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Fatburger leverages mobile to redesign employee, consumer experiences

The burger chain piloted a new mobile technology system for its employee operations and plans to roll it out to other franchisees in the coming quarter. At the same time, Fatburger is currently developing its first consumer-facing mobile application that will feature a store locator, loyalty program and online ordering.

“For actual operations purposes, this is the first foray into mobile technology into the kitchen,” said James Newell, vice president of operations at Fatburger, Los Angeles.

“We’ve always been willing to embrace technology if we thought there was a benefit for our customers and employees,” he said.

Efficient operations
For the past six or seven years, Fatburger had been using a standard, hard-copy version of Red Book’s restaurant operations system. When asked if it was interested in taking part in a beta testing of a mobile version, Fatburger jumped on board.

“The biggest benefits are it’s easy to use, in terms of being able to more easily carry it around as opposed to the current paper red book,” Mr. Newell said. “The largest benefit is the top-level insight where field staff could see into individual stores to see where they were in their checklists and then the back and forth dialogue that they could have easily with them all in one place.

“It was all centered around storage issues,” he said. “It was a big step up from the Red Book being one place, email being another and then scribbled notes and being able to put that into one.”

Instead of lugging around large notebooks or checklists, employees can carry a lightweight iPad to easily manage inventory and communicate with other employees. Additionally, managers can track the progress of everyday tasks, monitor key performance metrics and document shift and inventory issues across different locations.

After a successful pilot in a few locations, including the Los Angeles restaurant, Fatburger will require Digital Red Book for new stores that open up, and it will encourage already existing Fatburger restaurants to shift over to Digital Red Book. Mr. Newell expects to see a strong adoption rate by franchisees over the next quarter.

Digital Red Book will also help Fatburger as it focuses on a bigger international push. This will make it easier for restaurants in new markets to open up and communicate with headquarters as well as manage operations in different languages.

Consumer experience
While not directly related to the customer, the back-end mobile system indirectly improves diners’ experiences in-store.

“Indirectly we can be more efficient,” Mr. Newell said. “With [employees] being able to get through the boring paperwork aspect that much quicker and resolving whatever issues quicker means that they can get back to focusing on the number one priority which is obviously the guest experience.”

Beyond that indirect mobile benefit, Fatburger is also in the process of developing a consumer-facing app that will directly benefit customers. While the chain already has a mobile-optimized Web site, this will be its first mobile app.

The app will let consumers place orders straight from their phones, find a restaurant location and participate in a loyalty program.

Fatburger plans to launch the app in the next few months.

“We feel it’s the right direction for us,” Mr. Newell said. “We’re a young company, we like to fit into the technology trends that are out there, and I think not having an app is silly.

“A large part of our customer base uses smartphones, and we’re getting requests from them to have that,” he said.

Final Take
Rebecca Borison is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York