Written by ITWeb Informatica
Modern lifestyles are not slowing down anytime soon. The fast food industry continues to both improve menus towards healthier products and its infrastructure to meet fast-paced client requirements.
McDonald’s remains the world’s leading food service retailer, with more than 32 000 restaurants and 1.7-million employees serving more than 64-million people in 117 countries each and every day. The corporation’s business objective is very clear: simplify and streamline point-of-interaction (POI), including point-of-sale (POS), so that queue management can be effectively applied.
Says Mervyn Pillay, McDonald’s SA’s IT manager: “We use FastNet because we know its network is reliable, stable and not service provider-specific. This means we can run on the best available communications between Vodacom and MTN. Price was another major factor in our initial choice and FastNet’s pricing remains aggressive.
“The technology we use is wireless so we have negated the need to run cables or wait for other infrastructure. We quite simply install the device into a restaurant and we are immediately up and running. While we may still be waiting for telephones and faxes at the time of a restaurant opening, we know that at the very least our accounts system is up and running.”
Pillay describes each restaurant as having its own management system. Each day, information is pooled and sent to McDonald’s central data repository from where the information is managed.
The mandate from McDonald’s Illinois corporate head office required FastNet to deploy a virtual private network (VPN) solution to make restaurant data available to the Sandton-based South African head office – with the required infrastructure redundancy built in. There also needed to be a clear distinction between the data network and the payment network. It was decided that these two networks should be separate.
Within the first network, McDonald’s has POS terminals running the applications that enable them to facilitate primary communications for all transactional data. These terminals connect onto a switch and then into one of the FastNet devices. This provides McDonald’s with high availability communication services on-site.
The second network is completely separate from the POS terminal devices and is a VPN service. This also utilises two mobile networks and provides routing for McDonald’s into its hosted infrastructure to record credit and debit runs.
At the branches there is one card terminal per cash register and these connect into one FastNet device. All branches have credit card facilities.
McDonald’s transaction time is fast! Under six seconds from the time the card is swiped to the time the receipt is printed. This is due both to FastNet’s infrastructure as well as its solution. One particular advantage that Pillay cites for McDonald’s transaction efficacy is that FastNet works constantly with the banks, making it utterly familiar with what is required from end to end.
FastNet’s head of product management, Willem Boshoff, agrees. “Yes, we do apply technology that works, but our emphasis is that whatever is deployed must absolutely support our clients’ business objectives, enabling and empowering them to be better in business and provide better service, quality and value to their clients in turn.
“In the McDonald’s scenario, as long as there is power in the restaurant and any network signal, the solution will work. There is back-up power at most McDonald’s restaurants, particularly in the larger, more vulnerable branches. In the event that either MTN or Vodacom go down, the FastNet service will immediately and automatically switch to whichever GSM service provider is available. There is ample built-in redundancy at every stage of the solution.”
Pillay says it is McDonald’s expectation to have “permanent on-line, hassle-free communications and a network infrastructure that works.”
He continues: “We try and focus on our core business and partner with people such as FastNet with the required expertise in other areas. We see partnership as a sound business argument. In this instance, renting our solution from FastNet means support wherever we are.
“Service levels and support are absolutely vital, as many of our restaurants operate 24 hours a day, every day. We need to know we have someone available 24/7 when we need them. While we have a stringent service level agreement (SLA) in place with FastNet, there is also trust in their competencies, which is why this SLA continues to be renewed.”
Concludes Boshoff: “Trust is earned. We have a responsibility to stay ahead of market trends in order to gear our clients up as required. The next big things we see are mobile and contactless payments (tap-and-go cards). We must now put infrastructure in place to be able to offer new technologies like these to clients such as McDonald’s. Our role is to ensure anywhere, anytime connection and communication.”
Head: Product Management
Tel: 012 686 3107
Fax: 012 665 0201
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Web site: www.fastnet.co.za