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The chain has over 2,000 pubs across the UK and operates five breweries, granting a sizeable opportunity for a partner to provide a network.
However, Marston’s reckoned current trends meant Wi-Fi was the only answer.
“Access to Wi-Fi is becoming more and more important for our customers,” said Rob Derbyshire, operations manager at Marston’s.
“A key part of our strategy is to create an environment that is comfortable for families to visit and there is a huge opportunity in providing the same wireless connectivity as they have at home.”
Letting children settle down with a soft drink and a tablet streaming video could entice people to stay longer, he claimed, boosting profits for the chain.
We wanted to uplift the customer experience by providing a more flexible way to order and pay for food and drinks in our pubs
Rob Derbyshire, Marston's
However, there was also a chance to improve the technology used for making sales.
“We wanted to uplift the customer experience by providing a more flexible way to order and pay for food and drinks in our pubs,” added Derbyshire. “We wanted to be able to provide tablets, connected to our Epos (electronic point of sale) system, to staff and so that we could remove fixed tills in some of our pubs.”
“The only way to make this happen was to install a solid wireless network, which would cover every inch of the pub with Wi-Fi. Providing staff with tablets and the flexibility to take orders anywhere, improves efficiency and provides an opportunity to upsell, especially drinks, as customers do not have to leave their table to go and queue at the bar.”
Installation and management
Marston’s examined the market for the right solution before settling on Ruckus Wireless. Its existing network supplier was not up to the job and, although it tested other access points, Derbyshire said coverage was always patchy, especially in older pubs with thick walls and awkward layouts.
The solution Ruckus offered used its SmartMesh technology to reduce cabling while offering wide-area coverage. This meant deployment involved plugging in access points and getting going, rather than planning and rolling out cables across buildings.
“Another reason we chose Ruckus for the deployment is the ease of installation and management of the network,” said Derbyshire. “Other solutions require you to have an understanding of the product and how to manage a wireless network.”
Ruckus also offered automated provisioning and security features, meaning Marston’s wouldn’t need an army of IT staff to get the solution up and running.
The system has improved efficiency and speed of service. We just have to hope the kitchen can keep up!
Rob Derbyshire, Marston's
Marston’s hasn’t completed the full roll-out yet, but claims once all the kit is acquired, it takes just over an hour to get a pub up and running. Its major issue was the surrounding networks.
“One challenge that we faced with one of the pubs was that there were over 20 different networks in close vicinity,” said Derbyshire. “We therefore only wanted one system in the pub to support both our customers and our staff.”
“With Ruckus technology we were able to deploy just one system and easily onboard devices to the network, as it assigns the user’s role and permissions automatically based on authentication of domain credentials.”
Trials and tablets
Marston’s began with a trial in Birmingham but after just two days it found 50% of transactions were going through tablets rather than fixed tills. The decision was then made to push this out to more pubs across the country.
Part-way through the deployment, Marston’s is already seeing the business benefits from installing Wi-Fi.
“For Marston’s pubs, the possibilities are limitless,” said Derbyshire. “The uptake from the staff has been quick and positive. The system has improved efficiency and speed of service. We just have to hope the kitchen can keep up!”
“Now, with ubiquitous coverage throughout the pub, our customers are receiving a quality experience no matter where they are, whether they are in the garden or a quiet corner in the pub.”
It is not just the immediate benefits though, with Derbyshire and his team looking at how the technology could continue to bring them more customers and better experiences.
“The technology allows you to monitor who is connected to the network and can provide vital customer insight and the ability to push vouchers and promotions through the network,” he added.
“This project has enabled Marston’s telecoms to upscale its operations. Our ambition is to go out and acquire investment outside the Marston’s group and the Ruckus technology has enabled us to commoditise our model for future implementations.”