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Noodles & Co. Satisfies Field Connectivity Needs with Arsenal of Mobile Thin Clients

Growth is good. Ask any CEO. But growth also creates new challenges, and often the solutions are found in new technology.
That was certainly the case at Noodles & Company, who has been opening 25 to 30 new restaurants annually for the past three years. But with success came a challenge. Having grown to 200 locations in 18 states, Noodles' two dozen area managers needed to be on the road meeting with restaurant operators. Instead, they were chained to their desktop PCs doing administrative tasks.
For Noodles, the ideal solution was to equip area managers with a mobile thin client, freeing them to travel and collaborate in person with restaurant staff, all while continuing to securely access corporate IT systems back home. The move was so successful that soon other Noodles employees, from regional directors to finance staff, wanted their own mobile thin clients. The solution grew to spread cost efficiency, security and productivity enhancements throughout "Noodleville."
Directive from HQ: mobile tools for area managers
Each Noodles & Company area manager oversees seven to 10 restaurants. Before Noodles adopted mobile thin clients, managers would get up early every morning and sit at their home desktop PCs to catch up on emails and administrative tasks. Corporate executives asked Noodles & Co.'s technical staff to outfit the area managers with laptop PCs so they could spend more time in the field.
But IT had a different idea. Mobile thin clients would cost significantly less, be more secure (in case a device was lost or stolen), and work well with Noodles' Citrix infrastructure.
Having been satisfied for years with HP solutions, Noodles ran a proof of concept test with the HP Compaq 6720t Mobile Thin Client. The rest is history. In a field operations test, it quickly became clear that it would work well for Noodles. It has a 1 GB solid-state drive, which is plenty of working space. Wireless air cards give Noodles very fast network connections. In general, thin clients have worked out flawlessly.
A lower-cost, secure, scalable solution
Noodles & Company equipped each of its 24 area managers with a thin client. Now they can sit down with their individual restaurant managers, boot up their mobile thin clients, and review sales reports, labor costs, food costs -- all the data needed to collaborate effectively. After seeing how well the devices worked for their teams, the company's three regional directors of operations each wanted their own mobile thin client.
One day, a regional training manager had his laptop stolen. Noodles had an extra mobile thin client on hand to replace it, so the manager was up and running immediately. Soon all five Noodles training managers were using them in the field. Some use the HP 2533t Mobile Thin Client, with a starting weight of only 3 pounds and as thin as 1.34 inches. The finance department also acquired this model for work on the road.
Today, Noodles & Company has deployed some 43 mobile thin clients. Some have optional docking stations and most have the optional DVD drive. Thin clients not only enable employees to work more productively, but also deliver substantial cost, security and technology management advantages.
Improved security, easier management
Consider security. Inevitably some mobile device will be lost or stolen. But with corporate data stored on secure servers, Noodles & Company doesn't have to worry about compliance headaches or information landing in the wrong hands. With a mobile thin client, there's with no hard drive and no corporate data stored on the device.
Technology management also is very easy, since thin clients can be updated simultaneously by updating application software on the servers. So Noodles no longer has to patch 40 laptops out in the field. For the most part, everything about the user's desktop experience is managed at the Citrix level.
Mobile thin clients also are highly reliable, with solid-state design extending product life and lowering ownership costs. They may not solve every IT problem associated with growth, but they have certainly addressed the needs of Noodles' mobile employees.

Colorado-based Noodles & Company was founded in 1995 and is the world's first quick-casual, globally inspired noodle restaurant. Jeff Malm is Enterprise Manager for the company.
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