Farnham RUFC

The importance of keeping up with technology

Of the many things that changed when Farnham RUFC moved to its new location and clubhouse in September 2012, the club’s use of technology to manage its bar and membership was one that proved essential in helping get a real grip on sales, stock, and membership data.

The move was transformational in many ways, and after years of working with a small clubhouse, Farnham RUFC now has one with three main areas:

- the Snug with a capacity for up to 40 people that’s used for small groups and conferences, boardroom, presentations

- the Sports Bar for viewing live sporting action on and off the pitch, with televisions for showing major rugby events. This is where the two Toshiba tills loaded with Open Solutions EPoS software are located.

- and the Main Hall, which has a capacity for up to 300. Designed for all sorts of major functions and occasions from weddings to award ceremonies, it has full audio visual facilities and can be sectioned off for smaller groups as well.

All of which means that the club’s strategy of marketing its clubhouse to generate additional external income, while accommodating the needs of its 1,000 strong membership for the regular fixtures, demanded a highly capable EPoS system.

The driving force: general manager and club accountant Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson is the club’s general manager and accountant, and she was the driver behind the club’s acquisition and installation of its new EPoS system and till hardware from Open Solutions. “We had been used to an old fashioned cash register at the previous premises, which gave us none of the flexibility or information we really needed.” she explains.

“We wanted to encourage as many members as we could to use the clubhouse, and that meant we needed a membership card system that would not only help us identify and keep track of the members’ contact details etc., for the database, but could also be used to buy drinks and snacks.”

Know your members’ spending habits

Rebecca is emphatic about the importance of this. “From my perspective, I needed to know from our EPoS system what our members’ spending habits and patterns were, and what they spent their money on when it came to drinks, both soft and alcoholic. That in turn meant we needed the stock control driven by the EPoS system as well, as part of my drive to make sure we could give our members what they wanted, without having to guess at the levels of stock we need to buy and hold, or finding that we weren’t turning stock over fast enough.”

Getting members to use their new cards

“To encourage the fastest, biggest take up of the membership cards,” says Rebecca, “we encouraged all the members to come in and use a £5 credit for signing up to their new cards. Given we opened in the September, we’d achieved that and a whole new membership database by October.”

“We also enabled the cards to give a 10% discount on alcoholic drinks for the members, which meant we can charge the full RRP for cash sales. These come from our many visitors, not just members’ guests and mates, but when we have outside functions, conferences etc.”

Intriguingly, about two thirds of the members deploy their cards while the other third, the older ones, still prefer to use cash, even though it means paying the full RRP. The combination of the magnificent new clubhouse and a member-friendlier card system has led to increased numbers coming more often, a pattern which is now fairly consistent according to Rebecca.

Managing large numbers needs high tech solutions

Farnham RUFC enjoys very healthy membership numbers. Overall, there are around 1,000+, with a huge junior section. The Under-5s and Under- 12s represent, with a maximum of 50 in each year group, 600 members, plus the Under-18s, the Seniors and the social members. The Juniors and Under-18s can buy soft drinks via their cards, which are frequently topped up by their parents and represent a significant portion of the club‘s annual sales.

The cards have brought other large benefits to the club, as Rebecca explains, “The World Cup meant higher than usual clubhouse activity with many more members coming to watch various televised matches. In turn it’s led to many of them placing £100 to £200 on their cards to make it easier to buy rounds of drinks throughout the World Cup season.”

She continues, “That’s boosted our cash flow of course, and while it’s something of a one-off, it’s very welcome. It also shows how much easier we’re making things for our members by having a card system. It is probably essential for parents, as the kids get through a lot of soft drinks and having the cards makes it so much easier for them to accommodate their children’s needs when they’re at the club for Juniors coaching sessions and so on.”

“Another benefit of having a card-driven EPoS system is that if our members forget their wallets or their cards, we can tell them their number and they can still buy drinks. With the old cash register, that definitely wasn’t the case!”

Getting the stock control right

Initially, the club wasn’t able to make the fullest use of their new EPoS system’s built-in stock control application, but once the problem was identified – the bar staff and manager needed some expert IT help and training – the input from Open Solutions support engineers soon rectified things. Rebecca’s now very pleased with the way the EPoS system handles the whole issue of stock movement and control, as she comments, “Open Solutions’ support engineer was brilliant! It was probably something we needed to get set up initially, rather than hope that we could do it ourselves.”

Easier for training new and temporary staff

Another aspect Rebecca particularly likes about the EPoS system is how easy it is for temporary or new bar staff to learn how to use it. ”this aspect means we can easily train up people in a short space of time, with some supervision of course, to handle even the busiest of occasions. With the order interruption feature of the system, this means that two or three staff can handle a lot of orders almost simultaneously, to the point where it’s the speed of the beer or lager taps that’s holding up the orders!”

A definite YES!

So would Rebecca recommend the Open Solutions EPoS system to other rugby clubs? “Yes, absolutely. We needed a much more high tech solution when we moved into the new clubhouse for all sorts of reasons, chiefly because of all the benefits and efficiencies that come from having a card-driven membership and till system, and that’s exactly what we’ve now got.” She summarises:

“I can now get all the information I need, and that makes it far more straightforward to manage a very active, busy club with over 1,000 members. That in turn means Farnham RUFC is on a very sound footing as a business as well as a club.”

" Absolutely tremendous, I couldn’t speak more highly about it. Besides the highly effective training, when support’s needed the user gets straight through to a real person that can talk them through whatever it is they need to do."

Peter Owens, Bar Chairman, Morpeth RFC

" The new Open Solutions technology combines our membership database with the EPoS system, so that with the swipe and proximity readable cards, all the privileges of our three membership categories, eg. a Gold membership, can now be recognised automatically."

Martin Bidlake-Corser, Membership Secretary, Henley RUFC