Magazine Article | August 13, 2009

Prevent Network Congestion With A WAN

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

This major pizza chain reduced its payment processing time by 18 seconds by eliminating dial-up connectivity.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August/September 2009
Since 1985, Papa John's has been a delivery and carryout pizza giant, operating 600 corporate locations and 2,100 franchise locations in the United States alone. The company generates 1.1 billion in corporate revenue, and employs 70,000 people enterprise wide. With its successful brick-and-mortar program in place, the company chose to develop an e-commerce platform. Papa John's implemented online ordering, but the company's dial up infrastructure made it difficult for corporate to deliver Internet-based orders to remote franchise locations. John Leonard, director of telecommunications at Papa John's, was hired to solve the company's connectivity problems by finding a cost-effective alternative to dial up.

It's true that the majority of Papa John's orders are taken over the phone at each location. It's also true that each franchisee runs its own business — from hiring employees to making and delivering the pizzas. Yet, Papa John's central IT system, located at corporate, collects Internet orders and distributes them to the proper site once address scrubbing is complete. Even though all Papa John's locations were required to have a standardized POS system, dial up's slow nature slowed the transmission of these orders. "We process hundreds of thousands of orders per week," says Leonard. "When you're transmitting data via dial up to 2,700 sites across country, the result is clumsy, inefficient, and costly."

Avoid Stalled Data Transmission
In addition to problems with online orders, Papa John's experienced problems with polling data (i.e. sales data, labor, marketing information, customer demographics) via dial up. Corporate dialed each site daily in order to retrieve data to report on the previous day's sales. "The polling process was conducted every morning," says Leonard. "The process became very difficult to maintain as we polled and dialed 2,700 sites. Franchisee compliance never reached 100% — on any given morning, several modems or dial lines were incapable of transmitting data."

As Papa John's online ordering platform grew, and it became even more necessary to regularly interact with stores, the company realized a need for a new connectivity platform. "Our largest pain point stemmed from the cost and time it took to touch that many stores each day as well as the inability to dial quickly enough to support the growing e-commerce platform," says Leonard.

Ensure Interruption-Free Network Performance

Determined to remedy the latency issue associated with the company's dial-up connection, Leonard researched providers of WAN networking technologies. Leonard preferred DSL to cable and satellite, but due to the remote location of some of the company's franchises, DSL was readily available to only 75% of them. He chose the MegaPath MPLS (multiprotocol label switching) VPN (virtual private network) service because it enables the client to consolidate all of its business applications onto a single private network. Also, MegaPath had begun agreements of brokering service with not only regional bell operating companies (RBOC) for high-speed DSL, but also with cable and satellite providers. Leonard quickly realized he could satisfy the entire enterprise's need for a solution with DSL, cable, and satellite.

There are several versions of DSL including asymmetrical DSL (ADSL), symmetrical DSL (SDSL), and dedicated DSL (DDSL). At sites where DSL was applicable, Leonard requested that MegaPath implement ADSL, followed by DDSL, then SDSL. If none of those was applicable, he instructed the vendor to install cable modem access. If cable modem access would not suffice, he instructed MegaPath to implement a satellite solution.

Franchisees were responsible for contacting MegaPath to obtain service. The vendor performed a prequalification process on all franchise sites to determine which locations needed DSL, cable, or satellite connection. Then MegaPath ordered the circuits and shipped the routers to each location. Once the materials arrived at the site, franchisee employees were instructed to call Papa John's field systems help desk to get the franchisee up and running. In addition, Papa John's created installation manuals for franchisees to use during and after installation.

Leonard states the new MPLS VPN connection has improved customer satisfaction, as payment processing time has been reduced from 20 seconds to 2 seconds. "Last year, Papa John's surpassed the billion dollar mark for Internet orders," says Leonard. "It took seven years to reach the first billion, and we predict we will reach the second billion in slightly more than two years. We could have never achieved that level of volume with dial up."

Recently, Leonard looked to MegaPath for another service, allowing franchisees to connect to each of their sites and perform management functions (i.e. payroll). This service, Retail Site SSL (secure socket layer), is useful for franchisors that own franchises in different geographic locations. "If our franchisee lives in Ohio, he may own stores in other states," says Leonard. "Yet, he must garner sales data and manage those stores on a daily basis. Prior to Retail SSL, franchisees had to retrieve that data one store at a time via dial up. With Retail SSL connection, franchisees simply use their log on and password to enter the store's system to complete their work."