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University of Kent move forward with SymPAY

09 March 2015

With over 16,000 students and 3,000 staff, the Catering and Hospitality operation at the University of Kent manages thirty one different outlets, which provides a wide range of food and drink choices and generates over seven million pounds worth of revenue.

The initial installation utilised 44 existing IBM till points and was implemented by MCR’s Project Management team, in time and on budget. This installation incorporated a cashless payment system, which moved the University from magnetic stripe technology to a Mifare card solution, a card adopted throughout the whole of the university estate. The cashless payment solution covers a multitude of users including:- catered students, conference delegates as well as the general student and staff population.

The contract was awarded to MCR Systems following a comprehensive tender that specified a robust yet cutting edge EPoS system and a full stock management application. MCR have a successful relationship with Fretwell Downing Hospitality (FDH) in the Education and Contract Catering sectors and this has evolved over the last fourteen years. Through the tender process MCR supplied the University of Kent with the option of working with FDH the Saffron application, this also provided the ability to use the FDH Deli Xpress product taking payment via the MCR EPoS terminals and recording consumption. The Saffron system was purchased during the same tender process as the EPoS & Cashless solution and since then MCR’s Account Management team have been the prime contact for all the EPoS system’s third party peripheral solutions (including Saffron).

MCR have consistently offered Kent University a future proof solution and added more functionality since winning the contract in 2009. During this time Kent’s relationship with MCR has grown and so has MCR’s integration with third party partners, including Kinetics Solutions, who have been chosen to supply an interface to provide a conference management system, which streamlines the administration processes and automates invoicing of clients/delegates. 

The original IBM tills have subsequently been replaced and upgraded, as they reached end of life and currently there are 61 J2 touchscreen till points with a selection of mobile tills (tablets) and sleek portable J2 225 units, which are used in temporary locations.  In 2014 their incumbent Cashless Payment system was upgraded to MCR’s SymPAY product which combines cashless payments with a real time loyalty system.  This involved the replacement of the existing cashless system in a very short timescale and involved detailed planning, communication and testing by both the University and MCR Systems. 

The main groups to be managed via SymPAY included:
• Conference
• Departmental Budgets
• Staff
• Students (cashless)
• Students (meal tokens/bursaries)

All fund loading is via a custom built web portal integrated with the existing WPM solution

Tim Warren, Accounts Supervisor University of Kent comments,
“Implementing SymPAY has saved me so much time in my monthly reconciliations and has provided excellent reporting. I have also been impressed by the customer service we have received from the MCR staff, as well as the flexibility and time invested with us at Kent to ensure the SymPAY product meets our business needs.”

Key objectives for the Commercial Services included;

  • A streamlined operation providing a self-service approach where the customer can log on and access their own purchase history, what they bought, where and when for how much.
  • Reduction in the size and complexity of any hardware including power and network cables, all loading to be done via the internet, more specifically the existing WPM portal.
  • The ability to design their own time/location/product based offers for students ourselves which needed increased flexibility.

Liam Cairns, Business Accountant, Commercial Services University of Kent comments,
“SymPAY has given us the increased flexibility in the back office that we just haven’t had previously. This has enabled us to get more out of our card system, satisfying the demands of both internal and external customers.”

Services Provided:

  • MCR delivered full Project Management, implementation and training services. MCR worked closely with the Client and Fretwell Downing to integrate the Saffron application. Payments are accepted through the EPoS of the Fretwell Downing Deli Xpress system.
  • MCR provide seven day a week Support & Maintenance including a local onsite engineer and quarterly system upgrades.
  • Account Management

The Kent Management team contribute to regular user workshops and attend MCR’s annual FE/HE User conference.

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