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Videoconferencing tools have given Pizzeria Uno, a national restaurant chain, the ability to coordinate massive meetings and get hundreds of employees into one conference to disseminate information. And though the idea of conferences is nothing new to Pizzeria Uno, the video component they now have through AccuConference is easing business communications on several fronts, according to Alan LaBatte, Uno's vice president of information systems.
In the past, Uno had used AT&T Conferencing as an operator-assisted conference tool, but that option offered little hands-on management of conferences without an operator's help, and it proved costly. "We had been doing audio conferencing for a long time before we started with AccuConference," LaBatte said. "We originally went to AccuConference because of cost savings. We were looking for a more economical way to do our audio conferencing."
Along with saving money, LaBatte said, Pizzeria Uno wanted more control over the management of conferences, something the company didn't have with AT&T. He said the company wanted to have greater control over when conferences start, who can join, and what other materials can be used without having to rely on operator assistance for use of features and functions. Now, he said, calls and videoconferences can be created through a Web interface.
"It was much more cost effective for us to run our calls on our own without an operator and use the Web tool that allows the conference moderator to take questions and manage the whole call process," LaBatte said. Along with adding some question-and-answer features, video capabilities also let call participants and moderators implement other visuals -- PowerPoint presentations and other graphics.
"In the past, they were strictly audio calls," he said.
More recently, Uno began including actual video for calls. The company now does two monthly video calls, one culinary lead call moderated by the executive chef, and a bar lead conference call moderated by the director of beverage. In addition, there are daily calls, operations calls, and quarterly investor relations calls. Some videoconferences can have more than 200 participants.
LaBatte said that having 200 end users relying heavily on the real-time essence of video caused some concern that the company's current bandwidth would not support so many concurrent video sessions. But those fears have subsided. Bandwidth considerations aside, LaBatte said that the videoconference system requires very little management overhead. Being Web-based, LaBatte said, the system allows users to attend conferences from home, a hotel or any other location.