Lone Star grill serves up some cloud networking

When you go to any one of the Lone Star Texas Grill locations in Ontario you’ll get a special Tex-Mex menu featuring the restaurant’s signature fajitas.

Patrons of the 19 locations across Ontario enjoyed the Tex-Mex cuisine, but while the food, the atmosphere and the wait-staff matched the bold reputation of the state of Texas, the WiFi connectivity experience did not. Lone Star was being outpaced by other restaurants and coffee shops that offered free WiFi. Lone Star’s only IT worker, Bob Macy, was challenged to improve the overall customer experience of the restaurants by introducing wireless connectivity.

“I am the IT department at Lone Star. When I looked at the geography I realized it was going to be hard to play with the other competitors,” Macy said.

Lone Star deployed servers in a closet and had a cloud service. But when a server went down it seemingly grounded the restaurant chain to a halt.

Lone Star, which was founded back in 1986 by two Texas-born Ottawa Rough Rider football players Val Belcher and Larry Brune, did not want to grow its IT department beyond poor Bob. So Macy decided to look for a solution provider for help.

In came Milton, Ont.-based RDC Networks, who outfitted Lone Star with a Cisco Meraki cloud managed wireless solution. RDC president Robert Duvall told CDN that his company’s expertise is in designing IT roadmaps so that customers can see the future of IT, cloud and on-premise solutions.

“What is interesting about the Cisco Meraki product was that it opened up the deal to other sections of Lone Star’s business, like marketing,” Duvall said.

Being able to open up the market opportunity beyond the IT department and into the marketing area enabled RDC to boost its revenues by 34 per cent, Duvall said.

Lone Star did try other wireless connectivity solutions, but customers had issues getting online and the DSL line also proved to be a problem with other locations. “I was chasing a ghost instead of a workable solution,” Macy said.

With Meraki it can troubleshoot to the managers at each location. Macy no longer has to travel to a restaurant to solve a connectivity issue. Meraki issues Macy an email outlining the problem. Macy can now resolve the issue before the restaurant manager notices.

Lone Star also produced a Facebook fronting page and the chain realized a 30 per cent increase it its Facebook traffic because of it. This traffic enabled RDC to produce an analytics report for the Lone Star marketing team to show them which customers were engaged with the restaurant and which were not and on which nights.

“Lone Star is aware of the demographics of customers now. What age they are. What food they like,” Duvall said.

One of Lone Star’s slowest nights of the week is Tuesday. Not all of the restaurants in Ontario incur this problem. But the Lone Star marketing department would issue Tuesday night incentives to all locations. With the new analytics report, Lone Star can now pinpoint which location is struggling and offer deeper discounts there instead of each restaurant saving the company money.

The next step for Lone Star is to introduce Meraki to its POS system as well as its handheld tablet device for better connectivity.

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Paolo Del Nibletto
Paolo Del Nibletto
Former editor of Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel community.

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