Managing The Enterprise

By Tammy Mastroberte, Contributing Editor | July 01, 2007

Keeping up with the details of one restaurant location can be challenging, but add multiple locations throughout various states into the mix, and what was once a challenge can become a distressing ordeal. Sending information back and forth, monitoring equipment, and analyzing data requires an investment of time and money, and as a chain grows, so does the investment required to keep up.

Enter Enterprise Management Systems (EMS). The technology does for operators exactly what its name implies -- helps them manage their enterprise. Whether the goal is to be able to contact all restaurants in the company at once or pull loss prevention data to catch an employee in fraud, EMS systems are making operators' lives a lot easier.

Multi-monitoring

"Our EMS is how we manage all the things happening from the kitchen equipment and time clocks to inventory," says Alan Stukalsky, CIO of Church's Chicken, with 250 corporate stores and 870 franchises throughout the U.S. The company also operates 400 locations internationally. "For us, EMS includes the supply chain, the back office, business intelligence or sales reporting databases, human resources, payroll and more."

At Dave & Buster's, Inc., based in Dallas, Texas, and operating 48 locations throughout the United States and Toronto, the ability to make adjustments at each of its locations without physically being there is one of the biggest benefits of using MICROS Systems (www.micros.com) Core point-of-sale (POS) system and myMicros.net, which is a central reporting system with an EMS module built into it.

"We can enter into the EMS utility and push out information to each location without us having to go in and do it manually," says Jeff Weiss, director of store systems in the information technology department at Dave & Buster's. The company can change prices or taxes in different states, add or remove items, define how they appear or where they print, and it is all done through the Internet so it can be accessed from anywhere, according to Weiss.

Time savings alone is a huge benefit as well. "You enter the information in one spot and instead of having to remote into every location, we can do all of them at once in only 10 minutes," notes Weiss. "Before, it could take up to 15 minutes per location. It allows your company to grow infinitely without having to add any labor. We grew 30 percent overnight when we acquired Jillans two years ago, and we didn't have to add any IT people."

Smart business

Business intelligence technology -- another function of many EMS programs -- is providing operators with customized reporting capabilities, unearthing important information for their businesses.

"We started with reports on sales and labor, and now we look at comps, deletes and tips," says Steve Brooks, director of mission control at Tumbleweed Southwest Grill, based in Louisville, Kentucky, and operating 26 company-owned locations and 24 franchise locations, as well as a few internationally. "It's also a loss prevention tool and you can catch fraud. A lot of times in the past you were looking for a needle in a haystack, but now you can flag the danger items and customize the alerts."

The company is using MIRUS Alerts (www.mirus.com) for exceptionbased reporting with real-time notification to e-mail or a mobile telephone, as well as MIRUS Reports, which are all Web-based. Mirus Dashboard is another program the company uses as a control panel with its key performance drivers.

"It's great to be able to see your company's overall numbers from as far up as 30,000 feet, but also to be able to get into the smallest check file," says Brooks. "Mirus houses the data pulled from our POS. They are the data warehouse, but we can see it all. We'll pull credit-card sales to see what percentage were credit cards and what were tips. Also, item usage like meat counts to keep track of inventory levels. We can also measure the effectiveness of any promotion we run."

The company uses the system to analyze hourly sales in order to schedule labor and "know you have the right number of cooks in the kitchen, hostesses at the front doors and servers," says Brooks.

For Weiss at Dave and Buster's, the timely reporting combined with not having to go to each individual location and pull the information is a big benefit. "We can pull customized reports on labor, weather and sales, and it can give you a good picture of everything going on in the business," he explains.

At Church's Chicken, the company's focus for 2007 is business intelligence to improve food costs, reduce thefts and understand the numbers, Stukalsky says. The company is running MIRUS Intelligence with its Radiant (www.radiantsystems.com) POS system and RedPrarie (www.red prairie.com) back office software.

"We have interfaces from our back office system to MIRUS and are focused on food costs and sales transaction-level information, and looking at deletes and discounting, as well as cashier performance based on sales and discounts for fraud protection," explains Stukalsky. "The next phase is to focus on labor hours to see what we have during our highest revenue hours and make some decisions based on those results." The biggest benefit is around theft reduction or fraud protection, according to Stukalsky. "We can see things at the employee level we couldn't see before," he notes. "From an inventory or food cost perspective it is really about looking at the numbers over a period of time to see trends or inventory issues with counting, or even people making bad ordering or purchasing decisions.

Also, how much is on hand. It's one thing to see it by day like we did before, but now, we can see the last seven days and find where improvements are needed."

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