PCMS gets IT right and brews up success for Marston’s

18th May 2016

According to Allegra, the UK catering and hospitality market is set to total a turnover of more than £90 billion by 2018, but with in excess of 337,000 outlets predicted by 2018 it is crucial for pub operators to stand out from the crowd and gain their market share.

Indeed, the need to define their brand and enhance customer experience is more significant than ever and makes targeting particular consumer groups more effective and increasing competitiveness against other pubs and dining outlets critical if pub groups, like Marston’s Brewery, are to tap into consumers’ willingness to stay loyal and continue to spend with them.

However, while branded and managed pubs are set to be the winners over the next five years -  taking a further 2.1 percentage points of share in turnover according to Allegra, publicans and caterers are faced with ever more demanding customers seeking more from their leisure time than ever before. Whether it’s innovative new menu offerings, new lines of beverages to tantalise taste buds, or super-slick service and swift ‘pay anywhere’ transactions, it can make meeting consumer expectations a tricky task nowadays.

Indeed, when the world’s largest brewer of cask ale and operator of 1,500 pubs, Marston’s, decided to replace its 20 year old electronic point-of-sale (EPoS), its group IT director, Mike McMinn, saw an opportunity to look beyond the traditional EPoS fayre. He began exploring how to stand out from competitors and offer customers a more connected experience.

‘Enhancing customer experience’ was identified as the key ingredient and McMinn looked towards the retail sector to learn best practice on how it engaged and interacted with the market place. “I quickly noticed that retailers really put emphasis on placing customers at the heart of everything. Realising this made it easy to see that we too needed to replicate this. We just needed to think more like a retailer than a brewer and in doing so we could offer a more personalised level of service in a way pubs and restaurants never have before,” says McMinn.

However, this is not the usual route for a brewery to take so trying to communicate his ‘retail’ vision wasn’t easy for McMinn, until PCMS came into the frame.

Headquartered in Coventry, PCMS is recognised globally as a world leading IT retail software and services provider with clients operating in 46 countries. Its UK client portfolio boasts big brand names including Marks & Spencer, John Lewis and Waitrose. “PCMS understood the vision straight away and without doubt this is because its foundations lie in retail which appealed to me. What’s more, it knew how to support and manage an IT infrastructure that works alongside other software applications,” added McMinn.

“This was really important as PCMS understood the need to provide a solution and platform that would link seamlessly across multiple systems from kitchen management and loyalty systems, to management reporting as well as the ability for us to use information at the point of service to engage directly with customers”.

Indeed, McMinn is keen to point out that the investment is not simply about bolting on additional, siloed channels but a full integration. Steve Powell, director of sales for PCMS explains: “We worked with McMinn to develop a robust strategy that captured Marston’s vision and which utilises PCMS Commerce Suite, our Hosting and Managed Services and Service Desk capabilities. 

"This vital combination of software and services will invigorate how Marston’s interact with its customers across multiple transaction points such as traditional tills, tablet devices, interactive on-line and via customer own devices.  The solution will also provide connectivity with other systems in the infrastructure such as CRM, digital receipting and payments that can provide data at the point of service to enhance the customer experience.

“Armed with this level of individual customer insight, staff could potentially greet each customer by their first name and perhaps acknowledge a special occasion. Customers can be advised that a favourite beverage is on offer that day, or even give suggestions on dishes they may like to try based on personal preferences the CRM data has captured and fed back to the EPoS system.

“Furthermore, the increased opportunity to upsell grows with the more data that is captured. The hospitality industry is all about providing exceptional customer service, that’s what drives return visits and ultimately brand loyalty. Utilising traditional retailing principles, why shouldn’t the frequently visited, trusted community Marston’s outlet be able to offer more than food and drink?  For example, why not offer its loyalty customer’s opportunity to order merchandise during their visit to an outlet or online or via a customer device app ready for collection at their next visit?  This may be some way off but this is the kind of flexibility and opportunity that encapsulates Marston’s vision and can be delivered via the PCMS solution”.

From an operational point of view, Marston’s has also taken the opportunity to review how stock is managed within the outlets.  Powell adds; “We have worked very closely with Marston’s to enhance the stock proposition with the PCMS solution and ensure the integration points to external systems are as lean and effective as possible.  We know that improved stock management and control, even by half percentage points, can lead to significant savings across the outlet estate.

“This is a hugely exciting journey that Marston’s and PCMS has embarked upon and we look forward to a successful, prosperous, long term partnership for many years to come,” concludes Steve.

Without doubt, this is a significant undertaking and as such McMinn plans taking the task one step at a time and not “bite off more than we can chew”. He adds: “Opening up new opportunities through integrated technology is a game changer so getting it right, consistently, is crucial.”

The plan for the initial integration phase is to start off simple and to get increasingly sophisticated towards the end of the pilot roll-out. “Then, once we are confident that the system is working seamlessly, and we have made any necessary tweaks, the full roll-out will commence across our entire estate of 1,500 outlets, including Two for One, Revere and Pitcher and Piano brands in early 2017 to avoid clashing with the Christmas opening times the industries busiest time.”

Looking towards the future, McMinn concludes: “While getting the business operational changes in order first is of paramount importance, I can’t help but get excited about what lies ahead for Marston’s. Perhaps, one of the most exciting endeavours we want try to achieve is to see our outlets utilised by local communities and, much in the way PCMS is acting as a central hub for us, so we strive for our pubs to serve as a local hub for patrons too.

"Indeed, we want to offer something new for our customers over and above the traditional pub and restaurant fayre by selling new products and services in different ways but all being handled in one place – your local Marston’s,” adds McMinn.

“For example, if a customer acquires a taste for a new line of ale we’ve added at their local Marston’s then, by the touch of button, the landlord can place an order direct with the supplier and have it delivered to a customer’s door. Or perhaps Marston’s Brewery partners up with a major sports team in the future, customers could potentially order that team shirt from a Marston’s pub – potentially receiving additional incentives and benefits in doing so. The possibilities are very exciting for both us and our customers.”

McMinn concludes: “I’m looking forward to working further with PCMS and tapping into its retail knowhow to help us deliver our overall customer-led business strategy.”

For more information about Marston’s visit

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