Voice Services Case Study

Enhanced Communication is a Key Ingredient in Rosa Mexicano's Success (Cont'd)

About Rosa Mexicano

Rosa Mexicano Facts

Business Needs

Support upscale restaurant’s nationwide expansion with end-to-end communications platform and tools

Networking Solution

Scalable, converged voice, data and video solution along with integrated conferencing platform

Business Value

Cost savings and streamlined business processes; enhanced information sharing and collaboration

Industry Focus

Restaurant

Size

$140 million in annual sales

Rosa Mexicano opened in Manhattan in 1984 to immediate acclaim, redefining expectations with its authentic Mexican cooking, dramatic décor and festive atmosphere. The restaurant today employs nearly 1,000 people at 15 locations from New York to Miami to Los Angeles, serving award-winning dishes that remain faithful to traditional Mexican roots while incorporating regional accents and innovations.

Situation

As Rosa Mexicano added locations, handling daily credit card transactions and inventory requirements as well as disseminating information to its growing number of employees became more challenging. While the increasing popularity of Facebook, Twitter and Yelp presented opportunities to attract customers, the company lacked the network infrastructure to take advantage of social media marketing. Rosa Mexicano needed a uniform approach to expedite growth by strengthening internal and external communications capabilities.

Solution

AT&T IP Flexible Reach with AT&T Business in a Box® give Rosa Mexicano a stable, easily scalable platform for voice, data and Internet services for its restaurants. The result is improved network productivity and a 40 percent savings on communications costs. The company also uses AT&T Connect® Web Conferencing to promote employee collaboration, provide tools to improve the efficiency and consistency of existing locations, and support the planning, construction and launch of new restaurants.

The Diverse Flavors of Mexico

Passion and authenticity drove Rosa Mexicano’s evolution from a single location to a thriving international operation. The restaurants’ award-winning dishes, like guacamole prepared tableside in a lava-rock mortar, remain faithful to their traditional roots while incorporating surprising regional accents. Since 1984 when Rosa Mexicano opened its original restaurant in midtown Manhattan, it has earned the loyalty of thousands of patrons with its outstanding menu, the dramatic beauty of each restaurant and the hospitality of its servers.

We saw a passion in AT&T that the other companies just didn’t have,” he said. “AT&T made it clear that they just didn’t want to sell us something… they wanted to work with us to make our business more successful.”

Raymond Fischer, Vice President of Real Estate and Development, Rosa Mexicano

“It all starts with passion,” said Raymond Fischer, Rosa Mexicano Vice President of Real Estate and Development. “The company is very passionate about quality of our food and service. We have one of the best training programs in the industry for our wait staff and managers.” Customer service is a top priority for Rosa Mexicano, Fischer said. “We refer to customers as guests and we treat them like they’re guests in our home.”

People responded to the hospitality and the diverse flavors of Mexico – the first Rosa Mexicano regularly served hundreds of meals a day. This led the company to open a second location in 2000 near Manhattan’s Lincoln Center and to begin developing the Rosa Mexicano brand in other states.

Today there are more than a dozen locations, including three in New York and restaurants in Boston, Miami, Los Angeles, and even Panama City, Panama. Unlike many growing companies, Rosa Mexicano funds the vast majority of its development from cash flow. “The restaurant industry is particularly volatile,” Fischer said. “It has suffered tremendously in the past few years, so we have adopted a very conservative, fiscally responsible approach to doing business.” Because the company is privately held, he said, there is less pressure to turn profits but greater pressure to shepherd the company carefully to maintain the integrity of its brand.

From Communications Chaos to Continuity

Fischer is responsible for choosing locations for new restaurants, managing the design process, overseeing construction or renovations and negotiating leases. As the company embarked on its growth strategy, day-to-day management became increasingly difficult. “We’re very small on the upper management end and so found it very challenging to disseminate information to the 900 or 1,000 people that all of a sudden were working with the company,” he said.

It was also expensive and time consuming to choose phone, computer and Internet systems that could scale as Rosa Mexicano grew, handle the increased number of credit card transactions and inventory transactions and take advantage of burgeoning social media. “Twitter, Facebook and Yelp have come online with a vengeance in the last 10 years,” Fischer said. “And if you're not poised to take advantage of that you find yourself getting left behind pretty quickly.”

Fischer recognized the need to create an infrastructure that would connect staff at all Rosa Mexicano locations and enable them to use social media to diversify marketing efforts. “But we were spending tons of money on phone bills and DSL lines and there was no commonality across the company,” Fischer said. “I decided that if I could bring some order to the chaos, it would probably give the company a lower operating cost and provide some continuity.”

After considering several providers, Fischer chose AT&T to create a streamlined infrastructure for the growing company. “We saw a passion in AT&T that the other companies just didn’t have,” he said. “AT&T made it clear that they just didn’t want to sell us something… they wanted to work with us to make our business more successful.”

Rosa Mexicano uses AT&T IP Flexible Reach, which combines voice with Internet services, and AT&T Business in a Box, which provides data and voice service over a single network connection and managed device. This enables the company to support the deployment of Voice over IP service using its existing phones. “At the time we had eight or nine restaurants and didn’t want to spend two or three thousand dollars on new hardware,” he said. “The solution that AT&T brought to the table let us use the equipment we already had.” And with restaurant space at a premium, AT&T Business in a Box only requires one small router.

An Immediate Drop in Costs

The AT&T solution created immediate savings for Rosa Mexicano. “We had eight phone lines at each location, plus a DSL or Internet cable,” he said. AT&T analyzed the restaurants’ usage history and recommended decreasing that number to five. The company also recognized that it was paying high rates for long distance services that through the Voice over IP capabilities of AT&T IP Flexible Reach were now eliminated for its intra-company calling.

Fischer had predicted a 35 percent savings on communications expenses by moving to AT&T IP Flexible Reach, but actually achieved a larger savings. “We cut about $350 per month per location, so we dropped our costs by 40 percent,” he said.

AT&T IP Flexible Reach makes it easier for restaurants to connect with company headquarters and with one another. “Our restaurants are definitely not islands,” he said. Each restaurant submits daily sales reports, inventories, purchase orders and other information to the corporate office, which in turn shares operational strategy as well as special promotions like Cinco de Mayo and Mexican Passover. “As our chef-in-residence brings new menu items to the table, all of it has to be communicated to the field in real time and very accurately,” Fischer said.

AT&T solutions also help all of the restaurant stay ahead of current trends, like adding healthier menu items, introducing tapas-style dining options with smaller portions and serving meals family style. “We’re constantly looking for new ways to increase the flow into our restaurants and build loyalty in our guests,” he said. As the restaurants roll out a new menu this month, officials count on AT&T to communicate the innovations to all locations.

Reinforcing the Passion

To facilitate voice, web and video conference calling, Rosa Mexicano employs AT&T Connect. “We use it for weekly project calls for construction projects with contractors, architects, engineers and everybody that's associated with the construction,” he said.

The restaurant’s executive management team uses AT&T Connect to conduct weekly meetings with regional managers to discuss issues and share ideas. “There's a very frequent exchange of information between restaurants and we do regular management programs with staff,” he said. “We feel that if our employees are well informed and understand why something is important, they’ll do a better job.”

Rosa Mexicano invests regularly in its personnel by providing training to reinforce the values of hospitality, excellent service and authentic cuisine that sets the restaurant apart from its competitors. “This reinforces the passion that everyone here seems to have,” Fischer said.

The company prides itself on giving people opportunities for advancement. HR managers use AT&T Connect to accommodate employees who want to move to another position or location; they also use it for preliminary interviews with outsiders seeking to work for Rosa Mexicano. “AT&T Connect is our sole conferencing vehicle,” Fischer said. “It’s very user-friendly and economical.”

Instead of sending documents by email, which sometimes caused problems when all locations didn’t have the latest software, the restaurant uses AT&T Connect to easily share them during conferences. “It’s always available,” Fischer said. “I can do an ad hoc meeting with no notice. I don’t have to set up a bridge or call anyone. It’s a very flexible tool that works the way I need to work.”

A Blueprint for Future Locations

As Rosa Mexicano opens new restaurants, AT&T makes it easy for Fischer to equip them with the communication tools they need to succeed. “It’s as easy as sending an email – here’s where we’re opening and here’s the date, and AT&T takes care of what we need,” he said.

His relationship with the AT&T account team has simplified his job, Fischer said. “There’s a continuity that I greatly appreciate,” he said. “I don’t have to re-explain things every time we open a new location. It’s a very supportive program.”

Fischer understands that challenges arise for every company. “I know that at some point in time, problems can arise regardless of what you do. What matters to me is how you deal with that,” he said. “We get a very fast response from AT&T, and our account team is always willing to jump in and escalate things for us if need be.”

Rosa Mexicano will open two new restaurants within the next few months, and is actively researching other locations that would welcome its unique brand of upscale, modern Mexican cuisine. “It’s a tough time in this economy,” Fischer said, “But that also means that there are some pretty good opportunities out there if you can find them.”

The restaurant recently launched a “Flavors of Mexico” program that features seasonal menu celebrations along with new and exciting dishes. Fischer looks to his AT&T solutions to communicate this program and other innovations to customers. “This is a very passionate pursuit for us,” he said. “It all comes back to passion.”

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