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Firm looks to cook with SAP

Gourmet food and cookware retailer Surfas Restaurant and Supply turned to SAP to appease frustrated customers and improve sales.

Management at Surfas Restaurant and Supply, a gourmet food and cookware store in Culver City, Calif., had a reason to celebrate when the store was unusually quiet this past holiday season.

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Past years had featured frustrated customers battling for position in long lines due to the sluggish cash registers at the popular store. The registers had trouble communicating with a third-party application hosted on an Oracle Corp. database, which resulted in long delays and ultimately lost sales, said Kevin Bersofsky, Surfas' IT manager.

"Some customers were so frustrated they would walk away," Bersofsky said. "So we knew we had a problem."

Surfas installed new SAP software and infrastructure last November, which helped support the sluggish cash registers and ultimately resulted in much happier customers, Bersofsky said.

With the enterprise resource planning (ERP) market well saturated, SAP and Oracle have been targeting small and midsized businesses (SMBs), like Surfas, in an attempt to expand their customer base.

"SAP will try to break its enormous collection of application functionality into a manageable portfolio of configurable process components," said Jim Shepherd, a senior vice president at Boston-based AMR Research Inc.

When the data center shut down, the registers also shut down causing us big problems and ultimately lost sales.
Kevin Bersofsky,
IT managerSurfas Restaurant and Supply

SAP is pushing its software on SMBs by adding new reseller partners and developing industry-specific software. Last month SAP launched new versions of its low- and mid-tier application software suites -- SAP Business One, The American Express Edition for Point-of-Sale and SAP Business One, The American Express Edition for Retail Management and Point-of-Sale.

Surfas chose the Retail Management edition of SAP Business One as its ERP backbone, running it on Windows servers. The company also runs Radio Beacon warehouse software and InFusion POS software to manage daily operations.

Surfas food and cookware, a staple in Culver City, began in an abandoned Los Angeles garage in 1937. A decade later, Surfas moved to its current location, which included a showroom and a service department. Today, it has about 50 employees and more than 14,000 items.

The SAP software is designed for retailers with at least one warehouse or distribution center and advanced inventory management requirements. In addition to point-of-sale features, it supports wireless warehouse management, automated store replenishment, inventory forecasting and planning, and electronic data interchange.

Bersofsky said the company's cash registers were too dependent on the company data center to keep them running during store hours. Complicating the matter was a third party application, which resulted in Oracle transactions inside the system and in sluggish communications with the data center.

"When the data center shut down, the registers also shut down causing us big problems and ultimately lost sales," Bersofsky said. "We needed some sort of redundancy so we would stop losing registers."

The company spent about $200,000 installing SAP Business One, which took nearly four months. It was in full production before the holiday season began last November.

Building redundancy into the system to keep the registers online does result in some drawbacks, Bersofsky said. Surfas is not using real-time data, meaning that inventory reports may not be 100% correct and transaction logs must be scanned to remove any erroneous or deleted sales.

"We were willing to make the tradeoff to meet our customer needs," Bersofsky said.

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