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CEO of Reactive BBQ

How would you describe your restaurants?

Reactive BBQ is a family restaurant with 500 locations across 20 countries. We’re open for breakfast, lunch and supper. Our specialty at Reactive BBQ is our award winning Reactive Ribs, but we are also well known for our tender steaks and our slow roasted chicken. We take traditional BBQ flavours and give them a bit of a spicy punch. The customer experience at each Reactive BBQ should have the same high level of quality across the globe.

What challenges do you face?

The challenge is that our original system was designed for one restaurant, and as more were opened, we started moving into the cloud. We started by moving inventory management into the cloud. Then we moved the customers facing areas: reservations, ordering etc. into the same application. We created a website on top of this so that customers can place orders for pickup or delivery, but they can also make reservations online.

As we add more locations, the system becomes unresponsive during peak hours as it seems to be struggling to keep up with all the reservations, the servers entering orders, orders being filled, payments, all of these drag everything down to a crawl. Staff gets frustrated, customers even more so, it can take 30 seconds to make a reservation, or enter an order.

The Operations team attempted to address the peak time performance issue by adding more instances of the application in the cloud, but this turned out to be quite expensive, and we still see a noticeable lag in response times during peak hours.

Another issue is that our application seems to be brittle. When one thing goes wrong, it seems like everything else goes wrong at the same time. I keep hearing reports of outages across the board. And these outages have a huge impact on our business. In the early days, when a problem happened, it affected a single restaurant. But now that we are in the cloud, when the application becomes unavailable it can affect many restaurants or even all of them.

We have been forced to limit certain activities during certain times of the day. For example, during the lunch hour on the east coast we aren’t allowed to generate certain kinds of reports. The same applies for the west coast. As our operation expands into more time zones, it is become harder to find the right time to do these reports. Ideally doing an inventory report during the lunch rush shouldn’t make the system crawl.

Another issue is upgrades. Every time we want to upgrade the software we have to take the whole system offline. This is also affected by things like the east coast lunch rush. So again we have to look for specific windows during the day to deploy. Those windows are getting smaller, and the deployments are taking longer. Sometimes when we do an upgrade something goes wrong and the system is unavailable during the times we need it the most. This gets very expensive and very annoying.

We have been wanting to implement a loyalty program that requires tracking data about our customers, but our development team tells us this would be a “major refactor”, and that sounds expensive and risky. I don’t really understand the details, but it feels like adding a loyalty program to do the tracking shouldn’t be that big of a deal.

I wanted to implement a new electronic menu for the restaurants. You know, with the tablets on the tables? I thought it would be more environmentally friendly than printing new menus every month. It would also help us follow the trends. Anyway, that apparently was problematic as well. The system that deals with the online menu is really tightly tied up with the fact that it is online and deliveries and all that. I don’t really understand the details, but apparently adapting it to work in the restaurant is apparently going to be a lot of work. I would also like to put screens in the kitchen so we could get rid of paper completely.

CEO’s Key Details

  • 500+ Locations
  • Existing Cloud Infrastructure
  • Online Delivery/Pickup Orders, Reservations
  • Experiencing too much downtime
    • Due to upgrades or failures
  • System responds slowly
  • Outages can be very expensive
  • Actions being taken to “work around” the problems with the system
  • Want to implement a loyalty program but it’s risky
  • Want to implement electronic menus but it is also risky