The Restaurant Leadership & Insight Innovation Council had its final meeting on January 15, 2019. During this digital roundtable, the council members dug into how to define “back-office” before exploring ultimate goals for enterprise systems to foster growth.
Among key components that IT executives mustn’t discount is having a strong partnership with technology vendors. Tamy Duplantis, Consultant for Return on Information, believes this is a relationship that needs to be primarily owned by the CIO.
“The role of IT is managing systems, and if someone isn’t monitoring what systems are being rolled out, you have a case of rogue IT, where you look up and say ‘wait, who picked this,’” Duplantis says.
She goes onto tout the concept of master data management as a strategy for IT to make sure that tech strategy and systems stay under the purview of IT.
Duplantis, formerly of LeDuff America, and currently a consultant, agrees that a risk of allowing rogue IT to infiltrate companies is that there are systems and capabilities available that no one is leveraging. Duplantis ideally likes to see restaurants have a champion or super-user of platforms, but this does require vendors to outline basic functions and offer advice on what features to turn on at a given time. Without a champion at the brand level however, you wind up with the shadow IT where no one knows where all these systems came from and why no one is using it.
Austin Brinson, Vice President of Analytics, B.Good, says the open communication is important to foster a non-confrontational dialogue and stay on leading edge as new functionalities come out. “We might not necessarily use all of them, but if not, we will know what will be available, sometimes before it’s actually released,” he says.
“We have ongoing conversations with vendors throughout the year, so our partner can map out a pipeline of available new features and we can decide together what we should be leveraging,” Brinson says.
Council members defined back-office systems in several ways, but agreed that it can encompass different things. On the restaurant side, this includes basic levels of reporting for inventory and labor – all the data managers need to know and understand what’s in the restaurant to help keep costs under control. The other is the corporate side that encompasses emails, accounting systems and ERP.
Brinson sees the restaurant side expanding to rely more on learning instead of just reporting to drive profitability letting managers focus on bigger issues by decreasing decision-making time so they can act as quickly as possible.
“I see systems creating exceptions when something is wrong, rather than just telling people what they already know,” he says. “Too often there is data overload. It’s important to make sure people are told when something is wrong and not just be given a report with 1000 numbers and they have to find the two that are wrong.”
Steve Barrow, vice president of IT, Murphy Adams Restaurant Group, sees the back-office becoming more automated and mobile – very different from the outdated notion of managers with analog notepads, scratching things off an inventory list. “The back-office is more about forecasting,” Barrow says. “Knowing what guests want and having the right stock and employees on staff to reduce surprises.”
Mary Hamill, vice president sales, engineering, HotSchedules, notes that as restaurants have fewer managers on staff, the need for effective back-office systems is paramount. “If you don’t have the technology to make decisions and automate tasks, you won’t be able to manage efficiently,” she says.
Steve Barrow, Vice President of IT, Murphy Adams Restaurant Group
Austin Brinson, Vice President of Analytics, B.Good
Maryann Byrdak, CIO, Potbelly Sandwiches
Dave Conger, Director of IT, Costa Vida
Tamy Duplantis, Consultant, Return on Information
Anthony Lomelino, Chief Technology Officer, Caliburger
James Park, CEO, Garbanzo Mediterranean
Zerrick Pearson, Vice President of IT, Five Guys Burgers & Fries
Zwayne Sealy, IT Director, Mellow Mushroom
Mark Uffer, Senior Technology Advisor, Burgerfi
David Cantu, Co-Founder & Chief Customer Officer, HotSchedules
Dorothy Creamer, Editor, Hospitality Technology magazine
Mary Hamill, VP of Sales, Engineering, HotSchedules
Abigail Lorden, Vice President/Group Brand Director, Hospitality Technology magazine
This report highlights the potential efficiencies and business growth that can be realized by smart use of data. In order to leverage insights and make them actionable, restaurants must evaluate technology stacks and structure them in an integrated, efficient manner, as each component is a source of valuable data.