Schlotzsky's Digital Deli Traffic Drives Boost in Web-Wired Units


Austin, Texas-More restaurant guests are making theconnection between technology and mealtime, and that change isprompting cyber-dining makeovers by major quick-service brands.

Schlotzsky's Inc., franchisor of the 711-unitSchlotzsky's Deli sandwich chain, says soaring customer trafficat its initial digital deli sites is prompting the chain to expandthe number of units offering Internet access. The programs startedwith a franchisee in Florida two years ago.

"It's so obvious that customers like this," saysJohn C. Wooley, president and chief executive of Schlotzsky's,which has customer Internet access available in four of its ninecompany-owned stores in the Austin market. "What it does tothe ambience of the store is just incredible. It enriches the wholeexperience."

The wired Schlotzsky's format, which Wooley dubs"digital deli," is set for expansion under the watch of aformer IBM and Dell Computer executive, Robin Hanna,Schlotzsky's chief information officer. "By the end of theyear, we hope to have [Internet access] in all the stores,including the franchised stores, in this [Austin] market and letthat be our model for the franchisees around the country,"Wooley says.

Weekly sales of the South Miami location nearly tripled when thefranchisee created the wired stores by adding candy-colored iMaccomputers at which guests could check e-mail or entertain childrenwith interactive games.

Each terminal has a customized home page-available includes search engines and links to localnewspapers as well as The New York Times, the Washington Post andthe Wall Street Journal's paid service.

"We'll have to get additional bandwidth on thesesystems," Hanna says. "In certain locations in town, youcan't get cable, you can't get DSL, and you can't getother high-speed broadband applications. So what I'm going tobe doing in the next two stores is using satellites. We've putin two beta test sites for satellites. I have high confidence insatellites, not just for the cyber deli but for the credit cards,our data, our Muzak, our cable television and security. Anything weare currently using land lines for, we will be using satellitestrategy."

The digital delis are providing a perk for employees as well,Wooley says. "We've noticed that our employees whodon't have a computer at home like getting the training,because they need to know about computers to advancethemselves," he says. "It's not unusual to see anemployee after work take their apron off, change out of theiruniform and come out and play with the computer."-Nation's Restaurant News

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