Firehouse Subs is fast casual restaurant chain selling sandwiches. Established in Florida in 1994, today, in 2018, the company has more than 1,135 outlets, in 44 US states, Puerto Rico and Canada.
The brand is growing, thanks to a franchising business model, recognised by Forbes in 2018 as a “Best Franchise to Buy”. Managing all these branches ‒ and such growth ‒ is no easy task, so Firehouse Subs teamed up with Keboola to create an analytics platform called Station Pulse.
Powered by Keboola Connection, this platform brings together data from the point of sale system, customer experience platform, call centre feedback, Yelp ratings, and weather, all by zip code, and feeds all the information into a single easily-accessible location.
The main challenge facing Firehouse Subs in using the platform was that was data scattered over many places. The company also needed to encourage specific behaviour among from restaurant owners, such as improving survey scores, which would lead to sales at each outlet, which thus has a marketing spillover effect.
“Working with Keboola changed how we work with our franchisees. By giving them access to data, we’re empowering them to make decisions that are best for their businesses, which in turn are better for our business as a whole,” says Danny Walsh, Vice President of Reporting & Analytics at Firehouse Subs.
The main strength of the Station Pulse platform lies in simplified reporting and benchmarking, as Walsh explains. “We developed the ‘Scorecard’ product to encourage certain types of behaviour among franchisees. A simple dashboard is embedded into the Franconnect platform that they use. The user can see at a glance the overall picture of restaurant performance. Operational and sales metrics are pulled into one dashboard for user-friendly access and based on 10 key metrics measuring sales and operational performance for each restaurant.
Everyone uses the dashboard, from the general manager level all the way up to the C-Suite at Firehouse Subs Corporate Headquarters. The dashboard also clearly highlights areas for improvement. We’ve also developed benchmarks so that franchisees can compare themselves against area and national averages.”
But Walsh notes that the Station Pulse platform isn’t just the dashboard. He explains that it has promoted “self-discovery” and encourages franchises to strive for operational excellence_. “By connecting data from POS, voice of the customer platforms, social media, weather data, and other sources, we gave the brandholder 24/7 access to data and insights that can be used for the entire group of franchisees, to quickly answer business questions. It took us 5 months to clear all the data sources, merge them into one and to deploy the whole platform. But it was totally worth it_,” he adds.
“We delivered analytics for reporting and scorecarding across the whole company. Deploying the Keboola Connection led to better data management and an easier way for franchises to track their performances. All of this has not only made life easier for franchisees and the Firehouse Subs core team but has also had real business impact,” says Walsh on the benefits of Station Pulse.
Firehouse Subs recorded increased employee productivity and improvements in franchise revenues and scorecard metrics. Keboola has thus boosted growth fourfold from 300 to 1,200.
The whole project provides a very useful case study of terms of return on investment. With an average annual benefit (ROI) achieved of USD 1,423,312, this means that the financial commitment paid off in less than three months.
Firehouse Subs also won Breakthrough Award winner in the category of Enterprise Innovator for Hospitality Technology (HT) Magazine. The company has won multiple awards including from Technomic’s Chain Restaurant Consumers’ Choice Awards in various categories, such as overall brand (2017), food quality (2016), and service (2015).
In addition, the firm has been recognized for its commitment to community service and public safety as well through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation®, created in 2005. Such recognition, together with the crucial involvement of Keboola, are testament to the company’s success.