Cisco Meraki helps centralise and manage Vapiano network

Vapiano is an originally German restaurant chain where it’s all about delicious Italian food in an informal setting. The first restaurant opened in Hamburg in 2002, and there are now over 230 branches across the world. The wifi network is important: for the guests, of course, and also for order terminals, payment devices and the offices. Following an extensive assessment, Vapiano chose Cisco Meraki as its IT partner. Read on to discover how this collaboration will help Vapiano expand to 330 locations.

Ambitions are high at Vapiano. By 2020, there should be at least 330 restaurants worldwide. The chain currently has over 230 branches across 33 countries, including many European countries in addition to Germany, as well as branches in the USA, China, Australia and Brazil.

Network not managed centrally
Fast-growing start-ups often experience the same problem: many services and facilities develop according to demand and without a real plan. This often also applies to the network infrastructure. A router is installed and lots of computers and equipment are connected, according to local knowledge. At a certain point, there is little room to manoeuvre, and capacity and management problems arise.

In Vapiano’s case, the company also controls and manages the entire IT system from one central location, through a small but specialised team. When the team started a few years ago, they encountered a network infrastructure that could not be managed centrally, nobody knew about the equipment used and the equipment all came from different manufacturers. It was all a bit chaotic.

New structure
It was therefore necessary to switch to scalable infrastructure that could be managed centrally. All restaurants must be connected online via a VPN connection, all coming together in the VPN concentrator that is managed at the main location.

There is no IT support at the locations, so a reliable solution with remote management is essential. Following an extensive assessment round that included various test phases, Vapiano chose Cisco Meraki. For Vapiano, all the pieces fell into place: there is a whole portfolio of products available that can all work together seamlessly, and the price also remained as expected and within budget.

Report and monitoring
Meraki has a comprehensive dashboard that provides instant visibility and an overview of the entire network. It is used on a daily basis to monitor all connected sites and devices and to generate reports. Are there offline locations, and if so, why? The built-in test for switches ensures that any problems with cable connections are quickly identified and can be solved remotely.

To manage all of the mobile devices used in restaurants, Vapiano uses the Meraki Systems Manager, which is integrated into the dashboard. Mobile devices can also be managed through Mobile Device Management.

Three SSIDs
Three SSIDs are created on the Meraki routers at each location. A separate network is reserved for the checkout and payment systems. In addition, the employees are assigned their own SSID and finally, of course, the guests are also given internet access through the wifi connection.

With Meraki, Vapiano can easily regulate the QoS. Traffic can be prioritised based on the amount of traffic and whether an overload is imminent. For example, the ability to stream music and videos can be temporarily blocked in order to reserve bandwidth for more essential matters such as payments. This happens through Layer 7 firewall functionality. Guests know little or nothing about it, of course. Guest access does not seem very important, but last year Vapiano launched its own Vapiano app, which can be used to order and pay in the restaurants. This means that a good connection is very important to guests.

When a new location is set up, the roll-out of the IT part runs smoothly. Vapiano contacts the Meraki partner on the spot. The partner then manages the installation and ensures that the wifi network has sufficient coverage. There are also fixed agreements for purchasing equipment, meaning that products are delivered and installed as standard for a fixed price. The products are delivered within two working days. The Meraki dashboard stores all configuration settings, which are pushed to the location at the touch of a button as soon as the network is up and running.

The roll-out of Meraki in the existing restaurants is still in full swing. In the meantime, Meraki has proven to be a reliable partner for Vapiano. The advantages for Vapiano:

Scalable – Meraki’s solution easily scalable to hundreds of locations.

Easy management – the Meraki Dashboard provides a central management platform for remote management of all restaurants.

Portfolio – Meraki’s product portfolio consists of a large number of different devices that all work together seamlessly.

Deployment – equipment can be delivered within two business days and can be configured in minutes. A new location can be up and running within a few hours.

Vapiano is a restaurant chain with over 230 restaurants across the world. The chain’s concept is Italian cuisine, where the dishes are prepared in front of the guest. The atmosphere is young, trendy and informal. Italian architect and designer Matteo Thun designed the interior for the restaurants. The first restaurant opened in Hamburg in 2002, and by 2014, there were already over 150 branches worldwide. There are now over 230. Some of the restaurants are franchise companies.