A 'Garden' Fresh Approach to Enterprise POS

By Rich Thomson, Vice President, Information Technology, Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. | July 01, 2010

Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp. is a company with 119 Souplantation and Sweet Tomatoes restaurants operating in 15 states, offering fresh produce and salads, made-from-scratch soups, hot-tossed pastas, freshly baked breads and more. Each restaurant offers an all you can eat dining experience, where guests can create a meal tailored to their individual needs. Patrons can always count on fresh, high-quality ingredients and daily made-from-scratch menu items. The secret to Garden Fresh's success lies in their approach to food and their ability to keep costs down.

When it came to information technology, Garden Fresh had looked for a number of years for a point of sale (POS) system that was as unique and individualized as their concept. Wanting to move beyond basic cash registers interfaced to a back office computer, the company had struggled to find a reliable enterprise point of sale system that went beyond the traditional functions of a POS. Garden Fresh felt that it already had a firm grasp on cost control, and opted instead to take an aggressive marketing approach to help grow revenues. What Garden Fresh sought was transaction level detail (not simply aggregate totals on lunch and dinner periods) that would empower the company to instantly study patterns of guest behavior and purchasing to enable further marketing analysis. What was needed was a technology partner that could not only help them do that, but help them do it more intelligently. The POS vendor also needed to be able to adapt to Garden Fresh's ever evolving needs and goals, both quickly and easily. Garden Fresh found that individuality and flexibility with Volante Systems Enterprise POS.

Influencing guests
Garden Fresh had a strong desire to influence targeted guest behavior. One way the company hoped to achieve this goal was by issuing a bounce back coupon based on certain decision criteria in the sale, with the hope of providing guests with an incentive to do something they might not otherwise have done. After looking at 13 different companies, all with some kind of frequency program, getting the POS terminal to come up with something "on the fly" was something several companies said was possible to do. However, Volante already offered incentive based marketing.

Peer-to-peer terminals
Volante offers system reliability and on-demand, real-time access to data through a network of peer-to-peer terminals. Peer-to-peer topology is a feature that is unique in the point of sale industry. The technology is designed to allow each terminal to run independently and reliably, and do so transparently to the user. In the case of system down time, each terminal will continue to operate without any loss of data or system degradation. Peer-to-peer terminals provide Garden Fresh with peace of mind, along with the opportunity to keep IT departments lean. As a result, Garden Fresh is able to keep training down to a minimum, and the system is easily supported. The reliability of having an enterprise database backbone means that there are no disasters at the store level if the hardware fails.

Data management on-demand
In addition, Garden Fresh's POS system also offers a full data-reporting suite to aid management in the decision-making process. The suite is designed to provide clear insight into all aspects of operations, with filtered data reported whenever necessary, all accessed quickly and easily. Tailored summary reports have provided Garden Fresh with the ability to view only the information they want to see, on-demand, allowing store owners and managers more time to focus on operations and guest service.

Garden Fresh's needs when it came to an enterprise system were also complex. Each of the company's one hundred plus stores are unique onto themselves. With respect to the enterprise, Garden Fresh did not simply want the ability to remotely log in and make changes. The company also didn't want store managers to have to touch anything related to programming, and with a lean staff, the company couldn't afford time-consuming data entry at the corporate level. Garden Fresh wanted the ability to make universal and exception based changes to an expanding array of more than a hundred locations, almost all of them with their own issues. Volante has performed flawlessly in this regard.

Volante is currently installed in 44 of the 119 Garden Fresh stores in a corporate rollout. The installation process itself has proven to be remarkably easy and seamless. The training and installation has been extremely simple, and staff reaction from the field has been great, both from managers and cashiers. Volante is a simple system to pick up, and the training requirements were significantly less than what was anticipated, given the magnitude of the logistics involved.

Rich Thomson is the vice president for IT at Garden Fresh Restaurant Corp., a San Diego California based Restaurant Company with 119 stores in 15 states. Garden Fresh has been offering fresh, high-quality ingredients and daily made-from-scratch menu items since 1978.

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