Technology is making many industries more efficient, freeing up people to do the work they love. Finally, it’s hospitality’s turn. Chris Sheedy reports
Just a few months ago, Andrew Briese, CEO and founder of restaurant software business, Cooking the Books, completed a tender for a large restaurant business in Sydney. Through the use of his kitchen management tool and the various efficiencies and insights it offered to the business, he was able to save them $300,000 annually on chips, wedges, oil and butter.
“It’s a big business, so $300,000 doesn’t seem as much to them as it does to some,” Briese says. “But that $300,000 is still going straight into the owner’s pocket.”
Cooking the Books, which currently boasts around 5,000 individual users in Australia, helps managers get to grips with the financial management of their kitchens. It also introduces numerous efficiencies. It gets rid of the need for data entry by automatically reading and lodging supplier invoices into current systems. It allows for repeat orders to be made automatically to suppliers without the need for phone calls or emails. Perhaps most powerfully, it offers deep insight into the cost of every single meal produced by the restaurant.
“Any meal that is made and sold within the restaurant, management can know exactly what it costs the business,” says Briese, who was a chef for 28 years before deciding to promote his kitchen management system full-time. “And we can link it to a POS system and tell them how many of each meal they have sold and which meals offer the greatest margins.
“The system is designed to generate food cost, stock control, order sheets, nutritional value, recipe cards, sales revenue from the POS systems, electronic ordering and invoicing. It creates an all-over operational management service for a kitchen.”
Other industries have long known the many benefits of software, cloud systems and integrated solutions,
but restaurants and their suppliers have been slower to come on board. Now solutions are available and being used to such great effect, it seems hospitality’s time for disruption has arrived.
eBev is another platform currently making waves in the industry. With over 23,000 wines on its list since launching in June last year, and 750 restaurants registered to use the service, its growth has been frantic. But there is still a long way to go.
“We’re wine-only at the moment, but we’re almost finished building the capability and functionality to hold other beverages such as boutique beers, cider, spirits and water,” says Cassandra MacDonald, eBev’s general manager. “We are seeing more and more fragmentation across all beverages. This means venues have more choice. eBev gives them a way to access and order these products from one platform.
“Many venues tell us it takes them a lot of time to make their weekly beverage orders. They trade on a Friday and Saturday night, then it might be their day off on Monday but they still have to come in for three or four hours on a Monday and do their stock orders. And they’re often dealing with multiple suppliers, up to 15 or more. Once they figure out what they need to order, they have to make many phone calls, text messages, send many emails or log into many supplier portals. It’s a tedious process.”
“The great news is that data entry should now be dead. Whoever does data entry is now behind the times. It is simply a crazy thing to do.” Andrew Briese, CEO, Cooking the Books
Instead, the eBev platform offers a digital ordering service that is integrated into current systems and connected to all the main suppliers in the market. Orders can also be customised. The beauty of the system is that it makes the process very quick. Once all products have been chosen, one click sends individualised orders out to specific suppliers who look after those particular brands.
Restaurant managers and suppliers can send and receive orders from anywhere and at any time, from a smartphone or tablet. They no longer have to be at their desk.
“I sat down with a restaurant manager the other day and he told me that his beverage ordering usually takes him three to four hours a week,” MacDonald says. “I did the same orders with him through eBev and it took just 15 minutes, and that was his first order. As he becomes more familiar with the system he’ll probably get the order down to five or 10 minutes.”
The eBev tool is constantly becoming more sophisticated. MacDonald says soon it will offer functionality to integrate with POS systems and give deeper insight into relevant data. It will show the average gross profit for particular wines compared to where you’d like to be tracking, to clearly flag up which wines are over- or under-performing. These tools will help a great deal from a business perspective. We can benchmark a venue’s beverage performance against market averages.”
What if a restaurateur would like to deal directly with a specific vineyard? Of course, there’s an app for that—well … a website, at least. Cellar Reserve matches parcels of wine from small producers with restaurants that want those parcels of wine.
“It’s generally aimed at the smaller parcels that aren’t worth putting in the distribution chain, to get that product into the hands of restaurants and onto their wine lists,” says John Hart, CEO of Restaurant & Catering Australia. “It means they can have surprising and unusual content on their wine lists.”
Essentially an online marketplace where wine producers market their stock, complete with descriptions and tasting notes, Cellar Reserve allows restaurant managers to make purchases directly from those producers.
“We believe there is a gap in the market and a service that is of value to the industry,” Hart says. “In setting up this site, we aim to be able to fill that gap to help guide small producers into the market to the benefit of our members.”
It’s an exciting time in the hospitality world. Restaurant owners will profit from the new efficiencies and insights offered by customised and integrated software. Staff members will find their time is freed up, meaning they can spend more time doing the things that originally drew them into the industry.
“The information these systems offer is gold, and they also save you time in many areas,” Briese says. “The great news is that data entry should now be dead. Whoever does data entry is now behind the times. It is simply a crazy thing to do.”