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Conference and contract catering company branches out into retail catering equipped with a flexible point of sale system that can adapt to new opportunities in the market.

The Crown Group is one of the hospitality industry’s leading, independently owned groups, providing a comprehensive range of hospitality, catering and event services through its series of individual and dynamic businesses in the food, marquee, equipment hire and staff industries.

Kudos Hospitality – part of the Crown Group – was founded in 1981 as Crown Venue Catering and has grown to become the leading independent company in the catering market. Kudos work closely with their clients to help attract, develop and retain key customers and business partners by providing ‘Catering Excellence with Care’.

Three venues operated by Kudos Hospitality are the Brighton Centre, Northern Ballet, in Leeds and the Cambridge Corn Exchange. These are the first of many venues in the Crown Group to deploy the Aloha EPOS solution, provided by NFS Hospitality, after an implementation period that took just six weeks to complete.

Aloha EPOS has been selected to help Crown branch into a new area of business – that of retail catering.
Previously they had been solely focused on event and contract catering, but Crown is now hoping to expand into new markets – and retail catering offers them more opportunities to do this.

The Brighton Centre currently forms one of the largest conference and entertainment facilities in the South of England, with large spaces for events such as conferences and weddings, as well as smaller suites and rooms for more intimate functions. The Aloha Point of Sale system has been installed in the centre’s new café; consisting of three terminals and an integrated barista video monitor. This means that orders for hot drinks taken at the counter are displayed instantly on a monitor above the coffee machine so that baristas are aware at all times what they need to do, which will help significantly with speed of service.

Founded in Manchester in 1969 and based in Leeds since 1996, Northern Ballet is an important international cultural ambassador with a ground-breaking learning programme. Their Academy provides opportunity and inspiration, as well as unrivalled classical dance training, to the dancers of the future. The Academy also boasts a new café, where Aloha EPOS has been deployed.

Situated within the historic university city of Cambridge, the Corn Exchange and Guildhall offer some of the very best conference facilities in the region. One of the most recognisable and famous cities in the world, Cambridge makes the perfect destination for conferences and functions of all sizes. Cambridge Corn Exchange offers several flexible spaces to accommodate events such as conferences, exhibitions and trade fairs for up to 1,400 people. Smaller spaces are available for events with fewer guests. The Aloha implementation at this prestigious venue has replaced the existing point of sale system in the main foyer bar, which is spread out across three different areas in the room. Five terminals have been deployed and are hoped to increase speed of service and also simplify interval drinks proceedings.

Nick Moore – Group Procurement Director for Crown Group, and based at their head office, says the recent training and deployment of the Aloha system went well across all sites. “Key to this installation has to be NFS’ very good support,” he states. “Staff are very patient with us, and understand that none of us are IT specialists.”

The initial implementation has been for the Aloha point of sale solution only, but it is expected that Aloha Enterprise will be deployed in the near future. “We first want to get used to the new till system, and learn about retail sales, but are looking forward to deploying additional modules at a later stage,” Nick comments.

He is particularly looking forward to utilising the reporting functionality within Enterprise, as this will give the business good insight into understanding their retail operations. The biggest challenge for Crown, says Nick, is that the three installed venues are managed by three separate Operations Directors, from three different parts of the organisation. Enterprise will help with this by allowing them to view real-time data about any part of their business – anywhere they have an Internet connection. By having this comprehensive and fully customisable reporting to hand, managers will be able to perform such tasks as group-wide profit analysis or store revenue comparison; they will also be able to amend prices – all from one web-based application.

In addition to Enterprise, Crown is also deploying Aloha CDM – or Central Database Management – which will be used by Head Office to do things like update prices or schedule new menu rollouts – all from a central location. This will assist store managers by allowing them more time to spend with their customers, and will assist the business as a whole by enabling centralised management across all installed sites.

Regarding the selection of NFS as Crown’s new technology partner, Nick says that they went through the usual process, talking to various EPOS vendors around the country. However, NFS showed a greater understanding of what Crown wanted, and their continued patience demonstrated that a very workable, straightforward business relationship would be achievable.

It was significant to us that at every stage of this process we didn’t just meet the top people at NFS; we met the people we would be working with – which helped us to gain trust in the product,” continues Nick.

The best feature of the Aloha system, he believes, is its flexibility. “Quite simply, it will enable us to go into different business areas with ease. Other solutions we looked at were either systems for bars or for restaurants; but we wanted a system that could handle both of these aspects as well as functionality we have not yet identified – as we have yet to venture into these new areas.

Another factor that swayed Crown’s decision to implement Aloha was NFS’ existing customer base. “They have small restaurant and bar businesses; large, multi-faceted F&B enterprises, and also venues like bingo halls or hotels using their EPOS solution. This showed us the flexibility of the system overall,” Nick comments.

The Aloha Epos system will be implemented alongside software provided by IndiCater Ltd, an NFS business partner. The web-based IndiCater suite of solutions, installed at Kudos venues for some time, manages the back office functions of the business as well as sales enquiries and hospitality bookings across Crown venues. “Aloha and IndiCater will work together in helping Kudos maximise profitability,” says Charles C Mobbs, IndiCater Chairman. “The two systems will bring sales and cost data together quickly and efficiently.

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