Mister Beacon Episode #185
Navigating the Future of Quick Service Restaurants and IoTOctober 03, 2023
In this episode of Mr. Beacon, we dive deep into the world of Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) and explore how technology, particularly IoT technologies, are reshaping the QSR landscape. Our guest, Rick Buttner, an independent consultant with a wealth of experience in the industry, sheds light on the exciting developments and challenges facing QSRs today.
Quick Service Restaurants, or QSRs, are the go-to dining choice for many, specializing in everything from chicken and burgers to tacos. With a focus on speed, efficiency, and high customer volume, these establishments play a significant role in American society—did you know that 1 in 2 Americans will work at a QSR at some point in their lives, with 1 in 8 working at iconic chains like McDonald's?
Rick Butttner, who once worked with IPC, a franchisee-owned purchasing cooperative founded in 1996, brings his insider perspective. IPC's mission to optimize the food supply chain resonates with QSRs' need for quick and cost-effective sourcing. Rick discusses how supply chain technologies are the next frontier for QSR investments, where IoT devices play a crucial role in ensuring food safety and traceability.
We also explore the differences between Fast Casual and QSRs. While Fast Casual chains like Panera offer broader menus and longer dining experiences, QSRs rely on drive-thrus and mobile apps to enhance efficiency, delivering orders faster and more conveniently. Is Starbucks a QSR or Fast Casual? Find out in this episode!
FSMA 204, the looming regulatory deadline is causing a stir in the QSR world. Some brands are procrastinating, hoping for delayed enforcement after 2026, but the pressure to meet these new requirements is mounting.
We also discuss EDI (Electronic Data Interchange), a key element in standardizing data exchange across different companies. Rick provides insights into how EDI is helping QSRs adapt to evolving industry demands.
Whether you're a tech enthusiast, a QSR aficionado, or simply curious about how IoT is revolutionizing the food service industry, this episode is a must-listen.
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Steve Statler 00:00
Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This is going to be a great show. We're talking about food safety with a veteran of the quick service, business, quick services, fast food to you and me. And it's something that almost everyone in the developed world consumes on a regular basis. So it's an amazing area, if you're a technologist focus on, you want your technology in the hands of huge business that has masses of products and customers. And then QSR is a great area of focus. It's something that I have done throughout my career, and there's a lot to learn about it. Obviously, we all know what a hamburger is. But you lift up the covers and the operations and the technology behind the scenes. Very significant. And so Rick Butner is stepping out from the time that he's worked in the orbit of subway and IPC, which is a supplier consortium, that's part of the subway ecosystem. And he is focusing on the FDA is FISMA 204. Regulation, the rule that everyone that's involved in food has to comply with, and he spent a lot of time thinking about it, and preparing for it in one of the biggest food businesses in the world. So he knows a lot. He's also part of the GS one Food Safety Modernization Act 204 Working Group, which I've had the pleasure of joining myself, and I can tell you that he is an insider, in that respect, you know, the one of the vendors, so do tune in is also interesting guy, I hope you stay to hear his music choices. At the end of the show, great show about food, we all eat, about technology that many of us are either selling or implementing, and a critical driver for food and technology coming together, which is FISMA. Hope you enjoy. The Mr. Beacon ambient IoT podcast is sponsored by Wiliot, bringing intelligence to every single thing. Well, Rick, welcome to the podcast. It's a real pleasure and a privilege to have you on, you've got a ton of experience in this area that we're focusing on QSR quick service restaurants. So welcome to the show.
Rick Buttner 02:42
Thank you very much. See, I appreciate the opportunity to be on the show.
Steve Statler 02:47
So we'll, we'll spend some time defining what QSR is the food services business in in a minute, but, you know, essentially fast food restaurants. And, you know, ever since I started focusing on technology and retail, I'd become a huge advocate, and enthusiastic about QSR. And my wife was saying, why QSR? Why? Why are you talking about QSR on IoT podcast, but you know, it's a bit like music. If we were a band, If Ricky and I started a band, we'd probably have a lot of fun. But the fun really starts if people are listening and using engaging with you. And if you can get a hit, then then it becomes meaningful. You can change things influence things. And you know, the reality is certainly here in America. I think the stat is like, one in three people will go to a quick service restaurant during the week. Oh, that's what I read. Maybe you have better data on that, Rick, but we all shop we all eat, and what better way as technologists who want to have people use our stuff than looking at QSR. And I think QSR is all about scale and efficiency, you know, beyond I mean, you care about efficiency and everything but you're dealing with a huge volumes and your operational staff are young and pretty inexperienced. And I often look back at my early days of McDonald's when I was a teenager as being the closest to joining the military. You know, when you take this raggedy crew you deliver a quality experience at scale. And you know, the reality is, even during World War Two, only 10% of America served in the in the armed forces but one in three of the population working in a QSR. So it's shaping us as consumers it's shaping us as as workers, so I think it's very signal The current and the link with technology is strong. Rick, you're an expert in this area. I'm going to ask you about your background again, just briefly, but any comments on what I've said, Do you want to disagree with or amplify anything? That I've said just Yeah,
Rick Buttner 05:20
No, I completely agree, in fact, even saw an ad by McDonald's, like one in eight people, you know, start there, that's their first job is working at a McDonald's. And if you take the entire QSR industry, that number has got to be close to 50% of the kids, it's started out getting a job, do it in a QSR of one one shape or fashion. And the industry is very dynamic. It is one that doesn't change easily, though. Because of what you said, they're so regimented, and they're so focused on their brand and their products, and doing things the way they've always done it. That changes, changes and easy in some most QSR. So I can't say all, some of them do change and adapt, but a lot of them don't. So I think that's what makes it so right for technology. I think it really needs technology.
Steve Statler 06:30
As I was saying in the the intro, you've got a ton of experience, you've you've worked as a manager of a store of store of restaurants, you've worked. You've worked at Subway at at IPC. So I want to use this time with you to cover three things. One is, let's let's get the audience up to speed on QSR. Let's define it and explain a little bit about how it works. Because even though we all use it, or most of us use it, all the people don't know what's going on behind the scenes. I do want to talk about the technology and I want to talk about food safety. FISMA 204, you've been very active in that area. And I think we both agree that this is a catalyst for driving change and technology into this massive industry. That is everywhere, you know, every out and pretty much as some guide of QSR even the smallest town will probably have a subway in it. So let's, let's start off with how do you define QSR? What is QSR?
Rick Buttner 07:45
Well, it stands for quick serve restaurant. And generally it's it's a restaurant that you go into that has a a focus, whether it's chicken, whether it's hamburgers, whether it's sandwiches, pizza, they have a specialty, and their menus tend to be somewhat limited. But their goal is to get you in and out quickly. That's the quick serve. And they're they're focused on doing a lot of customers in a day. They're not happy with somebody that that, you know, turning a table every hour, they're they're wanting to turn hundreds of people through a restaurant within an hour if they can. So simplicity efficiency is is key to their operations. very repeatable, easy to teach, easy to train, new new employees and generally, the QSR industry, we have about a 250% turnover in the course of a year, maybe even higher in some so you are training people all the time. That's why you have to have simplicity and an ease of training in the difference between what they called fast casual, and QSR is fast, fast casual, like an era for instance, lab a much broader menu. They want people to come in and and stay in hang out and get you know a sandwich and or bowl of soup and stick around and have dessert maybe coffee later and so they're not as interested in getting people in and out quickly. That has a your typical QSR
Steve Statler 09:40
So there's some very obvious candidates for that category. The subway, McDonald's, Burger King, KFC, all of those. What about Starbucks? Is Starbucks a QSR? Or is it a fast casual or?
Rick Buttner 09:55
I think Starbucks is more QSR They want to get people in and out. Another thing most QSR is have done is done a very good job of developing a mobile app. Yes. So they can get orders ahead of time. And they don't even have to greet the customer. They come in and grab it. And they go, yeah. So Starbucks should set that category, I think. And drive
Steve Statler 10:20
thru is a huge part of their business, which seems to be another attribute of of, of QSR. As well, though, obviously, the pandemic and all that sort of stuff. There's more a kind of omni channel thing for, for the fast casual, folks. And I was surprised that that, you know, increasingly, drive thru can be the biggest part of the QSR business, right?
Rick Buttner 10:47
Oh, absolutely. You look at Chick fil A, and some of them you look at they have three drive thru lanes, you know, and they're busy all day long. I mean, it's really kind of mind numbing to see to see how many people go through their drive throughs in a day. But yeah, it's drive thru is a is a, usually a high percentage of their business.
Steve Statler 11:10
It's such a huge market, and we consume so much of it. It seems like, well, this is like printing money. But it turns out, it's actually pretty hard to run these operations. And I want to talk about one thing that is sort of like the strength and the weakness of QSR, which is the franchise model. And it seems like franchising and QSR that that goes hand in hand as well. I know there are some operations that don't I think like what is it White Castle is wholly owned. The original quick service restaurant, arguably, is White Castle, made famous by the movie but and then there's like in and outs and so forth. But generally, am I right in saying that franchising is a big part of that business?
Rick Buttner 12:03
It is. And you know, the world I came from at Subway, we were under percent franchise, there was no company owned restaurants. And I think a lot of brands over the past decade, have gone away from corporate ownership, to franchising and they keep a small portion of restaurant as company restaurants so they can go in and play and do whatever they want to do. But they find it more profitable to franchise because you don't have the real estate you don't have the building upkeep and the equipment, upkeep and all this that goes into into owning a restaurant. So they're freeing up capital to do other things. So they're gonna franchise.
Steve Statler 12:55
So what if I want to open up a QSR? And I'm I don't want to start from scratch. How much does it cost me to buy a license QSR license and and what do I get for money?
Rick Buttner 13:14
That really varies brand to brand. I mean, it's very wise. We used to say that for subway, you can open I forget what it was six or seven subways for the cost of opening one McDonald's. So it, it really varies and the services that they provide very generally, the brand has to be able to enable the franchisee to operate their restaurant the way that the brand wants it operated. That's the basic bottom line premise of being a franchisee the, the brand has to provide you the tools, or they'll provide you the nohow and maybe you know this where you buy the equipment, this is what you need to do. And here's training materials for your for your staff. And others get much more involved. But it's it's very, it's there's a wide range,
Steve Statler 14:19
it can be hundreds of 1000s of dollars that are right to buy. It can be Yeah. And the flip side of that which you know, in trying to sell technology to cure ourselves. The pushback that I've received is well, you know, we don't actually own the restaurants. And so this technology seems great. But we can't just tell the operators what they do in every aspect of the business and clearly this is a it varies type answer as well right? But your experiences I guess deepest at Subway And I remember, certainly, quite a few years ago, there was a lot of fragmentation of the point of sale platforms. And McDonald's was like one of the first, when I worked in McDonald's, it was in 1979. And we were using the same software platform that they were using in Dallas, Texas, you know, it was, it was amazing. And that, and that was, I think, in a, in an era where a lot of people had mechanical, positive cells, we were pressing levers, and there were there were bells going off as the cash drawer, shut out. The whole order management and inventory was being driven. But now I think it's increasingly is that part of the package? Like if I was to buy a Subway franchise, would they tell me, here's where you get your point of sale devices? And they all are using the same software release for the point of sale system?
Rick Buttner 16:03
Yes, they are. Yeah, they've they've come a long way in that regard. And I, you know, I think he kind of hit on it a little bit. For QSR. Ours, I think their focus on technology that they've invested in, has been focusing on some on tools that will enhance the customer experience, whether it be POS systems, digital menu boards, mobile apps, that's where their investments have focused on, because as you as you said, they, they will come back and say, I don't own the brand, I don't own the supply chain, I don't, you know, that's not my realm of responsibility. From day to day, what I do is I ring up sales and greet customers and try to make their experience the best possible. So that's where I think you'll see a lot of QSR is have invested money. And I think, almost to the exclusion of investing in supply chain technologies, supply chain technologies are kind of the the last frontier when it comes to QSR. Ours, in my opinion.
Steve Statler 17:23
So if I'm running a QSR, can I buy my product from Who do I buy my product from? This is really,
Rick Buttner 17:31
They will tell you, yeah, it will tell you, this is a product you have to buy and you have to buy it in your area, this is your distributor, and open an account with US distributor, and they'll tell you what days you're gonna get your orders.
Steve Statler 17:46
So you used to work for IBC this is probably a very good case study. Can you explain a bit about who IPC is and how they relate to Subway and its franchisees?
Rick Buttner 18:01
IP IPC was started in 1996. You know, subway has been around since 1965. So it was, you know, it got into the game when there were probably 50,000 restaurants. And now in North America IPC services owe about 25,000 restaurants. But IPC is a franchisee owned, purchasing cooperative. And that model is not unusual in the in the QSR industry, quite a few other brands have purchasing cooperatives. And our role was to Subway would still give us specs for the product. They were required to approve suppliers and the products that they produce. But our job was to optimize the supply chain to get it to the restaurants as efficiently and cheaply as possible. So they could have lower food costs. So that was basically the model of IPC and we we are the franchisees are their members they are their members but they also are their owners so there's been a franchisee Board of Directors which include a few other people now but yeah, that's kind of the model for purchasing cooperative serie franchisee focus. It has to have a good relationship with the brand can operate outside the brand. But it's it's there to drive efficiencies for for the franchisees.
Steve Statler 20:01
So in terms of a source of technology for the franchisees, then potentially that cooperative is, is providing technology as well as delivering blondes and British and that sort of thing I see.
Rick Buttner 20:19
Yes, I mean, I can't speak for all of them. But at Subway, we had developed a a in restaurant inventory management tool that that IPC license for all the franchisees to use free of charge. And that tool was initially for taking inventory, but then it evolved into receiving your your inventory, your deliveries in could do that automatically, so that the restaurant manager didn't have to keep on truckin to their, to the POS, it also turned into our ordering platform, all of our restaurants will order through through that tool as well. So, so yes, there are technology tools that supply chain, teams and or purchasing cooperatives can help develop to to help franchisees operate more efficiently. Very good.
Steve Statler 21:24
Well, there's so much to talk about. But I think just having a little bit of a wallow in all of the technology that is being used, you touched on a number of the the technology, trends and deliverables a little bit earlier in our conversation, but this this podcasts about IoT, and really, we started primarily on Bluetooth beacons. And, of course, Bluetooth beacons have been deployed in quick service restaurants fairly extensively, although not not as much as I was expecting them. And probably one of the most notable deployments is by McDonald's. And I believe they use radius networks devices, you see these table tents, and they end up on the on the tables. And increasingly, you know, I remember when I worked at a QSR, it was, I think, the 14th McDonald's in the entire United Kingdom. And so people in England hadn't been trained on what to do in a fast food place. So people would sit at the table and start shouting us as we stood behind the counter saying, you know, when is the person coming to take my order? And where's the cutlery? And why are the potions so small of these things that you're calling french fries that I call chips? And it was, it was quite bizarre at first, but now, you know, it's second nature to every teenager in the United Kingdom, what to do in a McDonald's or subway or, but, and obviously, that process flows differently in different categories of QSR. But it seems now that there's the trial, it seems like QSR is trying to eliminate the order taking, and then focusing on the delivery. And if they have to go to your table to do it, then they'll they'll do I guess they'd prefer you to come up and, and pick it up yourself. So that seems to be one area of figuring out where the customer is, is sometimes a desirable thing. Having technology to look at who's in the driving queue and what order they ended up as is another area. Can you speak to any other major kind of deployments of what might be called Internet of Things technology in, in in FOSS food that you think is notable or just technology in general?
Rick Buttner 24:01
Yeah, I think one that's pretty notable, and I think very valuable, is temperature monitoring. That is something that a lot of QSR is due and do it very effectively in the supply chain for the food. Well, even in the restaurant, once it's there. Somebody could Prop A cooler door open and get called up front, and they never close it. And eventually, it's gonna send an alarm off to people that you know, can see it on their phone. Yeah, so I think temperature monitoring within the restaurant is, is a very good use of IoT.
Steve Statler 24:44
You said on their phone. So is, you know, we're all used to the McDonald's app, the subway app. But is there another app that to what extent does store managers and workers have an app these days because that's a Key elements, I think,
Rick Buttner 25:01
I think a lot of restaurants do have apps, they might have a iPad that they use in the restaurant is sort of there. It's really more of an operations app. It tells them, Okay, it's time to take temperatures, Okay, it's time to, you know, whatever mopped the floor, it cleaned the bathrooms, whatever, it gives them the whole list of things that they're supposed to do throughout throughout the day. And it is kind of their operations manager. But a lot of those IoT devices feed into that, where it says, Yo, check the cooler, the temperature of the cooler, it's fine, check the temperature of the cooler on the back line. It's fine, you know, so IoT devices in those environments is, makes it easier for them and more reliable, quite frankly, for them to go in and record the temperatures, because it's amazing when you have the old chart on a clipboard, man every day that cooler is 34 degrees, it never varies from 34 degrees, because people just think that's the answer that they need to put there. So they don't bother checking it, probably and they just put 34 degrees. I think there are other uses for IoT devices also, that you can hook them up to measure the, the efficiency of, of your equipment, how many times does your compressor cycle on and off? Is it getting to the point where it's doing it to Austin and costing you money and you'd be better off paying for a service call to get it cleaned and checked out. And rather than having your whole cooler freezer, go down and and waste all the food that's in there. So there are opportunities for devices to do that. And then once again, that can go to your to your operations program, whether it's on a tablet or an iPhone or whatever. So that you can, you know, maintain your equipment more efficiently.
Steve Statler 27:18
Very good. Well, let's talk a bit about supply chain and the opportunity there. You know, what are your thoughts on the state of the art for managing supply chain? If that's the new frontier? Where are we and where do you think this needs to go? And and how does the new FDA rule? I mean, it's it's it's actually been at work. It's been developed over many, many years. So it's for some people, but it's now the law of the land. And we have until January the 20th 2026, to comply, and on the other side of that there's potentially civil criminal penalties for not comply. And certainly huge reputational risk, because whilst some people will probably be late other people won't. And so how's that gonna make people look? So? Tell us a bit, but FISMA 204, as we call it, for sure. Is not the only thing that's happening in supply chain? What is the current state of the art in terms of managing supply chains? Would you say and where are the opportunities there?
Rick Buttner 28:32
Let me just go back and touch on FISMA 204. First, if I could get you know, I think there's three general views right now on FISMA. 2041 are brands that are attempting to meet it now. They're going out there exploring new technology, whether it be IoT devices, RFID devices, relying on barcodes for scanning. They're exploring their their opportunities, so what will work for them? And I think it's they haven't been working in this arena at all. I think they're finding it to be very challenging. There's no easy button, you're not going to get there overnight. They're not just going to tell all their suppliers, you have to put this barcode or this RFID tag or this IoT tag on every single case and it has to include this information. That does not happen overnight in this world. Many, many of their supply chain partners will have they're like Well, that's a technology request. We can get to it and maybe a year year and a half. Yeah, because nobody no company whether it's in the foodservice industry or outside I I don't think any company has enough. You know, checking algae resources to do everything they want to do. So everybody always has to prioritize a list. And if it's something for just one customer, that's going to get down, that's going to be pushed down the priority list. So it's not going to be as easy as they think. The other view is, they're thinking about it. Yeah, we know the laws there. We know we're going to have to comply at some point. That's 2026. It's only 2023. We got time. So they haven't even started looking. And then there are others that I think are firmly banking on the on the hope that the compliance date is going to be pushed out because it is so hard. So they're there. They're the procrastinators, they're the ones that are really pushing, pushing back and going. Yeah, we'll see if they really do anything about compliance. Because compliance. Yeah, what the penalties gotta be, hasn't really been clearly defined. Yeah, yeah. So, you know, they, they're, they might be the ones to say, you know, take a risk, and I'll do it after everyone else is doing it, because then adaption is going to be easy. But I really do not agree with that. Because I think one thing that's got to change in this industry, is we have to approach FISMA 204 As an industry and not as individual brands. If we don't all ask these our suppliers, our re distributors, our distributors to do the same thing. Nothing's gonna get done. We have to have some basic guidelines. I mean, you think back to EDI? I don't know if you're familiar with EDI documentation. Okay. Well,
Steve Statler 31:55
Let's, we should spell it out. That's yeah, so yes, personally advanced shipping notice.
Rick Buttner 32:03
Right. But every single brand has their own version of what uh, you know, Edi. 856 is, you know, that an ASN. And they all want a little different information. There's no standard anymore. It was supposed to be standardized, but it's it's really not.
Steve Statler 32:21
So for people that aren't familiar with EDI, we should just take a moment and explain a bit about what electronic data interchange is just kind of the complete novice explanation.
Rick Buttner 32:33
Yeah, I mean, it was designed to be a way for companies to exchange information whether it's something as simple as a Pio when an invoice in a standardized format, and to do it electronically, so it was more efficient, didn't rely on somebody key punching it in, you could you could do it electronically. And the data would flow through into your system, and it would satisfy your needs, for whatever, whatever data you're looking for. Like I said, there's, you know, there's a lot of different ones, there's POS there's advanced shipping notices, there's load tenders, there's ASN there's,
Steve Statler 33:20
Yeah, but there isn't, there isn't actually a fully GS one FISMA, two of four compliant, Edi standard. It's certainly mentioned in the recommendations. And this one of the electronic documents that is exchanged from a distribution center. And a store can be an advanced shipping notice, which is basically kind of a list of this is what I'm going to send you but it doesn't necessarily have all of the to use the FISMA FDA term terminology, the key data elements, the source ID and so forth may not be in there. So we can't just say oh, well, we use EDI. Problem solved and keep me honest here. Is that correct?
Rick Buttner 34:13
Yeah, no, that's exactly right. Exactly right. And in the case of a distributor to a restaurant just because a case was intended to go to restaurants number one on the route it is all up to the driver when he gets to restaurant number one, if he picks that case off, or he picks another case off, right. And, and that becomes a real challenge in things where you have pallet loaded items like like your french fries from McDonald's. They don't they don't pack those on a truck by restaurants don't they? Stop they put whole pallets of product on a truck. So as it gets to the right Extra, that's when it needs to record what actually was delivered because there might be three different lock codes and french fries on that on that truck that day.
Steve Statler 35:10
So FISMA to have full, this, these critical tracking events that you have to capture accurately go and just say this is what we think. And then yeah, of course, stuff happens, you actually need to know, which either means you've got someone with a clipboard that's writing it down, and then entering it into some sort of electronic system so that you can get the data to the FDA within 24 hours of their request. Or you have some auto ID automatic way of either Ambien IoT, IoT pixels, full disclosure, that's what my company sells RFID, or how handheld scanners, and you've actually got someone who's at the restaurant is doing the scanning, and that the other kind of critical tracking event is receiving. So just saying, I shipped it to your point, there's not enough, you need to know what was received. That is, you know, obviously, every every restaurant wants to know what they've got. But, you know, I think it's a fairly common scenario that the driver shows up, and maybe he's in the middle of nowhere, and there's no one at the restaurant at three in the morning. So you need to have some kind of system that actually makes sure that what is being put in that the the lettuce that's being put in the cooler is the is the bats that came from farm a rather than from farm B, or, you know, that came in on day one, rather than day two, from from a given farm. So the net is you need to have a whole level of receiving and just asking the drivers to check his own homework and scribble his signature is probably not going to pass muster. Again, keep me honest, that here is
Rick Buttner 37:14
Correct. But one thing I think that is, you mentioned GS one before this, and I think that is the crucial step number one, in anything we're trying to do here. If we're not all talking the same language for the same product across our supply chain, then it doesn't matter the data that's collected at each point because no one will ever make sense of it all. So starting with GS one standards, and requiring the use of a G 10 use of a global location number across your entire supply chain is essential. And we did that at Subway we we joined the GS one food service initiative, we were one of the founding members in 2010. And we started requiring a global trade ID number G 10. For every single product and we didn't tell manufacturer, you have to change your your number, we didn't tell a distributor that you have to change your product code number and quite frankly, subway didn't change their so they still had their own product and for product number. But we said add another field and this is the G 10 For subway Turkey.
Steve Statler 38:39
And the reason why that's important is that it has to be consistent, right? All the way from the haranguing of of origin where the product was packed or notionally created. You can't that kind of by defector, you have different players and they identify the products differently. But if it's the same thing, you basically have to have that consistent traceability lock code, which in GS one standard parlance would probably be a GTIN, the global trade identification number. So that's the thing that changes isn't it? It's like, got to have consistency so that someone gets sick in enterprise, Oregon, you can then go back and say, Well, I know what the GTN is. That is part of that traceability lock code. And I know what the lot number is, and I know that that lot number was produced on this day at this farm in Washington. And it can't be a different one. You can't be trying to do the math to correlate it and that's where the process change goes in and I don't know Do you think so subway did that. Do you think that state of the art everywhere or is forever,
Rick Buttner 40:01
I think it generally is now, we guess brands have adopted GS one standards, which is great. Because without them, you need an army of people to map data. And once again, you involve humans, and we all know that that can be. That can be something that's challenging. But the other thing that you really need, as Step number two is an automated data aggregation system. Because you're going to be getting data from hundreds, and maybe even 1000s of different sources, suppliers, distributors, re distributors, restaurants, that either scan a barcode, you know, read an RFID tag, you know, read a, a Bluetooth, IoT device, whatever it is, that's creating data. And then you guys to capture it, you have to capture it automatically. And you need somebody or some organization or some tool that's going to aggregate all that data into one file that can be searchable and, and that way when you're looking for subway Turkey, and you know, don't want to just say subway, but if you're looking for Turkey with this g 10. And you have a lock code, you can then go into this database, and put in that Jeton and lock code you're looking for, and it can spit out everybody that's that has scanned or read that, that lock code into their system. So data aggregation is a huge, huge part of it. So we once again, when I was at IPC, recently retired from IPC, looking to do any kind of consulting work in this arena at all to help brands prepare for FISMA 204. But we had a data aggregation company, many, many years ago, was food logic, that's now trust, well, there's several out there that can do that type of work very, very efficiently. But that's a key, that is absolutely a key to being able to comply with the FISMA regulations. So you're collecting all the right data data, and then you're having someone aggregated into one system, so that you can use it efficiently. That's, that's kind of the basis for everything. Then the last step is figuring out what tool you're going to rely on. What technology are you going to rely on. And I know a lot of people are still looking to rely on scanning barcodes. And it can work can work. But there's many risks involved. And they are at every step of the supply chain. Number one, are the barcodes reliable number two and distribution? Are you are you going to have someone that selecting those orders that absolutely scans the barcode on each individual case, or they're gonna get there and say, Okay, I need five cases of this scan one barcode five times, and off they go. And then in the restaurant, or you were going to have somebody that scans every single barcode that comes in the back door. So I'd say from my point of view, automation is what has to happen to truly meet the FISMA regulations. I think we have to get to a point of automating that data collection.
Steve Statler 43:51
Well, I totally agree. And in many ways, I think we've both personally placed some bets on this. You've, you've moved from IPC, very long, illustrious career, they're working and scaling one of the biggest supply chain operations for one of the largest quick service restaurant businesses in the world. And you focused on this and now you've chosen this time to to consult more broadly with this entire industry is that having to that's having to meet the deadline and certainly, you know, Wiliot, we decided that you can use IoT pixels for for anything these Bluetooth tracking devices, but I believe that food safety is not only good business should should have kind of a worthwhile thing to focus on keeping people from getting sick. Is is good. And then from a business perspective, I think not just for me For Rick Buckner and Steve Staedtler, at Wiliot I think for every QSR chain, getting supply chain automated, which is really what's required to comply is a huge opportunity for profit for reducing waste for driving down the capital requirements in your supply chain to optimizing store operations, staffing dealing with, you know, the chance to do some more automation so that these raw recruits we have working for us can do a better job. So, yeah, it's a pain, you got to comply. It's the law, there's going to be penalties, there's reputational risk, but there's a I believe it's huge ROI. When you look across staffing, inventory levels, waste reduction, food quality, freshness taste, you know, there's just a massive opportunity if people start to apply the 21st century technology to their supply chain. So the app, congratulations, you got an amazing point of sale system and you've got kiosks in the but let's let's focus on the food is
Rick Buttner 46:17
Right? No, I completely agree with you. And and we did a proof of concept on that very thing and 25 restaurants. And that's exactly what we found that we identified opportunities where distributors were delivering product with short shelf life, we identified opportunities where operators within the restaurant weren't rotating their stock properly, which led to product going to waste, we saw opportunities for them to be able to take more accurate inventories. And that lead to more accurate ordering. And in the future, with AI, that's going to lead to not only suggestive ordering, but predictive ordering, and you're gonna have restaurant managers, I won't even have to place an order the, you know, the systems just going to know what they need. But it all is reliant on collecting accurate data, from the time that product gets in the door until it leaves. The other thing that was really beneficial for our supply planning team was to see how long it took them to get through a case of product in a restaurant, what was the the turn rate within the restaurant, and when you're dealing with promotional items, that's something you're never really sure of. But they could see it very clearly in these restaurants. Oh, it took them eight days to get to a case of product. Now I can really hone in my my forecast and make sure we have enough product to get through the promotion, but not too much. So that gets back to your supply chain visibility, you have a lot more visibility into what the supply chain needs. It also helps to have visibility of lock codes that add distributors. Many times we would expedite a cut a PIO, because we thought a DC was heavy in inventory. But we couldn't see the expiration dates on that product and truth, they ordered more because they knew that some of that product was going to be expired. And they couldn't ship it. So they you know, they ordered more so they'd have to sell to our restaurants. And that was you know that we probably shouldn't have cut the POS. But anyway, a lot of efficiencies all the way through the supply chain. That's what's gonna be gained. And you're right, I think the the benefits and the the profits will far outweigh the cost of implementing any system.
Steve Statler 49:05
Just to chip in here. I I had always thought that with from my day job. We have case level temperature tracking. And I always thought that tracking that or route in transit would be one of the last things that happened because you think about the number of delivery vehicles that exist. There's a huge number of them. But that's actually not the case. We're seeing one of the largest retailers in the world. Preparing to put Bluetooth readers in every refrigerated container to measure the temperature at a case level. And actually just got back from grocery shop the trade show this this week and we had someone driving around in Las Vegas, an Uber driver. It's sort of ill straight the point, we put half a dozen of these tags. And I didn't normally do this, I'm kind of feeling bad, but it was just so cool, I got to give it a shot. So we had a half a dozen of these temperature sensing IoT pixel devices, in basically the four corners of the middle of this cab, and a heat mat. And you could see the the Uber driver, and we had a little webcam, so you could see him going through the carwash. And I was amazed that they were all different temperatures. And let's just say that in a in an Uber, so think about a refrigerated container and the the the temperature map, they're all over the place. And it's borne out in the real world of food delivery, we were seeing, like strawberries, for one of our customers being frozen and defrosted six times between the DC and that store. So you wonder why the shelf life is not good. And people complain with what they get when they're home. So if you can identify that, fix it get a message to one of these apps, then that's better quality, better taste less waste. And and and then suddenly, you've got a system that is pushing data to to the whatever the application is the trust Well, the iPhone, DS, IBM free logic, whatever it is, I trade network, there's no getting the no one justifies Oh, we got to spend money on an accounting system. Now everyone accepts Oh, yeah, I need ERP. While I think people need the applications that, by the way, we don't sell those applications. So they need the applications that give them the dashboards that allow them to get visibility and see when things are going wrong and press the button when the FDA calls so that they don't have to throw away every bit of lettuce in the entire supply chain. And they just purge the things that are impacted by these events that we're forced to deal with that are not going to go away. Well, Sorry, I interrupted you, we should probably wind up we've been talking for a while, but any other key things about FISMA that, you know, if I'm, if I'm the CEO, CFO, SVP of operations at a quick service restaurant, you know, what should I be doing? To get ready for FISMA? To full?
Rick Buttner 52:45
Well, like I said it, it's, you know, starting with your data, starting with how you collect and aggregate your data, but then you really ought to be doing proof of concept as with the various tools and what you think is going to work best in your environment. It's an RFID, is it, you know, Wiliot IoT devices, you need to get out and use it in the real world. And then you have to start looking at some of your key suppliers, and how will they implement? Because it's not easy? You know, there's a lot of different ways that you can be you can do it tagging, in many, many different ways. Are you tagging at time of actual production? Are you tagging, as you're palletizing? Are you tagging whatever, you have to have to look at those opportunities? When are you going to put these devices on the cases? And how important is it to read every single device off of every pallet all the time? Where are you going to rely on a pallet tag. So there's a lot of things you need to start looking at as far as how you're going to implement. And the only way to do that is to get into manufacturing plants and, and, and try different things, what's going to work and then you can take that model and move forward. But I do think as an industry, it is key that we use quick service restaurant operators, all start asking for basically the same thing. Because if we're all asking for something different, we don't have a prayer of everybody being able to meet FISMA 204 By January 20 2026. Yeah.
Steve Statler 54:41
I totally agree, totally agree
Rick Buttner 54:43
In a lot of arenas, these brands never played together. But this is one that we have to come together as an industry and, and, you know, do what's best for the industry.
Steve Statler 54:58
Very good and There's, I think there's profits to be made, there's margins to be saved, to be increased, as well. Well, Rick, it's been a real pleasure talking, we should check in again, in a bit and see, see what you're seeing. But I think you've chosen a really good time to plow your own furrow and, and apply some of the expertise you've gathered over decades. Because I think people need help. And actually getting some help from the outside is useful because you can say things sometimes as a consultant that you couldn't say, when you're talking to your boss, so that objectivity and and also kind of a set of eyes that are seeing things across different different businesses is really valuable. So thanks very much, Rick. I like the look of the artwork behind you what what is that seems very tasty.
Rick Buttner 56:07
That's an artist we found over in Bel Air Florida that we really like. Kind of abstract she uses, you know, various colors and gold in it. And you know, it you know, we really like it. This one she framed in a very old antique train that we very carefully hung, because I think if I move it, it's gonna fall apart. But But we love it. It's sitting here in our dining room and, and that was the best spot for for lighting and visibility, I think so it gets a place behind me here. So
Steve Statler 56:48
well, as you know, we have this warm up question that gets cut and paste to the end of the show. Which is what three songs are meaningful to you and why. And I've asked this well over 100 times, and only once as someone said, Actually, I don't like music, but I do like art. And so we ended up talking about the three paintings that are meaningful to to him. But so are you in that category? Or do you like music?
Rick Buttner 57:20
I absolutely adore music. Music Exactly. My house you know, Friday night was always there was never a TV on it was always music awesome all kinds from rock to jazz to country to you know, even Christian now. So it's it's all kinds of music. And this was probably the hardest question on the whole on the whole interview list here and for me to pick the three favorite songs to came very easily and one was one was a bit of a bit of a challenge to narrow it down to three. All right, probably should giving you a top 10 list. But
Steve Statler 58:05
yeah, well absolutely I'm And truth be told if if people aren't aware, there's a show called Desert Island Discs. It's the longest running radio show in the world, and they get eight. But given that we have less time to devote that I cut it down to three, which makes it harder for you but so what what is your number one?
Rick Buttner 58:29
Well, my number one my all time favorite song is really Hotel California by the Eagles. And as I was a young man, I guess I was probably I was definitely out of college at that point. But that was my favorite album. absolutely my favorite album of all time. It just has so many good songs on it. The last resort life in the fast lane victim of love wasted time and it's just song after song was fantastic. And there's really nothing about the lyrics of Hotel California. It's just whenever it comes on. You know, I'm just, I'm happy. You know, that's kind of my happy place song. I love it. I know every word I can you know, I think I can play the air drums pretty well to it. But that is my my favorite song.
Steve Statler 59:24
I think if you were to list you know, great albums, ever greatest albums ever. That would obviously be somewhere up there along with Sergeant Pepper Bridge Over Troubled Waters. So there's a set of just Yes, Pet Sounds. I agree. And I remember it's evocative for me. I remember listening to it as a kid in a very rainy suburb of London, thinking how amazing it would be to end up in California and and that's where I live now. So I don't want to appropriate your song but good choice.
Rick Buttner 1:00:00
Okay, number two for me is Stairway to Heaven. And I think that comes from a couple places. First of all, I just love the way they start with the blues and mellow, and then they ramp it up a little bit. And then they really get into the rock at the end of the song. And I love the artistry of it. And then there's words in there that have had meaning to me as well. There are two paths you can go by, but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on. So I think that's always important to keep in mind that, you know, just because you're going down this one path, there's opportunities. Don't be, don't be afraid of, of trying out. So. So that's meant something to me through the course of my life.
Steve Statler 1:00:58
Yeah, that's a great, another great choice. And I've started you may see there's a vinyl turntable behind me. There's a Rega Planar three, if anyone's into audio equipment. But I found myself going to Walmart actually to buy vinyl Walmart is actually as a great source of quality, vinyl, and I've been buying a whole bunch of Led Zeppelin, vinyl to were to play on that thing. But very cool. I love I agree with you. Number two, what's number three?
Rick Buttner 1:01:37
Well, number three is a song that means a lot to me now it's, you know, I'm a Christian, and part of my journey was getting to it through music. And it's, I can only imagine by Mercy Me. And it, the whole story of the song is, you know, what will it be like when I first see Jesus Christ, I go to heaven, what? What will I do when I first see Jesus, and that songs just had a lot of a lot of meaning to me, and has really helped me in my,my Christian walk.
Steve Statler 1:02:17
That's amazing. That's very cool.
Rick Buttner 1:02:20
And it was also a very good movie. I haven't seen the movie was a very good movie.
Steve Statler 1:02:26
Please do send us a link, we'll publish it because that wasn't on my list. And but do send us a link and we'll include it in the show notes along with the other two, which I think everyone won't have any trouble finding. But what how did music help you in your path to Christianity?
Rick Buttner 1:02:46
Well, I think it just helped deepen my path. You know, I had been going to church really all my life and but really didn't fully grasp what it what it meant and what I should be focusing on and what I should be doing. So as I got into a community down here in Miami 1516 years ago, and they really got me kind of turned on to some Christian music and I started listening to it more and more and, and, you know, just the messages within the music really helped deepen my understanding of what it what it truly means to be a Christian and to to have a closer, closer and deeper belief in Jesus.
Steve Statler 1:03:41
Makes sense. Yeah, there's obviously music has played a big role in many shapes. Not all of them, but many of them and I think a lot of us experience some kind of transcendence that maybe helps you open your mind to, you know, beyond the mundane everyday things that we get caught up and I think it's there for a reason, isn't it? Very good. Well, thank you for that, Rick. Yeah. How did you get into the quick service business quick service restful restaurant visit?
Rick Buttner 1:04:15
It was my very first job when I was 16 years old. I started working at Hardee's and worked up to that was my junior year in high school my senior year. I became an assistant manager and night manager there. And every year when I came every summer when I came home from college, they took me back on as a selling manager so they could get vacations. So it was kind of in my blood from a very early age. When I got out of college, I worked on Wall Street for a little over three years and found myself not really happy in anything I I was doing in Wall Street. And then I went by and they they had moved me to Fort Lauderdale to open a new branch. And when I driving by a southern building another Hardee's, I said, you know, maybe I'll get back into this for a little while and see where it takes me in 40 years later, I'm still in food service. So I've had a lot of different roles in food service, not just running restaurants and multiple restaurants, multiple concepts, you know, facilities such as travel plazas, and things like that, but gotten out of the operation side into more of the the operations, the more the supply chain operation side, and I helped build a brand's I helped establish Food Safety and Quality Department at Subway and and then I transferred to the supply chain team and, and focus on supply chain operations. How can we make things more efficient? And it really ties all the way back to restaurant operations, you always look for efficiencies and how you can make it better. And, and that's what I've been doing for the past 40 years.
Steve Statler 1:06:18
Very good. Well, Rick, it's been a real pleasure talking to you. We've really just started the conversation. So thanks very much for coming on the show. My pleasure. Thanks for having me. Well, that was Rick Butner, who never ceases to amaze me, the stories that people have and how much he learned about people from talking to them about music, which is why I do it. Hope you enjoyed that last bit of the show. I want to thank Aaron hammock, who is our editor and produces the product that you've either watched or, or listen to. I also want to thank Brooke, too, is our marketing specialist that's focusing on getting the word out about this. And I want to thank you most of all, for listening certainly doesn't escape us that we only get to do this when you listen or watch. So if you've got to this stage, then you're truly a committed and dedicated listener and we really appreciate you do review us if you would, it really helps us get the word out and allows us to continue doing the work that we we do speak to you next time.