Burger King gets a whopper of a network

If your next Whopper and fries order at the local Burger King restaurant seems to go through a lot faster than it did in the past, it’s not your imagination. A recently implemented IP network connecting the burger giant’s corporately owned stores is speeding up point of sale transactions and enabling the rollout of new applications.

Burger King Canada had been using Bell Canada’s 56Kbps Datapac service to process debit and credit card transactions at its 124 corporate and 220 franchise locations across the country. This year though, the fast food chain began looking for a new data service.

There were three main issues driving Burger King away from Datapac, said Grant Sutherland, business systems manager for the company. The first was that Burger King had heard Datapac was being phased out. The second reason was that the restaurant chain wanted to lower the time it took to serve its on-the-go clientelle. And the final reason was the company wanted to roll out applications such as e-mail for its restaurant managers, remote video surveillance and downloadable music for the firm’s in-store music systems.

After looking at Bell Canada, Burger King selected Radiant Communications Corp. to install DSL lines at its stores. “We wanted someone we could go to who would be all across Canada,” Sutherland said. “Now Bell said they could do that for us, but there were times when we still had to deal with the regional telcos like Manitoba Tel and Telus. We’ve had some experience where Bell said, ‘One-stop shopping,’ and it didn’t really turn out to be. Radiant assured us it would be a one-stop shop and so far that’s been the case.”

Radiant operates an IP network across Canada and specializes in serving up DSL to companies with multiple locations across the country and into the U.S., said Jim Johnson, Radiant’s vice-president and general manager.

The average Radiant customer has between 20 and 100 locations, with an average monthly spend of approximately $150 for a managed IP VPN service, Johnson estimated.

The increasing use of debit and creidt cards in quick service restaurants is increasing, Johnson noted, driving firms like Burger King towards higher speed links.

“When there are 10 people waiting in line to buy burgers or milkshakes and you’re waiting for dialup authorization on the debit card for one person at the front of the line, that’s 30 seconds,” he explained. “With DSL and an IP VPN it’s three seconds.”

Burger King began replacing Datapac with DSL in April. By June 30, 113 of the 124 corporate restaurants had 3Mbps DSL connections with a managed VPN provided by Radiant. Routers provided by TD Canada Trust, Burger King’s debit card vendor, connect the restaurants back to TD’s processing sytems.

The remaining 11 stores couldn’t get DSL in their area and will remain on Datapac until DSL is available. Sutherland was pleased with the DSL availability.

“I was really surprised,” he said. “I looked at this two or three years ago and we were only able to get about 50 per cent of the stores at that time.”

The only hurdle in getting the sites up and running on DSL was finding the proper addresses of the locations, Sutherland said.

“I couldn’t believe how many restaurants we had that Bell had listed with the incorrect address,” he explained. “It may not have been Bell’s fault. Sometimes when a restaurant is opened, they put in a phone before the final address is resolved. And because of privacy issues, Bell wasn’t able to say, ‘You have the wrong address. The right one is this.’ So it was like a guessing game.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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