Restaurant Group Expands Ops Without Sacrificing Communication

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Restaurant Group Expands Ops Without Sacrificing Communication

06/09/2016
When Neighborhood Restaurant Group (NRG) grew to 17 locations across three states, the commissary kitchen they depended on to maintain their famously high standards started to feel the strain. NRG is an award-winning collection of independent and idiosyncratic businesses devoted to the culinary arts in the Washington D.C. and Virginia area.

From a production and delivery standpoint, the group’s systems were humming. Adding more capacity for prep, cooking, and baking was no problem, and delivery was a logistics challenge they could handle. The kitchen had all the marks of a high-functioning, large-scale cooking operation, and customers in the restaurants were consistently happy.

Battling a constant storm of miscommunication
There was just one persistent issue: They were ostensibly one big company, with the restaurants and commissary working hand in hand, but communication between the two sides of the business was overly complicated, and ordering was an absolute mess. Commissary managers were updating 17 different spreadsheets every week – one for each of the restaurants – and sending 17 different emails, letting chefs know the order guides were set. Chefs then had to download those forms and fill in their orders without messing up the layout or any of the embedded formulas.

Of course, busy chefs were prone to the occasional error, and multiplied across 17 chefs, correcting those errors was taking the commissary at least two hours a week— just to correct mistakes, not even to process the orders themselves. To make matters worse, chefs who went home and didn’t have access to their computers or spreadsheets ended up texting in long lists from memory, which inevitably meant more mistakes, and more hassle for the commissary who now had to translate a text message into an order before they could even begin to fulfill it.

It was basically a huge game of telephone, a perfect storm for miscommunication.

Real-time insights offer smart management
When the commissary pastry chef heard about BlueCart, the decision was made to implement the system. Since rolling out BlueCart, NRG has been able to streamline its operations. The system provides NRG with automatically customized order guides for each of the 17 different locations, so that commissary managers update only one product list. NRG has also seen benefits with web and mobile ordering for chefs plus the automatic organizing of orders in one easy-to-manage format.

The system is also able to automatically generate batch lists, making it easy to produce large quantities. Real time data insights, allowing chefs and commissary managers to see trends and spot anomalies they occur.
Two things changed right away: both the chefs and commissary managers spent a lot less time dealing with ordering, and the number of incorrect orders decreased dramatically. On top of that, in-app messaging tied to orders led staff to report feeling better about overall company communication.

With BlueCart, ordering and communication finally caught up with the rest of the commissary procedures, and NRG today looks every bit like the high-functioning national brand it has always aspired to be. Plans for a new round of expansion are in the works, and management is confident they now have the tools in place to open as many locations as the market will bear.