Subway franchise owner reaches out to employees with voice messaging

SAN DIEGO, Calif. — Les White is not your typical quick service restaurant owner operator. He has 25 Subway sandwich shops in Arizona and White insists he’s in the people business rather than the sandwich making business.

White, dressed in cowboy hat and tan leather jacket, also admitted 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 said of his IT ignorance.

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

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, White 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 and I have always been interested in sharing with individuals,” White said.

One of White’s challenges at Subway is dealing with an employee based made up 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 said.

As White began increasing the number of Subway franchises he said he lost the one-to-one personal communication he had with front line employees.

With this technology, along with a custom-built application called IPsession from Minnesota-based ISV IPcelerate, White was able to communicate directly to each employee every day. Currently, White delivers a lesson of the day and recognizes a top employee using this system.

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

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

Besides addressing personal communications problems, this 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. You can’t put an ROI price tag on that,” White said.

He added that this function alone saves his managers 54 hours a week in time savings.

The shift management system, which helps the Subway store managers to properly manage labour costs, saved White approximately US$500,000 a year.

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

The IPsession server is an appliance that features a framework of applications called Nipa Network IP architecture. It comes with 24 applications out of the box and from there it can be customized for any business situation, said John Moore, president of IPcelerate.

Moore added that building new applications onto the system can be done in hours and the rollout is about four to five weeks. Calence built a data centre to house this system, which links up to all of White’s Subway shops inside White’s 5,500 square-foot home.

At the home, the system consists of three Media Convergence servers running Unity voice mail over broadband. This connects to each shop’s private WAN and an integrated services router, which then directs the content and messages to the colour IP phone with touch display.

White added that even though he purchased this system on his own, it is being evaluated for all Subway franchises. This system also enabled White to start to compete with McDonald’s and Burger Kings instead of the traditional submarine sandwich shops such as Quiznos, he said.

White started his business basically from scratch in 1995. He developed five stores with just more than US$3,500 in net sales per shop per week. Currently, his net sales have dramatically risen to US$14,600 for each shop.

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