South Downs College, one of Hampshire’s largest educational establishments, boasts an excellent reputation and modern facilities. To equip students to enter the workplace with the best chance of good employment, the College has invested in specialist technology. A full-function hospitality EPoS solution from TISSL manages points-of-service across the Restaurant and Café, and also runs the shop.
Students at South Downs College can take advantage of a wide range of full-time and part-time courses, higher education and apprenticeships. As the College Restaurant Manager, Kerry Mansfield, observes: “South Downs is a wonderful environment to study and to work in but what makes us stand out is staff commitment and support for the students to achieve.” A thriving department is Catering, Hospitality and Travel, where the many options include studying for a BTEC, learning to be a craft caterer or training towards becoming airline cabin crew. All courses lead to professional qualifications and deliver excellent employment prospects.
To help catering students acquire skills and experience in a real-life hospitality environment, the College runs a commercial Restaurant and Café, not to mention a bakery and delicatessen.
Investment in specialist technology means these businesses both run efficiently and profitably and provide hands-on experience of the systems that students will come across when they leave.
Says Kerry: “The Restaurant is an invaluable asset and we try to run it as a realistic working environment. We want our students to secure a high-end job at the end of their studies so we’ve invested in systems they’ll find in top-class hotels and restaurants. We equip them for the real world and the results are there for all to see in terms of our students getting employment and placements.”
The Restaurant and Café offers a formal, fully-licensed dining environment for staff, students and visitors, serving lunch five days a week and dinner on three evenings. Food is prepared and served by students under the direction of lecturing staff. Daily fresh patisserie, confectionery and bakery goods are sold in the new Le Shop outlet. Modelled on a continental Patisserie and Deli, Le Shop sells luxury food items as well as snacks. “It provides a real high-street feel and gives students an opportunity to gain employability and vocational skills. Importantly too, our shop takings have exceeded all forecasts.”
The Restaurant programme runs outside normal educational time periods to include themed dinners and function catering. 5-star afternoon teas or lunches with guest chef-patrons such as Mark Hix are always sold out. Over 1,600 guests celebrated Christmas 2012 by visiting the Restaurant. “For students, this provides industry-standard experience and insight into the importance of this busiest time of the year. They had to manage highly-charged periods of preparation and service whilst studies and classes continued as usual and many of them went on to part-time jobs.”
In 2003, the Restaurant installed a Micros EPoS solution. When Kerry Mansfield joined the College, she discovered there were functional issues and system support was disappointing. However, it was not until 2009 that the decision was eventually made to replace Micros.
“TISSL came to us with a substantial background history of where they had fitted machines.”
For the past four years, a full-function hospitality EPoS solution from TISSL has successfully managed the points-of-service across the Restaurant and Caféand in the shop. To complement TISSL EPoS, OpenTable is used to take bookings via the Restaurant’s web site. The client details, recorded to manage reservations and satisfy dietary needs, are used to build communications on promotions, themed menus and events.
Kerry Mansfield explains what attracted her and her team to TISSL. “The key thing we wanted was to introduce a form of stock-take. We’re making headway but we need to enter more data and for this we rely on the students, the main users of the system.”
“Support from TISSL cannot be faulted.”
Contrary to the team’s experience of its previous system, technical support from TISSL comes in for a lot of praise. “It could be 10 minutes before we start service and a kitchen printer isn’t working; we ring TISSL and the problem is immediately solved.”
“The solution is quick to learn and operate.”
Four PC-based touchscreen J2 615 terminals are used in the Restaurant and a fifth has been installed in the shop. The student population of 200+ and the student supervisors all use the system on a rota basis, so software and hardware had to be quick to learn and operate. This includes logging on, where fingerprint recognition is a popular and safe option. “In the past, this was hard to control. Students would randomly programme in anything! Now things are secure and well managed.”
Thanks to TISSL, the Restaurant has been able to introduce a client loyalty card. Whilst conceding that the department does not yet use TISSL to its full potential in the back-office, Kerry Mansfield describes functions that are particularly useful. “We use the system all the time to see which students are logged in and running their own station. We also use it for cashing up and banking and to analyse sales at the end of each day.” Student supervisors are involved in some of these operations to develop their business management skills.
This year, the College’s catering curriculum was accredited as one of the UK’s top Catering and Hospitality Educational ‘Centres of Excellence’. The ‘Gold’ accreditation and ‘Centre of Excellence’ status were awarded by the catering industry’s skills council.
As South Downs College prepares for its new academic year, it has the confidence of knowing it can provide its students with the best possible grounding in all aspects of hospitality management. Thanks to a TISSL solution, this includes an understanding and hands-on experience of the importance of working with the right technology in a highly-competitive industry.