A major event in the global golfing calendar, 75,000 people come from around the world to see the five-day tournament. To understand more about the challenges of operating at a world-class sporting event (which also happens to be in a remote and rural setting), we spoke to Hickory Food and AndMunch. Read on to learn how NOQ helped keep the queues moving and the orders flowing.
The Genesis Scottish Open is a professional golf tournament, which forms part of the European Tour. For players, it’s one of the last chances to qualify for the Open, so it makes for exciting viewing. It takes place at The Renaissance Club on Scotland’s ‘Golf Coast’, set along cliffs high above the Firth of Forth.
A major event in the global golfing calendar, 75,000 people come from around the world to see the five-day tournament and enjoy good food and drink. Food and beverage traders were positioned throughout the Championship Village and near significant holes around the course. The day’s tempo naturally fluctuated in harmony with the game dynamics. Spectators gravitated toward the live action, constantly on the move. This demanded peak performance from the food and beverage operators, ensuring they were always ready to deliver when the need arose.
To understand a bit more about the challenges of operating at a world-class sporting event (which also happens to be in a remote and rural setting), we spoke to Brian Galbraith, co-founder and Executive Manager of Hickory Food and Vanessa Gilpin, Director of AndMunch.
Hickory Food is an award-winning events hospitality company specialising in corporate and private events, weddings, and festivals. They’ve been working with the Scottish Open for five years.
“The planning and logistics involved in delivering a high-profile sporting event are impressive,” said Brian. “A lot of hard work goes on behind the scenes so that, on the day, we deliver a seamless food and beverage offering for the spectators. There’s also a real buzz when the tournament gets underway as people are there to enjoy themselves and, when the sun shines, it makes for a fabulous day out. Each year, the event has grown in size and quality, prompting Hickory to continuously explore fresh ways of elevating the food and beverage options to further enhance the experience.”
AndMunch is a catering marketplace for finding and booking food trucks and mobile bars for events, parties, and festivals – anywhere that requires food or drink. AndMunch has also been partnering with the Scottish Open for five years.
“Scotland is well known as a great place for golf,” said Vanessa. “So the event attracts an international crowd, which is exciting. It’s heavily focused on excellence, which makes it an inspiring event to work on. As one of our first large-scale clients, it opened our eyes in terms of world-class event experiences.”
Along with high volumes of people, who are always on the move, operators at the Scottish Open have to maintain a high standard of service and delivery. But the logistics behind getting the right food and drink to the right people at the right time can be a challenge.
Managing multiple traders
At the Scottish Open, AndMunch is managing multiple traders spread across the site. Each one is different and, while variety is important, the standard of service must be consistent, as Vanessa explained:
“It needs a lot of hands-on organisation. We supply 18 units for the event across a large area with people requiring food from those units across multiple days. Naturally, that can be a complicated organisational task. We have to arrange everything from logistics and mapping everything onsite, getting everyone set up and ready, and the health and safety aspects. Then, of course, there are the specific remits of the event, for example, branding and delivering a premium aesthetic across the course. Finally, there’s the management of the cash and card payments.”
“Balancing the staffing needs is a key consideration for Hickory, given the presence of bars throughout the course,” added Brian. “The primary challenge is ensuring we position staff strategically. We must be ready for surges in crowd presence so we can effectively manage queues.”
Finding the right staffing balance
For Hickory, which has bars spread across the course, the challenge is ensuring the staff are in the right places at the right moments and are ready when the crowds appear.
“Our main challenge is dealing with queues,” said Brian. “Bars get absolutely hammered and then they’re empty. You can look up and suddenly see a huge group of people coming towards you and you think: ‘Oh my God, I’ve got five minutes and they’re going to be here.’ You have to be as efficient as you can and turn over the income as quickly as possible.”
Operating at these events, you’re always walking a fine line when it comes to staffing. This can have a big impact on the bottom line. “Staff are always the biggest cost,” Brian explained. “The danger is that you’re overly efficient and don’t have enough staff when you need them, potentially missing opportunities to make another 1%. Equally, if you have too many people standing around and not enough sales, you’re going to lose that 1%.”
Both Hickory and &Munch have been working with NOQ for a few years. During this time, they’ve worked together to refine the technology and ensure it provides the best possible solution for operating at large-scale outdoor events, like the Scottish Open.
Below is a snapshot of NOQ’s features that Hickory and AndMunch particularly value:
If you’ve ever operated a revenue share model, you’ll know how complicated and time-consuming it can be. NOQ’s split payments feature simplifies the process by automatically splitting payments at source, deducting the predetermined commission or fee before distributing the final amounts to everyone’s accounts.
This has helped to automate the process for AndMunch while giving the company more insight and a better process, as Vanessa explained:
“Before working with NOQ, caterers processed payments through their own ePOS systems and reported their earnings back to us so we could invoice them. This lacked transparency and didn’t allow for real-time access to those metrics. With NOQ’s solution, all payments are handled collectively with commission deducted at the point of payment. This streamlines the operation and improves the fluidity of our reporting. We can log into the system and see what’s happening in real time. We weren’t able to do that before.”
It’s also great for managing cash flow and keeping things simple. “A huge benefit of NOQ’s split payment feature is that it works so easily on a commission basis,” Vanessa continued. “It all gets set up beforehand in the backend so that every card payment is automatically split based on the agreed commission amount. Then payments are settled directly into the accounts. This saves a lot of time and everyone knows when they are going to be paid, without any delays. It’s how business should be done; you don’t want anything more complicated than that.”
And finally, splitting payments at source makes it much easier to reconcile and report accurately.
“We pay commission to our client so we need to be transparent in terms of the event earnings,” said Vanessa. “The fact that everything is split automatically leaves less opportunity for human error and ensures we deliver information in a timely and professional manner.”
Processing lots of food and drink orders can be fiddly, especially in small spaces such as food trucks or busy bars where you want to reduce the amount of additional hardware. It can also cause bottlenecks if several servers have to input orders through the same till system. That’s why NOQ provides all-in-one handheld terminals. With a terminal the size of a smartphone, you have POS, payments, stock management, and reporting in the palm of your hand. This helps to speed things up, as Brian explained:
“We have to make sure that transactions are as quick as possible. That’s why NOQ’s handheld terminals are so great. You place the order, you tap your card and ‘thank you very much’ – your drinks are there. What you’re not doing is faffing about on an iPad, and then the till as a separate element. You’re doing it in your hand. It’s just brilliant, especially for festivals and events.”
AndMunch provided NOQ’s handheld terminals to its caterers at the Scottish Open. Sometimes caterers struggle to adapt to new hardware, but not this time. “NOQ’s handheld device is a game-changer,” said Vanessa. “It’s really clear to see your menus and break them down into categories. It’s got lots of options like adding discounts and tips. The end-of-day reporting is really clear and the speed of the payment is quick. The terminals have been so successful that some of our caterers have decided to continue using them as part of their main set-up. Choosing to adopt a new payment provider after trialling at live events is a huge proof of concept for NOQ.”
Wifi is famously bad during outdoor events, which poses all sorts of problems when processing payments. All of NOQ’s terminals have built-in offline processing capabilities so, if wifi goes down, orders don’t have to stop. “NOQ’s offline service was fantastic,” said Brian. “We could just continue processing orders, which is what you need to do.”
Events and entertainment are often seasonal so NOQ lets its customers choose whether they buy terminals or rent them for a month, a week, or even just for the day. For Brian, the benefit is twofold. Not only do you just pay for terminals when you’re using them, but you always have the latest kit. “If you’re leasing something,” he explained, “you get all the latest updates. For us, it’s far more efficient to operate like that; we don’t get left behind.”
Effective reporting is essential for optimising your operations, whether for individual events or daily activities. The ability to effortlessly access insights and make data-informed decisions significantly influences your long-term success. NOQ’s integrated solution simplifies the process of monitoring your performance across various channels, traders, and sites, facilitating quick and informed decision-making.
“With NOQ, we’re able to view performance, whether it’s by caterer, by day, month, or week,” said Vanessa. “There are many ways to get simple and clear data. For me, the most important reports are the overall event stats and daily caterer stats.”
These stats are invaluable to help drive optimisations and ensure staffing levels are as efficient as possible. “With NOQ’s data insights, we can see the peaks and troughs in real-time and make decisions to optimise,” said Brian. “For example, if nothing more than a single coffee was sold in the last 30 minutes of the day, maybe it makes sense to close earlier. Whereas at the Scottish Open, for example, tee-off on Saturday and Sunday was much earlier than on other days and the bars were already busy at 10 am. Seeing this happen in real-time, we were able to bring on more staff to meet the demand.”
Real-time insights are available via NOQ’s Insights App, which gives customers access to live reporting via their smartphones. “I’m a big fan of the NOQ Insights App,” said Brian. “It’s especially great at a big festival or event as it provides real-time data. I can also monitor and track our sites from the comfort of my home office, which is fantastic when I can’t always get out to the event.”
It’s also easy to share reports with other stakeholders. “They can see sales for each bar on each day as well as a total sales report for each event. You just go in, get the report, input the client’s email address and you’re done,” said Brian.
Both Hickory and AndMunch have a long-standing partnership with NOQ, which means they’ve been able to influence product development and ensure that NOQ’s solution delivers what they need it to. “The nice thing about working with a relatively young company is that you grow together,” said Brian. “NOQ is always updating and evolving its system and, as a young business working collaboratively, they are agile and quick to respond.”
Hickory and AndMunch have big plans for the future and they both see NOQ playing an important role. For Vanessa, the future is paperless. “Our next focus is sustainability,” she said. “There are ways that NOQ can support this. For example, we use quite a lot of vouchers. NOQ offers a way to convert these paper forms of payment into something digital. There are also lots of NOQ features we haven’t had the time to dive into yet so I’m excited to see how they can add even more value going forward.”
For Brain, technology partners, like NOQ are vital for the ongoing success of the industry as a whole. “Technology and automation are critical in this industry,” he said. “We have to keep looking for ways to drive efficiencies, be more profitable and deliver a quicker service. So for me, technology is essential. When you get it right, it frees up people to do what they’re good at, which is interacting with their customers. The key lies in being able to capture data efficiently. That’s what makes our operations and service so much better.”
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