4 Keys to an Efficient & Data-Driven Restaurant
Hospitality Technology (HT) hosted the second meeting of the Restaurant Accounting Innovation Council in January 2018. Sponsored by Restaurant 365 (www.restaurant365software.com), the council is comprised of 10 restaurant finance executives, plus representatives from HT and Restaurant 365, who are committed to help other operators identify how to leverage accounting systems to streamline and improve operations. Topics covered during the second meeting covered several key areas including: implementation and integration; empowering the workforce; and how to improve the RFP process. Here we highlight three key takeaways from this meeting.
- Avoid Data Silos
Michael Lubitz, chief financial officer, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Worldwide, shares that with conceptually disparate restaurants it creates complexities in configuring systems. “We don’t have cookie cutter implementations, each one is unique and I struggle with having resources internally to get training in place,” he says. “I rely on my tech partners to accomplish this.”
Mark Quandt, chief financial officer, Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill stresses the importance of arming employees with access to data and understanding that data. Implementing different products and bringing information over from the POS has required that Quandt’s team finds the right level of detail in each system.
“We’ve partnered with a company that scans invoices and brings that over to accounting so employees can link directly back,” he reveals. “We look for solutions like this so that we don’t have silos. We want to make access to data as seamless as possible.”
- Easier access to data
Operators voice frustration over not having as easy access to data when vendor partners are storing informtion in above-premise data warehouses. “My assumption is that the data in the cloud is my data and I want and need to have access to that data – the vendor doesn’t necessarily think that way,” says Bryan Kay, chief financial officer, Vibe Coffee Group. “When it was on a server in a closet – I knew where it was and I could get it. We just need to be clear when we’re working with a new vendor on exactly what my access will be. If my only access is exporting to a spreadsheet and then taking the spreadsheet and converting it and putting it in a data warehouse – it’s frustrating because I know it was all there in the first place.”
Quandt agrees, admitting that at Wood Ranch, he pushes vendor partners up front to make sure data is easily accessible and that his back-office software complements it. He acknowledges that the challenges exist for a fair reason – namely security – but it’s something that operators must be a aware of and address. “You have to let your vendors know your expectations,” he says. “You view it as your data, you need to have it – you need to push them.”
- Select nimble technology partners
As more restaurants are looking to offer online ordering and delivery capabilities, many operations are relying on third party services to enable these services. Council members admit that integrating these systems through the point of sale and into accounting systems can result in a bit of a “bureaucratic nightmare,” if technology partners are not flexible enough to facilitate. Steven Song, chief financial officer of Luke’s Lobster, cautions against having a “Frankenstein lab” sort of environment with all sorts of different tablets around the POS, and advises to carefully consider your brand’s goals and long-term roadmap.
“You have to consider as you scale and grow all the things that you’ll want to directly integrate into the POS,” he advises. “What works now, might not work at 50 locations. Be careful of rolling out something just because it works today. Rather choose a partner keeping in mind what the optimal solution will be as you scale so it won’t take 50 times the effort down the road.”
For Song, the game changer was finding a POS partner that would allow for custom integrations. Organizations that are flexible enough to deliver integrations to various partners pays dividends as it saves on store-level labor, eliminating the need for staff to manually enter orders from various channels. This also eliminates reconciliation issues and errors.
- Train employees by providing context for the numbers
Lubitz also admits that a goal is to “remove administrative burden” from store-level managers. Providing proper systems to employees is only part of the battle. Council members discuss the importance of not assuming that managers understand the nuances and importance of accounting. Kay admits to making this mistake and stresses the importance of basic training and showing managers how inventory numbers impact store level numbers.
“Managers are often focused on quarterly numbers, but to help them understand how different reporting through the course of the day, week, month, affects that – that’s eye-opening for them,” Kay says.
Song shared a best practice implemented at Luke’s Lobster that proved beneficial. The brand held training sessions where general managers were taught personal finance – how to set budgets, costs, expenses and income. “It was helpful for them personally,” Song says, “but it also provided a bridge to connect the dots to how restaurant level economics play into daily routines.”
The next Restaurant Accounting Innovation Council Meeting will take place during MURTEC (www.murtec.com), April 11-13, 2018 at The Paris, Las Vegas.
Restaurant Accounting Innovation Council Members
Scott Gillman, Chairman, Mascott Corporation
Melissa Haman, Controller, Crazy Bowls & Wraps
Christi Hing, Chief Financial Officer, Kona Grill, Inc.
Bryan Kay, Chief Financial Officer, Vibe Coffee Group
Brandon Keith, Chief Financial Officer, World Famous Fare
Michael Lubitz, Chief Financial Officer, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Worldwide
Colleen McGuinness, Accounting, Sweetgreen
Mark Quandt, Chief Financial Officer, Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill
Steven Song, Chief Financial Officer, Luke’s Lobster
Bill Valentas, Vice President of Finance, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers
John Moody, Co-Founder, Restaurant 365
Abigail Lorden, VP, Group Brand Director, Hospitality Technology
Dorothy Creamer, Editor, Hospitality Technology