Sandwich Shop Replaces Paper Manuals With iPads

By William Atkinson

Sandwich Shop Replaces Paper Manuals With iPads

By William Atkinson

Based in Las Vegas, Capriotti's Sandwich Shop is a national gourmet sub franchise, with 87 company-owned and franchise restaurants in 12 states and a nearly 40-year history.

Recently, its CIO, Jason Smylie, found a way to save money and improve the efficiency of delivering the company's training materials to new franchisees. Instead of continuing to pay for paper, printing and shipping costs to send original and updated copies of training manuals to franchisees, Smylie decided to buy an iPad for each new franchisee and provide the documentation electronically.

"I have always been a proponent of eliminating paper and extra work, such as operations manuals that sometimes contain hundreds of pages," says Smylie. "I always felt it would be more cost effective and efficient to have these documents in electronic form."

Several years ago, Smylie tried to put his idea into practice, but the results were limited. "At the time, we converted everything to PDF and posted it all on our website," he says. "However, we ultimately got a lot of pushback from our franchisees, and the idea never gained any traction. They said that the information wasn't as readily accessible as they needed it to be."

With the widespread popularity of the iPad during the last several years, though, Smylie realized it would be a convenient tool for employees to use to electronically receive information--and a logical replacement for paper operations manuals.

All new franchisees now receive a fully loaded iPad to use in the training leading up to opening day, as well as for the subsequent day-to-day operations. Each iPad is with an array of customized tools for Capriotti’s managers. The iPads include digital manuals, operations information, the ability to connect with suppliers, and access to the company's intranet. "We have also set them up so there is a quick link to all of our social media channels," says Smylie. "As a result, franchisees can see the latest on our Twitter feed, our Facebook page, and our YouTube channel. We also upload a lot of photos of our products, our restaurants, our employees, and our customers to give them a sense of our history and culture."

The iPads also offer one-click access to all of the company's web-based tools. "Franchisees had access to these in the past,” says Smylie, “but they would have to sit in front of their computers to access them."

Training new franchisees to use the iPads was easy, says Smylie. "You would be hard pressed to find someone who has never used an iPad.”

All iPads become the property of the franchisees, and are theirs to use in their business and personal lives, and are equipped with protective and personalized covers.

Sandwich Shop Replaces Paper Manuals With iPads

Moving forward, Capriotti's will provide iPads to only new franchisees. For existing franchisees, the electronic version of the operations manual will be available in the near future in a wiki format, and franchisees will be able to access it through their mobile phones, their own iPads, or from any computer with Internet access.

In the past, when Capriotti’s operated about 80 stores, it was spending more than $32,000 a year on the hard-copy manual system. It cost just more than $400 a year to print a manual and the quarterly updates, and to ship copies. Now, not only is the company saving this expense, but it will continue to save even more as new stores open. (Currently, Capriotti’s plans to open about 25 new locations a year.)

Another benefit is that, by engaging franchisees with iPads, the training is more efficient and effective. "And, besides the benefits of saving money on paper manuals and reaping the improved efficiencies, providing potential franchisees with free iPads makes our business more attractive to them in the first place," says Smylie.

The future? Capriotti's is in process of rolling out a new online ordering system. One feature will be the ability to place orders directly to the shop's POS system. "Having Wi-Fi and iPads in our stores allows us to handle 'line-busters,'" Smylie says. "In other words, in the restaurants where we tend to have lines of customers going out the door, employees with iPads can take orders from customers before the customers even reach the front counter."

This article was originally published on 02-20-2013