When Culver’s founders opened their first restaurant, they wanted to set a new standard for quality and freshness in quick-service dining. The recipe for success was simple: use only the best ingredients, prepare each meal to the guest’s order, and serve food with a smile. The approach paid off, and before long Culver’s began franchising restaurants. Culver Franchising Systems, Inc. (CFSI) now owns eight restaurants and franchises 373 others throughout 17 states with the help of 90 employees.
CFSI’s success depends on maintaining the integrity of the Culver’s brand and helping franchisees run efficient, profitable operations. CFSI gets a percentage of net sales of each franchise, so has a vested interested in helping owners succeed.
RedPrairie’s Performance Management solution based on Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) technologies has given CFSI better visibility into the performance of Culver’s restaurants and menu items. Now CFSI has the data it needs to help franchise owners improve operations and profitability. For example, the company is alerted if a restaurant’s speed of service falls below acceptable thresholds; service reports can then be correlated to profitability.
CFSI is also enjoying more efficient reporting. Reports that once took franchise business partners (FBPs) hours to generate now take just minutes. As a result, FBPs have more time to help franchisees improve their operations. In addition, CFSI can now combine point-of-sale data with Site Operations and external data, helping the company make decisions based on real information rather than intuition.
Information Locked Away
Culver’s restaurants use Radiant Systems’ point-of-sale solution to process sales. Every fifteen minutes, data from those systems uploads to CFSI’s RedPrairie Site Operations solution. While this back-end system captures a lot of data, it does not provide the type of reporting and trend analysis capabilities required for the performance management solution.
When CFSI’s CFO, reporting specialist, or business analysts needed to conduct any analysis on the data, they exported it into Excel and then manually manipulated the spreadsheets.
“Life was Excel and nothing but Excel,” says Paul Mullin, a business analyst at CFSI. Real analysis was difficult and time-consuming. As a result, decision-making often lacked hard-number support. “We didn’t want to make blind decisions anymore,” adds Mullin. “We needed to analyze our data so we could make decisions that would help us with initiatives such as lowering food costs and improving the speed of service.”
The company came to a crossroads in 2006 when it decided to test a new menu item. Explains Mullin, “For the first time, we packaged an existing product into a smaller snack size. Some franchisees were hesitant about it, so we did a promotion to test it with customers. Afterwards, we had to run 270 individual reports, export them into Excel, and then build our analysis of whether the new menu item was successful. It took three weeks and a massive amount of manual work. It became clear that we needed an enterprise-level system for reporting and analysis.”
CFSI also hoped to address data integrity issues through the use of Windows SharePoint® Services. “We had no way to know whether a particular document was accurate,” says Mullin. “Take the unit lists. They detail our franchisees, their stores, their contact information, and so on. We had four different versions floating around. One was a Word document, another an Access database, and two were spreadsheets. We badly needed one source of truth.”
Microsoft and RedPrairie Team Up
In considering solutions, CFSI solicited the aid of RedPrairie, which helped further define CFSI’s needs. “They really needed exception-based data,” explains John Moulton, a product manager at RedPrairie. “CFSI wanted to improve the speed of service for its drive-thrus, and only had data around average times. But average times don’t tell you that for 50% of customers, the wait for food is unbearably long.”
RedPrairie suggested its Performance Management solution, based on Microsoft Business Intelligence (BI) technologies. Deciding to implement was easy, says Mullin: “We were sold on the Performance Management solution when RedPrairie produced in 30 seconds a report that took us three weeks to generate.”
RedPrairie built its solution on the Microsoft BI platform for several reasons. First, Microsoft PerformancePoint Server, a key BI component, is simple to implement and use. Explains John Workman, development manager at RedPrairie, “With PerformancePoint, you can turn out dashboards and reports very quickly – and you don’t need a developer to build them. If you know how to do pivot tables in Excel, you can design PerformancePoint dashboards.”
Another selling point was the fact that SQL Server databases are the main source of data in the retail sector. “Because we’re using Microsoft BI technologies,” says Workman, “it’s very easy for us to pull back-end data into our Performance Management solution – we simply use SQL Server Integration Services.”
Getting Up to Speed
CFSI uses RedPrairie’s Performance Management solution that is built on Microsoft Office PerformancePoint Server 2007 in addition to SQL Server 2005 Integration Services, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services. Data is pulled from CFSI’s RedPrairie Site Operations suite, which runs on SQL Server databases. CFSI uses Microsoft Office Excel 2007, connected to Analysis Services, to conduct ad-hoc analysis, and Windows SharePoint Services to manage and control document access.
RedPrairie built CFSI a dashboard with scorecards that track key performance indicators (KPIs). Users can easily access KPI-specific reports and view KPI values, scores, and color-coded trend indicators to see how individual Culver’s restaurants are tracking. “With the dashboard and reports, CFSI’s management can get a very good sense of performance at a single glance,” says Workman. “For example, they can click on ‘same store net sales’ in the scorecard to view reports on the dashboard page. Or drill into restaurant performance by region, district, or store.”
Faster Reporting, Better Analysis
From the start, CFSI’s solution had a large impact on the organization’s reporting and analysis. Take speed of service: It’s highly important to Culver’s because fast, friendly service is a cornerstone of the brand’s identity. Before implementing the RedPrairie Performance Management solution, FBPs had to run separate reports, import them into Excel, and do manual comparisons – a process that took hours.
FBPs are no longer burdened with this task; CFSI’s business analyst does it for them. “It’s so easy with the RedPrairie solution,” says Mullin. “What took 20 FBPs several hours apiece on a monthly basis now takes me 10 minutes a week.”
Not only is reporting faster, but CFSI can make decisions based on accurate data rather than guesswork. Management can track performance by store and region, identifying problems quickly. For example, while CFSI once assumed a correlation between speed of service and revenue, now it has hard numbers that confirm the hunch. Armed with this information, the company can encourage owners of lagging restaurants to address speed issues.
”Until a couple of years ago we had not placed an emphasis on speed of service. As a result, some operators were slow to get on board,” explains Mullin. “Now we send them a report every week that shows how they rank compared to every restaurant and the system average. We show exactly how many times they had drive-thru transactions longer than five minutes – and what percentage those are of the total drive-thru transactions.”
Once restaurant owners know what times of day have the biggest backlogs, they can address the issue with workers, or make staffing changes. They might also re-evaluate restaurant layout or make other operational decisions.
More Valuable Data
Using SQL Server 2005 Reporting Services, CFSI has enriched its existing data to further support better decision-making. Reporting Services lets CFSI combine point-of-sale data with Site Operations and external data so that it can analyze, for example, information on the frozen custard flavor of the day. Explains Mullin, “Our registers have a ‘flavor of the day’ button, but our data doesn’t tell us what flavor it is. We use Reporting Services to combine cash register data with our online flavor calendar. For the first time, we can see how a particular flavor at a particular store sold on a particular day of the week. Thanks to this solution, we now know that there are flavors we should feature more frequently or at different times during the year.”
CFSI is also using SharePoint Services to maintain more accurate documents. In the past, documents such as implementation guides were circulated via email. People saved copies to their desktops and maintained their own versions. “We’d have multiple copies of documents, and there was no way to tell which was the most accurate,” says Mullin. “With SharePoint Services, there’s one version and people have to check it out to make changes. It works very well.”
“CFSI now has access to accurate data that it can report and analyze easily. For just one type of report – the speed-of-service report – CFSI is saving about $45,000 a year,” says Mullin.
Ad-hoc reporting and data access is also easier. “We’re getting data we just couldn’t get otherwise,” says Mullin. “If the parameters were large, our old system would time out before we could even get data. Now we run reports right out of our Performance Management solution; it’s easy.”
CFSI’s FBPs couldn’t be happier with the new solution – and the time it saves. “When we first demonstrated the system, they literally applauded,” says Mullin. “One FBP told me, ‘When I spend two hours running reports, I feel like I’m not doing my real job. This system is simply amazing.’”
Adds Mullin, “The RedPrairie-Microsoft Performance Management solution gives CFSI exactly what’s needed to make smart operational decisions. It’s a game changer.”