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Uniware's real-time order processing solution for the University of Southampton

The Organisation

The University of Southampton is a public research university based in Southampton, South East of England. The University is one of the founding members of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities in the United Kingdom. It ranks in the top 100 universities in the world and has 5 campuses with their own library facilities.

With nearly 15,000 undergraduate and 8,000 postgraduate students, the University of Southampton is the largest university of higher education students in the South East region. The University has 13 catering outlets with a wide range of food and beverage concepts to meet the diverse needs of its students and staff. Uniware is the sole provider of EPoS solutions across these outlets.

Business Challenges & Requirements

Whilst the University operates various EPoS set-ups for its catering outlets, this case study focuses on their transition from mostly cafeteria-styled restaurants to a brand-new, more efficient operation based on digital ordering tickets for food collection, empowered by Uniware’s multi-service point EPoS solutions.

Uniware at University of Southampton , EPoS set-up by Uniware Systems, EPoS, payment, loyalty and ordering
Order station

Previously, most of the University’s catering outlets operated in a cafeteria-styled setting, whereby food is either pre-packed for direct sale, or displayed in trays to be served. Customers needed to queue to get their food, then join another queue to pay. This operation created various issues including slow service speed due to long queues at both the food ordering points and the tills, customers’ food going cold while they are waiting to pay, and food trays on display being exposed to the elements. These issues became particularly challenging for the University’s catering outlets when the Covid pandemic started in 2020, and the need for a faster service speed, limitation of queues, as well as heightened hygiene became paramount.

The University’s catering team realised they needed a new style of operation that would:

  • boost service speed and efficiency

  • allow food to be stored in a more controlled environment and not on a counter

  • reduce queues and close contact to protect both their staff and students

  • work seamlessly across all four catering outlets within their refurbished La Piazza food court

The new solution would also need to take into consideration staffing levels, especially during a time when Covid-related absence was high.

The Solution – Why Uniware?

Having reviewed the University’s needs for this new operation, Uniware’s Project team worked closely with the University’s catering team to explore various types of set-up, mock-up customer journeys, costing and the required staffing to operate.

Uniware at University of Southampton , EPoS set-up by Uniware Systems, EPoS, payment, loyalty and ordering
Serving / collection station

All factors carefully considered, the joint Project team decided on a multi-service point system based on digital order tickets. The solution consists of three PoS terminals running a kitchen display system (KDS) via multiple outlets, with various drinks and food stations. This new set-up allows staff and students to order and pay at the till using all available payment methods – cash, contactless, cards, tokens or the Upay app (Uniware’s mobile payment app). Customers receive a ticket with their order number, and can wait at a collection station to collect their food once it is ready.

For the University’s catering team, operations have never been more streamlined and efficient. The new set-up has been well received and ensures all staff in various roles coordinate well with each other to enhance customer service.

Orders are generated by till operators or through Order Ahead (Uniware’s online pre-order app). Separate orders are then sent automatically to the respective outlets. Catering assistants prepare the order and pass it on to be collected by customers. Monitoring orders coming through also allows catering assistants to alert the chefs if certain food items are running low, providing them with sufficient notice to prepare more food and ensure a smooth, undisrupted service.

As the University’s EPoS partner, Uniware was well placed to implement this project with its robust and versatile payment solutions that can be deployed to work flexibly in various set-ups, allowing the University to achieve what they were looking for most efficiently and cost-effectively.

The Results

The University’s refurbished La Piazza is now a busy food court in the heart of their Highfield Campus, with its vibrant surroundings and an extensive range of food concepts. There's something to suit everyone’s palate . La Piazza offers four branded concepts, Big Als burgers, TUGO Mac n Cheese, Chicken Joes and Shmoo Milkshakes, all operating seamlessly for the best efficiency to maximise serviceable footfall, while enhancing customer experience.

As the impact of Covid decreases, service speed still remains the number one priority for the catering team. In its peak two-hour lunch period, the University serve hundreds of students and staff, and need to get these customers through the door, happily served and out again as fast and efficiently as possible. With this new EPoS setup, their average order completion time has significantly reduced to less than one minute from start to finish!

Uniware’s reporting capabilities allow the University to track its operation on various granular levels. For example, by analysing average order completion times across all the outlets, the team can decide which food concepts are working well and even which menu items are performing best while taking the least time to prepare. Over time, these results contribute to decisions on future menu options and ensure that the University continues to offer the most popular items while maintaining a highly efficient service speed. Another example of how the University utilises Uniware’s web-based reporting solutions (Uniware Cloud) to enhance its operation is through the Wastage report recording food waste at the till and inside Uniware Cloud. Tying this with the Product Sales Summary Report, the team can decide on what products and ingredients to order more and less of, which helps reduce food waste and uphold their commitments to sustainable catering across the University.

(Photos of the set-up - Click to enlarge)

Key benefits

  • Streamlined operation across all catering outlets

  • Increased service speed by approximately 150% to maximise footfall and improved customer satisfaction

  • Powerful reporting capabilities with key figures available on a real-time, ready-to-view dashboard

  • More sustainable catering operation with better food waste tracking

As we had quite specific requirements about how we wanted this new set-up to be, we found it really helpful that Uniware has a robust system that can be configured exactly to our needs. It allows us to create the customer journeys we want, which best suit our operation. The Uniware teams are great to work with and always supportive throughout project delivery.
Adam Norris, Assistant Catering Manager at the University of Southampton

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