First of The Solution, the industry does not like to be called “fast food” – their official label is “QSR” – which stands for Quick Service Restaurants.
QSR is estimated to be a $570 billion revenue global industry. U.S. revenues were estimated at over $220 billion for 2015 and growing at over 2% per year. (Sources: franchisehelp.com and IBIS).
As is well known, the industry is characterized by a high percentage of ownership by franchisees. There are intricate relationships between the parent companies and these franchisees.
The Mobile Cloud solution uses technology to help address a number of key issues that affect the operations and profitability of the typical QSR site. These sites, stores, pose obvious business challenges: high rate of transactions; lower skill level of many employees; need to maintain security both in and outside the building, etc.
Issues related to theft prevention and operational efficiency have become increasingly important to the QSR industry. While well-established and still growing, the business faces increased pressures from competitors, such as the Fast Casual segment (think Chipotle, Panera), and changing consumer taste preferences and health concerns.
EZU’s mission is to help improve the performance of stores, in operations terms that directly affect revenue and profit growth. EZU’s solution, 360iQ, includes, as a first step, gathering a wide range of data from multiple sourcesin and around the store. These typically include:
1. Video: Input from the existing cameras which may be analog or newer IP cameras installed in connection with the 360iQ system
2. POS: Transaction data from the cash registers
3. Sensors: Tracking temperature of refrigeration units, for example
All of this data is integrated and fed through a gateway provided by EZU at the store. It is then transmitted to EZU’s cloud.
Obviously, this involves a huge amount of data for a busy store. The benefits arise from the organization, analytics and presentation capabilities of the 360iQ system. For example, a franchisee with multiple units can see live video feeds from his or her stores. They receive alerts of suspicious transactions and graphical displays of sales activity during the day.
As an owner of multiple Subway franchises states in a signed testimonial:
“The system not only alerts us of suspicious activity, it even sends a text or email if an opener has not arrived on time. It’s a great tool for improving restaurant operations. and the system reduces our losses due to employee theft by a minimum of $2,600 per restaurant per year.”
EZU provides apps for iOS and Android, which allows the store owner to have the information available on their mobile device, enabling them to take corrective action ASAP. The app provides a dashboard that sets out graphs and charts of all activity and allows the owner of multiple units, by a simple swipe, to move about, choosing which stores to check out next. They can observe live video feeds from each store. Detail on each transaction is presented, and the owner can see the actual receipt, and the video of the transaction as it occurred, if they wish.
The system identifies items which cause an Alert and lists them for the owner’s review. Alerts can be caused by things such as: suspicious activity around the cash register; late opening of the store; incidents inside or around the outside of the store, and so on. The owner can view the video of the transaction or incident that triggered the alert.
Video can be displayed in split screen and the displays can be flexibly manipulated. The system can accommodate 360 video and can zoom in an out. Video feeds from different stores can be monitored simultaneously.
The app also provides access to a wide number of reports. The owner can delve into a report, focus on specific items and view the video of any specific one. They can even take a snapshot of the video and can capture and store a portion of a video on their mobile. The app also provides reports on the sensors being monitored in the store.
EZU’s focus to date has been almost entirely on the QSR business. Its first major breakthrough client was Subway and the company now has its system installed in over 5000 Subway locations.
EZU concentrates its selling effort on demonstrating per store revenue and profit improvement. The company claims that stores can achieve a $500-700 per month profit improvement, on average. These claims are based on studies conducted with the cooperation of major clients. EZU publicly states that the Burger King company stores “are able to increase profits by more than $700 per store, per month” through use of 360iQ.
Its initial contract with Subway amounted to a white label sale: Subway provides the EZU system to franchisees under the name Subway Surveillance. Since then EZU has worked on providing an SaaS (software as a service) approach, with a monthly fee per store, and, typically, a three-year contract. It has made a major breakthrough with Burger King, servicing the company-owned stores of that chain. Another client is Dunkin Donuts.
James emphasizes that EZU provides a comprehensive service. This includes a Remote Auditing & Loss Prevention team, actual trained employees who constantly monitor store videos. The company offers clients a number of reports and services from this team, including:
a) 360iQ Snapshot: The EZU auditing team, selects video and, based on questions weighted with the client regarding protocols, service and the like, will bring to the client’s attention specific problems;
b) 360iQ Incident Report: Based on a Snapshot, or a situation the client points out, will provide a highly detailed analysis of the incident;
c) Annual Pro-Active Support service
EZU and a number of its clients have enumerated benefits from the 360iQ system including not only in the area of theft deterrence, but also employee compliance with rules, store cleanliness, employee efficiency and customer experience.
As an owner of multiple Burger King stores puts it:
“I can control my restaurants remotely, see what is happening in individual stores thanks to live view, and most importantly supervise the work of the store managers much more effectively. It’s quite hard to calculate those things, but I would say the earnings go 2% up after you start using the service.”
James points out that the business lends itself to growth in a number of directions. Most obvious and critical is adding more QSR sites. There are over 200,000 QSR sites in the U.S. In addition, there is the prospect of international growth. Companies like Subway are global in scope and James explains that the Subway relationship has already led them to operate in Australia, New Zealand and Mexico.
As the number of sites grows, the company also has plans for additional services that can increase the revenue potential per site. Finally, down the road, James sees major growth opportunities in fields beyond the QSR industry. Retailing is the most obvious of these, however, they could also include financial institutions and other businesses.
James is quick to point out that it is not “technology as an asset” that is valuable, but rather it is the “benefits of the service that the technology enables” that is critical. As he puts it:
“Our ambition has always been to provide multi-unit business owners in the QSR, restaurant, convenience, and retail fields with technology benefits as a service as opposed to technology as an asset.”
We’ve watched EZU’s progress over the past two-to-three years, and are impressed by: the tremendous feature richness of its app; the supporting monitoring services its offers; the analytics capability it puts at the store owner’s finger tips; and the total dedication to proving in P&L gains to EZU’s clients.
Mobile Cloud technology is at a very early stage of transforming all industries and this is certainly true for QSR, as for retailing. EZU appears to be well aware of these facts and we believe it is a company that can address the future of QSRs, as it comes to involve advances such as beacons, ordering kiosks, advanced displays and other features. We also believe the company has built a technology and analytics base that can enable it to expand in retailing and other industry segments.