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Swedish fast-food chain Max Hamburgerrestauranger (Max Burger) is tapping into cloud and mobile to better serve its international customer base.
According to Johnny Bröms, the company’s CIO, the IT department is engaged in finding new digital ways to solve problems for the company and its customers.
“When you go to a fast-food restaurant, you don’t want to stand in a queue; you want to order as fast as possible and you want to have your food fresh,” he says.
If you visit one of Max's 120 restaurants across Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the company’s focus on digital customer experience is clear. Instead of queuing at conventional tills, customers can use self-service kiosks with custom-built interfaces to tailor, order and pay for their meal before picking it up from designated counters.
In Sweden this has been taken a step further with the introduction of iOS and Android mobile apps. This allows customers to order and pay for food in advance, then collect it at the time and restaurant most convenient for them.
Embracing this multichannel approach has been an important step for the company founded in 1968. Bröms claims today digital sales channels account for almost half of Max’s annual turnover of approximately €270m.
“We have seen a real move from the traditional sales counters to the kiosks,” he says. “The average cost of an order is higher on the kiosks than at the traditional tills, and it’s even higher on the mobile app.”
Bröms puts this down to time: you have more time to think about your order from the privacy of your own phone.
However, Max’s digital strategy has not always been as successful. The first express kiosks were introduced back in 2007, but the response then – even in tech-savvy Sweden – was mild.
“Neither the customer nor the technology were there yet,” says Bröms. “It took almost another four years before our customers really started to use our digital platforms.”
A core element in driving Max’s digital channels has been a new central sales platform implemented in 2014 to support the company’s growth and various sales channels. In the past nine years alone the fast-food chain has opened around 70 new restaurants.
The platform has been built on top of Oracle’s point-of-sale hospitality software and connects to Max’s kiosk, mobile and web channels to report – among other things – sales and inventory data across the company’s restaurants.
For Bröms the main challenge in building the platform has been to ensure a fully automated data process from the moment a customer buys food, to follow-up reporting on financial and business intelligence systems. It is this data the company taps into to make decisions on product changes, such as the introduction of a new vegetarian menu, new campaigns or new locations.
“We are there now, but it has been a huge challenge for us to ensure everything fits together and that we understand the needs of each department, and transfer those needs to the technical platform,” says Bröms.
One of the latest integrations was Max’s mobile app launched in June 2015. According to Bröms, although mobile shopping has increased in retail it still represents less than 1% of food related e-commerce.
“Even if you are used to [shopping] on mobile it takes time to get used to a new way of ordering,” he says. “When we started with our mobile app, there weren’t many customers using it, but one year on it’s being used more and more.”
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Bröms had a clear objective when he took the IT reigns at Max in 2007: to transform the family-owned company’s IT focus from cost to driving business. Bröms has standardised processes, started the move from an on-premise IT environment to a hybrid model, and works closely with a network of service providers.
“Today we are a governance organisation that manages all our IT suppliers. We work very closely with our businesses and translate their needs to technical solutions,” he explains.
To maximise the efficiency of Max’s small IT team (eight people in-house and eight consultants), its role has been divided into two distinctive parts: one works with support and operational issues, while the other focuses on project delivery, agreements and compliance.
Bröms does not hide the fact that getting the whole company behind business-orientated IT has not been easy. But he sees it as the role of a modern CIO to get involved with other business functions and ensure everybody understands one another.
“I have a technical background. My challenge has been to develop the business side so I can speak to the business the way they want and translate that back to my organisation,” says Bröms.
Cloud for expansion
Max is keen to enter to new markets and is currently negotiating franchising deals in mainland Europe. While the company owns most of its restaurants in Sweden, it mainly uses a franchising model outside its home market. Bröms believes the cloud is ideal to support this expansion.
“[In a cloud environment] we can manage the sales of all different countries from one place. We can ensure a consistent customer brand experience across all the locations and simplified data reporting, as we will have one global system,” he says. “Also when you go to a new country it’s easier to deploy a cloud-based platform [than an on-premise system].”
Max has already moved various IT systems, such as recruiting, into cloud and the IT systems for its franchise restaurants will soon follow. The company is also planning to move its sales platform piece by piece to the cloud using Oracle’s cloud-based hospitality service.
But Bröms is not taking any risk with the migration. The new service will first be tried out as an on-premise setup to test that everything, particularly integrations, work without a hitch.
“It is a huge venture for us to see how we can transport legacy, on-premise systems into the cloud and still keep on following up on everything. You still need to have [access to] the same numbers and the automated processes,” stresses Bröms.
At the same time the fast-food chain is continually working to further develop its sales platform and digital tools to drive sales and customer experience. Bröms says Max currently has at least 24 IT projects ongoing.
“For example, we are looking into new drive-in solutions, and a couple of new payment and ordering methods. In the end it is all about understanding the customer and what they want and trying to find a way to deliver that,” he concludes.