickly recommended three all-in-one EPoS terminals with integrated thermal receipt printers and pop-up customer display would be required for the bar, restaurant, terrace bar and a robust printer for the kitchen area. The Casio VR-100 EPoS recommended tills have been designed specifically for demanding pub and restaurant environments and include PoS software and costs just £2.50 per day to rent through CardSave. In addition to the pre-installed apps, the V-R100 supports the open source AndroidTM platform to download custom applications. Satisfied with the solution and the price plan, installation commenced across the busy Easter weekend, with the three tills arriving pre-populated with the menu items, drinks and hotel fare, in total 400 items. Each of the V-R100’s was set up to manage their particular area with the master till housed in the bar area, so Tony would be able to see at a glance how busy and effective each area was. Regardless of location, from day 1, the splashproof terminals fitted snugly on the bar counter, being significantly smaller, quieter and less draining on electricity than their standalone counterparts.

CardSave remained on hand to train the eight staff across three days with overview training and shadowing on the job. Tony reflects:- “Embarking on any significant IT equipment upgrade for staff can be a challenge, especially when a few members of staff are far from being IT savvy, but given the easy-to-use touch screen buttons and illustrated menu for all items; training really happened on the job and was incredibly easy, with staff dealing comfortably with the peaks of Easter traffic.”

With the 10.4 inch colour display highlighting every transaction, the staff quickly settled into usage.  No longer in busy periods were the staff tempted to ‘round down’ prices for a group of drinks for the sake of easy maths; now a simple touch screen press on each item gives pin point accuracy of transactions. This is incredibly important on busy Friday and Saturday nights when live music attracts large groups in the bar area where the V-R100 has managed to cut average queuing times down by 25% through prompt turnaround times. And as each transaction is assigned to a staff member, productivity gaps can be quickly identified. Tony continues. “The V-R100 provides the documented evidence that backs up what you already suspect as an experienced manager, highlighting individual members’ under or over performance. That visibility has already led us to retraining one staff member to ensure that we are all working as effectively in a team as possible.”

And, of course the intelligence behind the VR-100 quickly captures these peaks in serving times which allows Tony to accurately adjust staff rotas by simply mapping the busiest periods against appropriate staffing levels.  Effective monitoring in this one area alone provided an immediate saving of 13% of staff salaries or, viewed in another context, the savings of one full time member of staff per annum.

When it comes to adding and enhancing the pre-installed software options, Ye Olde Fighting Cocks know that as the VR-100 EPoS terminal operates on the Android™ platform, applications specifically for the hospitality and pub trade are available to download to assist publicans to fulfil and automate their daily tasks, with more functionality arriving each day. Tony comments. “We feel as if we are just scratching the surface of the V-R100 and we are currently only using 50% of the pre-installed functionality, but day-by-day we bring more ideas onboard. I can now confidently add items to the menu and we are looking at a loyalty scheme for our regulars.”

Indeed, in a village with a population of just 2,000 that swells tenfold in the summer months when visiting tourists and walkers congregate upon the Lakes, Tony knows that it is important to reward loyalty of the local regulars who sustain the pub throughout the cold winter months.  The V-R100 has the ability to analyse individual purchasing behaviour, via frequency of visits and amount of spend. Currently the tills are programmed to retrieve relatively simple data, such as average spend per customer, but come this winter, Tony predicts the regulars at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, will be easily identified and enjoying rewarding customer loyalty incentives.  “In such a small village as Arnside, the pub really is the centre of the community and we want our regulars to feel at home and reward them accordingly.”

Hotelside, the V-R100 has transformed customer reservations of rooms and enables visitors to add dining and bar straight onto their in-house room account.  Previously facilitated by a manual booking service with hand written entries for extras, the  V-R100 has transformed management of reservation details and guest spending on-site.

Across all parts of the now thriving business, having access to accurate sales information  via a specified time period is a real win for the bottom line. Tony can now access how much is taken within any area at any point in time. Better still, he can do this remotely over the internet, so, once the business is firmly established, Tony will to be able to remotely access takings from anywhere in the world and see at a glance, which hotel rooms have sold; which bar food specials have been popular; and how much beer is left in the barrels.  This level of intelligence underpins the business and acts as the cornerstone for intelligent provisioning. Tony explains more:

“We rely on a system of manual stocktakes each month currently where an independent stock controller arrives onsite to check the invoices with the sales and stock levels and highlights any variations, both to prevent pilfering and to highlight areas where we may not have anticipated the correct stocking levels for an item, due perhaps to weather or event.” As the system matures and grows with the pub, Tony intends to leverage the V-R100’s pre loaded analysis function fully so that the current stocktake process moves from a manual count each month to a data rich endorsement of collaborated numbers of sales vs stock levels.

With just over a month of EPoS operations at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, Tony concludes, “At a time when business is incredibly tight in the pub trade, it makes sense to look to technology to help increase the bottom line and automate manual procedures. With this easy to use EPoS solution, you have an investment that pays for itself in efficiency savings within months. It is one of the primary reasons that we have managed to increase the turnover six-fold since taking over 6 months ago. Any publican that thinks that they can manage their business without such a business enabler is frankly mistaken. I am passionate to let the rest of the Thwaite’s publican team know how just how revolutionary this investment is.”

You can visit Tony at Ye Olde Fighting Cocks and follow the success of his team in their first year of trading at www.fightingcocksarnside.co.uk.