Sandwich chain's iPad giveaway has guaranteed ROI ... and much bigger potential

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A sandwich shop with franchise restaurants in 12 states has started giving each franchisee an iPad loaded with training materials, writes William Atkinson in a case study at CIO Insight. That immediately cuts the $400-per-franchise annual cost of printing and shipping manuals, but it could also open the door to much better integration between franchisees and the company.

All new franchisees of Capriotti's, a chain of 87 gourmet sub shops, now get an iPad containing the training materials, as well as store management tools, the ability to connect with suppliers, and access to the company's intranet and web-based tools. Franchisees get to keep the iPads in a sort of reverse-BYOD program.

Capriotti's is also in the process of rolling out an online ordering system, including the ability to place orders directly to the shop's POS system. "In the restaurants where we tend to have lines of customers going out the door, employees with iPads can take orders from customers before the customers even reach the front counter," says Capriotti's CIO Jason Smylie, who spearheaded the iPad initiative.

One of the biggest problems franchise chains typically have is getting franchisees on board with new technology. For the individual franchise restaurant owner, every great new IT idea from the company just looks like another big cost. The chain can dictate upgrades to a more advanced point-of-sale system, the ability to handle at-table orders or new payment approaches or technology for better store management, but franchisees tend to drag their feet, waiting until the final deadline before spending the money.

That's why the idea of giving away iPads to franchisees may have a much bigger impact than simply saving on the printing bill for training manuals. At the very least, every new Capriotti's restaurant will have a piece of high-tech equipment that it probably wouldn't have otherwise, complete with company-approved apps for taking customer orders, managing the store and replenishing consumable items.

That sends a message to franchisees that sounds a lot like: "We believe technology will help make you more profitable--so much so that we're giving you a chunk of tech for free."

That kind of leading by example is powerful, especially when combined with improved communication with company headquarters by way of the iPad-enabled intranet, more consistent electronic invoicing and bill paying and even the opportunity for the company to track sales on a daily basis. With luck, the iPad investment could tie franchisees more closely to the company, head off franchisee problems before they become crises, and improve operations at the same time.

And if none of that happens? The iPad still eliminates $400 per year in training manuals--and still pays for itself in two years.

For more:
- see Atkinson's article at CIO Insight

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