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Restaurant chain chooses SAP over Oracle for financials

Boston-based Au Bon Pain is ripping out its financial legacy systems and replacing them with SAP as part of a modernization project.

Boston-based ABP Corp., which operates the Au Bon Pain chain of restaurants, is replacing its legacy financial systems with SAP after a selection process that included SAP rival Oracle Corp.

Au Bon Pain has 232 cafes and does about $245 million in sales annually. The firm is scrapping the restaurant-based Stephenson Software system it implemented in the mid-1980s and replacing it with mySAP All-In-One, SAP's midmarket suite.

SAP All-In-One tends to be a bit complex for companies that are a little smaller than Au Bon Pain.
Paul Hamerman,
vice presidentForrester Research Inc.

"We've developed many homegrown systems, and integration is an issue for us," ABP CIO Ed Mockler said. "The old system is antiquated and doesn't give us the flexibility we need."

Au Bon Pain is starting its blueprinting process now with Woburn, Mass.-based software reseller Genesis Corporate Solutions. The SAP All-In-One system should be fully deployed by April 1, Mockler said.

SAP and Oracle have been battling to take a greater share of the midmarket in recent years, with each vendor simplifying its enterprise class software for smaller firms. SAP has strengthened its channel presence and is ahead of Oracle, but Microsoft continues to be strong with its sales channel around its Dynamics AX software, according to Paul Hamerman, vice president of enterprise applications at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc.

SAP's challenge is to appeal to companies that get caught in between SAP Business One, a low-end suite for small businesses, and SAP All-In-One, Hamerman said.

"SAP All-In-One tends to be a bit complex for companies that are a little smaller than Au Bon Pain," he said. "The cost of ownership and implementation with All-In-One tends to be a little bit of a problem, and it's not really solved with Business One because Business One does not scale up."

For Au Bon Pain, the goal was to find a vendor that had software that could be implemented easily, grow with the company, and have lower long-term maintenance costs, said Tim Oliveri, chief financial officer of Au Bon Pain. The firm began its selection process in March and underwent "an application shootout," he said.

"We put scenarios in front of the vendors," Oliveri said. "They understood what we wanted to do, and they worked through a solution right in front of us."

Oliveri and Mockler said that both Oracle and SAP did an impressive job. SAP was ultimately chosen because it would easily integrate with the company's homegrown data warehouse, built on Microsoft SQL Server 2005, Mockler said.

Au Bon Pain has been undergoing an internal reorganization. It recently introduced a bistro-style restaurant in an attempt to break into the suburban restaurant market. The company is also updating its cafe register software from Compris Technologies Inc., to improve the flow of data to a homegrown data warehouse.

Au Bon Pain plans to use the data to improve reporting and business intelligence capabilities.

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