Integrated POS solutions offer success for operators in the current climate, but the ability to pivot is also vital
So much has been made of the trials and tribulations of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there are success stories out there too. For St. Mary’s Golf & Country Club and Lightspeed POS, 2020 offered an opportunity to modernize, redefine, and progress.
“We’ve actually seen a 120-per-cent increase in revenue from our restaurant alone year-over-year,” says St. Mary’s General Manager Matthew Staffen. If that sounds impossible, Steffan is here to assure you it’s not. There might be pain along the way, but a combination of bold rebranding and eager embracing of technological solutions has allowed the business near Stratford, Ont. to flourish.
Pivoting into the pandemic
St. Mary’s is a Canadian golf course that also has a Pro Shop, a wedding facility, and a restaurant built into its clubhouse. This time last year, going into the pandemic, it was essentially a two-pronged business focused on the golf course and weddings and events. With the onset of COVID-19, of course, both of those revenue streams virtually dried up almost overnight.
With little option left to stick, Staffen and co. decided to twist.
“It’s been a unique year and it’s very important that we’ve been able to pivot,” he tells RestoBiz. When it comes to foodservice operations, the previous iteration of St. Mary’s offered either clubhouse fare like burgers, hot dogs, and fries, or wedding banquets. There was little in-between, and it quickly became apparent that this model was not sustainable as the virus’ effects became more apparent.
“A few weeks after the pandemic hit, we decided that with the golf course closed, no weddings, and other restrictions, we should try to do takeout. We weren’t allowed indoor dining but that offered a unique opportunity.” For St. Mary’s, it was about keeping key staff employed and following the vision of its newly appointed executive chef, who had just joined in January.
As Staffen explains it, during their first week of rolling out takeout, the kitchen could barely keep up with demand.
Rebranding for success
Fast-forward several months, through a patio expansion which doubled its outdoor space and an overhauling rebrand of their foodservice operations, and St. Mary’s is thriving.
The site’s new Social Thirty-One restaurant has achieved the kind of success staff could have only dreamed of. “Rebranding our restaurant and treating it as its own entity was really important for us because we found that people were scared to go to a country club for food for fear of being denied or not welcome,” acknowledges Staffen. “The rebrand allowed us to attract a ton of people from off the street, so that’s where the majority of our business has been coming from – the general public, people who aren’t golfers coming to dine. The basic result of that was growth of 120 per cent year-on-year in sales for our restaurant.”
Staffen also hails the role of the local municipality in allowing them to extend their outdoor space and supporting them in doing so via a financial grant and other assistance. “I think they understood how difficult it’s been for businesses and that it was kind of a win-win for them as we were going to continue to drive tourism in the town and provide a safe option for people to dine in the community,” said Staffen. “The patio is so big for us, doubling its size allowed us to survive with much less pain.”
Moving forward, Social Thirty-One intend to capitalize on its success with restaurant renovations. “The aim is to distinguish ourselves not just as a golf club but a prime culinary destination.”
Moving at Lightspeed
Pivoting and rebranding has just been one facet of St. Mary’s success. Another key, as is proving the case across the industry, has been utilizing reliable technological solutions. For St. Mary’s, the choice is the Montreal-based Lightspeed POS Inc., which makes cloud software for retailers and restaurants to manage their cash registers and checkout systems.
Part of the appeal, as Staffen explains, is the all-in-one aspect that business offers. St. Mary’s uses Lightspeed Golf for its 18-hole golf course, Lightspeed Retail for its Pro Shop, and Lightspeed Restaurant for dining and takeout for Social Thirty-One. The three arms work seamlessly together with cloud-based technology. St. Mary’s has been using Lightspeed for four or five years. Since then, the technological supplier has experienced a boom, becoming an industry juggernaut with expansion into the U.S. and beyond.
Staffen explains that a multifaceted business can benefit hugely from systems that can “talk to each other” in real time and allow for immediate data insights. “With the number of orders we’re taking, this type of system makes it easy to send it from front of house to back of house. Everyone can really learn it quickly, even new staff who may not have worked in a restaurant before.”
Lightspeed POS founder and CEO Dax Dasilva emphasizes the benefits to RestoBiz, noting that “businesses like St. Mary’s need a technology partner that will provide platforms specifically designed to support each part of their business in the most effective way possible.”
In particular, Staffen cites the speed of service of solutions like those offered by Lightspeed as a priceless tool during difficult times. It’s not just efficiency offered, though, but customization. “You can create your own restaurant floor plan, cater to different types of people and parties, set up categories and products,” he says. He notes that St. Mary’s doesn’t need to work with developers because they have such a comprehensive solution. “It’s definitely improved the quality of our service because we’re able to be so much more responsive.”
Looking ahead with resiliency
Dasilva notes his company has launched numerous solutions to help foodservice operators through the pandemic, including eCom for Restaurant and Order Ahead. The former of those helps users seamlessly transition their foodservice business online, including linking to delivery platforms and integrations with OpenTable and Instagram. The latter is an ordering platform that lets customers order ahead for contactless takeout or curbside pickup with no third-party commission fees, integrating with a restaurant’s existing POS system.
That, understandably, is hugely beneficial during the great off-premises boom of 2020. Indeed, Order Ahead has met with huge demand since launching in September 2020. Staffen explains St. Mary’s has been so pleased with the results Lightspeed has been able to yield for them that it will invest in the system, integrating it into the website it currently has in development for Social Thirty-One. “It will just be another facet of increasing our speed and efficiency.”
All in all, it’s resilience that is the key to success right now. Being willing and embrace technological POS solutions is a huge help, but that’s just one example of the broader need for adaptability and strength. For his part, Dasilva cites St. Mary’s as a shining example of this. “It recognized opportunities and shifted its business model,” he commended, noting he’s glad Lightspeed’s solutions have been able to help facilitate this kind of success.
Other technological systems are available, of course. There are a multitude of options out there, far more than prior to the pandemic as the industry on the whole continues to pivot both as necessary and, increasingly, in a proactive way to safeguard its future.
“By coming up with innovative solutions and investing in the best technology available, you set yourself up for success,” Staffen concludes. Once more, louder for the people at the back: digitization is the way forward.