Marston’s is the world’s largest brewer of cask ale and owns nearly 2,000 pubs across the country. It manages this footprint with a dedicated telecoms division set up ten years ago in the belief the company could save half a million pounds a year by doing it itself.
The brewer is Marston’s Telecoms main customer, and the unit provides broadband, hosted voice and managed Wi-Fi services among others, helping pubs attract customers and generate revenue.
The connectivity underpins card machines, point of sales systems and facilitates communications between pubs and head office.
Marston’s Telecoms does this through a partnership with TalkTalk Business, which dates back to 2009. Initially Marston’s sold products on a managed basis but is now actually a wholesale customer and buys capacity on the TalkTalk network to sell to its pubs.
“When I joined, we decided to be smarter and put our own label on it by buying [services] wholesale,” Rob Derbyshire, head of Marston’s Telecoms tells Silicon. “In terms of revenue [fixed connectivity] is the bulk of the business but voice and managed Wi-Fi is getting bigger.”
Despite working together for so long, Derbyshire admits he had no idea TalkTalk Business could offer wholesale services. In fact, Marston’s were close to ending the relationship with TalkTalk until they realised the initial partnership could be expanded on.
“At that point we’d been on an account with TalkTalk Business and hadn’t really changed [anything] so we weren’t aware of their product portfolio,” he explains. “[So] they came in and we understood [what TalkTalk Business could do].
“We approached a number of suppliers and the response we had from TalkTalk Business was pretty good. They came back within 48 hours saying ‘this was the price you’re getting’ and this is what we can do’.”
Marston’s is embarking on a digital transformation programme that will see it move some of its infrastructure to the cloud. This improves the business’s reporting capabilities and potentially enables hourly pricing – although there are no plans to do that at present.
But the latest evolution of the TalkTalk Business partnership is the deployment of Ethernet at as many as 500 of Marston’s pubs. This will enable faster Wi-Fi, better back office connectivity and cloud-based point of sale systems.
“A number of factors were causing us some pain last year,” says Derbyshire. ”The customer expectation for Wi-Fi has increased considerably and the majority of the estate was sitting on ADSL broadband.
What mobile network are you using?
“Our pubs are family friendly and we have a hotel business as well and we want people to have unfettered access. We block out porn etc. The ADSL we had wasn’t cutting it.
“We took the decision to put fibre into 550 pubs and it’s a long term strategic decision so pub managers can make the guest experience as good as possible. With broadband its shared infrastructure but with Ethernet is dedicated.
“Clearly our back end benefits [from Ethernet] but the primary consideration was the customer.”
Eventually, the Ethernet could be rolled out beyond the initial 500: “The vast majority of the estate should get it.”
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