Restaurant chain transforms service with the Internet of Things

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Restaurant chain transforms service with the Internet of Things

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Posted By Charles Yu
Windows Embedded BG Lead, China

Two of the most popular items on Chinese breakfast menus are fried bread stick (you tiao) and soybean milk (dou jiang). The wonderful smell of crispy, tasty golden bread stick and delicious soybean milk brings back memories from a long time ago. However, I was able to relive the memory again recently inside a Yonghe King (Yong He Da Wang) restaurant, part of a fast-growing Chinese quick-service chain. Yonghe King’s bright red storefronts are a familiar sight across the major cities in China. The chain has 300 locations and plans to have 1,000 stores by 2018.

Chain restaurants are growing fast in China as a result of an increasingly faster-paced lifestyle. There is a strong need and desire to connect all stores in a chain together, thus harnessing all their value. Creating efficiency while your business rapidly expands is no easy feat, but that’s exactly what Yonghe King has done by taking advantage of the Internet of Things. Using an intelligent system based on Microsoft technologies, the chain has increased profits, streamlined the process of opening new stores, enabled greater control over inventory systems and improved customer service. Customers certainly benefit from these efficiencies. My fried bread stick and soybean milk cost less than $1 each (RMB 5 and RMB 6, respectively), and I got to enjoy these traditional breakfast items all day long. Many stores are even open 24 hours.

With so many stores and more than 50 menu items, a modern point-of-sale (POS) solution integrated with back-end IT can provide a huge advantage, allowing the chain to analyze sales data across restaurants in real time, ensure product availability, design effective promotions and respond quickly to changes in demand.

Yonghe King replaced its cumbersome old DOS-based system with an intelligent system based on Windows Embedded POSReady, with Microsoft SQL Server software on the back end. Stand-alone cash registers in each restaurant were replaced with Partner Tech POS T6910 devices, which are networked to back-office PCs in each store. Those PCs connect to a central Windows Server at Yonghe King’s headquarters in Shanghai. Partner Tech Shanghai Co., a division of Partner Tech Corp. Worldwide, helped Yonghe King implement the system and ensure seamless integration.<

The new POS devices share every order instantly with both the kitchen and the back-office PCs. Managers use the PCs to analyze sales data and upload the information to the central server for companywide BI activities. Corporate managers use the BI data for reporting, to revise menus and to execute promotions, such as new loyalty programs that are expected to increase profits by as much as 8 percent.

Rolling out the solution to each new location is much easier as well, which has helped cut in half the time needed to open a new store — a benefit that is expected to save the company about RMB 800,000 annually (about $130,000).

The system’s familiar Windows interface makes training easy and also improves operational efficiency in the stores: It used to take five separate steps to order a meal; now it takes just three.

It is tempting to compare my recent experience of eating fried bread stick and soybean milk with times in the past. I think being served such delicious breakfast items quickly and efficiently in a modern restaurant without needing to wait outside in cold, rainy weather is certainly a way better deal! One more thing: My memory of a cook who accepted my money with his greasy hands and then handed me the fried bread stick with the same hands is now replaced by a clean and comfortable experience at a modern restaurant chain.

You can read more about this solution in the case study and read more about Microsoft’s vision for intelligent systems in retail.

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