I spent a good part of my career in manufacturing consulting of all things. Through it I learned the value of bringing in people who are really good at what they do while you focus on what it is you do best in your business. Sometimes it cost more upfront, but you almost always save in the long run.
Over the past four years of Rock City Eats my favorite times are when we get to consult with restaurants and food services looking to startup, expand, grow, or just stay alive for another day. We work a lot on the marketing and business planning fronts, but there are some great resources out there that I find myself frequently recommending.
To be successful you have to have a good concept and a location that fits (we can help sometimes with that), but you also need the basics around you. A payroll and accounting system to keep your finances in order, food and labor costing to make sure you and spending the right amounts in the most important areas, quality employees, a good way to sell your products, and the tools to drive customers in the door to buy.
Full disclosure, we work with some of these companies below in various capacities. The reason why I have chosen them as partners is that I hugely respect their business. In many instances we pick them as partners despite far better offers from competing companies because they are simply the best at what they do.
Payroll and Accounting
I get a lot of questions concerning payroll processing, it seems like a frequent issue restuarants face. CFO Network, based in Argenta, acquired a payroll company late last year and now offers some amazing payroll options and everything is local out of their main office. That means if you have a problem, you can just run over and help you with it. Their payroll service has a number of unique components, like online self service, that many smaller options do not have. Their team is also really good at working to adapt the service to fit your needs.
On the flip side of that, CFO Network has always had great accounting services. I started pushing them around 8 years ago for our manufacturing clients. They leverage data to make informed decisions and suggestions, which I like a lot. Their team of consultants could all easily work in high level financial jobs at any company. Plus, they are also rolling out a low cost option that would be perfectly suited for restuarants.
Food and Labor Costing/Training
Ben E Keith is known for their food delivery service, but what always amazes me is just how many other services they offer for customers. Regardless of how local you try to buy, chances are you are going to need a few items from a food distributor, why not take advantage of what they have to offer.
Internally they are great at offering training on various restaurant techniques and overall food knowledge. They also have several people who excel at food costing and can make sure you are making a good return on the food you sell. They also have one of the smartest guys in the business when it comes to labor cost that is usually available to help.
Somewhere along the way of running Rock City Eats I had a brilliant idea to start doing job listings. I found out it was a complete and total pain to place quality people with jobs. AR Food Jobs thankfully came along and took that pain away. They focus completely on matching talent with jobs. If you have a position you are looking to fill, they are great at getting the job out there and filled.
Point of Sale Solutions
The biggest mistake I usually see in restuarants is in the Point of Sale (POS) decision. On the surface, it makes sense to go with something like Square. You get basically free hardware that you then hook up to a relatively low cost iPad or iPhone and you call it a day. Sometimes you have to get a couple of ticket printers and a cash drawer, but even then you are talking at around $1,000-1,200 initial costs. What you do not realize is that a full POS system easily makes up the cost difference in just a year or two thanks to transaction fee differences.
Advanced POS has been my go-to recommendation for point of sale solutions. They offer Aloha as well as a few other options. Best of all they are really good at coming up with a solution that matches your business exactly, and at a lower processing fee.
Square for example charges 2.75%. If you are doing $300,000 in credit card sales a year that is $8,250 in transaction fees. If you you managed to get your fees down to just 2%, you would save $2,250 annually. Throw in that thousand plus you spent on equipment that doesn’t fit your flow well from square, as well as hidden labor fees from having to deal with equipment that causes more work on your employees and you are very close to paying for a simple POS system in your first year. Then every year after that is savings over your Square. Assuming you plan to stay in business more than a year, and I hope you do, it is beneficial to just take the slightly higher upfront costs.
Obviously I am going to recommend us here. I have 17 years in marketing and business planning background, and I have a wide range of resources that I can pull in quickly from every area to help put a program together. We also focus well on high level marketing to slowly and methodically increase sales, which helps your labor and food costs more than a sudden surge of customers.
I have also heard a lot of good praise for Rock City Digital (no relation at all). They have a couple of restaurant clients that have been impressed with their work. They seem to do a great job on the day to day marketing tasks like managing social media, doing quick videos, blog updates, and things like that. It is the type of daily activity that we very rarely get into and I am glad they are here to fill that role.