SAVOR…Chicago Streamlines Convention Café with Self-service

The Players

NEXTEP SYSTEMS, based in Troy, Michigan, provides enterprise scalable foodservice technology solutions for restaurants, corporate foodservice, airports, healthcare, education and other high-volume operations. From cloud based point of sale with integrated remote ordering to self order solutions indoors and out, NEXTEP provides and supports the complete integrated foodservice platform.

SAVOR…, a leader in convention center catering, concessions and special events, offers retail food and concession services to more than 65 locations throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico and Europe. SAVOR… is part of SMG, the largest public facilities management company in the world, providing management services to more than 220 public assembly facilities around the globe, including arenas, stadiums, theatres and performing arts centers, convention centers, science centers and other venues.

 

The challenge

SAVOR…Chicago has been operating food service at Chicago’s McCormick Place since September 2011. The largest convention center in North America, McCormick Place boasts 2.6 million square feet of exhibition space and attracts more than 3 million visitors each year. Among the major trade shows held at the center are the Chicago Auto Show each February, the International Home and Housewares Show each March and the National Restaurant Association Annual Show each May.

The number of people who visit McCormick Place, combined with the format of many of the events held at the center, pose a number of issues for SAVOR…Chicago and its food-service operations. To be successful, a food outlet at McCormick needs to be able to serve large numbers of guests as quickly as possible, as well as be scalable enough to effectively manage costs during slow periods.

To address those issues, SAVOR…Chicago developed the 23rd Street Café & Market. Dubbed a “gourmet grab-n-go” by one visitor, the Market side offers a variety of healthy snack and beverage items, while the Café features a menu of fresh, healthy selections prepared by SAVOR…Chicago’s chefs. Keeping with SAVOR…Chicago’s goal of incorporating sustainability into its operations as much as possible, meats served in the 23rd Street Café & Market are raised without antibiotics, and many food items served are locally sourced.

Not only did SAVOR…Chicago want to focus on the food aspect of the operation, it also wanted to find a way to serve guests as quickly as possible. The company didn’t want to just operate another concession stand where people wait in line. Self-service kiosks integrated to POS systems designed for high volume were an obvious choice to help it meet those goals both in the Market and the Café.

“Whether you’re at a supermarket or department store, you see more and more self-checkout kiosks,” said Erik Stukenberg, SAVOR…Chicago’s restaurant and concession director for McCormick Place. “People obviously want that quick satisfaction without having to rely on somebody else, and the ability to be more effective with staffing was a big component as well.”

After realizing the provider of its existing point-of-sale systems couldn’t supply the kiosk technology it was seeking, SAVOR…Chicago turned to foodservice technology provider NEXTEP SYSTEMS

“When you have conventions that range anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 people, it’s critical to provide food service in an expeditious manner,” Stukenberg said. “This is an outside-of-the-box type of concept, so we went outside-of-the-box with our technology.”

The solution

In the Market, attendees can use one of four NEXTEP SYSTEMS’ self-checkout kiosks to scan their choice of healthy snack, sandwiches or beverage options, then pay at the kiosk via credit card. Those wanting a more relaxed dining experience can choose the Café, using one of four self-order kiosks. A cashier equipped with NEXTEP’s cloud based Point of Sale is available for those who choose not to use the kiosks.

Attendees can choose to order in either English or Spanish on the kiosks, following easy-to-use menu prompts to select their food choices and complete the transaction with the swipe of a credit card. A customer service representative is always available to lend a hand or assist any attendee with special requests to ensure a seamless customer experience.

“Because we have new visitors on a show-by-show basis, we generally have someone standing by to help them with the process,” Stukenberg said. “But after the first day of a show, most people pick it right up.”

The system relies on NEXTEP POS, NEXTEP’s own point-of-sale system. The company developed NEXTEP POS after meeting resistance from several large point-of-sale systems companies that were reluctant to allow NEXTEP’s self-order kiosks to interface with their own software.

“We developed NEXTEP POS specifically for fast casual and QSR restaurants,” said NEXTEP president Tommy Woycik. “It was designed to be easy to learn and to flow right through the order process while seamlessly integrating to other components, such as kiosks, order management and menu boards.”

Stukenberg agreed with Woycik’s assessment of the intuitive nature of the system.

“It’s easy for the employees as well as the customers,” Stukenberg said. “It’s as simple as touching the screen, and people instantly understand what needs to be done.”

In addition, the support offered by NEXTEP was critical to making the rollout a success.

“The customer service aspect of what NEXTEP SYSTEMS had to offer was fantastic,” Stukenberg said. “They understood our vision of what we wanted and followed through with it. They continue to follow through with anything that we need.”

The results

One of the immediate benefits SAVOR…Chicago realized at 23rd Street Café & Market via its use of self-order and self-checkout kiosks was a tremendous increase in customer throughput.

“Without the kiosks, by using two cashiers we would really only be able to take an order once every two or three minutes as customers go through each cashier,” Stukenberg said. “Now we have the potential of taking six or seven orders in that same amount of time. Multiply that over an entire lunch period and it really adds up.”

The system has also allowed SAVOR…Chicago to broaden the horizons of what employees recognize as their specific job duty. Instead of an employee spending their entire day working a single position, those employees are cross-trained to help wherever they are needed. Seven staffers work at the café and market during peak times, and during slow times SAVOR…Chicago can close the café and keep the market open, requiring just one or two employees.

The 23rd Street Café & Market has served as many as 3,000 visitors in a single day since the operation opened in March.

“We learned pretty quickly that we can actually produce at a faster rate than we were anticipating,” Stukenberg said. “That has been the biggest benefit.”

Still there is one additional feature of the NEXTEP system that Stukenberg ranks as among his favorite.

“One of the biggest selling points for me was that I can get on my phone, look at sales and make any changes that are needed,” he said.

“When we first opened, I didn’t want to give the staff free rein to make changes, but I knew I couldn’t be there all of the time,” he said. “Now if there is something I need to do, I just pull out my phone and take care of it.”

About the sponsor:

NEXTEP SYSTEMS, based in Troy, Michigan, provides enterprise scalable foodservice technology solutions for restaurants, corporate foodservice, airports, healthcare, education and other high-volume operations. From cloud based point of sale with integrated remote ordering to self order solutions indoors and out, NEXTEP provides and supports the complete integrated foodservice platform.

Download the Case Study HERE

 

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