Beefing Up the Infrastructure

By Baselinemag  |  Posted 2008-04-30 Print this article Print

Johnny’s Lunch is on a roll with a combo of good food at reasonable prices, great service and the right technology.

Beefing Up the Infrastructure

Though its geo-location and POS technologies are essential to its growth plans, Johnny’s Lunch also needs to build out its technology infrastructure. Until October 2007, the entire company was run with laptop computers and two POS systems.

Currently, the company’s infrastructure consists of a single custom-made server from Dell Direct, which can be modified and upgraded to meet the changing needs of the organization and allow the corporate users to be networked together. “In another year, we’ll add more servers to the network, with at least one for dedicated marketing data and another for use as an integrated POS server that will network all our locations’ POS systems,” Goulson says.

In addition, the company is in the process of hiring a dedicated IT person and is evaluating how well a national support organization (such as Best Buy’s Geek Squad or Joe Nerd) would respond to small local emergencies.

In its new life as a fast-food chain, Johnny’s Lunch plans to upgrade its Web site and update its marketing efforts. The enhanced site promises to offer franchisees a wealth of resources, including the ability to place orders and download pertinent information.

“We will have a portal where local franchise operators can see everything that’s available, from uniforms to marketing materials,” says CFO Cross. “At a higher level, these operators can introduce new items, and at the corporate level, we can make changes and communicate with them nationwide. This type of system lets everyone all over the country have access to the same information, and that breeds consistency.”

As Johnny’s Lunch grows, the company also hopes to invest in technology that will enable it to stop outsourcing certain tasks. This technology could include a CAD system to do architectural build-outs, as well as software to design marketing materials and radio and TV advertising in-house. The marketing materials would have a proven track record in terms of effectiveness and would make it easier for the franchisees to market individual stores, Cross adds.

The company also is looking at ways in which technology can help manage and track the gift cards that it recently introduced. “We want to figure out what technology is available to equalize gift cards on a national scale,” Cross explains. “If someone in Atlanta buys a $100 gift card for his son in Michigan, the Atlanta franchise gets the money, but the Michigan location gets the expense. So there has to be a way to make it good for the Michigan restaurant. The technology to track that has to be out there.”

Currently, Cross receives a report on gift card usage and has to manually collect and distribute the funds to address this issue. “I can handle it now, because it’s small and we aren’t getting too much overlap,” he says. “But as we grow, I can’t continue to do it this way.”

Growth is clearly the ultimate goal for Johnny’s Lunch. The executive team is betting that good food at reasonable prices will be enough to counter a slow-growth market for quick-service restaurants. And they’re counting on technology to be another “secret sauce” in the company’s recipe for success.


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