Ergo system is bread and butter for sandwich chain

9 Oct 2006

It is frequently reported that Irish businesses do not make enough use of the internet to help their business. The same could not be said of sandwich bar chain Munchies, which has recently began using the medium to immediate effect.

Launched in July, the web portal is now responsible for 30pc of the company’s business. Director John Keane estimates that in five years’ time it will account for a massive 70pc of revenue.

With so much reliant on the internet channel, it was critical that the website and e-commerce system underlying it was up to the task. Put simply, the site allows customers to pre-order food for delivery or pick-up and pay using credit or laser cards. Targeting customers in areas such as business parks, it caters for individuals and companies who can set up their own accounts. Consumers can create their own sandwiches and the system tots up the price in an easy-to-read fashion similar to buying on Amazon or other online shops.

The requirements for the portal extended beyond the creation of a website, however: it was necessary from a sales point of view that the system could be integrated into the systems of the individual franchisees and the overall head office.

In a previous incarnation Keane had experience in e-commerce installations so he knew what he was looking for. “Ergo was the one company who could deliver what we wanted in the time frame we were looking for,” he states.

Currently, Munchies operates three stores in Dublin — South William Street, the IFSC and Eastpoint Business Park — with two more due to open in November. The company plans to have 50 Munchies’ franchises in five years.

Keane explains the way the system works. “Each individual store has it’s own website even though we’re dealing from a central website; when you pay online the money goes directly into each separate till,” he says. “The server links into Realex [online payment processor], we clear the payment and then download it into the shop’s till. Once Realex has cleared it at the end of the day when the bills have been totted up the money is pulled down from the bank.”

The integration makes accounting easier as well, Keane notes. “Each franchisee has its very own business. In that business we have developed a till with Captiva; those tills link back into our website. There is a portal functionality between the web and other channels all linked into our accounting system, which is online for the franchisee. Everything filters straight from the till into their accounting package. It produces everything they need such as management accounts, invoices, etc.”

“The main challenge for us from a deployment perspective was that we needed to integrate with the actual individual systems of the individual stores,” says Mark Rijke, business development manager with Ergo.

Another interesting feature of the system is that it can be adapted to run on a company’s intranet. This means that companies who wish to limit employees’ use of the internet can install a secure link to the Munchies website on their server and employees can access it without having to go on the web. “We have just signed a deal for 450 employees in a company in the IFSC,” says Keane. “They are the sort of deals we are after.”

Due to the interaction with other systems that was necessary, collaboration was key to getting it installed.

“The degree to which Captiva and Ergo worked together, you’d think every one of us worked for the same company. The two teams saw themselves as partners delivering to a client. That was the ethos I was looking for from all the companies I chose to be a partner,” says Keane.

Rijke says collaborating successfully with other companies was not a problem.

“One thing we always make sure when we work together with a partner is that we define the project and the responsibilities very clearly. Based on good and intensive communication, I don’t see why we couldn’t successfully work together – we’re partners, not competitors,” he says.

The business sense of the new system is hammered home when the potential not just for streamlining the point of sale process but in anticipating and forward-managing production is factored in.

“Sandwich bars are like churches: they’re full at certain times,” says Keane. “It’s when they’re not full you have the converse of a bottleneck: a lot of staff not doing a whole lot. If you encourage people on the web to order a little earlier, then you get those vital production hours between 9 and 11 when you get to produce and that is where you really begin to see margins increase dramatically.”

Keane’s advocacy of Ergo’s solution is food for thought. As it’s automated to such a degree, staff training is minimal. Back-up support also gets the thumbs up. “I couldn’t say a bad work about the service levels,” adds Keane.

It’s even cracked America. It’s been such a success in a very short time frame that the website’s been used as a case history in the US by Munchies’ branding company, sign if ever there was one that the proof is in the pudding.

By Niall Byrne

Pictured — Munchies director John Keane with John Purdy, managing director of Ergo Software Solutions