Why should I care about inventory?

If you were to ask your employees about how they feel about inventory, what do you think they would say? After running restaurants for over 20 years, I think I can offer a few suggestions:

  • It does not have anything to do with me.
  • I just clock in and serve the food. I don’t control it.
  • I get really tired of the managers talking about "Inventory, Inventory, Inventory".
  • It means one night a week, I have to do everything because my managers need to count inventory.

The list can go on and on; but why do they not care?

  • Do they not understand how it affects their position and job?
  • Do they not understand that every time they waste, eat, or give something away, it has a negative effect?
  • Has anyone ever involved them or explained how when a restaurant runs good inventory margins it affects their potential raise for that year?

Most managers would answer "no" to these questions…. come on be honest…. it’s the manager's job to run good inventory right? It’s the manager that is accountable for it, right?…. Wrong!!!!!!

A restaurant is a team, and a good team will run good numbers over time. Is it going to happen overnight? Nope. It’s a process, and good processes take practice, patience, and passion.

So let’s evaluate how your server who works 25 hours a week could potentially affect your inventory performance.

We are going to call our employee Mary (all names have been changed to protect the innocent). Mary works a regular schedule (because she is awesome), Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 4 to 9pm.

In our imaginary restaurant we serve Fast Food Fish Dinners. Each of our meals is served with two ounces of coleslaw. (Seems pretty simple right?) Well Mary is a great server and takes a lot of pride in her work. Mary thinks that two ounces looks a little light so she always adds a little to make the portion look more presentable.

Mary’s customers love her.

Mary serves about 30 dinners a night, so that is 30 servings of coleslaw. Remember - each serving should be two ounces, but Mary always gives three ounces.

So, let’s do some math…. (Math? After high school?)

If Mary serves 30 servings per shift that is a recipe inventory of 60 ounces of coleslaw, but Mary is serving 90 ounces, so each night she is giving away 30 ounces. Mary works 5 days a week, so now we are at 150 ounces a week, and she works 50 weeks in a year. (We give two weeks’ vacation at our restaurant). 150 ounces x 50 weeks.

WOW! That’s 7,500 ounces or 468 pounds of extra coleslaw a year. If the cost of 2 ounces of coleslaw was on $0.30, that a loss of $1125. This is one employee, making one decision. That sure would have made a nice raise, Mary. And remember - Mary is well respected, she makes great tips, and everyone wants to be like Mary. What do you think that new server we hired last week (who Mary is training) is going to do with the coleslaw?

Sometimes it’s the smallest choices that have the biggest impact.

When costs go up, there is going to be less money for raises, less money to hire that extra hand. When costs get out of control, your customers ultimately suffer, because the business cannot afford to have enough staff - so now you are rushing, over worked, and making mistakes. We all know what happens when customers do not get the service they expect. You guessed it - less tips. Now Mary's wages just went down and she did not get her raise. What a horrible place to work! Our amazing employee Mary starts looking for somewhere else to work. If only someone had warned her of the dangers of coleslaw.

Here at PeachWorks, we offer a simple solution to all of these issues. No, it will not make Mary understand how inventory affects her, but we do offer tools to identify where the losses are occurring. PeachWorks cannot conduct your count for you, but wouldn’t it be nice to have great inventory controls and not have a need to count every week, but now only every other week or maybe even less often in less critical areas (that we can help you identify).

PeachWorks wants to help get managers out of the office and back to where they shine - in the dining room with your customers. We do it by offering easy-to-use tools that will help you quickly identify that you are losing 150 ounces of coleslaw each week. Setting you on the path to finding and fixing the problem areas.

Inventory is one of your biggest expenses. Why not let us help you break it down into manageable chunks, and help Mary understand what inventory means to her?

You need better collaboration

Go beyond the store. Real-time collaboration.

Leading food service and hospitality organizations emphasize enterprise-wide visibility and collaborative planning procedures as a key to initiating successful business processes. From an organizational standpoint, data collaboration is central and emerges as a core best practice.

Sharing and opening data to the right departments, consultants and executives ensure checks and balances and that the organization works as a whole.

A Collaborative Platform Built for Restaurants

The PeachWorks restaurant performance management platform enables the rapid transfer of large amounts of data between the store-level POS, business development teams and disparate systems. Called our Universal XML API, the system includes customized data synchronization capabilities and push and pull XML transactions. The results: a fully synchronized web-based Dashboard. The collaboration tool drives initiatives like marketing campaigns, menu engineering, operational excellence, financial oversight and communications.

Begin your collaboration initiative:

  • Integrate to accounting solutions to improve financial tracking and analysis
  • Manage your entire supply-chain through a custom vendor integration
  • Increase the responsiveness of your organization
  • Improve organization coordination
  • Enable business process automation
  • Sync store-level data, customer interactions and execute operational improvements and marketing campaigns

If you would like to learn more about our restaurant performance management platform, click to download our white paper.

Then and Now: Automat Technology Serving Great Food, Fast

Interesting ways restaurants are using technology: What’s old … is new again!

I always keep an ear out for new and exciting ways that restaurants are using technology. A recent story about a niche concept caught my attention. Eatsa, which just opened in the San Francisco last month, is an eatery that harkens back to the iconic ‘waiterless’ Automat Restaurants wildly popular in this country from 1902 to the 1950/60s*.

Automat

Just like the Automats of yesteryear, patrons of Eatsa self-order, don't see the people who make their food, and pull their meals from a wall of glass-front compartments (cubby) that open automatically.

Of course, the concept and the technology have been updated:

  • You order and pay for your food from in-store iPads or your smart phone.
  • The sleek and modern restaurant has tinted-glass cubby doors that display your name and order number when your order is ready … another nice piece of tech.
  • The menu has also been updated to reflect today's tastes and global consciousness. The vegetarian menu of healthy, sustainable, quinoa-based bowl meals is full of tasty world flavors and very different from the simple fare popular in the Automats. **
  • Back of house has also been streamlined for speed. Staff are assigned individual tasks with a system that tells them what to make and when - reminiscent of assembly line manufacturing popularized in the same era as the Automats. While they don’t go into details, you have to imagine that there have been some nice BOH tech updates as well.
  • The single cashier who sat in the middle of the Automat making change so customers had nickels to buy their meals has been replaced by a single person who helps people figuring out how to use the iPad order system (must be very boring).

Some things don’t (and shouldn’t) change.

As I explored these two concepts separated by decades, I realized that beyond the novelty of the approach, many of the things that made the Automat so successful sound very familiar and can be found in both restaurant concepts.

QUALITY:

The Automat kitchens followed a rigorous 400+ page recipe book that dictated everything down to how to display each item. Board members tested menu items every day and carefully evaluated every suggested change to menu or ingredient. Fresh made was their creed. Coffee was replaced every 20 minutes and all surplus food was distributed to day-old food shops around the city every night.

Jump to 2015 and the Eatsa team spent a couple of years testing and perfecting their menu and systems. They invite ongoing customer input and can mine the data collected from customers who ‘build’ their bowls to identify new flavor and preference trends. BOH technology and systems support consistent quality and delivery.

SERVICE:

Service is fast and seamless at both restaurants and convenience is key. Even with all the sleek technology and automation (then and now) – there is always one human being in the restaurant to help customers.

VALUE:

The cost of living changes over time, but value does not. Automat restaurants in the early Nickel - Five Cents"twentieth century served good square meals to hundreds of thousands of people every day for just a couple of nickels. Eatsa’s healthy bowl-meals are affordable at a fixed price of $6.95.

Technology in service to great food … and a great experience.

I started this exploration thinking about the different roles that technology can play in today’s restaurant. From a business perspective technology (apps, systems, and hardware) can help lower costs, streamline operations, and ensure quality, convenience, and service. But the real fun is discovering unexpected ways to use technology in service to great food and a great experience.

There are lot more stories out there. A lot more savvy and innovative restauranteurs who are putting technology to use in interesting ways to delight customers. Do you know of any? We invite you to share your stories.

* The Horn & Hardart Automat restaurants began to decline in the 1960-70s. The last one closed in 1990.

** Typical fare at the Automats included heart meals like ‘Macaroni and Cheese, Boston Baked beans, Chicken Pot Pie, and Rice Pudding.’

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www.Eatsa.com

Want to explore more?

Changes in Our Eating Patterns

(Photo Courtesy of the Library Company of Philadelphia) Automat Restaurant postcard explains the three-step process for buying and getting your meal.

How Savvy Restaurateurs Pick a Technology Platform

6 essential features to evaluate in your next restaurant software platformRestaurant technology executives and IT leaders are tasked with evaluating all the latest advances— searching for the right technologies to differentiate their business and boost the bottom line.Front of House tech like tabletop and online ordering, reservation management, and customer engagement apps are impacting the customer experience, while back-office systems improve operations and help to control costs. Integrating the two areas puts all kinds of valuable data into the hands of decision makers – in ways that are very immediate and incredibly useful.HeaderAs the technology options grow, both emerging chains and well established brands are looking for what will work best for their organization.Here are few things to consider when evaluating your next multi-location or mixed-category restaurant software platform:

What should you look for in a Platform?

Enterprise software systems have traditionally been complex, expensive, and difficult to enhance or extend. They can be powerful, but are not very agile or flexible. Cloud-based systems have taken out some of that rigidity and complexity and given us concepts like Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), Platform-as-a-Business (PaaB), and Back-end-as-a-Service (BaaS). But definitions for these models are all over the map. So let’s skip the alphabet soup and focus on what should matter when considering a restaurant software platform.A comprehensive restaurant platform should:
  1. Focus on the management of multiple locations and mixed categories — with streamlined business processes and integration of data and applications at all levels (local, regional, corporate) including analytics and BI. Giving every level of management visibility and control and eliminating time-consuming manual tasks, reporting, and spreadsheets.
  2. Use architecture that maintains separation between the layers — with configurable business services and open standards to take full advantage of the latest technologies and to maximize reusability, flexibility, and agility.
  3. Be easy to enhance and extend — with the flexibility and tools to build your own apps, clone and customize platform provided apps, and easily integrate with third-party systems. (Some platforms also create a robust apps ecosystem, inviting customers and developers to create and contribute — building an ever-expanding library of new features, apps, and resources.)
  4. Be truly seamless — with all applications and data working smoothly with the existing system and each other. (We’ve all experienced software products that don’t integrate as advertised, even when supplied by the same vendor.)
  5. Offer a consistent user experience — with single sign-on and an intuitive and easy to use GUI design applied consistently across all apps. (Eliminates the fatigue of employees and managers having to jump from one application or system to another with multiple logins and different interfaces.)
  6. Be truly mobile — with native mobility that is built-in and not an afterthought or a limited alternative. A responsive design framework means that all applications can be natively mobile. (Separate mobile solutions that are layered onto systems not designed from the ground up for mobile often lag behind in features, never delivering full functionality.)
What’s under the hood?A well designed platform should be based on a structured and modular approach that supports all the power and flexibility described above. Because every vendor’s approach is different, you should ask for those details because what is ‘under the hood’ really does determine how useful the platform and apps will be to your organization, now and in the future.

The Peach Platform

Here is a brief outline of some of the technology components of the PeachWorks Peach restaurant platform version 2.0. For more specifics, download our flyer.
  • Cloud-based data engine for data capture, curation, storage
    • detailed data object management and authorizations
    • bulk data operations
    • OAuth 2.0 protocol for authentication
    • REST API access for every object
    • server-side JavaScript code for API requests, triggers, and jobs
  • Analytics engine that sits on top of the data engine for search, sharing, analysis, visualization, and defining the data relationships
    • dynamically aggregates and caches the data based on access and usage patterns optimized for future requests and quick response times
    • provide greater deployment advantages over a typical dedicated data warehouse model
    • data visualized in pivot tables, charts or graphs, exported, placed in user dashboards, and shared
  • Alerts and notifications system that feeds all applications so users have one single interface
    • personalized delivery preferences (system, email, and/or text message)
    • informational and actionable alerts
    • triggered by jobs, schedule, externally integrated systems, or new data objects
  • Presentation engine handles everything behind the scenes, leaving the developer free to focus on the pages in their application.
    • controller API module handles the HTTP method calls, OAuth 2.0 token management, API versioning, and account IDs transparently
    • HTML5 template dynamically customizes the view to user’s permissions and device size
    • shortcuts and macros make building forms, tables, and grids painless
    • defined CSS for a consistent look and feel
  • Extensibility option allows cloning of existing PeachWorks developed apps
    • all application “components” copied into a customer development account
    • customer is free to change any aspect they wish
  • Deployment manager handles new developer apps or upgrades
    • quality and performance verification
    • encapsulation for deployment and versioning
    • private or public publication
    • installation invitations or purchase
    • upgrade option and impact notifications
> Our Peach Platform v. 2.0 brochure can be downloaded here. > Download our Peach Manifesto White Paper by clicking here.

How to Retain Your Best Managers

I recall a friend of mine who starting working in restaurants during college. He advanced quickly and was thrilled when he landed a managerial position in a rather upscale restaurant group. His enthusiasm waned; however, as he discovered how many long hours he had to work in order to keep the business running. He had all the skills and characteristics you find in the best restaurant managers — good with people, consummate at multi-tasking, passionate about service, highly organized, and proactive. He really loved the work but after a number of years, he decided to leave the food service industry altogether - because of the hours. This kind of turnover in restaurant operations happens all too often and is a real loss to the business and to the industry as a whole.Restaurant manager working on a laptop 

Are we all working too hard?

We have a strong work ethic in this country. That is a virtue but are we working harder than we need to?The International Labour Organization (ILO) reports that, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers. At the same time, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics defines single-location and multi-location restaurant manager jobs as “working long hours under stressful and hectic conditions” and being “called in on short notice, including evenings, weekends, and holidays.”If technology can make the restaurant manager’s job a little easier would we have a better chance of retaining all that great talent? I think so. Helping restaurant managers work smarter, not harder is part of our mission.

Shortening one restaurant manager’s week by 8 hours

Let me share just one example. We had a conversation recently with a restaurant manager who is a PeachWorks customer. He had just implemented our back-office restaurant app for staff scheduling. While he knew that the technology would help streamline the work of coordinating employee schedules, the results were even better than he had anticipated. Implementing that one app cut a full 8 hours out of his workweek. He had gotten back 8 full hours of time every week that he could now devote back to his business or, even better yet, to his family. He was thrilled and starting to think about what other technologies might help.Those 8 hours saved were for just one manager, one app, and one restaurant location. Imagine how the benefits would multiply if you used integrated restaurant apps to lighten the manager’s workload across all restaurant back-office tasks (scheduling, inventory, nutrition reporting, recipe book, digital logbook, POS intelligence and more) and across multiple locations. How many hours of productivity could your organization gain, and how many of your best managers might stay on?

What could YOU do with 8 more hours?

Time is precious in our very busy world and that one manager’s experience got us to thinking - what could you do with 8 more hours of free time?Here are few ideas we found to inspire you:
  • Get your bow hunting certificate (4 hours of classes)
  • Learn to ride a BMX dirt bike course (5 hours including full equipment rental – and you still have time for a few beers afterwards)
  • Learn to skydive (2 hours prep for a tandem dive, 8 hours for solo, less than 10 minutes in the air – and a life-memory!)
  • Learn falconry (45 minutes for intro class, 3 hours for hunting session)
  • 18 holes of golf (twice)
Tell us what you would do…