Web Exclusive | June 2012 | By Kevin Hardy
The Handheld Quick Serve
It seems one quick-serve company may have found a way to beat the age-old challenge of being in more than one place at a time.
With the launch of two custom smartphone apps, owners and corporate officials at Edible Arrangements will be able to keep virtual watch over multiple stores at any given time.
The concept’s Fransupport Mobile app allows franchisees to track sales, staff hours, inventory, and order statuses remotely from their iPhone, Android, or tablet. That mobility is especially useful for the growing number of Edible Arrangement franchisees operating multiple units.
Tariq Farid, founder and owner of Connecticut-based Edible Arrangements, says Fransupport Mobile allows franchisees to track data similar to what’s currently available through the company’s software, though the new product allows them to access information on all their stores from nearly any location.
“Most of these owners want to see what’s the behavior at their store,” he says. “What’s the status of their store? Have the people that were scheduled come in? What are the sales?”
The second app, FranView, allows franchisees and corporate support staff to more seamlessly communicate on operations and compliance issues. Company leaders say the instant information keeps operators and field staff more accountable and makes for better working relationships between the two.
Both apps were designed in-house by Edible Arrangements’ software company, Netsolace Inc. Farid formed Netsolace when he wasn’t satisfied with other software available for Edible Arrangements, which, since its 1999 launch, has grown to about 1,000 stores, nearly all of which are franchised.
While both apps were created specifically for Edible Arrangements, the company plans to market the product to other businesses that operate on the franchise model.
With FranView, management will be able to track how much time field staff spends on store visits versus traveling. And when leaders need to point out an issue such as a leaky sink or dirty store, they’ll now have to document such issues with an attached video or photo.
“A lot of times, what they do doesn’t really get documented,” Farid says.
The CEO expects the app and its trail of evidence to eliminate disputes between owners and field staff. Any concerns over favoritism or playing politics should also be alleviated because field staff will have to spend equal time at all their stores; the app tracks when staff arrive and leave for store visits.
“The owners love it,” Farid says. “The biggest challenge for the owners sometimes is that it is their staff against my staff. So now when my staff has to say something, he has to back it up with a video or a picture. And they like that transparency.”
Conversely, instead of just writing down accolades—such as a store being well kept—staff members will have to document those types of claims, as well.
One restaurant industry insider says the app could prove beneficial to restaurant operators big and small, even single-unit operators who have tight margins of error. Managing information and numbers is key, says Isidore Kharasch, president of operational foodservice consulting and training firm Hospitality Works Inc., and apps like these make that process much easier.
“In the restaurant business, it’s all about information. And the sooner you have it, the easier it becomes,” Kharasch says. “When you’re talking about a business making 8 cents on the dollar, you don’t want to make any mistakes.”
In his work, Kharasch says he often uses e-mails and attachments to communicate issues and praise to operators, but sometimes that constant back-and-forth can get lost in the shuffle.
Edible Arrangements leaders say their apps are designed to safeguard against such loss, keeping information in a central place. And because the company built the programs in-house, they can be customized for many types of businesses.
Kharasch suggests these kinds of apps could be tied into other restaurant information infrastructures, such as security systems and alarms kept on walk-in freezers and coolers.
“All of these things are important,” he says. “The tighter control that you have on your restaurant, the better.”
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