"We can now build the business we want because we have the right technology in place. We can introduce efficiencies, reduce costs and lift our sales."
Jonathan Davis, Head of Business Services
Chester Race Company Limited (CRCL) is a dynamic and rapidly-expanding organisation. Established in 1892, it has a pedigree to match those of the thoroughbred horses that race on its track. Chester Racecourse is today a multifaceted business. It has set itself the challenge of becoming a ‘first choice’ venue for both leisure and corporate visitors, broadening its appeal whilst keeping the glamour and atmosphere for which it is famed. In addition to race festivals, the Racecourse now includes polo, horse shows and concerts on its busy events calendar.
A number of corporate and public catering options make Chester Racecourse a significant hospitality business. Seven facilities can accommodate from 20 – 700 guests. The 1539 Restaurant (named after the year in which horseracing began at Chester) is open to smaller groups, as well as being a full-service public restaurant, open 7 days a week. Private hospitality and dining takes place in Festival Chalets, Private Boxes and Paddock Rooms. For the general public, the venue offers a range of imaginative food & beverage outlets in the Concourse area.
Whilst a demonstrably successful enterprise, Chester Racecourse had by early 2011 become aware that its growth potential was being constrained by manual processes in place across the business.
Whilst the 1539 Restaurant had EPoS, elsewhere cash registers were used - on the racecourse, in the bars and in the corporate hospitality areas. Procurement and stock control were based on manual product counts and the completion of stock sheets to be reconciled against manual invoices. The end-of-month close-down was particularly laborious, with an obligatory manual stock-count to get information to the Accounts team to produce management reports. On event days, cash reconciliation was a lengthy and sometimes inaccurate procedure.
It was clear that the business was being held back and its profitability eroded. The management team resolved to find a mechanism to increase the speed and accuracy of operational processes. They also felt sure they could make cost savings but were unable to easily identify the areas where this could be achieved.
CRCL’s first step was to invest in a consultancy project from hospitality solutions company Agilysys (Europe) Limited. They went through the business with a fine tooth comb, looking at procedures and policies and opening the management team’s eyes to the gains and efficiencies that new software and hardware could introduce.
Agilysys demonstrated how technology such as its Eatec® and InfoGenesis™ POS solutions would improve sales and speed up processes, and described the transformation that would come with the installation of PC-based touchscreen EPoS. Importantly, too, Agilysys identified areas of cost reduction. CRCL saw the value of investment in new technology and a software and hardware solution tender was issued. Three companies put forward proposals.
• The rugged, spill-proof and mobile J2 615 touchscreens stand up to rough treatment and being moved around
• With no moving parts, these fanless, Solid State Storage computers are exceptionally reliable
• Thanks to the Cash Manager software, reporting accuracy and speed of cash reconciliation on race days have taken great steps forward
• Inventory and stock management have been transformed by Eatec, enabling the Racecourse to control stock levels and structure its pricing levels
• InfoGenesis on touchscreen EPoS has made customer service faster and is contributing to increased spend
• The system’s reporting is providing complete business visibility, helping the Racecourse to prepare for its next season
• The new systems are making the business more efficient and profitable, as processes are tightened up and staff costs reduced
Jonathan (Jon) Davis, Head of Business Services at CRCL, explains: “CRCL was looking for a partner with a track record of working in the venues market rather than one trying to break into it, who knew about speed of service and how to manage volume operations. Agilysys has a great deal of experience to offer and its solutions provide just what we needed.”
Once appointed, Agilysys put forward EPoS manufacturer J2 Retail Systems as its preferred point-of-sale supplier. “J2 are very reliable, both as a company and as units,” observes Jon. “Working with them is a pleasure. Their equipment is well maintained and, if there’s a problem, it’s fixed and the till’s back in place before you know it.”
He continues: “When it came to selecting EPoS, CRCL needed something durable and mobile, that could be easily transported for use outside and could survive being dropped or having drinks spilled on it. The J2 615s seemed right for our needs and they’ve performed perfectly since they’ve been installed.”
Today, the Racecourse has an estate of some 120 electronic points-of-sale (EPoS), each a J2 615 PC-based touchscreen till. The J2 615 is the first EPoS computer to include a Solid State Drive as standard. As the system also features convection cooling that requires no fan, all moving parts have been eliminated, resulting in exceptional performance and reliability.
The InfoGenesis™ POS by Agilysys software manages both front-of-house and back-office operations. Procurement, inventory and stock control are all automated by Eatec® by Agilysys, and the provider’s Cash Manager product has transformed cash reconciliation and management processes.
InfoGenesis is used in the corporate hospitality boxes and suites, in the four public bars and in the 1539 Restaurant. It also manages point-of-sale at the many public food concession stands which CRCL operates, and within the two separate gastropubs located on site, The White Horse and The Horse & Jockey.
“We now use Agilysys’ Cash Manager. It tracks our revenue and its location in the process. It manages the flow into the Cash Office, meaning we can reconcile money a lot quicker and much more accurately. By getting any differences resolved before staff go home, we can match cash-to-till and cash-to-stock and can be confident that everything balances.”
“Eatec has been fantastic in managing our suppliers and our on-site stock. When our season finished recently, it was vital to control what stock came in so we weren’t left with a huge surplus. Thanks to Eatec, we managed to do this really well - a huge bonus.”
Jon Davis is now looking to bring every department onto the Eatec system, including computer hardware and supplies, stationery and cleaning supplies. “Everything coming on site will have an Eatec PO. We’ve seen how Eatec can work right across the business, to benefit every single department, not just food & beverage.”
CPCL is currently putting all its food & beverage purchasing out to tender. Using Eatec, the team now has accurate information to work from. Says Jon: “We know exactly what we’ve paid and what we want to pay, and how to structure pricing levels to get the gross profit we require. Without Eatec, we could not have done this.”
At point-of-sale, there are benefits too. The new touchscreen system is a lot quicker to operate. This is particularly noticeable at the bars where customer service is much improved. This is resulting in a slight increase in customer spend, which Jon is confident will grow as the business uses more InfoGenesis functions. “Staff love the system. Because it gives them full and accurate figures, they can check out quicker at the end of their shift. That means they’re getting home earlier and we’re saving on staff costs.”
Although Jon feels that they are still “feeling their way” on reporting – “we’re finding out what’s needed and what’s available” – business visibility has already improved. “We didn’t have any real business metrics pre-Agilysys but now we do know where our ‘pinch points’ are and we’re using InfoGenesis to plan staffing for our next season. We can stagger staff coming in; getting them in later and away earlier will save us thousands of pounds. Technology is bringing that to our business – we didn’t have this knowledge and control before. We can now confidently plan our next season’s operations based on hard facts.”
CRCL plan to integrate their new systems with others such as ticketing and accounting for greater efficiency. The business has already acquired mPOS (mobile point-of-sale) from Agilysys and will roll this out on ten handheld units to be used across the Racecourse, taking the service point to the customer.
Other options under consideration are cashless payments integrated with InfoGenesis, and creating value-added tickets to be redeemed at terminals around the venue. The team is also keen to integrate Eatec with Accounts. “If we can populate our invoices with stock and product information from Eatec, that will save the Accounts team 5 days a month on invoice processing alone.”
Integrating Eatec with the company’s Events Management System is another appealing prospect. “Getting information out of and back into Eatec would save the Events Management team a massive amount of time.”
Concludes Jon Davis: “We are seeing huge benefits all around. It’s still early days but now we have the core technologies in place we definitely expect to have brighter figures next season. Things will only get better and better.”
About Agilysys (Europe) Limited – Hospitality Solutions Group
Agilysys is a leading provider of innovative IT solutions to the retail and hospitality sector. The company offers proven software, services, hardware and consulting for hotels, restaurants, casinos, resorts, condominiums, cruise lines, stadiums and arenas, and conference centres, designed to streamline operations and enhance guest satisfaction while maximising profitability.
Agilysys’ hospitality solutions provide unparalleled reliability, functionality, efficiency and control over multiple aspects of operations – from reservations, check-in, point-of-sale and business intelligence, inventory and procurement management, to document management.
The company operates extensively throughout Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA), with a main office in Cheshire, UK and additional sales and support offices through partners across Europe, UAE and South Africa. Agilysys (Europe) Limited is part of Agilysys, Inc. (Nasdaq: AGYS) whose corporate headquarters are in Atlanta.
Sector: Leisure & Hospitality