Case study: Calling time on old technology

21 Feb 2005

The name Thomas Read is an old one in Dublin. Up until 1997, it had the honour of being the oldest retail business in continuing existence in the city, serving the citizens of Dublin for more than 200 years. While Thomas Read no longer sells cutlery, the name lives on as the name of the public house adjacent to the original premises.

The Thomas Read pub, however, is only one of 16 establishments owned by the Thomas Read Group. Others in the chain include The Oak Bar, the Harbourmaster, The 40 Foot, The Bailey and Searsons, not to mention the smallest pub in Dublin, the Dawson Lounge. Each of these is a separate business entity but reports back to the group head office.

At the beginning of 2004, the group began a cost analysis of all of its outgoings including telecommunications. “We spoke to several service providers regarding the cost of telephone lines and phone bills,” says Eamonn Fleming (pictured), purchasing manger for the group. One of those was Perlico, which carried out an audit of the group’s phone bills. “Perlico’s analysis identified savings of between 15pc and 20pc on our phone bills throughout the group.”

Most of the phone calls made from pubs are to suppliers and to bar staff, says Fleming. “Obviously there was a proportion of calls made to the head office, but the majority of calls was to supplier’s representatives regarding orders and to staff regarding rostering arrangements.” One interesting fact that emerged was that a full 85pc of calls was to mobile phones. Based on this analysis, Perlico was able to offer a specific package.

However, before committing the entire group to Perlico a two-month trial was conducted at The 40 Foot pub in Dun Laoghaire. This involved nominating Perlico as a pre-selected carrier. No hardware or software needed to be installed. In addition, one of The 40 Foot’s phone lines was switched off to test Perlico’s contention that it was unnecessary.

By all accounts the trial was a success. “The manager didn’t even notice we had changed supplier,” jokes Fleming. On a more serious note, it was immediately obvious that call charges were down by 25pc. Based on that success, Perlico was chosen as voice supplier across the entire group.

A total of 15 lines were discontinued leading to a total saving of €10,000 in rental charges alone. In total, call charges were reduced by 17pc. “The pattern of calls from head office would be different from that of individual pubs,” says Fleming. “We would make more calls to the UK for instance.”

The group still receives a bill from Eircom for line-rental charges in addition to that from Perlico for call charges, but according to Fleming, this does not pose a problem. In any event, from March Perlico will issue a single bill for both charges.

Overall, Fleming is quite happy with the service provided by Perlico and would recommend it to other companies, large and small. “The savings are there and are clear to see in black and white. The changeover was effortless and the benefits were immediate. And the good thing is, if we become dissatisfied with Perlico we can switch back to Eircom literally at an hour’s notice.”

The group is now examining other options with Perlico. At the time the contract was signed, the group elected to stay with Eircom for broadband internet access. However, circumstances have now changed. Each establishment is being equipped with a PC and the intention is to bring broadband into each one. “We are talking to Perlico about setting up a virtual private network,” says Fleming. “We are already talking to the cash register providers about linking up the point-of-sale terminals in each pub to the PC. By June of this year, we hope to have each pub sending sales information to head office every 10 minutes. It’s part of a bigger plan to connect up all of the pubs.”

By David Stewart