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A Fresh Start

Cafe Rio Mexican Grill implements a brand-new financial system from Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne product line.

by Carol Hildebrand, February 2009

Walk into a Cafe Rio Mexican Grill kitchen, and you’re likely to find somebody juicing hundreds of limes for salsa or preparing dough for hand-rolled, made-to-order tortillas. But you won’t find a microwave oven or a freezer. The Utah-based chain of Mexican restaurants has built a passionate fan base through its devotion to fresh ingredients and made-to-order food.

“It’s a unique concept that has a really big following,” says Darren Hortin, controller for the 22-restaurant chain. “You would be hard-pressed to find another restaurant concept with a stronger following and a more loyal customer base.” In fact, he says, other companies such as Baja Fresh have tried and failed to gain a foothold in Cafe Rio territory.

 

Getting the Latest Financial Data

But although the food is fresh, until recently the company wrestled with an outdated financial system that was well past its “sell by” date. The hosted solution looked almost like MS-DOS and made it difficult for financial staffers to manipulate and analyze data. “The system was cumbersome to use,” says Hortin. “If you wanted a new report, you had to call the company and have people there write it—for which you had to pay programming fees. I came from a company that used Oracle E-Business Suite, and I was used to building any kind of financial report I needed.”

 

Moreover, the company was interested in finding a system that would scale to meet its growth plans and interface with other corporate applications. For example, as the company ramped up for expansion into California, it planned to implement a new HR system to ensure compliance with different state labor laws. They were worried that the old financial system would not connect with the HR and payroll applications. “We had some internal issues with the old financial system,” says Hortin. “We were in need of a financial application with more horsepower and flexibility.”

Cafe Rio’s financial team knew that it had to do something—and fast. The expanding company wanted to keep both its financial and IT staff lean, so scalability, ease of use, and low maintenance were high on the list of must-haves. Additionally, Hortin wanted the capability to automate the cumbersome manual process Cafe Rio was using to input accounts payable invoices into its financial system. “If we could find a system that had the capability to upload our payables, we could keep our staff on the lean side,” he says.

Hortin called his contact at Oracle to inquire about Oracle E-Business Suite but soon realized that other options might better meet his company’s requirements. “We would have needed to hire more IT staff, and the system was just more than the company required,” he says. Oracle account executives recommended that he take a look at Oracle’s JD Edwards EnterpriseOne, which enabled him to take advantage of his familiarity with Oracle while implementing a system more suited to a growing company. “I have some experience with Oracle—for example, its user groups are very helpful in benchmarking best practices and finding out how others are using the system—you can really network and get to know people in the community,” says Hortin. “And because I already knew the group, it gave us a head start.” After evaluating three systems, the company chose JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Financials.

In terms of return on investment, the decision was easy: the new system would require an up-front investment in implementation costs and user licenses, but ongoing maintenance fees would drop. “We didn’t need to run a lot of analytics to see the benefits of moving to JD Edwards, from both a cost- and time-savings standpoint,” says Hortin.

 

Keep It Simple

Hortin wanted the system modules—the company is using JD Edwards EnterpriseOne Accounts Payable, Fixed Assets, and General Ledger—installed as quickly as possible, and he wanted a plain-vanilla implementation. Again, keeping the IT staff lean and the maintenance easy were primary goals. “Customization is a big programming headache, and going vanilla is always cheaper,” he says. “And from a maintenance standpoint, upgrades to the software will be less expensive.”

 

Hortin chose MSS Technologies, an Oracle partner based in Lakewood, Colorado, to drive the five-week speed implementation, which went live on March 31, 2008. “The MSS Technologies people did a really good job of implementing the system, and when we had feedback for them, they were very responsive,” says Hortin.

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