Restaurant customer experiences have undergone an extreme makeover throughout the past few years. With online ordering and QR code-driven menus leading the evolution, technology in the back room needs to be as fresh as the food on the plate for restaurants of all sizes.
That was the challenge facing QDOBA Mexican Eats, a San Diego, CA,-based fast-casual Mexican restaurant with more than 740 locations across the U.S. and Canada, and soon Puerto Rico. QDOBA places a premium on guest experiences, from flavor to reliable connectivity, to ensure that paying for meals, swiping rewards cards, and placing online orders goes as smoothly as possible.
A fresh network, built in-house
Recent growth, coupled with unique pressures brought on by the pandemic, provided the perfect opportunity for the company to evaluate its networking solutions. Previously, QDOBA outsourced its entire network—from access points and switches to firewalls and Wi-Fi controllers—to a third party that integrated multiple vendors. This approach became complex, inflexible, and challenging to manage as QDOBA grew, resulting in higher operational costs, more frequent downtime, a lower quality guest experience, and even lost revenue.
Gary Burgess, QDOBA’s Director of Infrastructure and Security, led an initiative to replace the company’s entire network. His team wanted to bring network management in-house and sought a modern, centrally managed, cloud-based solution that was easy and fast to deploy.
A network infrastructure that met these requirements would provide the agility to quickly and reliably support new business and technology requirements, while also regaining control of day-to-day operations and strategic technology decisions. Protecting customer and payment data is critical for restaurants, so QDOBA also wanted to ensure the security of its solution while accommodating future plans on the journey to a full SASE (Secure Access Service Edge) architecture.
Seamless connectivity, advanced security
QDOBA selected a full-stack Cisco Meraki cloud-managed platform to seamlessly connect its restaurant locations and corporate headquarters. Burgess and his team standardized on Meraki MR access points for Wi-Fi connectivity in each restaurant, deploying those, along with Meraki MS for switching and Meraki MG cellular gateways, to provide backup should the internet ever go out at a location.
QDOBA combined Meraki MX SD-WAN and security services from Cisco Umbrella as the first step on its journey to a SASE architecture. Now, the QDOBA network and security teams can proactively identify new threats and coordinate remediation across their operations in real time. Because the network is cloud-based, it can be managed from the Meraki dashboard, which provides visibility into QDOBA’s network from a single location.
Accelerating the time to benefit
Planning and deployment have been dramatically simplified due to the Meraki framework-based approach. Burgess noted the network buildout timeline was shortened from more than two months with a traditional approach to just two weeks with Cisco Meraki.
Accelerating the time to benefit has been a huge win for QDOBA. Here is a sampling of the results the company has experienced:
- Anticipated savings of $300,000 in support costs per year
- Increased network uptime, leading to increased sales and better customer experiences
- Unprecedented visibility into technical issues via the Meraki dashboard—from anywhere
- Shortened implementation timeline for 15 to 20 new deployments per week
For Burgess and his team, Meraki has delivered greater simplicity for their operations with a side of enhanced security and visibility into the entire network. For QDOBA’s guests, whether they’re visiting in-person or ordering online, it means delicious fresh food and a guest experience that’s second to none.