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Your recipe for improved profitability

Competition is fierce, customers have high expectations, and the economic climate remains very uncertain. That’s why cost control is so important. It allows businesses to develop solid processes that allow them to overcome unexpected challenges and ensure maximum profitability. Waste is not the only area where you can make improvements that will save you a great deal of money and make your business even more competitive. It’s all about seeing the big picture of your business and being able to make many little changes that, combined, deliver huge benefits. Download our eGuide to discover how Zonal’s integrated Menu Management solution gives you real-time control and visibility over stock and spending – but not at the expense of quality.

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Consumers demand more from operators when it comes to allergen advice

Consumers are demanding more from hospitality operators when it comes to allergens than simply ticking the legislative box, according to the latest insight from Zonal and CGA’s GO Technology research.

With high profile cases dominating the headlines, the issue of allergen management and availability of information is very much front of mind for today’s consumers.

Genuine engagement, with on demand access to accurate, up to date allergen information is key, with more than four in five (83%) of the 5,000 UK adults surveyed expecting to have details made available online.

However, although online information about menus is crucial, consumers also want to access the facts when they are in-venue, with 75% expecting to see allergen information on materials, such as menu symbols and signifiers, acting as quick and simple points to highlight relevant information.

Almost three quarters (73%) of those surveyed also stated that they expect staff to be able to give verbal information about allergens at point of order, with a smaller but still sizeable number (44%) seeing it as the responsibility of managers or supervisors to know this information and come to a table to take orders if required.

With rising awareness of allergens coupled with changing dietary requirements, the challenge for operators is how to ensure accurate allergen information is made available at every customer touch point – whether a customer is searching for a venue on their mobile or walking in off the street.  And this is where technology plays a major part in the solution for operators and the wider supply chain, according to Zonal.

Director of online commerce, Helen McMillan, said: “The GO Technology report tells us how important it is for operators to invest in integrated technology.  Recipe, menu and purchasing systems simply must be aligned in order to deliver the level of accurate and detailed information that today’s consumers both need and expect.

“This approach will give the confidence needed by operators and customers alike in the accuracy of the information that often crucial decisions are being based upon.  This is not only essential for building brand loyalty and earning confidence, respect and credibility with customers, but also for legislators and those seeking to enforce it.”

The survey also highlighted that those who show interest in advance and seek allergen information is significantly higher among young adults. Three quarters (75%) of those aged 18 to 34 say they look for it now—compared to just over half (56%) of those aged 55+. Women and Londoners were also more likely to seek out allergen and nutritional information.

Karl Chessell, Business Unit Director, Retail and Food, CGA said: “Food safety is a top concern for all businesses in the out-of-home food and drink sector, and the need for vigilance on allergens has never been greater. But as this GO Technology research shows, it’s not just legal requirements that should be motivating operators to be concerned about this issue.

“Consumers want genuine engagement and comprehensive, accurate information about allergens—and they expect to be able to access it easily. From websites to menus to staff, brands need to be able talk confidently about allergens and inspire confidence among their guests. If they can do so, there is an excellent opportunity to secure the respect and loyalty of the growing number of people with dietary requirements and establish a competitive advantage.”

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Zonal’s Acquire reaches £2 billion milestone

This is Zonal's purchase to pay platform

Zonal’s online purchase to pay platform, Acquire, has successfully processed £2 billion worth of orders since its launch four years ago.

With 3,100 sites across the UK now using the software to manage their purchasing and stock management, over 3.1 million orders have been received since 2016, with 1.6 million in the past year alone, equating to an Acquire order processed every 2 seconds.

One of the key trends emerging from the Acquire data shows how operators are increasingly using this smart and highly insightful purchasing to pay technology to not only manage costs but minimise waste by removing the risk of over ordering.

Hoburne Group – a leading holiday park operator – was one of the first Acquire customers and since joining in February 2016 has achieved cost savings across the group of more than 11 per cent from managing its orders more efficiently.

Ben Dalton, group retail manager at Hoburne Group, said: “Acquire has streamlined our stock controls and purchasing so we are far more efficient as a business.  We have greater control of our suppliers and full visibility of what we are buying and selling so we can purchase more effectively, reducing both costs and waste.  The fact that Acquire is an end to end, integrated solution means we also benefit from a single, real-time view of our entire supply chain – from what’s in stock, what’s on its way and how much we need to replenish.”

Operators also have access to more than 900 suppliers of every size – from small artisan producers to large national wholesalers.  With a variety of interfaces and integration options, new suppliers can be boarded quickly and easily regardless of scale and complexity.

Zonal’s director of online commerce, Helen McMillan, said: “Acquire has been very well received by our customers, which range from leisure businesses such as Hoburne to small, medium and large scale restaurant, pub and hotel operators. They all value its agility and the fact they can tightly control costs through its integration with menu management, stocks and finance.”

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Ambassador Theatre Group takes a bow with Zonal tech

Introducing Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG)

Founded in 1992

The UK’s largest theatre owner and operator

Operates more than 50 venues across the UK, the US and Germany

Portfolio includes historic West End theatres such as the Duke of York’s, Harold Pinter, Piccadilly, Savoy, the Apollo Victoria and the Lyceum

“Our sales activity peaks dramatically in the hour before a show and during the interval when staff can serve several hundred drinks in a very short amount of time, so they need to be well-trained to cope with these bursts of intense sales activity”
Colin Chester, Buying Manager, ATG

The business challenge

With more than eight million customers passing through its doors every year, ATG was looking for ways to use point of sale technology to speed up sales in its bars and restaurants, to reduce queues before performances and during intervals, and improve their customer experiences. They also wanted to upgrade their financial planning and stock taking technology and take back full control of stock taking for all their bars and restaurants.

Another of ATG’s key requirements was to find a simple way to raise purchase orders for new stock electronically and replace the inefficient and unreliable paper forms theatre managers had to fill in by hand.

Drive more profit from every visitor

Control the huge quantities of sales data it generates daily

Paper-only purchase order forms were filled in by hand

External suppliers were paid to carry out stock checks

“A major benefit of Zonal’s approach to training was that staff and managers had lots of opportunities to practice using every function of the technology with experienced trainers on hand to guide us through every eventuality.”
Colin Chester, Buying Manager, ATG
This is a Zonal EPoS system

The solution

ATG adopted Zonal’s EPoS technology, EPoS hardware with chip and pin devices, as well as an integrated purchase-to-pay solution across its box offices, bars and restaurants. ATG also invested in a bespoke training programme for each venue, which included a two-day management course, intensive live support on the day of installation and practical assistance for the first stock-take.

  • A customised training and support programme was developed for each venue
  • A new purchase-to-pay system with electronic ordering
  • EPoS technology allowing staff to clearly identify drinks that have been pre-ordered
  • Reporting providing intelligence on interval drinks performance by venue

“Adopting Zonal’s technology has enabled us to take greater control of our business than ever before and made it possible for us to view our company in a completely new way, based on clear facts that are easy to gather”
Colin Chester, Buying Manager, ATG


By implementing Zonal’s EPoS technology for theatres and investing in a thorough programme of staff training, ATG has significantly reduced interval congestion and increased the volume of sales. Their new purchase ordering system makes it much easier for their accounts team to process orders and means prices are always consistent and up-to-date. After a successful implementation, ATG is now trialling an integrated loyalty card system to gather information about customer buying behaviours.

Bespoke training has ensured staff have a thorough understanding of the system and the knowledge they need to train new members of staff.
This is the integration icon
Venue managers can now create electronic orders for supplies
Increased sales during intervals
This is the customer data icon
A reduction in queues at the bar has improved the overall customer experience
Reports on interval drinks performance by venue are used to design initiatives to improve performance across all venues.
“Using the system’s sales reports, we can now see how each of our venues is performing at any time, and that is extremely important for us, particularly as we grow, to ensure we support every part of the group in the most productive ways. The intelligence we receive from the system at the end of every day, week and month is being used to inform our plans and helping us to develop new and effective ways of working and marketing ourselves.”
Colin Chester, Buying Manager, ATG

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Acquire - purchase to pay product demonstration

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Join our webinar to learn more about:

  • An overview of the Acquire Purchase to Pay solution at site level.
  • Users will learn how to place an order using regular order templates, add additional products manually, accepting part orders (with changes) and raising credit requests against the invoice.

The demonstration is available on demand and you can register your interest here:

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Stock & Order strategy workshops

We’re pleased to announce a new series of free workshops, taking place in early 2020. Covering all aspects of our stock and order solutions, with a special focus on allergens, the Workshop dates are as follows:


REGISTER: Manchester – Postponed


What is the day about?

The free half-day workshop has been designed to ensure you’re taking full advantage of your investment in Zonal systems. Our subject matter experts will be conducting an interactive Q&A session and masterclass and we’ll be discussing the latest research from our GO technology consumer trends report on allergens.

We will also be demonstrating of our new Menu Management solution. Seamlessly integrated with Zonal’s EPoS and Purchase to Pay, the solution helps you to streamline the way you build recipes, design and manage your food and drink menus.

You will also have the chance to meet and mingle with other Zonal customers, to find out how they use our solutions and what works best for them.

“The workshop was run brilliantly and gave a lot of information for us to consider with our internal stakeholders.”
Zonal customer

Who should attend?

Ops Managers, Exec and Development Chefs, Stock Auditors, Operations Managers, General Managers, Finance Managers, IT and systems managers – in fact, anyone with responsibility for optimising profitability.

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Using menu engineering to enhance profitability

Guest Blog from Sales Manager, Clive Keywood, Comtrex Systems.


An effective menu is one of the best tools that any restaurant has when it comes to engaging customers and enhancing profitability.  For example, the right menu layout and design can increase profit by up to 5%. Creating a menu that will optimise your business’ potential for profit isn’t a question of guesswork – it requires the insight and knowledge that only menu engineering can add to the process.


What is Menu Engineering?

Essentially, it’s a process of evaluating menu pricing – both today and in the future – and using insights drawn from data about your business to create the right design and content. It can be effective in terms of helping to steer customers towards the decisions that you want them to make about your menu and helping to ensure that the menu items that generate the most profit for your business get picked. It’s a tool that can benefit every restaurant, no matter what your cuisine or target audience.


Using Menu Engineering Effectively

How often do you want to change your menu? Menus change frequently for many businesses and it’s essential to use the tools of menu engineering each time you update a menu if you want them to be effective. So, the first step is to be honest about how often you’ll have time to go through the process e.g. once or twice a year.

What’s the food cost for every item on the menu? It’s key to start with this data. You can work it out by adding the cost of each ingredient to the purchasing cost and dividing this by the number of portions it will make.

How profitable is each dish? You can calculate this by taking the food cost from the sales price. Another key metric that can be useful is food cost percentage (which will show you if dishes are correctly priced) – this is worked out by dividing food cost by menu price e.g. a £5 dish with a food cost of £1 will have a food cost percentage of 20%.

How popular is each dish? This is often easiest represented on a menu engineering matrix with one axis showing the number of times the dish was sold within a timeframe and the other its contribution margin (the difference between the selling price and the item cost).

What do your customers think? Often, the most effective way to evaluate menu performance is to ask those who are using it – what do they order, do they like the menu, what else drives them to the restaurant and what changes would they suggest?


Creating a New Menu

Using the data you now have you can engineer your menu to make it more effective, for example:

Using visual clues and highlighting colours to direct customers towards the dishes you know are the most profitable for you based on food cost, profit per dish etc.

Improve your descriptions – descriptive menu items are chosen 27% more than those that don’t include much information. Apply the most detail to the dishes you want to sell more of.

Consider two portion sizes. Depending on the costs of each dish it can advantageous to offer a smaller size dish, as customers often assume this is better value but may actually be more profitable for you.

Use the ‘golden triangle.’ When reading a menu we generally look at the centre first then our eyes move to the right and then the left. Bear this in mind in terms of where you place the items you most want customers to focus on

Once you’ve taken the time to engineer your menu it’s essential to track the progress to see whether your assessments have been correct. This will help you to evolve the process of menu engineering for greater profitability over time.

Find more about our menu management system.

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Menu management product demonstration

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At Zonal, we understand the challenges of managing your menus and recipes database. From the inability to create comprehensive menus in one place, to lack of visibility of allergen information in each dish, there are many ways it can go wrong.

That’s why we have introduced our new Menu Management solution, helping you to streamline the way you build recipes, design and manage your food and drink menus.

We will be running a series of online demonstrations, designed to give you an overview of the solution, the webinar will allow you to learn more about:

  • How to produce creative, comprehensive and accurately costed menus.
  • How to store, manipulate and utilise critical information including ingredients, allergens, prices, recipes and supplier details.
  • FAQs – your opportunity to ask us any questions about our Menu Management solution.

The demonstration is available on demand and you can register your interest here:

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Reducing waste in your hospitality business

By reducing your waste footprint you’re not only reducing your impact on the environment, you’re saving enormous amounts of money too.

According to WRAP, the UK food sector wastes 3.5 million tonnes of food every year. In fact, in the pub trade alone, avoidable waste accounts for 41p of every single meal and £8,000 per year, per pub.The numbers are truly staggering.

The easiest way to reduce waste is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. And the easiest way to achieve that is by embracing what technology can do for you.

Download our latest guide to find out more about:

  • The secret to reducing waste
  • The benefits cutting food waste will have on your business
  • How Zonal’s technology can help win the war on waste

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