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Cinnabon seeks customer insights to boost stickiness

Clint Boulton | Nov. 25, 2015
The Bakery chain is piloting iPads, Apple Pay and cloud software in several stores, as part of a digital refresh to bolster the Focus Brands property's fortunes. The systems will funnel data into a data warehouse, ostensibly to generate consumer insights. But the company president says questions loom.

revel at cinnabon official image
The Revel system, which is designed to funnel sales information to its cloud service, analyze the data and generate reports, is currently running in 15 Cinnabon locations.

Sticky bun purveyor Cinnabon is baking a batch of digital capabilities as part of a technology overhaul designed to spur sales. The property of Focus Brands, which also owns Moe's Southwest Grill, Schlotsky's, and Carvel, is testing a new sales system that incorporates iPads, Apple Pay and cloud services. The company plans to analyze the sales data to generate insights on consumer preferences.

"Veteran [store] operators love it," says Joe Guith, president of Focus Brands. "We love it because it engages team members and doesn't take much training."

Joe Guith, president of Focus Brands.
Joe Guith, president of Focus Brands.

Rising to popularity thanks to its sugary baked goods in the 1980s and 1990s, Cinnabon lost ground as calorie-conscious consumers embraced the Atkins diet, eschewing the large cinnamon rolls for smaller, less guilt-inducing snacks. But former Cinnabon President Kat Cole, now Group President for Focus Brands, reenergized the brand, using digital marketing and social media; partnerships with Burger King and Taco Bell; and new, bite-sized baked goods, to build a $1 billion business. Revamping the stores' technology infrastructure is the next leg of the comeback journey.

No, seriously: ‘Our POS system runs on an iPad.’

iPads have added a new wrinkle to mobile computing in the nearly six years since Apple introduced them. Today, several industries, from airlines to retailers to restaurants are using them (or other tablets) to engage with consumers and train employees. More than just viable replacements for aging transactional systems, iPads are table stakes to attract millennial employees accustomed to using touch-enabled interfaces, Guith says. To lure new workers, companies need to provide the most modern tools, goes the popular thinking.

Cinnabon is phasing out a hodgepodge of POS and other payment systems in favor of iPad-based units from Revel Systems that support Apple Pay and are paired with VeriFone card readers that honor EMV standards for secure payments. It's using a customized version of Revel's quick service solution, including a wireless router, cash drawer, printer and stand. Revel’s cloud back-end enables it to push out updates to Cinnabon’s bakeries. The Revel systems are currently running in 15 locations, though Cinnabon plans to expand that number to at least 80 bakeries by the end of the first quarter.

The Revel system funnels sales information to its cloud system, which analyzes the data and generates reports to help Cinnabon align production with the cost of labor and sales. Cinnabon hopes to better understand when increases in sales tend to occur, allowing it to predict how much product they need to make. It would also help Cinnabon's marketing team learn such useful data points as the sales impact of, for example, a limited-time offer.


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