Wine, Italians and Connectivity

The Sampler, South Kensington

Jamie Hutchinson, the owner of The Sampler

One of Computer Precision’s recent new clients is Jamie Hutchinson.

He used to be in private equity investment at Apax Partners and at Cazenove Private Equity, but long holiday car journeys as a boy through France had aroused a deep interest in wine. Early in 2006, he left the City and set up his own business, The Sampler.

Jamie now has two outlets in London, one in South Kensington and the other in Islington’s Upper Street. The latter is more or less opposite Computer Precision.

The experience which tipped him into selling wine was a trip to Italy. There he saw a system for allowing people to enjoy a glass of wine without needing to buy a whole bottle. The system was initially intended for dispensing wine in bars and restaurants, but Jamie saw immediately its potential for retail sales: try a sample and, if you like it, buy a bottle or a case.

The first installation in Islington went well. However, the Italian manufacturers of the system had never installed a live installation of the system across multiple sites.

In a room above the South Kensington shop yesterday, Jamie recalled the problems as he chatted with my client, Vish Rao, Computer Precision’s Business Manager, and me.

“The Italians had great difficulties configuring the software for the Enomatic machines. Our wine customers are given a smart-card which has their details, including their email address. These cards are designed to allow us to know what has been tasted and then bought, and also what has been tasted and not bought. So the cards are important. They also enable us to stay in touch with our customers by regular email.

The principal problem was configuration of the multisite server which allows the two shops to communicate with each other, which meant we were getting daily problems.

So I walked across Upper Street to Computer Precision, told them my problems, and more or less walked back with Woody, who got the system working. Since then, I’ve had no real complaints. It’s been pretty good. The services I take from Computer Precision are block support, running the entire back office, first-line support and my internet connection.”

We ask him about the use of the internet.

“Connectivity is key. If my connection goes down, the sampling machines stop working, the EPOS system also stops, so the tills don’t work, we lose our emails and we also lose our local network. Planning is really important. We use BT, which probably isn’t the best choice, and we have one DSL, so I’m worried about back-up.”

Vish, our Business Manager, suggests a solution.

“Yes, a 3G solution might give me some peace of mind over this,” Jamie replies.

Once we finish the conversation, wondering if we’ve made an unexpected sale, Jamie takes a glass of wine and stands on the pavement for his photo to be taken. The shop is full of intriguing wines plus many well-known quality names. It smells of wine and is full of light. Even if we weren’t providing the IT support The Sampler needs, we’d be in Jamie’s shops as often as we could.