"Afaria has given us a lot more flexibility in how we communicate with our stores. We’re able to split up the overnight sessions we run more intelligently and it provides us with a much better user interface. And for our restaurant operators, it has freed them from the business of keeping their systems up to date, allowing them to focus on running their restaurants. Across the board, implementing Afaria has been a real win for us."
Credited with introducing the original boneless breast of chicken
sandwich and pioneering in-mall fast food, Chick-fil-A is one of the
largest privately-held restaurant chains in the United States. It is
the second-largest quick-service chicken restaurant chain in the
nation, based on annual sales of $2.64 billion in 2007, with
double-digit sales increases over the past 13 years. Chick-fil-A
currently has over 1,400 restaurants in 38 states and Washington D.C.
Among the keys to the company’s success are its keen focus on
customer service, product quality and franchisee relations. Frontline
management technology from Sybase iAnywhere plays an essential role in
maintaining productive franchisee relations.
- Chick-fil-A’s solution promotes a more efficient communication between its corporate and restaurant systems.
- Improves bi-directional communication – either scheduled or ad hoc
- Facilitates transmission of daily reports from 45 minutes to seconds
- Enables store operators to focus more time on running their restaurants
- Improves patch management significantly
- Increases transmission reliability
- Simplifies IT infrastructure through elimination of 10 separate workstations
- Enables management of regional information
- Retail and Distribution
Managing and Communicating with 750 Remote PCs
“In each of our franchised stores located across the country there are two Windows-based systems that we need to manage and maintain,” explains Steve Howard, Senior Analyst at Chick-fil-A. “There is a point-of-sale system – the system that powers the registers – as well as a back office system that captures and maintains store sales, inventory and customer receipt information. We actually capture the data for every customer transaction.”
To ensure continued, effective store and corporate operations, there must be easy, transparent and reliable bi-directional communication between the restaurant and corporate systems. Store operators rely on corporate to keep their register systems current in terms of available food items, special offers and pricing. They also rely on corporate to manage their onsite PC systems to ensure they are properly configured and that their software and applications are up-to-date and secure.
Chick-fil-A corporate, in turn, requires the ability to electronically distribute, monitor and maintain restaurant systems to ensure consistency across the restaurant chain, make certain that restaurant systems are running as intended and to have easy access to restaurant data in order to make appropriate business decisions.
“We’re talking about managing and communicating with some 750 remote PCs in our restaurants across the country,” says Howard. “Adding to that challenge is the fact that there are regional variations in our critical profitability benchmarks. That’s meant that we’ve had to maintain about ten different groups in our central database, and to update store systems according to those market groupings. You can imagine how cumbersome that can get. Using our previous remote management system, we had to maintain ten separate workstations here at corporate to make sure that we got those updates right.”
Chick-fil-A’s IT department also found that its previous system limited the number of transmissions per day between restaurants and corporate and often ran very long sessions. While on a typical day, communication between restaurants and corporate averaged a few megabytes of data, a software update such as the installation of Microsoft Windows XP Service Pack was about 120 megabytes and took quite a long time to download to the restaurants’ PCs.
“We Needed a More Efficient System”
“We clearly needed a more efficient system to communicate between our corporate and restaurant systems,” explains Howard, “both in terms of routine data that had to pass back and forth between the restaurants and our central systems and in terms of distributing regular software updates.”
Howard’s department drew up a list of requirements to establish the criteria for its search for an improved remote management system. These included the ability to:
- send and receive files to a client,
- allow large files to be sent over the course of several transmissions,
- re-start a file transmission after disconnection from the server so that the entire file did not have to be re-sent,
- schedule transfer sessions to allow specific client groups to connect at specified times,
- initiate on-demand outbound sessions to push out critical fixes and updates as needed,
- automate execution of programs on the client or server,
- track and report security patches that have/have not been applied to each client,
- generate packages to send and install patches to clients,
- specify how and when patches are applied on each client,
- perform silent installations,
- track and report hardware inventory, and
- log hardware changes when these devices are swapped or replaced.
Information Anywhere Afaria: Key Ingredient for Success
As Chick-fil-A researched possible replacements for its existing remote management system, it realized that there was only one product that provided the functionality it required – Afaria, part of the Information Anywhere suite from Sybase iAnywhere. “Information Anywhere suite was the only solution we found that met our needs for managing so many distributed computers,” says Howard. “Not only did it provide improved send and receive functionality that streamlined operations both in our restaurants and here at corporate, but it ensured the delivery of files and updates, even if we experienced a server disconnect. Afaria also enabled us to easily manage our multiple regions. We no longer have to run and maintain 10 separate workstations, which has made things much easier for our developers and other IT staff.”
“Afaria has given us a lot more flexibility in how we communicate with our stores,” Howard adds. “We’re able to split up the overnight sessions we run more intelligently and it provides us with a much better user interface. And for our restaurant operators, it has freed them from the business of keeping their systems up-to-date, allowing them to focus on running their restaurants. Across the board, implementing Afaria has been a real win for us.”