Anaheim Firm Signs Pact for Its Computers

Times Staff Writer

General Automation Inc., the struggling Anaheim manufacturer of computer systems, announced Wednesday that it has signed a "significant" agreement that could hook its latest small-business computer system with a sizable number of the nation's 2,000 McDonald's franchises.

The company, which is banking on its 2-year-old "Zebra" system for much of its growth, said R-Computer Co. Inc. of Palatine, Ill., will use Zebras in the computer systems it installs for the nation's largest fast-food restaurant chain.

"It's a significant piece of potential business for us," said Rene Caron, General Automation's vice president for marketing and sales. "It's an important endorsement for the product."

Caron declined to estimate the potential value of the contract. But company officials estimated that as many as 45% of the 2,000 franchises could be considered potential users of the systems, which sell for $25,000 to $30,000 apiece.

The contract with R-Computer represents the first use of the Zebra system in fast-food restaurants. The system, which collects and processes information sent from several satellite terminals, has been used in retail outlets, construction operations and health care businesses.

General Automation has been a victim of a tight, competitive computer market and some nagging production problems that have knocked it from its once-lofty position among mini-computer makers. After a few profitable quarters, General Automation has resumed its money-losing ways, reporting a net loss of $974,000 on $13.5 million in revenues for its most recent quarter.

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