Case Study: Burger King upgrades to

Burger King Corp. is serving an upgrade of SAP AG's business applications to its end users, joining a growing number of fast food companies that are standardizing their systems on packaged enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications.

The Miami-based company last month upgraded its installation of SAP's human resources and finance applications to Version 4.6c of R/3. That sets the stage for a planned continued upgrade of Burger King's existing SAP R/3 ERP application to the suite.

Rafael Sanchez, Burger King's CIO, last week said that during the next year, the company also plans to turn on treasury, real estate, budget management and self-service human resources applications as part of the migration.

The big appeal of mySAP to Burger King is the software's integration capabilities and technical maturation, Sanchez said. Between about 60% and 70% of the custom modifications in SAP's earlier finance and human resources releases will be replaced by mySAP functionality, he said. In addition, the real estate management application will replace a custom application written in SAP's ABAP programming language, Sanchez said.

Burger King was one of the first companies in the fast food business to forsake using a hodgepodge of homegrown applications so it could standardize on ERP software. In general, however, companies in industries such as fast food and retail have been slower to adopt ERP technology than manufacturers, said Peter Abell, an analyst at Boston-based AMR Research Inc.

Companies sometimes face considerable rollout challenges, especially if their corporate IT systems are linked to individual stores or franchises that have workers who are relatively unfamiliar with technology, Abell said.

Burger King isn't alone in turning to a third party. Chick-Fil-A Inc., an Atlanta-based fast food chain, ties its 1,000 restaurants in 34 states to its data center's core ERP system via a virtual private network. The data center uses Oracle Corp. financials to aggregate sales and daily business data, said Mark Brackett, director of information systems at Chick-Fil-A.

Additionally, Chick-Fil-A plans to add Oracle Internet Expenses to the ERP system within the next month.

Last August, Chick-Fil-A upgraded to Oracle's E-Business Suite 11i from version 10.7, installing human resources, financials and payroll applications while adding receivables, cash management and order management modules.

Brackett said the software, which runs on HP-UX servers, helped Chick-Fil-A automate its accounting, allowing it to open new stores without having to add a commensurate number of new employees to support them.

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