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'We saw our WAN as an under-utilized system for our stores. Not long ago, we rolled out a SharePoint portal to make data, tools, and training more readily accessible to our store general managers. But the operations team saw that the new portal wasn't being adopted as quickly as we wanted along with the fact GM's and AMs just stopped accessing the portal due to the delay.'

'We realized that the performance of the portal was a major limiting factor of usage,' continued Farley. 'Key documents or training for stores could take up to 20 minutes to download or not download at all. In fact, many general managers were still getting the documents by fax and standard mail because WAN performance wasn't good enough.'


IN BRIEF

Industry

  • Retail (Food)

Challenges

  • Improve retail operations through a faster, more effective document sharing platform without degrading high priority traffic such as gift card or credit card transactions etc.
  • Allow the GMs and AMS more time for taking care of customers instead of wasting time in the backoffice
  • Enhance employee training through better adoption of online resources
  • Cut costs and avoid additional expenditures in order to maintain margins

Solution

  • Steelhead Mobile deployed to 415+ retail locations
  • Steelhead Mobile deployed to 6+ distribution centers and 2 remote offices
  • Steelhead Mobile deployed to 200+ traveling workers
  • One Steelhead appliance was deployed in the data center

Benefits

  • $594,164.00 in total bandwidth upgrades avoided ($112,000 Phase $482,164.46 Phase II
  • $33,960 reduction in costs of training
  • 68 day payback period on Steelhead Mobile investment
  • 75x faster SharePoint portal access
  • Faster, more effective business processes for change management and employee training

Einstein Noah Restaurant Group

Riverbed Steelhead Mobile cuts costs and improves business processes for major US food retailer

As the nation’s largest operator of bagel bakeries and the leader in the quick casual segment of the restaurant industry, Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (ENRG) is moving with the cultura shift toward food that is fast, but never tastes that way.

Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, Inc. is a leading company in the quick casual restaurant industry that operates locations primarily under the Einstein Bros. and Noah’s New York Bagels brands and primarily franchises locations under the Manhattan Bagel brand. The company’s retail system consists of approximately 600 restaurants in 36 states and the District of Columbia. It also operates a dough production facility. The company’s stock is traded under the symbol BAGL.

Challenge: Empowering Retail Locations with More Effective Resources

As a highly distributed retail operation, ENRG carefully invests in the right tools and systems for its commercial outlets. “We are continually looking for ways for our retail managers to operate their stores more effectively, and retail employees to be more satisfied with their work environment,” notes Steve Farley, director of information systems and operations.

“We saw our WAN as an under-utilized system for our stores. Not long ago, we rolled out a SharePoint portal to make data, tools, and training more readily accessible to our store general managers. But the operations team saw that the new portal wasn’t being adopted as quickly as we wanted along with the fact GM’s and AMs just stopped accessing the portal due to the delay.”

“We realized that the performance of the portal was a major limiting factor of usage,” continued Farley. “Key documents or training for stores could take up to 20 minutes to download or not download at all. In fact, many general managers were still getting the documents by fax and standard mail because WAN performance wasn’t good enough.”

Farley saw this problem not only as an operational challenge, but also a customer service issue. “We needed to make sure that every retail location had the most up-to-date product information, employee training, and other resources to best serve our customers. The challenge from an information systems perspective is to achieve that without breaking the bank. So that’s why we started to look at a WAN optimization solution.”

Solution: Steelhead Mobile Delivers Application Performance

Farley and his team looked at three WAN optimization solutions “From a performance perspective, we were primarily concerned with what could give us the best performance for our SharePoint application. But we had a number of other requirements for an ideal WAN optimization solution. It had to be easy to install and manage.

We have a really small team, so we didn’t want to take time away from strategic projects in order to maintain an optimization system. It had to work over our heterogeneous forms of connectivity. Finally, we didn’t want any additional hardware in the retail location. We needed a software-only solution because there is no IT support in the branch that can deal with such hardware,” recalled Farley.

“We found that the performance of Riverbed Steelhead Mobile was so impressive along the ease of implementation and management that it’s the only one we then tested in the field.” The results that Farley saw in the field with Steelhead Mobile at a scale of hundreds of retail locations and hundreds of mobile workers was consistent with what he saw in the lab, so Riverbed became the corporate standard for WAN optimization at ENRG.

Benefits: Faster, more effective store operations with a high ROI

Riverbed Steelhead Mobile has improved retail operations for Einstein Noah Restaurant Group, while at the same time helping to cut costs and avoid other IT investments. “This technology was a real eye-opener for us,” explained Farley. “Employee surveys, which used to take 60 – 90 minutes to complete, were now just taking 3 minutes. Those kinds of impressive gains mean that employees and general managers can spend more time with customers instead of in the back office.

“Documents that used to take 20 minutes to download from the SharePoint portal now take, 10-30 seconds depending on location. With 75 times faster document access, it’s no surprise to see that general managers are adopting the SharePoint portal over faxing documents back and forth. For the company, it means that we’re now all communicating in real time and delivering the most up-to-date products and services to the customer.”

Mobile workers are seeing the same kinds of performance improvements that the retail locations are seeing. “In fact, the way we justified this solution was showing the CEO, COO, and the VP of IT the performance gains we could get with Steelhead Mobile,” said Farley, “Seeing is believing. When our executives saw Steelhead Mobile in action, we immediately got approval for the project. On top of this great performance, however, we could also show how Steelhead Mobile would also enable us to cut costs and avoid additional IT expenses. With all these pieces in place, we knew we had the right solution for our business.”

Return on Investment

As an alternative to WAN optimization, Farley had considered upgrading bandwidth to many of the retail locations. “While a bandwidth upgrade wouldn’t get us all the higher-level benefits of WAN optimization, it could probably solve some of the performance issues we were seeing in the retail locations,” recalls Farley.

 “But upgrades would have been really expensive. A percentage of our locations use iDSL that was capped at 128K, and upgrading would have required going to private T1 lines or another flavor of broadband connectivity. And of course satellite upgrades are always very expensive due to the investment in the equipment. In any of these cases, the additional bandwidth wouldn’t have necessarily improved the latency problems that WAN optimization deals with.” We estimate approximately $628,124 in savings by not having to upgrade the bandwidth.

“That kind of cost avoidance is great, but perhaps more interestingly, Steelhead Mobile has enabled us to save money that we were spending in communications and training. Because our online training systems weren’t being widely adopted, we were spending a lot of time and money flying in our GM and AMs to corporate or sending trainers out to stores or areas to conduct live training.

With optimized WAN performance we were able to cut $33,960 from this budget, which now goes to support other programs or directly to our company bottom line.”

Farley concluded, “Steelhead Mobile has been an incredibly important technology for Einstein Noah Restaurant Group. It’s enabled us to simultaneously control costs while strategically improving our operations. Mobile allows us more flexibility now and for future initiatives that before were not possible without a substantial investment and a heavy increase in monthly reoccurring costs. That, combined with the ease of use of the product, has enabled the information systems team to deliver significant additional value to the business in a very short time.”

SUMMARY

Einstein Noah Restaurant Group (ENRG) wanted to find ways for its retail locations to more effectively leverage its new SharePoint portal and its wide-area network (WAN) for general communications, training, and operational changes.

ENRG hoped to avoid a major upgrade to its WAN infrastructure, so they looked at WAN optimization software clients as an alternative.

After considering three competing products, ENRG chose Riverbed Steelhead Mobile because it provided the best performance, the simplest deployment, and a substantial return on investment.

“Documents that used to take 20 minutes to download from the SharePoint portal now take, at a maximum, 16 seconds, so it’s no surprise to see general managers adopt the portal over faxing documents back and forth.”

“We found that the performance of Riverbed Steelhead Mobile was so impressive along with the ease of implementation and management that it’s the only product we then tested in the field.”

“With optimized WAN performance we were able to cut $33,960 from our training budget, which now goes to support other programs or directly to our company bottom line.”

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