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Subway’s new voice

A Cisco messaging system has given a fast food operator a way to speak to employees in stores he rarely visits

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Les White is not your typical quick service restaurant owner. Operator of 25 Subway shops in Arizona, White insists he’s in the people business rather than the sandwich-making business.

Dressed in a cowboy hat and tan leather jacket, White also admits that he knows next to nothing about technology and just learned how to send and receive e-mail a while ago. “I thought RAM was a big sheep,” he says.

But it is technology that is allowing White to continue his business philosophy and save his shops more than $500,000 a year.

The solution
Using a Cisco Unified Communications system, along with Unified 7970G IP phones and a Cisco Media Convergence server running Unified CallManager and Unity Voice Messaging, he has been able to reconnect with the majority of his 400 employees.

“I do not like paper work or menial tasks. To have a manager spend time on that takes away from building a business. Front line people need to learn people and life skills,” White says.

One of his challenges at Subway is dealing with an employee base of 16 to 22-year olds.

“All of them are a different animal than older, professional-type people who are self- motivated and are headed towards something. These kids have no idea where they are going. They have school issues, drug issues, relationship issues and all sorts of peer pressures,” White says.

As the number of his Subway franchises increased, he lost the personal link he had with employees.

But with the new technology, along with a custom-built application called IPsession from IPcelerate, White was able to communicate directly to each employee daily. Currently, White delivers a lesson of the day and recognizes a top employee using the system.

Calence, a Cisco Gold partner, planned and designed the system for White’s shops.

Each system costs US$13,000. However, when White opens his next five shops the cost will drop down to US$3,000 per shop.

Besides addressing personal communications problems, the system also helps with timecard and shift management, daily deposits, storewide emergency awareness, customer orders, daily storewide task awareness and employee safety.

“When an employee does not show up to a quick service restaurant — and this happens all the time — the store manager wastes 30 minutes every morning calling to find a replacement. Now with this system one call reaches all available employees and saves a lot of frustration,” he said.

White added that this function alone saves his managers 54 hours a week.

People and time
The shift management system, which helps the Subway managers properly manage labour, saved White approximately US$500,000 a year.

White says that while the system is for his Arizona Subway shops, he believes it can be implemented in any business that has employees in any country.

White started his business in 1995 with five stores and just over US$3,500 in net sales per shop per week. Currently, his net sales have dramatically risen to US$14,600 for each shop and enabled him to compete with McDonald’s.