Buffalo Wild Wings® is one of the Top 10 Fastest-Growing Restaurant Chains in the country. The restaurant is more than just a NY-style wing joint with signature sauces – it is a dynamic sports bar that sells more draft beer than any other restaurant concept in America. In fact, Buffalo Wild Wings refers to its customers as fans, with the goal of providing a stadium-like experience every time you enter the restaurant.
The company’s slogan is WINGS.BEER.SPORTS.®, but it very well could be BEER.WINGS.SPORTS. Not only because of the large quantities of beer it sells, but because of its goal to provide the best beer experience possible. This involves restaurant training to highlight the Perfect Pour – the optimal pour to ensure maximum flavor and reduce inventory loss – as well as expanding restaurant beer offerings to recognize the diverse customer demands. Buffalo Wild Wings offers both nationally-established brands and local craft brands that are selected independently by regional restaurants.
In an effort to offer the best beer experience and better connect with their fans, Buffalo Wild Wings faced two challenges:
- How can the restaurant monitor to ensure that the Perfect Pour guidelines are being followed?
- How does the restaurant manage the growing assortment of beers available in the market?
Both challenges prompted the need to better leverage technology for operational efficiency. Buffalo Wild Wings needed a real-time monitoring technique and a better understanding of inventory. This was an IT challenge considering that the company needed to configure all new beer items in more than 1,200 restaurant POS systems before a restaurant can begin selling a new beer to a guest.
Additionally, it was a business challenge to ensure restaurants gained an understanding of the actual beer inventory usage across all restaurants to help drive future purchasing decisions.
To address these challenges, Buffalo Wild Wings turned to technology leaders: BeerBoard, an industry expert offering a beer management application, Capgemini, a leading technology consultancy and MuleSoft, a leader in enterprise integrations to help implement the solution.
Capturing the data
To address the first challenge of ensuring Perfect Pour guidelines were being followed, BeerBoard installed IoT enabled flow meters on the tap lines to capture pour data. However, this was only one-side of the equation. BeerBoard also needed sales data, maintained in Buffalo Wild Wings’ POS systems, to measure their pour volume against the sales transaction that contained information on the type and size of beer that was ordered.
Buffalo Wild Wings needed a way to integrate their sales data with BeerBoard and turned to Capgemini to consider potential integration options. Options such as file-based integration or writing custom code were discussed, but both parties saw that a unified platform approach and API-led connectivity offered the right mix of security, reusability and flexibility. Capgemini therefore recommended MuleSoft. MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform would enable Buffalo Wild Wings to continue adding integration applications as additional third-party vendors required access to different systems. Additionally, the integration through MuleSoft would allow on-demand web service thereby giving BeerBoard the ability to dictate the frequency of each request so that they could ensure the latest metrics are available to restaurants.
Leveraging the SmartBar platform
Addressing the second challenge of managing the growing assortment of beers relied on implementing BeerBoard’s new SmartBar beer management platform. The SmartBar platform offered a web-based application that provides restaurants a single platform to manage all beer related activities. Buffalo Wild Wing restaurants would use it to switch and assign new beers to corresponding tap lines and synchronize their upcoming beer rotation with a print menu supplier and a digital beer menu displayed on both restaurant TV’s and on Buffalo Wild Wings’ website. Since pour data and sales data are also being captured through the SmartBar platform, restaurants all have access to reports where they can measure the performance – in either sales, or inventory yield – of each beer in rotation and gain insights to identify trends that they never had access to in the past. For example, a general manager could specifically track preferences in a region such as a favorite beer in an area of New York.
Integrating the business process
This new beer management platform also needed to be tailored to fit into Buffalo Wild Wings’ IT and business. This included the process of requesting, approving, configuring a new beer so that it is added to the restaurant’s POS terminal and made available to be sold to a guest. This process required an integration that would connect SmartBar to Buffalo Wild Wings’ internal service management software, ServiceNow. The integration would need to carry beer information from the beer management application and pass it to ServiceNow to create and route the service ticket to the appropriate IT teams. The MuleSoft Anypoint platform had just the right tool for the job and provided a reliable solution to integrate with ServiceNow and increase developer productivity. Using MuleSoft, the integration saved time and created efficiencies for reuse. With the solution, restaurant managers could easily submit their new beer request from within a single beer management application and IT teams can leverage the tools in their service management software to execute the request.
Under the hood
The entire solution consisted of five MuleSoft integration objects leveraging API web-services following an API-led connectivity approach.
CreateTicket API – Allows external parties (such as the manager of a restaurant) to request a new ServiceNow ticket be generated for a new beer request. In this request, information such as the brewery, beer name, style of beer and the restaurant requesting the beer are passed as a JSON message. SendTicketStatus API – Hosted by BeerBoard receives the status of a beer request as it moves from ‘pending’ to ‘Approved’.
SalesData API – Allows external parties (restaurant managers for example) to request beer sales for a specific location over a specified period of time.
CreateItem API – Automatically creates a new item record in the company’s master data management system. In this request, required item information such as a PLU number, an item name, and item descriptors are passed as a JSON message.
Location Hierarchy API – Web-service provides external parties with restaurant location as well as hierarchy information. Using this information, BeerBoard can then route a beer request by contacting the listed emails to obtain required approvals.
The Integration Solution is built using MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform deployed on MuleSoft's CloudHub. To expand on its monitoring capabilities, Capgemini’s Core Integration Framework was implemented to provide deeper monitoring of system transactions and data errors across all the integrations. The Core Integration Framework is integrated with MuleSoft's API solution using Amazon SQS/SNS messaging. This framework is deployed in AWS Cloud using Tomcat application server and MS SQL Database.
The solution was implemented in eight pilot restaurants and the results exceeded expectations. For those pilot restaurants, Buffalo Wild Wings saw a double-digit reduction in the amount of beer shrinkage. There has been increased revenue in beer sales that would otherwise have been lost from theft (0.50% retention).
This is just the starting point as future enhancements are already planned to leverage the groundwork that has been implemented and continue building an application network. Having access to real-time pour data extends the company’s visibility to beer inventory. The real-time, accurate flow data is available to Restaurant Managers, the Field Leadership Team and Business and Analytics teams, reducing time and effort to extract and crunch data as well as equipping teams to make more informed business decisions.
This implementation has also resulted in unexpected benefits. For example, this project has eliminated the need for restaurants to weigh their own kegs. This is an injury-prone task to approximate how much beer is left in the keg and therefore resulted in 50% reduction in workman’s compensation costs. Furthermore, greater insight into beer inventory could potentially lead to an auto-replenishment solution to ensure that beers are always flowing and never in short-supply. This integrated solution powered by MuleSoft– and the business opportunities from its implementation – are positioning Buffalo Wild Wings tobe more agile in the future and build an application network.