Sysco (Not Cisco) Gets Into WiFi

from the trademark-lawyers... dept

There are jokes about folks who confuse Sysco, the massive food distribution company with Cisco, the massive networking equipment company. For pretty obvious reasons, the two companies haven’t crossed paths very often. However, thanks to WiFi it looks like they’re bumping up against each other slightly. Sysco (the food guys) have done a deal with Netopia (a Cisco competitor) to create a WiFi hotspot offering for the restaurants they supply with food. The Netopia offering isn’t new at all. The story here is this new distribution network through Sysco. Of course, you may wonder how many people are really going to be looking to their food distributors to set up a WiFi hotspot business, but these days, it seems like everyone wants to be a tech company somehow.

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Comments on “Sysco (Not Cisco) Gets Into WiFi”

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drteknikal (profile) says:

Sysco business practices

Let me preface this by saying that while I have worked for one of Sysco’s customers, it was many years ago. Sysco is a big company, far more than food. Think the entire food service industry and hospitality industry, combined.

There are many cases where you have no choice but to buy from Sysco. For example, when Great Northeast Productions held Phish’s city-size festivals at the former Loring Air Force Base, all of their on-site permitted vendors were required (by contract) to purchase everything through their vendor, Sysco. Rent a stall in a food court that Sysco services, and the odds are that you’ll have to buy from Sysco.

I’m not trying to paint a negative picture of Sysco, but to illustrate that many of their customers buy from them because they have to. So if Sysco starts competing with Cisco, they have a great deal of pull over their customers, and even their customers customers. So if you’re a Sysco customer, and you want WiFi, Sysco may be able to compel you to buy from them.

Michael Clouser (user link) says:


Yes, Sysco has a psuedo-monopoly over many restaurant purchasing operations in the US. It may be positioned to deliver on this ….

Restauranteurs are quite behind in their understanding of Wifi and its benefits, let alone its installation and operation. If Sysco can model the deal correctly, it could present restauranteurs with a risk-free situation that might lead to incremental revenues.

However, I would also argue that the risk-free bit is not to be taken for granted, even if the initial outlay costs were to be the responsibility of Sysco. Patrons may be disenfranchised by others around them typing away, or talking on their phones over wifi. Already in the restaurant industry there is backlash against the disturbance of cell phone use by patrons.

Within the restaurant operation as well, the use of technology has not always gone over so well. Much of this has to do with the provider’s misunderstanding of the nuances of the industry, which are many. Sysco may have a leg up in this regard, but not too much of one. Most of its salespeople have never made it past the kitchen back door or the telephone for that matter to really understand what is going on and the consequences of technology implementation. For many restauranteurs, even the prospect of having wifi device outfitted waitstaff would be a huge jump. What are the potential benefits? Will this increase sales? Most likely, it would result in disrupting the kitchen for the placement of orders doesn’t flow as regularly, causing time compression and stress when a flock of orders hit the kitchen at the same time (this is what happened when Perkins tried handheld devices some years ago. They were quickly abandoned).

Also, for patrons, don’t they visit to get away from the complexity and stresses of life? I’ve watched in the UK as waitstaff have brought handheld wireless credit card processors to the table. Their malfunctioning caused considerable stress on the patrons as they watched. Is this fair to our patrons? Do we want them to be stressed by our technology?

Dammit, NO.

I’m a hotelie and could go on and on with this one.


Kevin (user link) says:

Excellent! I have been waiting for this! I do Wi-Fi hotspotting for a living, and have been for 10 years. I guess now I can take the company truck, an ’07 Avalanche and have Jesse James (Monster garage) put in the “Tailgater’s” option, a gas grill, soda machine and fridge. That way I can start selling food and drink, as well as, kitchen equipment. Shoot, pull a fifth wheel RV and I can do hotel style services also. Man, I better patent this, a rolling hotel hotspot with full butler services.
But seriously, it will interesting to see how they go about doing this without causing several of the problems that most Wi-Fi locations suffer from. The obvious is how do you provide security on anything that has ease of access? Lets, not forget the Home Depot incident where kids hacked thier network because they used Wi-fi for inventory control. If they are like Starbucks then you have to wonder what is level of end user usability, and condsidering that Sysco’s client base is huge and diverse, wouldn’t the costs of any system that can do these things properly have to be passed on to the end consumer. Well, This is a discussion that could go on forever, so we should just wait and see if Sysco bites on the Wi-Max Holy Grail if you will.

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