With more than 11,000 employees, Muy! Companies is one of the largest private restaurant employers in the United States. Yet the operator of household brands Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, and Wendy’s supports its staff with just five full-time IT employees, thanks in part to intelligent outsourcing. CIO Dan Karam explains the flexibility that moving the company’s human resources and accounting applications to the cloud has given the company.
A lot of companies, obviously, are moving to the cloud.
Dan Karam: It depends on the company. For some companies, having control of servers in-house works best; for others, especially those with a smaller staff without specialized knowledge, it’s best in the long run to trust specialists.
“IT can’t just go into the business and say, ‘We’re moving our data.’ You have to make sure everyone understands the reason you’re doing it, the challenges you face, and how you’re trying to alleviate them.”
That’s an important point—there’s a lot more involved in moving to the cloud than locating your servers off-site.
Karam: Absolutely. In the past, we had servers off-site and accessed them from there. But moving to a traditional cloud-based vendor isn’t just about the location of your servers—it’s about the specialized database knowledge you’re getting.
Was that the impetus for your transition?
Largest franchise restaurant company in the United States
Corporate office staff members
IT staff members
Karam: There were two main reasons. First, we were migrating from a much earlier version of our HR application. It was based on an old database technology that limits the number of employees we could have, and we were just outgrowing it. So I began thinking about how we’d support the new versions. Another thing I looked at was downsizing server equipment. I want to keep what we have at the office as lean as possible, for cost reasons and ease of disaster recovery.
A challenge we have is the management of IT resources. Our priorities are constantly changing. Imagine if some of the people out in restaurants working cash registers were to have a problem at the same time as our HR application; we’d need the staff to be in two places at the same time. But we can’t have that kind of expertise staffed full-time because margins in the food industry are so small. We just don’t have the luxury of having ten people, from a firewall specialist to a data specialist, in house.
It sounds like the project required a lot of coordination among different parties.
Karam: IT, human resources, accounting—all were involved. But IT can’t just go into the business and say, “We’re moving our data.” You have to make sure everyone understands the reason you’re doing it, the challenges you face, and how you’re trying to alleviate them.
How did you get buy-in?
Karam: I showed the trade-off. Yes, putting an application in the cloud is expensive, but so is the other option: buying new servers, paying for a specialized staff, doing all the things you need to do to support the growing needs of an application housed in corporate headquarters.
Is it smooth sailing once you get buy-in?
Karam: I wish. If you do your work, everyone knows putting your data in the cloud is a trade-off. The exchange of responsibility and risk comes at a price. But when you start getting invoiced, you have to remind people of that, especially when you haven’t had any recent outages. They begin to ask if it’s worth it. We did a pretty decent job sticking to the planned budget, but we still had to convince the company’s leadership we were doing the right thing.
What have been the benefits of the change?
Karam: Everything we expected and more. The cloud allows us to keep our staff smaller, control costs, and recover from disasters. There are also smaller things that have turned out to be big wins. For example, employees can access our HR application via the web wherever they are in the world. They don’t have to have remote access into our office.