Restaurants Show Resiliency as Digital Chews On the Industry


Two companies in the Industrial IoT space, Grubbrr and Cradlepoint, have created a new recipe for transforming dated IT and networking approaches in the hospitality industry by combining IoT, SD-WAN, and software applications into end-to-end productivity and point-of-sale systems that have the potential to dramatically lower costs while delivering more intelligence to restaurateurs.

There’s a new menu in town, with fresh ingredients, a lighter touch, and spiced up consumer experiences that are supporting waves of disruption we are already starting to see across all categories, from kiosks at McDonald’s fast foot franchises, to iPads installed at major airport dining spots, to tabletop interactive ordering, entertainment and payment devices in the Olive Garden and other casual dining chains.

Whether local managers are operating their retail restaurants more efficiently, large franchises are viewing dozens or hundreds of locations with a unified view, or corporate headquarters of mass chains are driving improved results (more revenue, less cost, higher profits) – digital transformation on all layers of the IoT stack is becoming the inevitable “new normal.”

The hospitality industry has never been more competitive, or more disrupted, than it is today. As consumers have more and more choices, including quality prepared foods from increasingly swanky grocery stores, and as consumers are drawn to mainstream gourmet cooking shows on the Food Network and the Food Channel, now those consumers want their experiences to be fast, fun, fabulous, affordable and healthier.

The hospitality industry is responding, and technology is helping them to run their operations more transparently, understanding their true costs, while also understanding what consumers want and will want as seasons and food fashion changes.

The recipe Grubbr and Cradlepoint have been developing in their digital test kitchen us to bring more resiliency to restauranteurs, with a combination platter of IoT, Software-Defined Network Architecture and next-generational electronic kiosks and point of sale solutions.

People and companies open restaurants not because they are technology or networking experts. They love food, they love serving people, and they love making money doing so. They rely on other people to help them manage their connectivity, their software systems, and now – their connected things. And while we all recognize “it takes an ecosystem” to make the hyper-connected world work, what Grubbr and Cradlepoint have figured out is that end-to-end solutions are what companies really need. It’s how they actually wish to buy – rather than having to shop for ingredients, they’re asking for the full meal.

Bhavin Asher, founder of Grubbr, said “The days of IT managers in restaurants all with siloed tools are over! We’ve been meeting with many, many restaurant teams, and are seeing cramped wiring closets, some with legacy dial-up modems, WiFi routers and a stack of servers. It’s expensive, it’s risky and it’s simply outdated. We’re replacing all the old equipment with software-based solutions, including electronic kiosks within tablets. Our platform combines order management, customer feedback, IoT sensors for inventory management, resource management, point of sales and analytics – all in a completely resilient environment that never goes down, even if the WAN is down.”

Grubbrr has an intuitive dashboard that restaurant managers helped design and test, allowing managers to decide which traffic is to be prioritized (e.g. point of sale credit card transactions above inventory control which is above video gaming traffic). This has now been fed into networking gear from Cradlepoint using DiffServ and MPLS DSCP parameters, without the need for networking engineers at each restaurant.

That integration is the “secret sauce” the two companies have built and are now implementing in casual fast dining chains.

Ken Hosac, VP Business Development at Cradlepoint, explains how the software-defined networking works. “Our SD-WAN integrates fixed network access, with LTE, IoT with software defined controls, and resiliency engineered using proxy mobile IP standards to keep sessions alive across networks.”

Managing across different network types with invisible handoffs as required makes this approach a lot less expensive than, say, MPLS services combined with hundreds of thousands of dollars of local IT support required.

“What the restaurant saves in systems and connectivity, and in more efficient asset and inventory management can fund improvements consumers see,” Asher said. “Our collective approach is less expensive, provides far more application visibility and control, is more secure with access measures in place, and delivers a really cool concierge-like web portal interface for policy configuration. With all elements software – literally a complete ‘as-a-service’ platform down to the virtualized session border controllers for VoIP and Unified Communications – this is an entirely fresh approach and we’re getting an incredible response.”

Grubbrr and Cradlepoint clearly have also figured out that the convergence of not only IoT (connecting things) and RTC (connecting people) is fundamentally important to address in any network services transformation, as we see less and less distinction between voice and data – with voice becoming an increasingly embedded application.

While the test kitchen is humming away, the companies have plans to build more and more value and ease into the platform, with digital training services and support. “We’re just getting started,” Hosac said, “but given the early response and results know we are going to make a huge and positive difference in the hospitality industry.” 

Edited by Ken Briodagh
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Contributing Writer

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