Building Efficient Operations from the Back-Office

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Restaurant finance executives discuss best practices for improving efficiencies and empowering employees with enterprise software

Building Efficient Operations from the Back-Office

By Dorothy Creamer, Editor - 04/24/2019

The second meeting of the 2019 Restaurant Accounting Innovation Council took place during MURTEC (Multi-Unit Restaurant Technology Conference) on March 13. The group discussed a few key ways that back-office systems can be architected to enhance operations from managers’ access to actionable data to potential customer-facing impact.  

The group reviewed several data points from an exclusive Hospitality Technology research report, underwritten by Restaurant365, “Integration & Visibility: Keys to Future-Ready Restaurant Accounting.” The study reveals that roughly a quarter of restaurants utilize more than four systems to run operations. The average number of systems being used overall is three, which aligns with the Council views.

The Council also reviewed must-haves for accounting system buys. The report found that the majority of restaurants are hyper-focused on a clean view of data with robust dashboards. The council weighed in with one member noting, “People need simple things in front of them,” Bill Valentas, Vice President of Finance, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers, said. “They don’t need crazy dashboards with tons of charts, they want something simple that they can look at and see exactly what they need to see and take appropriate action.”  

Other members agreed that the issue with dashboards is teaching associates how to take action based on business data. They need to be able to easily make a decision on what to do with – or about -- specific data points

Integration with other systems was the second selection and many members still struggle with finding solutions for this as many opt for a best-in-breed approach as “nobody has it all,” as Michael Lubitz, CFO, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Worldwide, says.

Falling under the reporting category, Valentas notes that a business intelligence tool is a must-have for Freddy’s. Having a tool that will push down appropriate information to all restaurants allows all managers to be looking at the same thing and see trends.

“This will keep a trend line going and give associates markers to follow,” Valentas says. “It’s changing the way everyone looks at what we’re doing.”

Mark Quandt, CFO of Wood Ranch, notes that moving to the cloud has made it easier to see more than he previously was able. “Now I can be selective and can find vendors who will make the effort to make an integration work for me.”

Quandt and other council members note that mergers and acquisitions are changing the landscape. Quandt notes that sometimes it is a positive if it gets a restaurant closer to only needing one system, but often that doesn’t wind up being the case.

Bruce Nelson, CFO of Nova Hospitality Group, bemoans when acquisitions result in a less than optimal customer experience and notes that he doesn’t want a one-stop-shop. “I’d rather have [a vendor] that all they focus on is one thing and do that really well,” he says.

One of the benefits of being in the cloud for Steve Song, CFO of Luke’s Lobster is that since cloud-based systems are generally newer, they have open APIs. “That’s more important to me,” he says. “Open-based matters more. What I don’t like about cloud is that if I liked an old version, you have to go with what’s new. You’re on for the ride.”

Quandt sees the bright side of this nuance as if restaurants don’t have to pay for updates, it can help them stay in front of issues and keep evolving. He does note that the timing is important, as sometimes a company needs to “work itself into it,” and not change a setting right away.

John Moody, co-founder of sponsoring company Restaurant365 offers the potential solution of being able to toggle updates on or off as something being worked on currently. He notes this capability would allow companies to decide what they need and when to add it.

 

2019 Restaurant Accounting Innovation Council Members

Scott Gillman, Chairman, Mascott Corporation

Melissa Haman, Finance, Broadway Restaurant Group

Steven Song, CFO, Luke’s Lobster

Mark Quandt, CFO, Wood Ranch BBQ & Grill

Michael Lubitz, CFO, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Worldwide

Christi Hing, CFO, Kona Grill Inc.

Brandon Keith, CFO, World Famous Fare

Bill Valentas, Vice President of Finance, Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers

Bruce Nelson, CFO, Nova Hospitality Group

John Moody, Co-Founder, Restaurant 365

Abigail Lorden, Vice President, Group Brand Director, Hospitality Technology

Dorothy Creamer, Editor, Hospitality Technology