Royal Opera House

The Royal Opera House is a household name, being the premier venue for all sorts of musical pieces, from ballet to opera to musical.

The Royal Opera House offer the facility for the audience to prebook drinks and extras such as chocolates and flowers for the performance interval. In addition, they offer a range of simple meals for before, during and after the performance.

The booking of these items has to close early in order to manually organise the order list for the kitchens and catering staff to make or prepare. The time shortage meant poor service quality and missed items.

The Problem:

In a way, the Royal Opera House was a victim of its own success. They offered a prebooking service so that people coming to performances could prebook drinks, flowers, chocolates and meals for before, during the interval or after a performance. It was a popular service.

They used to do all this manually and take the orders over the telephone. At some point during the day thay would "close" the service so that gave them enough time to create the lists that had to go to the bars, the catering department and to the staff who would "deliver" the items.

The main problem was meals. There was not enough time to assemble the orders list and for the catering department to make up the meals, and for the restaurants/bars to know what customers had ordered unless the ordering office was closed from about midday. And that meant that many people would be unable to book food or beverages. And that meant queues during the interval and a huge loss in potential revenue.

And, to cap it all, there would often be errors in the manual system, leading to customers not receiving their orders correctly. And this lead to a poor public image for the UK's premier venue!

Whatever solution was provided had to be slick and allow the catering booking office to remain open until later in the day.

The Solution :

The solution was a software system that was purpose-built for the Royal Opera House.

In the background the system had bookings, items that were available (like a menu), and the time the item would take to prepare. This would control the lead time that the kitchen would need in order to prepare the food. The system also had the time to consume each item, so that the food offered could be eaten during the interval. The system also held the selling and cost price information for each item. This allowed the system to create the bills for meals etc. It would also allow the Royal Opera House to see how much they were selling and how much it cost them.

The system even had the restaurant layout, tables and which waiters were in charge of which tables. For each waiter, the system built up a list of those guests who preferred to be served by that waiter. The system even associated guests into groups, so that 2 pairs of people could share a table for 4, without anyone getting upset! Guests, who were booking were given a simple reference code for their booking, although, of course, the system worked so well that the waiter knew who he was expecting to serve. 

The waiters were given a list of who they were serving, where the guest was sitting and what they had ordered. The waiter could then lay up the table, complete with the meal, ready for the guest to arrive, either before, during or after the performance. The system even produced the bills for the prebooked meals and drinks.

For the kitchen, the system gave them a list of how many of each menu item they had to prepare and another list that allocated those items to particular waiters.

For the front of house staff the system produced the lists of which items were to be delivered to the boxes, which drinks needed to be ready for the interval. These lists allowed them to order perishable items such as flowers at the last moment before the performance.

For the back office staff the system produced full analyses of how many of what item had been sold, value of sales (analysed by type of item), cost of sales and the profit of the various items and groups of items. The system would also produce reports that analysed the spending of each guest.

The system revolutionised the catering operation at the Royal Opera House. As the catering manager said to me : "We have never had information and analysis of the catering operation before. This is amazing and instantly tells us what we are doing right and what we are doing wrong."

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