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Noodles & Company's Lehn up for an expansion challenge

Noodles & Company's Lehn up for an expansion challenge


Name: David M. Lehn

Title: vice president of information technology, Noodles & Company, Broomfield, Colo.

Birth date: Oct. 20, 1966

Place of birth/current residence: Harrisburg, Pa./Louisville, Colo.

Education: bachelor of science, public policy and management, Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh

Career highlights: joined Noodles & Company in February 2005 as director of information technology, or IT, after seven years as director of IT for supermarket chain Wild Oats Markets; promoted to current post in December 2006

Manages: seven people

Reports to: Kevin Reddy, president and chief executive

Family: wife, Sara; daughter, Zoe, 11

Hobbies/activities: running and biking

POS system: Aloha Quickservice by Radiant, Dell back-of-house server, Radiant 1520 POS terminals, QSR Automations kitchen video systems equipment, Epson receipt printers

Primary unit-level, back-office applications: Altametrics eRestaurant for food management and labor scheduling

Enterprise accounting and human resources management tools: Microsoft Dynamics SL version 6.5 for accounting; Sage FAS for fixed asset management; Chesapeake System Solutions TRECS for cash and payment card reconciliation; Ultimate Software UltiPro for payroll, benefits and human resources administration; Silkroad Open Hire for applicant tracking and online resumes; Emerald Software Group Abacus for employee forms, such as electronic I-9s and W-4s

Wide area network strategy: private, using multiprotocol label switching; integrated circuits for voice and data managed by Paetec (formerly known as McLeod)

David Lehn isn't daunted by high aspirations — and that's a good thing. Over the next five to six years, management at Noodles & Company of Broomfield, Colo., of which Lehn serves as vice president of information technology, or IT, hopes to grow the fast-casual noodle restaurant chain to encompass 500 stores. The company currently operates 192 stores in 18 states, including 35 franchised units.

Lehn suggests that Noodles & Company's expansion plans may be the most significant challenge he faces in his role. "Trying to build and maintain an infrastructure to support our aggressive growth while simultaneously remaining 'invisible' [when satisfying end-users'] basic computing needs, such as email, phone and near 24x7 systems availability, is a big deal," he states.

Explaining what helps power him through his work day, Lehn says, "Finding ways to streamline or automate processes to improve the business and the working lives of our team members is one of the biggest things about IT that truly grabs me."

What were some of your recent IT projects?

We implemented a storage area network, or SAN, based on the premise that maintaining a common data repository, as opposed to disparate repositories, eases overall information management and would facilitate any necessary disaster recovery. We also engaged in Payment Card Industry, or PCI, security remediation — a particularly important project for us given that we not only accept credit cards at all of our restaurants but that more than 50 percent of our transactions involve credit and debit cards. We recently implemented RSA's enVision platform, which [bolsters] security by [supporting] the collection, analysis and management of data from any IP device, without filtering or deploying agents.

Name some upcoming projects.

We are going to upgrade and add redundancy to our data center; conduct comprehensive disaster recovery testing and expand our data warehouse for improved reporting and analysis.

How much say do you have in the IT systems used by franchisees?

Asignificant amount: franchisees have a choice of only two different POS systems, although all franchised units run the same system and version today. We dictate very specific types of hardware, and we require [that franchised units have] a secure, broadband connection for sales polling.

Does your department have much hands-on responsibility for web-based or mobile marketing initiatives?

Marketing leads such initiatives but partners very closely with IT for implementation. We regularly communicate about what we're trying to accomplish and on what schedule, which individuals are responsible for which tasks and the like.

Do you see this partnership with marketing as good or bad?

Ithink this is a great approach and the only way to truly ensure success — especially as most of our marketing initiatives have a technology component in the first place.

Does your company outsource any IT functions?

We outsource the assembly and installation of all POS and telephony equipment for our new restaurants. Many of our key applications have been implemented in a "software-as-a-service," or SaaS, model, including eRestaurant, UltiPro, OpenHire and Abacus. Our data center is "outsourced" in a co-location arrangement for equipment that we own. After-hours and weekend help desk functions are outsourced to SDCR Business Systems.

Is more outsourcing to come, or have you found the appropriate mix of in-house-managed and outsourced functions?

There is more to come in the form of a secondary data recovery site and, possibly, help desk, as well as supplemental/backup database management. We don't have a set timetable, but we review our options regularly because we only want to host and support those services and applications that can give us a leg up on, or distinguish us from, the competition.

Have you acted in recent months to reduce IT center or in-restaurant IT power usage or reduce the use of IT consumables?

We have an ever-growing commitment to server virtualization: 80 percent of our servers are virtual machines using VMWare in an HP class-C blade chassis. We recycle old equipment out of the restaurants and corporate headquarters on a three- to five-year cycle.

What are you doing in regards to networking?

We are using Paetec T1 [connections that] allow our applications to run properly and quickly.

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