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Contract extends the motorway service station company’s relationship with managed services provider

Welcome Break recently signed a new three-year maintenance contract covering its nationwide network of service stations to ensure reliable and cost-effective IT services.

The contract extends the motorway service station company’s relationship with provider ICM, which has provided support essential IT systems and processes across a geographically dispersed and highly diverse food service, retail, hotels and fuel estate since 2005. 

Managed IT services from ICM include break/fix maintenance for servers, electronic point-of-sales (EPoS) tills and PCs across 27 locations for 265 business units, such as Starbucks, KFC, Burger King and Eat In catering units, plus Waitrose and WHSmith retail units, Days Inn hotels and Shell and BP fuel forecourts. Most sites also feature Welcome Break Gaming. 

Ensuring business as usual

David Willock, Welcome Break director of IT, said: “All sites use Welcome Break systems and processes and come under my remit, supported by ICM which helps maximise Welcome Break’s capacity to trade, across all sites at all times.

“IT service provision is essential to running our day-to-day business as it underpins many of our processes, most notably from a customer perspective, serving people quickly and accurately 24 hours a day. The EPoS system is a key part of that customer interaction, so has to be as reliable as possible,” he added.

IT is also critical in managing suppliers, for stock and purchasing, as well as handling payroll for several thousand employees. ICM provides break/fix maintenance to all sites, covering desktops and servers. This involves handling 140-150 issues monthly, with engineers fixing and replacing hardware including EPoS tills.

Willock said: “From a service standpoint, there are at least 140 opportunities each month for things to go wrong and this is an emotive area, especially when you’re dealing with tills going down at peak times. This is a very significant service for Welcome Break, so it’s important that the IT support service is good and it works well.”

Maintaining lines of communication

The second area is network monitoring, maintenance and operations. This covers the wide area network (WAN) between head office and sites, connections that are vitally important as many key applications run from the centre, from email to payroll. ICM also provides an Internet Gateway across the WAN, enabling seamless access from all sites, plus network services at head office, monitoring and managing routers and activity. “On the network side, service delivery is also good. We receive very few issues from our sites about how the network is performing,” Willock said. 

The third area supported by ICM is ‘standard builds,’ where site engineers have the ability to instantly restore the latest stored image to a till or PC encountering problems, enabling fast and efficient rebuilds. Willock said this speeds up the process of testing, trialling and rolling-out updated tills to multiple outlets: “It’s quite a technical process and it works very well.” 

The fourth area covered is project installations: “We recently opened four Waitrose units, which involved implementing new IT systems and networking,” Willock explained.

Finding the right specialist expertise

Willock concluded: “There are some areas in IT where it makes sense to outsource to an expert provider that offers specialised services and has the economies of scale to deliver better, more efficiently and cost-effectively than we could in-house. Of course, Welcome Break maintains overall management responsibility. But fixing 140 hardware problems across all sites every month? We couldn’t do that, not in an efficient and cost-effective way.”

Despite the recession, he said Welcome Break is faring very well: “A key reason behind our revenue growth has been a focus on ensuring customers get great value for money, and the key IT activities that help support that – including customer self service systems and free Wi-Fi. 

"IT systems and processes also play an important part in the success of our newest brands, Waitrose and Starbucks. We are very proud of the work we’ve been doing to support the business in these tough times. It’s really satisfying to see how the combination of great offerings and strong business processes can impact revenue.”

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