Senior Writer

Papa Johns IT turns to Splunk for Super Bowl spike

Feb 11, 2022
Digital TransformationGoogle Cloud PlatformSplunk

The pizza delivery and carryout chain has established a real-time monitoring system in the cloud to ensure its pizza-making operations go smoothly, even under high demand.

Credit: Thinkstock

Few organizations are feeling more pressure this weekend than the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals. But take-out food providers like Papa Johns International will also be under some serious Super Bowl stress.

The take-out pizza maker, which operates 3,300 restaurants in North America, will no doubt see a significant spike in orders during the most watched sporting event in the US this Sunday night.

It’s will be a stressful task but Papa Johns’ IT executives are confident about the company’s anticipated performance based on IT work undertaken to deal with heightened demand for food delivery during the pandemic — in particular, Papa Johns’ Google Cloud Platform infrastructure stack and a unique cloud analytics tool called Splunk that is highly effective in preventing fumbles.

“Super Bowl is going to be a bigger day than an ordinary Friday but not orders of magnitude bigger,” says Justin Falciola, Papa John International’s senior vice president and chief insights and technology officer. “Every hour, we watch these little changes and anomalies in the system. We watch this stuff because it’s millions of dollars. We watch it like a hawk.”

For Papa Johns, Splunk performs two roles. It is used as part of the company’s security operations and for “observability” to help Falciola and his team monitor the abundance of unstructured data flooding into the company’s multiple data repositories in a specific window of big business.

“Close to half of our orders come in during just three hours every day. The volume is highly compressed. Responding in real time to the stores and to the customer is vital. With Splunk, we don’t have to code all of our systems in a specific format to emit the data,” Falciola says. “We just normally log in what’s often called [data] exhaust from different types of technologies and different applications in our infrastructure.”

Splunk, which is akin to Google Search for computer log files and counts corporate giants Zoom, Intel, The Coca-Cola Co., Comcast, Hyatt, and Airbus among its customers roster, enables enterprises to monitor all machine data — both structured and unstructured — in real time. The platform, for example, streams all of Papa Johns’ business data into an index that is searchable from a custom dashboard monitoring all type of data.

“Splunk is really in the operational analytics space,” Falciola says.

The special sauce

Typically, data must be written based on a schema to be searched, but Splunk’s Search Processing Language eliminates that requirement, enabling enterprises like Papa Johns to build dashboards that monitor, for example, the amount of time a pie is in the oven, how long it takes to cut and box a pizza, the amount of ingredients used, driver pickup and delivery times, and weather conditions in the area in which pizzas are being delivered.

Justin Falciola, Papa John International’s senior vice president and chief insights and technology officer

Justin Falciola, SVP and chief insights and technology officer, Papa Johns International

Papa John’s International

Splunk, used in combination with Google Cloud Platform, gives Falciola and his staff insights into the entire business process from start to finish.

“Splunk lets us laser in on our entire e-commerce environment,” Falciola says. “We can go in and see where a metric such as location accuracy might degrade in real-time. There might be an issue with the mapping provider. It might be new code that was released or a business configuration that that went wrong. It might be nothing in the system — just that a snowstorm is happening.”

Papa Johns, which Falciola says also relies on Microsoft Azure and is just a few servers away from being 100% in the cloud, relies on Splunk’s ability to differentiate anomalous issues from business as usual.

“It’s that ability to quickly focus on what’s anomalous, or outside of the normal competence interval, that has made a big difference for us,” he says.

Real-time insights

Papa Johns’ use of Splunk is part of a wider trend that sees more enterprises adding real-time monitoring tools to their cloud infrastructure to meet customers’ growing demand.

“I am observing a significant uptick in the utilization of cloud technologies to provide greater real-time observability and access to application performance,” says Futurum analyst Daniel Newman. “As enterprises of all sizes are increasingly dependent on frictionless customer experiences to enable their businesses to operate and grow, margin of error continues to get smaller, and without a doubt it will be these types of technologies required to solve the challenges of today and beyond.”

The food delivery business has grown so much that every weekend generates a massive volume of data. Still, watershed events such as the Super Bowl require a great deal of preplanning within each store and within the IT department, which conducts a good deal of chaos testing to be ready.

Papa Johns’ partnership with Splunk is giving Falciola and his IT department a higher level of confidence that the company can tackle quality control and business continuity this weekend with few if any sacks, by connecting all of the company’s back-end and front-end systems into what Falciola calls “real user monitoring.”

“It takes operational exhaust from literally hundreds of applications that our infrastructure is producing and makes it intelligible,” the CTO says, giving Papa Johns IT the ability “to operate our platforms in a more efficient way and sort out bottlenecks faster.”