Case Studies

Part 1: Synq Solutions Provides Series of Innovative Solutions to Hardee's® and other CKE brands

The Need for an Innovative Partner

Hardee's®, the largest fast food brand in the CKE Restaurants, Inc. group, required a partner that could execute its marketing campaigns with accuracy, technological innovation and cost savings. In 1999, the company brought in Atlanta-based Synq Solutions (formerly Imaging Technologies Services, Inc.), a full-service provider of in-store marketing and promotional support programs for the QSR and fast casual restaurant and retail industries.

Hardee's® was struggling with a manual, time-consuming fulfillment process of its in-store signage and marketing materials, as well as its store-level communications. The QSR was distributing only a few standardized marketing kits to its more than 1,750 locations, which resulted in significant waste. Restaurants disposed of materials they couldn't use or were not the correct size. Synq was able to reduce the cost of in-store signage by 18% and reduce inventory levels of pre-printed store communications by $250,000.

The First Step: Streamlining Communications

The partnership began with Synq streamlining Hardee's® production and printing of weekly communications that were distributed to corporate employees and corporate and franchisee-owned operators. The process was manual and labor intensive, while the production of these materials was divided between an internal department and an outside vendor. Overall, it was a confusing and inefficient process. In addition, Hardee's® was carrying more than $320,000 of inventory exposure.

To address these pain points and streamline the process, Synq deployed a Web-based system that allowed Hardee's® employees to input information and upload documents that could be sent digitally to the printer. Synq also reviewed the documents and improved product specifications so that materials historically printed offset could now be produced digitally and on-demand.

As a result of Synq's changes, CKE had an automated, efficient system that saved time and money. Employees no longer had the tedious task of poring over spreadsheets and picking and choosing materials by hand. Within two years, digital printing reduced excess inventory by $250,000. Materials were produced in a matter of hours rather than days or even weeks.

An "Intelligent" Solution

In 2001, Hardee's® had not yet standardized its product offering across all locations. Some restaurants served chargrilled hamburgers and others flat grilled them; some restaurants offered Coca-Cola products while others served Pepsi soft drinks. These variations required four different versions of the Hardee's® menu boards, which came in six different sizes of hardware. The company maintained manual records on individual location attributes, but these were often inaccurate and difficult to manage. This unreliable data posed a problem when Hardee's® produced and sent in-store marketing materials and signage to its restaurants. It distributed several standardized kits, which meant that restaurants inevitably received incorrect marketing materials and in the wrong quantities. As a result, kits were more costly because they contained a broader range of materials to suit all locations. Consequently, there was a significant amount of waste as restaurants disposed of what they couldn't use.

To solve this challenge Synq unveiled Intelligent Profiling. This online system took standard restaurant profiling to an advanced level by cataloguing the "DNA" of each store, including its physical attributes, product mix and zoning restrictions. The profiling data could be as granular as Hardee's® needed it. For example, did a particular Hardee's® location have a drive through? Was it a stand-alone store or was it located in a mall food court? Did local zoning allow outdoor banners? Once these attributes were recorded in the system, Intelligent Profiling calculated the exact promotional kit elements and quantities for each location.

Intelligent Profiling revolutionized the way in-store merchandising materials were produced and distributed. Locations, which were all unique in some way, received the right marketing kit elements every time. Printing and distribution costs were reduced by 18% over the previous year because only those materials required were produced, reducing quantities and waste. Franchisee operators had a higher satisfaction level because their marketing dollars were spent more effectively.

Executing the Thickburger Revolution

In 2003, Hardee's® standardized its menu choices with the launch of the Thickburger Revolution. It also took the opportunity to give each location a new look and standardize all interior and exterior hardware. Synq was tasked with the production and distribution of all POP signage and related training literature.

Synq's Intelligent Profiling made the transition an easy one. With detailed data on each location, Synq knew exactly what signage each store required. It also deployed GeoNet, a state-of-the-art mapping application, which allowed Hardee's® to view updates through a Web-based portal. This enabled each location to manage the implementation process across build-outs, merchandising and in-store training.

Synq Expands its Reach to all CKE Brands

With the seamless transition to the Thickburger Revolution, Synq was awarded the opportunity to implement the same processes and technologies across the remaining CKE brands, including Carl's Jr.® and Green Burrito®. As Synq continues to work with the CKE group, it has expanded its capabilities and services to include local marketing, premium items and in-store apparel.