Running your business in your pajamas with technology

Being in two places at the same time physically is not possible. How do you manage more than one restaurant effectively? Your dream is to duplicate your independent restaurant or open an additional franchise location to reap the benefits of multiple store ownership. Technology can create a system that will allow you to gather information from each store location and manage the numbers each day in your pajamas.

The future is here today. You have the ability to monitor your store operations on the road, on vacation, or across town. For example, with 700 customers in five cities, TowerStream is the most active player in an emerging industry that sells a technology known as WiMax, or worldwide interoperability for microwave access. Unlike WiFi, the radio wave technology in airports and cafes that allows users to log on to the Internet from their laptop computers within 150 feet of an antenna, WiMax delivers broadband Internet connections through fixed antennas that send and receive signals across entire cities.

Using the most powerful equipment, a single antenna atop a tall building can provide high-speed data transmission to users as far as 30 miles away, although the optimal range is less than half of that. The radio signals and antennas are unaffected by bad weather and provide an alternative to data cables that are sunk below sidewalks and can accidentally be cut by construction crews.

For multi-store operators this means real-time information access to store operations if you have designed your reporting information systems to provide such data to you. Here is how you get started to jump into the future.

Step one:

Flowchart your current system of how you as the operator receive information of your store results daily, monthly and annually. Take the time to write down who performs which task first and then the second and so on. Be as detailed as possible including all tasks you perform as the operator. Each manual process that takes time involving the processing of data should be included.

Make a sample copy of invoices, menus, order pads, lists, cheat sheets or any piece of paper that helps you track store results. This would include all paperwork provided to your accountant at month-end such as your check register, Z tapes, bank statements, credit card statements, payroll journals, fixed asset purchases, sales tax reports, plus any other paper that supports the store operations.

Step Two:

Remove yourself, the owner, from the paperwork process. Make a list of the tasks you perform in the flowchart. Of those tasks, pick the most important ones that will impact your restaurant in the next 30 days. Of those, pick three items and delegate the rest to your employees.

The basis of all success is sales. As a restaurateur or any other entrepreneur, you eat what you kill. You get paid for results, not just for showing up. Analyze the dollar per hour return on investment of spending your time cooking in the kitchen versus negotiating a lunchtime program with the local elementary school for 500 kids once a week. Do the same with monitoring the product delivery process versus meeting a local distribution center two miles from your restaurant desiring pizzas for the afternoon break once a week. See what scheduling employees versus establishing a business luncheon program to utilize your private dining area during non-peak time does to your ROI.

During this step, you should identify areas that employee theft can occur. For example, portion controls, employee breaks, supplies, ability to void tickets or any other ways that employees could be monitored while you are away from the restaurant generating new customers. Only you know your system, and you need to out-think your employees in this area. A local district attorney recently provided me the stat that, "One-third of employees steal from their employers, and that amount is usually under $100,000 and, therefore, never prosecuted." Theft appears in many forms but primarily when employees turn business into personal time on the clock.

Step Three:

Replace manual processes with technology. For example, do you hesitate to change the price of a menu item just because it means re-programming the cash register? Do you hate that little worn out, paper "thingy" on top of your cash register keyboard because it's covered with messy whiteout or has little squares of paper pasted all over it everywhere new menu items have been added? Are you frustrated with getting all your reports on two-inch wide paper with only one date range to choose from? Do you dread searching through dusty old boxes full of journal tape rolls to find an old report?

Sure, we know how complex a POS program can look with all the diverse files and tables that have to be linked together in the very precise manner described in the little blue operator's manual. And, we know that the little blue book makes it even more difficult by using terminology like PLU, Job Codes, and Key Positioning to describe those precise methods. One customer said it best when he described the process of trying to update his POS program at the cash register by saying, "Right now, it's like trying to put together a thousand piece puzzles without even knowing what the whole picture is supposed to look like!"

So, just imagine if you could find a software program that could let your PC talk to your cash register so that it could magically assemble all of those very complex "puzzle pieces" together into one simple picture so that it all made sense?

How about going paperless? Paperless solutions provide a more efficient and professional way to run your restaurant. Whether you have to provide sales data to your franchisor or accounting information to your investors the ability to have all of your restaurant data at your fingertips, in one location, and the ability to retrieve that data and send it timely will save you time and money in the process.

Upgrade your access to the Internet. Many accounting systems now will allow your banking transactions, credit card transactions, and payroll transactions to be downloaded over a secure website connection in a real-time manner. Jump back to running your business in your pajamas through technology for this step. Imagine waking up in the morning and: You turn on your computer, enter the prior day's vendor checks, download your daily sales from the night before, verify the deposit to the banks made by your manager the day prior, access your banking and credit card balances, download and approve your employee time cards for processing later in the day, and make a phone call to your opening store manager all before your morning coffee is made at home.

Your flowchart is your road map to identifying what technology and services you could use to simplify any manual or repetitive processes you are using as well as reduce your time spent on processing store operational data.

Step Four:

Implement your technology. Once you have flowcharted your systems, identified who does what and when, and have selected possible technology solutions to replace your manual processes then you need to set up a budget for the technology costs and timeline to implement the technology.

Culture buy-in is vital. Employees need to be informed of your proposed process restaurant-wide. Identify benefits to them as much as to yourself, the owner. Assign responsibility to one employee to remain accountable for the implementation process. Provide an incentive to this employee to provide valuable feedback for the proposed systems changes.

Identify who will be responsible for replacing current services such as your banking or credit card providers if they do not have the technology available to support your mission. This may include replacing your accountant or bookkeeper if they have not kept up with the times and are not supporting your technology program. Remember, outside providers are to serve, not be served. Your train is moving, and it is up to you to communicate your vision and watch who jumps on board. To ensure you get in your pajamas in your time schedule, a sense of urgency needs to be created to all who support your restaurant.

Step Five:

Reporting. A clear road map always has a finish line. Yours should be the reports you receive on a daily, monthly and annual basis as a result of implementing technology and removing yourself from the paperwork process. Take the time to clearly identify what you need to know about your store operations daily. When do you want to receive that information, and who will communicate that to you?

In summary, humans don't learn unless it hurts. Now that you know it is possible to run the financial side of your business in your pajamas what are you waiting for? Doing the same thing over and over getting the same results is insanity. Take a leap. How important is your time? Analyze how you can utilize technology in your store operations to simplify your life. Take charge and spend your time doing what matters…marketing your business!

Attend the New York Pizza show November 1 and 2, 2005. The above article is an excerpt from one of the highlighted seminars being given: Running Your Business in Your Pajamas with Technology. Live your Dreams. This seminar provides a simple step by step process to free your time and focus on the FUTURE! By taking advantage of today's technology and implementing the same systems that have built successful national chains, Franchise Tax Group will show you how to reduce stress, increase sales and keep more of what you make.