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At your service

Chris Lyons MD at Systopia, provider of next generation Point of Sale and payment solutions argues that investing in innovative tech solutions can transform an on-site catering operation, resulting in an enhanced customer experience, a more streamlined staffing and operational function as well as increased revenue opportunities

For facilities managers working within organisations and businesses with on-site staff canteens or eateries, there are many factors at play to ensure the best possible commercial and social environment is created for the employees and those visiting the facilities.

With the average lunch break now lasting just 22 minutes – which is a third less than six years ago – having a quick, easy and seamless operation in place when it comes to ordering and purchasing lunch within the workplace is key in ensuring staff have maximum time to actually sit down and eat their food. Long queues, inefficient payment methods, slow service and peak trading times all result in precious minutes being wasted; even if this process takes just five minutes, that’s nearly a quarter of the average lunch break gone.

Many FMs that approach us are looking for ways to streamline their operation, as well as ensure costs remain in line with budget. For many, it’s assumed there needs to be a trade-off – so if budgets are balanced and profit margins are met, service has to slip or vice versa. This simply doesn’t need to be the case. The answer often lies in implementing next generation tech to support improvements in operational efficiencies.

We work with mid-sized organisations, larger global brands and leading FTSE 250 companies to bring innovative Point of Sale (POS) and payment solutions that deliver real benefits to their operation. One London-based global financial services company we work with has 3,000 employees on-site and 5,500 transactions passing through their tills daily. They’ve reported a 25 per cent reduction in queue lengths since they installed payment systems. They have also been able to reduce their payment points meaning a more streamlined staffing schedule.

In addition, next generation tech also brings access to rich data and operational insights, allowing FMs to gain a much greater understanding of the purchasing habits of their users, such as the most popular meals and products, and equally those that are proving to be less popular. This enables the catering team to better manage stock control and understand where promotions should be targeted to encourage increased purchasing – all of which has a positive impact on the bottom line.

It’s important to understand the tech solutions that are out there so informed decisions can be made on any investments, for example:

A self-service terminal can either accompany or completely replace a cashier-staffed POS. A normally-staffed station can easily convert to self-service, depending on the time of day, customer demand and staffing levels, helping to reduce queue times and giving employees the choice of using a quick and convenient self-service option. One organisation reported that 40 per cent of all transactions are performed on self-service POS, freeing up some of the catering team to focus on other aspects of the food service operation.

Provide an on-demand ordering alternative to the serving counter. Touch-screen kiosks enable employees to select items they wish to order, suggests additional items to increase impulse purchases and gives precise product and allergen information. One organisation reported a 20 per cent increase in average receipt turnover compared to transactions with traditional POS, as customers could purchase items without feeling the pressure of the queue behind them. As they integrate with secure payment services, the self-service kiosk means ordering and payment can all be done as part of one quick and easy transaction.

Available as part of a user-friendly web and mobile app, this option allows food and beverages to be ordered in advance, meaning customers can select their collection time to suit their work schedule, avoid queues and make the most of break times. This can also lead to a decrease in operating costs as it can reduce the amount of pre-prepared food required and staffing resources can be optimised. An optional digital display can also be positioned at the collection point so customers can instantly see when their order is ready for collection.

For organisations and businesses that have staff on-site early in the morning and late at night – such as law firms, large financial firms and so on – the self-service solutions also offer increased revenue generation opportunities by allowing 24/7 service. Employees can easily purchase food and beverages out of hours, meaning sales can be made without incurring additional staffing costs.

This can also support an organisation’s commitment to sustainability – a key issue to continue to address as the UK hospitality and foodservice sector produces one million tonnes of waste per year. For example, by being able to offer a 24/7 catering service means food that would ordinarily be thrown away at the end of the usual service run, such as pre-packaged sandwiches, can be offered to those working later. This reduces the amount of food that would otherwise be wasted and also offers an improved out of hours service to employees.

About Sarah OBeirne


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