WatchGuard: Key Ingredient for Akbar’s Restaurants
As CEO of Akbar’s Restaurants Ltd, Shabir Hussain embodies the passion and drive needed to be a successful entrepreneur. He opened his first restaurant at just 25 years old, and now Akbar’s – named after Shabir’s father – boasts a chain of 11 Indian cuisine restaurants.
Throughout this growth, Shabir has rigorously maintained Akbar’s outstanding food quality and consistency: every chef in the group is trained at the flagship location, and every restaurant manager must spend at least six months in that restaurant. Fittingly, Akbar’s was awarded ‘Brand of the Year 2017’ at the Asian Food & Restaurant Awards. As Shabir says: “The quality of the food is extremely important to us. We want all our customers to have the same experience regardless of where you go.” But with this success, Akbar’s also wanted to match its high food standards with equally high-quality technology, and go beyond offering basic Wi-Fi to customers.
Akbar’s felt it could significantly increase efficiency and revenue by introducing a tablet-based EPOS (Electronic Point of Sale) system, enabling staff to take orders electron¬ically at each table and transmit them directly to the kitchen. This way, orders would arrive to the kitchen in seconds, and all items ordered would be automatically updated into the till payment system. No delay, no lost orders. Cliff Gurdin, who manages IT at Akbars, takes up the story: “We felt that for the EPOS system to work, Akbar’s needed a really solid Wi-Fi mesh network in each of their sites. And from a central management perspective, we advised they should have a remote support and monitoring capability.”
The solution Cliff proposed was wall-to-wall WatchGuard technology. In June 2017 Akbar’s installed a central WatchGuard T10 server (acting as a combined network controller, firewall and router,) a VPN network linking 10 restaurants, the latest Wi-Fi technology to ensure that all restaurant areas had sufficient coverage for the new tablet devices, and extra, failsafe broadband connections at each site, utilizing32 WatchGuard AP320 wireless access points.
Along with the EPOS system, the network has enabled Akbar’s to install new high-tech ICR Touch electronic tills linked to its payment card machines. This means that staff can go to a table at the end of a meal, tap the table number into their card machine and instantly retrieve the bill, so that the customer can quickly pay and go.
“We also needed something that could do all of these things without having any impact on our traffic speed, and the new WatchGuard systems do that,” added Pollard.
“WatchGuard has been very beneficial – we have fantastic Wi-Fi connectivity across each restaurant," reflected Shabir. "We also love the fact that with WatchGuard you have the ability to add backup connections. We like the price point with WatchGuard, and that they're constantly releasing new functionality and features.” As Cliff noted: “Many businesses don’t have the budget to upgrade their IT systems every three years, so these kind of things are really important to them. This is why WatchGuard is so effective in the hospitality sector, because it ticks so many boxes, and the technology scales fantastically well for the size and requirements of each site.”
WatchGuard’s strong security also helped Akbar’s achieve regulatory PCI compliance for its purchase card machines. “One key issue is how you link card machines to the Internet," Cliff reflected. "The second we told global payments that we were running through WatchGuard firewalls, they essentially said ‘oh great no problem – we’ll leave you to it’, which was very refreshing.”