The Chesterford Group celebrates five years with QikServe 

Online ordering for delivery sales soar by 1600% during COVID-19 

The Chesterford Group serves food

THE CHALLENGE 

The Chesterford Group (TCG) has been using QikServe since 2016 when the first few of its Churchill’s Fish and Chips brand adopted the platform. Now, five years later, 56 sites across four TCG brands rely on the technology. 

An early user of digital ordering, Churchill’s has always been a business that challenges the status quo. By changing people’s perceptions of what a typical fish and chip shop experience is, it ensures that any of its stores can rival the market leading fast casual dining brands. 

Like many popular fish and chip stores, Churchill’s found that the queueing and subsequent cooking time in the busy 

dinner period could mean customers waiting up to twenty minutes for their takeaway. Churchill’s knew this was at odds with modern consumers’ expectations surrounding speed of service and could lead to low customer satisfaction and missed sales. The challenge then, was how to minimise queues at busy times. 

THE SOLUTION – AN ONWARD JOURNEY 

TCG chose QikServe’s mobile and online ordering system as a way of enhancing the customer ordering experience and providing the brand with a competitive edge in the marketplace. Starting with an order ahead service, customers were able to skip the line and collect pre-orders, resulting in shorter queues for non-digital customer as well.  

From the off, TCG found that its multichannel customers were worth twice as much as those using a single channel; in 2018 the average order value via QikServe was 83% higher than in-store takeaway purchases. It began rolling out the service to more and more of its stores, using targeted launch promotions to drive people to use its click and collect service. 

By 2018, TCG had extended its use of the platform from Churchill’s to its other brands: Fishnchickn and Bankers. Within months, the ease of exploring a digital menu and adding extra items led customers at Fishnchickn to place orders with an average value 122% higher than walk-up purchases. 

Finally, in the Summer of 2019, the group launched a new digital only concept serving up a menu of BBQ and grilled food called Serial Grill, QikServe was brought on board again to facilitate online orders.  

COVID-19 

COVID-19 led TCG to transform its business model in order to survive. 

When lockdown was first announced, TCG Chief Executive, James Lipscombe said the company would rollout a rapid reopening programme involving adapting the business to a click and collect only. He had been watching the actions of other countries closely and was prepared and had been planning should restrictions be placed on businesses in the UK.  

TCG’s shops closed at the end of March, but by the end of April — just four weeks after closing down the entire operation — the group was back in business. It reported that all stores were fully operational and digital sales up by 900%. QikServe’s order throttling feature proved essential in making this to happen; the stores were able to set parameters allowing 6 orders to be placed within every 10 minutes. This not only streamlined operations but ensured everyone involved was kept safe. 

THE DELIVERY SOLUTION 

In May 2020, two months into the lockdown, The Chesterford Group made another move, enhancing its digital model further by introducing digital ordering for delivery via QikServe; until then, delivery had always been managed through aggregator sites.  

Starting with fishnchickn, TCG embarked on an aggressive four stage delivery plan; the team rolled out 10 stores at a time to ensure it could manage operations and maintain its standards of excellence and premium customer experience. By September, with the company running its digital services smoothly and ordering levels reaching a par with the pre-lockdown period for the first time, the final fishnchickn stores added to the delivery service; they were then joined by Churchill’s.  

At the same time, TCG began to remove some of its third-party aggregator partners from its stores. To make the switch as seamless as possible and retain custom through this growth period, it ran thorough customer testing and used bold marketing campaigns to encourage customers to order directly through the QikServe platform.  

As part of this, and expecting rapid uptake of the delivery offer, TCG assembled 65 vehicles for its fleet.  

The team was right to prepare. From 50 weekly orders for delivery from Churchill’s at the start of September, to nearly 900 in January 2021, the service grew more than 1600%. fishnchickn’s digital orders have been on a par, regularly receiving more than 800 per week for delivery. Across the year, from the start of lockdown in March 2020, Churchill’s recognised a 5.42% increase in the average digital order value, while fishnchickn saw an even more impressive 8.4% rise. 

Taking on its own delivery service has saved the company money. With QikServe there are no commission fees to pay, and with its own fleet the TCG had full control over its brand and the quality of the food throughout the process; it manages customers’ orders within an accurate 15-minute time frame. Once a customer places an order, the system issues tickets to the kitchen, ensuring food is ready at the expected time. 

James Lipscombe comments: “The business has changed permanently in the last year, we are positioned to survive no matter what state of lockdown the country is placed in, with digital ordering and delivery we can reach out to our customers and provide them with the same, great experience they’re used to from every one of our brands. But more than that, we are poised to thrive post-Coronavirus. We know the days of queuing are behind us; consumers want and expect a different experience to the one they did a twelve months ago, using QikServe, we are able to give it to them.” 

On top of ordering ahead, throughout the year, both the Bankers and Churchill’s brands made use of QikServe’s Order-to-Table functionality when open. This provided customers with a contactless experience on-site, minimising staff and customer interaction and placing customer safety front and centre.  

As the first lockdown anniversary rolled round, year-on-year data (March 2019-20  – v 2020-21) revealed a dramatic growth in the number of average digital orders per head across each of The Chesterford Group’s brands: Churchill’s had seen a 6.6% rise, fishnchickn a 15.2% increase and Bankers a huge 25.5%. Similarly, digital revenue was up 365.7% at Churchills, 898% at fishnchickn and 932% at Bankers – averaged across all brands, TCG saw 532% digital revenue growth.  

MARKETING 

The Chesterford Group’s digital transformation has extended beyond its use of digital ordering and delivery. Always committed to excellent marketing practices, it has used the last year to further its customer engagement, teaming up with QikServe partner, Impact Data. The marketing automation platform integrates with the QikServe dashboard, collecting data, analysing and applying it to email, SMS and even social media campaigns. 

Applying the software to ten of its Churchill’s stores initially, TCG saw an impressive 176% increase in sales via its ‘Mega Deal’ mailouts compared to ten stores not using the solution.  

IN THEIR WORDS: 

“Our relationship with QikServe and digital ordering began five years ago, since then it’s grown and grown. Noone could never have imagined when we first took it on that it would one day provide the key to managing one of the toughest periods in our industry’s history.  

In the time we’ve been working with QikServe, the technology has evolved and so has our business. We’ve always been open with QikServe, making suggestions for new features and developments and they’ve taken that feedback on board, bringing out updates that increasingly enhance our experience with the platform. We look forward to seeing where our partnership takes us to next.”

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