With RingCentral, Chili’s® Parent Company Brinker International Is Improving the Guest Experience at More Than 1,100 Restaurants
There are a lot of positive things I can say about RingCentral. But maybe the most significant is this: My team and I went from overseeing and troubleshooting a thousand outdated phone systems, which needed help all the time, to administering just one telephony system companywide—which hardly needs any maintenance at all.
on-prem phone systems retired and replaced with RingCentral cloud solution
unified communications environment connecting the company by phone, messaging, fax, and video
by eliminating maintenance, repairs, and upgrades of outdated telephony hardware
One of the world’s leading casual dining restaurant companies
For half a century, Brinker International (NYSE: EAT) has been committed to a single mission: providing delicious meals in a casual, welcoming restaurant environment. And with its flagship brands Chili’s® Grill & Bar and Maggiano’s Little Italy® now serving a million guests every day in restaurants around the world, the company has clearly succeeded in its mission.
The multibillion-dollar company isn’t resting on its laurels, either. Brinker continues to find creative ways to bring great food to guests. In 2020, the company introduced its first virtual brand—It’s Just Wings®—serving delicious wings and fries available for pickup or delivery at Brinker-owned Chili’s and Maggiano’s restaurants. The innovative service proved so successful that Nation’s Restaurant News named It’s Just Wings and Brinker 2021’s “CREATOR of the Year.”
A decentralized telephony infrastructure was undermining operations
After building such a massive operation—Brinker owns, operates, and franchises more than 1,600 restaurants around the world—the company found itself with a decentralized legacy telephony infrastructure. As Network Architect Nate Hawley explains, maintaining these aging phone systems across the organization created several challenges.
“Because we had a different on-prem phone system at every restaurant, we couldn’t pivot efficiently. If we wanted to change some aspect of our automated phone menu at every location, it would literally take months. That meant we ended up with an inconsistent experience for guests calling into different restaurants.”
As Nate also points out, maintaining more than a thousand standalone phone systems was becoming increasingly costly. “Some of these PBX systems were so old that we had to buy replacement parts on eBay,” he says. “Support and maintenance were also costing a fortune because we had to send local IT providers out all the time to repair or update an old system.”
Consolidating a thousand phone systems down to one, with RingCentral
With RingCentral’s unified communications platform, Nate’s team found the centralized, easy-to-administer telephony solution they were looking for.
“Now, instead of our telecommunications discussions always revolving around phone problems, we’re talking about how else we can use the RingCentral platform to improve our employees’ workflows or help guests find the answers they need more quickly. That’s possible only because we finally have one centralized communications environment we can easily control ourselves, from anywhere.”
Creating efficiencies across the organization
As Nate also explains, the company has used RingCentral’s rich feature-set to improve numerous operations at both the company’s restaurants and the Dallas-based Restaurant Support Center.
“Because RingCentral’s admin portal makes it so easy to make changes to the phone system—for a single restaurant or companywide—we can set up exactly the call flows and routing instructions we want at any location, and update them just as easily.”
He adds: “We also regularly use RingCentral to try out new ideas for managing call traffic and adding new content to our phone menus, to see where we can improve efficiencies and our guests’ experience. That’s something we could never do with our legacy phone infrastructure.”
Another advantage Brinker found with RingCentral, Nate explains, was the mobility it gave the staff at the company’s headquarters during the lockdowns. “When our office shut down, we had no problem transitioning to remote work because everyone had RingCentral apps on their cell phones and laptops. That meant we had not only our business phone service wherever we were but also team messaging, video calling, SMS, and even fax—all in the same app.”
One of the big benefits of having RingCentral is that it’s easier than ever for us to roll out telephony and other communication services each time we open a new restaurant. That used to require setting up hardlines, sending out local IT teams for the installation, and a lot of waiting. Now we can do it all online from our headquarters.
Improving restaurant support operations with RingCentral Contact Center
In addition to RingCentral’s unified phone, messaging, and video platform for all employees and restaurant locations, Brinker also implemented RingCentral Contact Center for its headquarters-based Restaurant Support team. That solution, as Nate points out, has also helped improve operations significantly.
RingCentral Contact Center gives our centralized support team all the tools they need to help backfill our restaurant locations when they’re experiencing high call volume. And because Contact Center gives us such granular call-data reporting and analytics, we use it to make sure we’re always properly staffing our support teams’ call queues to help our guests reach live agents as quickly as possible.
Saving money with unified cloud communications
Finally, Nate explains that between retiring the company’s outdated phone systems and consolidating other communications services into one unified platform from one partner, Brinker has lowered its telecom costs considerably since migrating to RingCentral.
“We’re no longer buying parts on eBay to keep an antiquated PBX operational for one more year. We don’t need to hire local IT consultants all over the country to service our restaurants’ on-prem systems. And we’ve replaced several communication vendors—for video conferencing and fax, for example—with one predictable bill from RingCentral. It’s saving us a small fortune.”
If you have experience in IT, you’ve learned not to expect a technology migration to go smoothly. But our RingCentral implementation was surprisingly free of disruptions. Before we knew it, our whole company was up and running on the new solution, and even experimenting with ideas for our telephony environment. And that’s just one reason RingCentral has become our favorite tech partner.