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Taco Bell gets data, music - the whole enchilada.

Taco Bell Corp., a subsidiary of Pepsico, has developed a state of the art data transfer system for its TACO system.

This marks the first time that a one-way satellite system and dial-up communications system have been combined to provide a reliable method of transferring software and data files to thousands of locations. TACO, or Total Automation of Company Operations, is an in-restaurant computer system designed as an administrative and operational management tool.

Recently, the finishing touches were put on nearly 2,150 satellite dishes on company-owned Taco Bell rooftops. This addition brings the leading U.S. Mexican food chain on-line with Muzak's Direct Broadcast Satellite system.

In 1990, Taco Bell used a dial-up communications system to transfer management information from restaurants to the corporate headquarters. This system was also used to send updates to the applications software running on each stores' PC.

However, due to the number of locations, the system was found to be inadequate.

With 32 modems polling restaurant PCs at 2,400 baud, it regularly took over 200 hours to send a two megabyte file to each restaurant. Consequently, computer services were taxed and telecomm expenses exceeded acceptable levels.

"A serious information bottleneck was on the horizon," says George LaMay, director of technology for Taco Bell. "If a more robust system was not implemented, daily operations would be severely impacted."

Because time was running out, alternatives were examined, including a one-way broadcast satellite network. This type of system could reduce the time it took to send files to every location to two hours.

In addition to an improved data transfer system, Taco Bell wanted to upgrade and standardize the music in the restaurants. While most Taco Bell locations were using a Muzak taped music format, over 200 stores were already using the satellite-delivered product.

"Taco Bell decided to try converting all locations to satellite delivery and combine the data transfer capabilities," Lamay says.

They chose Muzak because of its experience in installing and managing satellite music networks. The firm's 200 offices across the country gave them the capability to install the systems in Taco Bell's widely dispersed store locations, as well as handle any necessary repairs. Taco Bell also got a commitment from the vendor to hire an exclusive Taco Bell representative to coordinate installations and manage all service calls.

Between April and September of 1991, the music systems were installed at 1,800 Taco Bell locations. Each site was equipped with a 1.2-meter satellite dish and a receiver that could down-load data transmissions as well as music programming.

Installation of the data systems began in early 1992 and the rollout was completed within six months. Being a "one-way" transport solution, Taco Bell had to address reliable transport at two levels.

The first level required integrity during transmission and the second focused on validated delivery. Therefore, CMI in Lebanon, N.J. was brought in on a joint effort with Taco Bell to develop an error detection/correction algorithm and advanced addressing schemes.

Although this direct broadcast data transfer resulted in a substantial monetary savings to Taco Bell, the most valuable asset gained was time. The teamwork between Taco Bell's MIS department and its two vendors resulted in a communications system that enables Taco Bell to run operations in an accurate, efficient and timely manner.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Communications News
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Words:549
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