NEW HARTFORD, N.Y. -- McDonald's gave PAR Technology Corp. a break -- after first booting them out the door.
PAR now has its computer cash registers in about 1,500 McDonald's, with more on order.
'We went from being thrown out the door to being the premier vendor for McDonald's,' said Dr. John Sammon, president of the computer firm he founded 15 years ago.
The letters PAR stand for Pattern Analysis and Recognition.
'Getting the McDonald's contract was the premier milestone of the company,' he said in a recent interview at the company's sleek headquarters in New Hartford, a suburb of Utica.
His company, among other things, manufactures the hardware and software for Point-of-Sale (POS) computer equipment -- cash register computer systems and terminals seen along countertops in fast food and family-style restaurants.
The computer systems do just about everything except the cooking. They take the order, total up the tab including taxes, record the time of day of each purchase and count the number of customers so store managers can determine peak periods and which items are biggest sellers.
'They (the computer systems) reduce service time by 40 percent,' said Sammon, 44, who has a doctorate in electrical engineering from Syracuse University.
PAR is the 'approved vendor' for the restaurant with the golden arches. It also has units in nearly 50 Taco Bell restaurants, intends to install a test unit in a Pizza Hut and is in the talking stages with about a dozen other chains.
'Our profits come mostly from the restaurant side of the business,' Sammon said. 'Our sales doubled when we entered the POS business.'
Total revenues in 1982 were $29.1 million, compared with $21.4 million in 1981 and $10.3 million in 1980. Since 1977, PAR has shown a 207 percent jump in profits.
What once was a part-time enterprise with a handful of workers has grown into a business with 532 employees and offices in Rome, New Hartford, Colorado Springs, Colo., Omaha, Neb., Los Angeles and two in Washington, D.C.
It took some painstaking effort to get to that position.
The company was founded by Sammon in 1968 as a consulting firm with six employees working out of a decrepit Urban Renewal building in Rome.
It first advised commercial firms on applications in the computer related fields of artificial intelligence and pattern recognition -- ways to give computers enough intelligence to analyze and interpret various sorts of data.
Pattern recognition research led to computers that can scan and read printed reports. It also led to computers that could analyze the sounds transmitted from hidden microphones in Vietnam and tell commanders what kind of enemy vehicles passed by.
Sammon had been involved in that line of work at the Rome Air Development Center where, at the age of 29, he was the youngest section chief in the center's history.
He wasn't happy working for the government so he decided to start up his own company, taking with him his top administrative aide, Charles Constantino.
PAR grew steadily, mostly through Department of Defense and aerospace contracts, but its greatest growth came with the McDonald's coup.
'I wanted to diversify, to become an electronics manufacturer and use microprocessor technology,' Sammon said. 'Charlie (Constantino) was a partner in McDonald's and we collaborated. I asked him if we could build some sort of product for McDonald's and we built a handwired prototype system.'
But McDonald's officials said they were happy with what they had and told Sammons in 1976 they weren't interested.
'It was extraordinarily disappointing,' Sammon said. But he persisted, reworking the prototype and eventually selling it to McDonald's franchises in Albany and Rochester.
'That was a rocky road because McDonald's forced the Albany and Rochester stores to remove the equipment,' said Sammon.
A year later, however, McDonald's called Sammon and asked him if he'd be willing to talk about possibly striking a deal.
In late 1979, equipment was installed in four test stores. On Oct. 15, 1980, PAR was named McDonald's official vendor. Sales to McDonald's in the first year alone jumped from $2.2 million in 1980 to $10 million in 1981.
PAR's other product lines have continued to grow but Sammon said the company's future lies in the restaurant trade.
'There's a lot of room for the growth on the restaurant side,' said Sammon. 'We're lucky. We've been prospering in these bad economic times because we're involved in two recession-proof industries -- fast food and the government.'