Applebee's: Wireless Order Entry Streamlines Restaurant Operations

A new wireless LAN order entry system gave national restaurant chain Applebee's a more streamlined and flexible way of doing business.

Application: Installing a Network in a Hard-to-Retrofit Environment
Before it installed a wireless LAN, Applebee's used a total of five different systems to report sales and labor data from its restaurant locations to headquarters, which made it hard for corporate management to track the information. Standardizing the Applebee's point-of-sale system would have meant retrofitting the networks at every restaurant, but it wouldn't have been easy to install a hard-wired network at the chain's more than 50 locations. Restaurant traffic flow and equipment (such as refrigeration units and open grills) would have made running cable a major challenge.

To avoid the disadvantages of hard-wired retrofitting, Applebee's chose wireless LANs to support its new chain-wide point-of-sale system. Now, after restaurant staff take orders from customers, they punch the orders into a computer with a touch-screen monitor. A wireless network then relays the orders from the dining room to the restaurant's in-house file server. The file server handles the tasks of sales consolidation and labor reporting to headquarters via modem, over a regular phone line.

Benefits: Simpler Reporting and Less Costly, More Convenient Networking
The wireless LAN not only simplifies the reporting process and spares Applebee's the expense and inconveniences of cabling, as planned —it also lets restaurant managers put terminals anywhere they're needed. Says Applebee's manager John McDermott, "The wireless LAN gives us more flexibility. At any time I can unplug a workstation and move it to another outlet anywhere else in the restaurant, and it's still on the network. If I wanted to do that with a hard-wired system, I'd actually have to run cables there."

Another unique benefit of a wireless LAN is the way it accommodates hand-held devices, which Applebee's plans to add to its system. Restaurant staff at Applebee's will be able to use the devices while taking orders, and managers will be able to use them to collect other information.

Installation Size
The Applebee's system comprises 300 wireless LANs with nearly 2,000 workstations.

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