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J. Christopher's Plans for Expansion Include RTIconnect's Back Office Solution

As J. Christopher's readies itself for expansion, it has chosen RTIconnect as the back office system for its corporate-owned restaurants and all new franchisees, according to Sam Haddock, Chief Operating Officer for J. Christopher's. Designed by Restaurant Technology, Inc. (RTI), RTIconnect is an Internet-based back office system that includes food, labor, and cash modules.

"We interviewed several companies and looked at several different programs," says Haddock. "Some of the things we liked about RTI were their experience and track record in the industry: It's a proven concept. My business partner, Dick Holbrook, and I, are pretty old-school restaurant guys, and for 30 years we have been huge advocates of calculating ideal food cost and having that as a true measurement of what your food cost should be," says Haddock. "The RTIconnect system works very well for generating that• At the end of the day we just felt that RTI was the best fit and value."

J. Christopher's, which did not have an automated back office system before, began using RTIconnect last September and has seen immediate results. "We attribute a 1% to 1.5% percent in food cost savings to using the RTIconnect program," says Haddock. "I'd say that's [going to be] about $10,000 to $20,000 a year in our restaurants using the RTIconnect solution."

The Atlanta-based chain  operates 21 restaurants, 17 of them in Atlanta and one each in Macon, Ga., Savannah, Ga., Nashville, Tenn., and Tampa, Fla. "Our target is to have three additional corporate-owned restaurants open in Atlanta this year," said Mr. Haddock. Construction on one restaurant is expected to begin in about two weeks, he said, and the company is actively seeking locations for the other two.

Foundation for growth
An indirect benefit of moving to an automated back office system was that it forced them to take a "very detailed look" at their business. The result was menu standardization and a major adjustment to their POS system, both of which will benefit all new franchise restaurants. (In addition to RTIconnect, the MICROS POS system will also be used by corporate restaurants and all new franchisees). The change to the POS was done to accommodate add-ons or deducts on a ticket, as well as side items that are variables in menu items, and the multitude of variations in building omelets.

Less waste and quicker inventories
Portion control was another surprising benefit for the company. One of the biggest things RTIconnect allowed J. Christopher's to do was to use it almost like a portion control device. For example, the restaurant was using over a case of potatoes extra per week. That was brought to management's attention by RTIconnect, through the theoretical part of the program and the Food Variance Report. Now that they are down to less than a bag of potatoes extra per week, and are saving roughly $35 a week at one location.
Daily Prep Sheets generated by the system have also helped the company lower waste and cut costs. Instead of prepping what they think they will use, restaurants now prep the suggested amounts on the Prep Sheets, which are based on recipes and projected sales.

Another benefit is the time saved in weekly inventories, taken on Sunday afternoons after closing. RTIconnect inventory sheets are arranged to fit the way the inventory lays out in the different areas of the restaurants. "So if I'm inventorying the kitchen area, the front of the house, or the cooler, and if I wanted to reorganize my cooler, I can do that, but then I can turn right around and still revise my inventory sheet to match the layout," says Haddock. "It's not a big deal in the grand scheme of things, but instead of hunting and pecking for different items, you're able to go straight down the inventory sheet." This feature has saved them a full hour every week in their inventory time. "After a Sunday at J. Christopher's, as busy as we are, if you can cut your inventory time down by an hour, I promise you, you are most appreciative."
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