The final installment of the Restaurant Leadership & Insight Council took place on January 15, 2019. Hosted by Hospitality Technology magazine, the Council is sponsored by HotSchedules and includes members from a diverse range of restaurant companies. During the recent meeting, council members explored definitions of back-office and shared best practices for vendor relationships and the goals for enterprise systems as they pertain to growth.
To start the discussion, council members shared their views on what defines back-office systems. Austin Brinson, vice president of analytics, B.Good, asserts that back-office encompasses two completely different sides. The restaurant side, includes basic levels of reporting for inventory and labor — information that managers need access to in order to understand what’s in the restaurant and to help keep costs under control. The corporate side 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.
“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 1,000 numbers, and they have to find the two that are wrong,” he says.
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of IT, Murphy Adams Restaurant Group, sees the back-office becoming more automated and mobile — very different from the outdated notion of managers with analog notepads, scratching things off an inventory list.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.
The vendor relationship is vital for robust enterprise systems. Council members admitted to not having a regulated “report card” system with their vendor partners, but rather extolled the virtues of being in regular contact with technology partners.
“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.
Brinson says the open communication is important to foster a non-confrontational dialogue and stay on the leading edge as new functionalities come out.
Tamy Duplantis, currently a consultant, likes to see restaurants have a champion 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 rogue IT where no one knows where all these systems came from and why no one
is using it.
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