South Bank Centre
"Our new technology helps us to run a better business and to seize new opportunities. We're enjoying real-time information on sales and business levels, which gives us good item-level analysis for stock movement, and gives us good control over cash."
Colin Lees, General Manager, Company of Cooks.
The refurbishment of the South Bank Centre has been of the most significant civic projects of recent years. The building has been redesigned to revive the purpose and style of The Festival of Britain, and to be the fillip to national spirit that the original Festival Hall was in 1951 after years of wartime austerity and loss.
The South Bank Centre opened its doors again this summer after 2 years of work. As well as establishing itself as home to some of the UK’s finest theatres, concert halls, art galleries and performing arts venues, the Centre sees itself very much as a democratic location and prides itself on offering a cultural experience with a 21st century face.
To complement activities ranging from family-friendly to highbrow, the Centre’s bars and eateries have been designed with care. The tender to operate the bars and cafés was won by Company of Cooks, an external company with experience of catering for heritage venues. One of Company of Cooks’ first steps was to invest in new technology to work in this most contemporary of spaces.
Company of Cooks’ challenge has been to design, and now to operate, a café concept that appeals to visitors to the Centre’s foyer in addition to those attending performances in The Festival and Queen Elizabeth Halls. This entails operating nine bars. Two are always open, with the remainder operating around the performance programme and coping with the demands of pre-performance and interval surges.
In addition, the Riverside Terrace Café offers a ‘quick service’ operation throughout the day and evening so that casual and concert-going visitors can enjoy a coffee or a full meal, in the style of a grand European café.
In terms of purchasing criteria, Colin Lees states that system performance and reliability were critical. “Having a hardware and software solution working together and driving 33 tills simultaneously is quite a challenge.”
· The new tills have delivered reliability and fault-free performance
· Their sleek design and small footprint harmonise with the Centre’s style-led ethos
· Flexible mounting on the J2 520 means that the screens can be angled at 30% to the till drawers for ease of use
· The system acts as the hub for a number of technology add-ons that manage functions including stock replenishment and interval drinks ordering
· New opportunities to increase business, such as a loyalty scheme in the Private Members’ Bar, are being opened up by the system.
Company of Cooks’ predecessor had used Casio units, which had limited functionality. Colin Lees knew that he wanted a PC-based touchscreen system, so he turned to G A Wedderburn, specialist suppliers to the retail and hospitality markets, with whom he had worked in the past.
“When compared to other companies with whom we’d worked, we were very happy with Wedderburn’s service levels.”
Wedderburn introduced Company of Cooks to its long-term hardware partner, J2 Retail Systems, and, together, they put forward an integrated solution based upon J2’s 520 PC-based touchscreens and Wedderburn’s software and services.
In addition to system reliability, Colin Lees looked for equipment that would work in harmony with the Centre’s design. As he explains: “Wedderburn tendered against another company and one of the reasons why we favoured J2 was the design and smaller profile of its screens.” The fact that the screens offer flexible mounting and can be angled at 30% to the till drawers was also attractive.
Staff quickly became familiar with the functions of the new tills, 33 of which have been installed across the café and nine bars. In addition to performing mainstream accounting functions, they constitute the hub for some sophisticated technology ‘add-ons’ that improve customer service and staff efficiency.
For example, when a purchase is registered on the till, the item in question is counted off the inventory file. When stock reaches a certain level, this information is relayed to a PC Tablet-based system in the kitchen so that staff can get to work and stocks can be replenished.
Another clever system allows interval drinks to be ordered to a specific bar and located in a unique pigeon-hole. This makes sure concert-goers easily find, and have time to enjoy, their drinks.
Shortly to go live are Waiterpad terminals for mobile queue busting. They will run the WaiterPOS system and will link the baristas to the till system. Company of Cooks also plans to use the tills for clocking staff in and out.
A brand new opportunity will be a loyalty card scheme for the Private Members’ Bar. This will enable the company to identify its customers, analyse their spending patterns, and communicate with them.
“Given the very short timescales between ordering and installation, we’re very happy that our new system has achieved what we initially wanted it to. We’re now looking forward to expanding the capability to control and manage our business with it,” concludes Colin Lees.
About G A Wedderburn
Established in 1840, G A Wedderburn has kept pace with changing technology to become one of the UK’s leading suppliers of cash registers and EPoS systems, and is ISO 9002-accredited in their weighing equipment department. It specialises in hospitality and retail.
It combines EPoS-linked systems with off-the-shelf and bespoke software. Specialist systems provide stock control, loyalty card, Chip & PIN EFTPOS, together with value-added services such as training, implementation, technical support and help desk services.
In the leisure sector, Wedderburn has deployed Head Office and site software together with 450 cash registers in Rank Leisure’s Mecca Bingo clubs. It has also supplied 1,000+ Scottish & Newcastle pubs nationwide with point-of-sale equipment. The Royal Albert Hall and Hackney Empire are amongst the numerous major entertainment venues that rely upon Wedderburn for their cash registers.
G A Wedderburn & Co. Ltd.
56 Shirley Road
Tel: +44 (0)23 8022 7645
Fax: +44 (0)23 8022 7537
Sector: Leisure & Hospitality