Since its foundation in 2004, Individual Restaurants Group has grown to become one of the UK’s leading restaurant companies. The firm is responsible for a collection of city centre and suburban brands, including Gino D’Acampo, Bank Restaurant & Bar and Piccolino.
Individual Restaurants unifies these brands through its Club Individual loyalty scheme, which rewards guests with points towards bill transactions, special privileges and regional events. Employing around 1500 people, Individual Restaurants has an annual turnover of about £72m.
Individual Restaurants was already very active online, giving guests a way to book tables from its website and mobile app and leave a deposit. But when the nation went into lockdown in response to COVID-19, the company’s online presence needed to grow and develop quickly.
“We’ve always done quite a bit online, but our online presence has had to grow enormously in the last year. During lockdown, we were offering a click and collect and a delivery service for our restaurants,” explains Adam Purslow, Technical Director at Individual Restaurants.
Most of the guests were accessing the site on their mobile phones or using the mobile app to order or book with the company and then paying with card transactions or PayPal. Adam was looking for innovative solutions to make payments easier and more efficient for guests and ensure that they could order any time, anywhere.
“We’re all familiar with card payments, but they’re not always easy. If people are at work, for example, and they don’t have their card with them when they want to order, that can hold up the transaction. We were interested in a secondary payment method that targeted these people. Whatever we can do to make our customers' lives easier, we try to do,” he says.
When Adam met with HSBC’s Senior Cash Management Consultant Tony Ricci to hear about innovations the bank could offer, they immediately hit on a solution that intrigued him.
“HSBC Open Payments – Pay by bank account* is a new solution whereby the client clicks that option and it directs them to their online banking system for payment. It takes the customer to their personal internet banking site or app and then they can send the payment by faster payments. Our solution works with over 40 banks, including the majority of the UK’s domestic banks,” Tony explains.
“This solution was really attractive to us, because it gave guests a secondary payment option, making it a lot easier to process payments from everyone, any time. The product was new and no one else had it. And we were really keen to work with HSBC and build it into our platform,” adds Adam.
It’s been more like a partnership than an implementation… as we’ve integrated into the website, they’ve adapted and we’ve adapted to help it fit our system.Adam Purslow, Technical Director at Individual Restaurants
Implementation was a very collaborative process. The HSBC Open Payments – Pay by bank account solution is so new, this was actually its very first UK implementation. To get it right, HSBC’s technical team and Individual Restaurants’ IT partners and staff all worked closely together.
“It’s been more like a partnership than an implementation,” says Adam. “As we’ve integrated into the website, they’ve adapted and we’ve adapted to help it fit our system.
“But in terms of the coding and integration, it’s been fairly straightforward and we’re now at the testing and rollout stage.”
Adam was looking for an innovative solution that would add to the customer experience and make payment transactions on mobiles easier. But the benefits of the HSBC Open Payments – Pay by bank account system have been far more than that, offering a clearer view of transactions for both the company and guests and improved cash flow and cash management.
“We see transactions in real time with this solution,” says Adam. “It’s a faster payment straight into the bank account, so there’s no wait for money to clear through from acquirers or wallet services like PayPal. We’re able to transaction match and get an instant snapshot of the cash flow from this line of business.”
Guests too have a firmer grasp on their cash flow, because these transactions show up immediately, instead of pending for a few days before they come out. The solution is also more secure than card payments, because it uses the existing security of the guest’s online banking or banking app.
“You’re putting your credit card details online when you pay by credit card. But this way, you’re directed to your own online banking system and therefore the security is as strong as your bank’s. It takes you directly to the banking site, you log on in exactly the same manner as you would normally log into it,” says Tony.
There are other benefits too. Individual Restaurants not only gets paid straight away, it also saves on card-acquiring charges and it avoids the risk of cardholder-not-present refusal. With merchant acquiring, if you accept cards over the internet, you aren’t guaranteed the funds because the cardholder can dispute the transaction. But with HSBC Open Payments – Pay by bank account, there’s no cardholder-not-present risk.
Most importantly though, even in the short time that Individual Restaurants has been using the solution, it’s impressed the company’s guests.
“It’s early days, and we’ve not pushed it as much as we can do yet because we’re still testing it. But we’ve had a great reaction so far, certainly from those that use mobiles,” says Adam.
* T&C’s and fees apply