Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: November 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Berripop Frozen Yogurt Keeps It Simple With Schedulefly

Another Berripop joined the Schedulefly family today. From their concept to their store design, the Berripop folks keep things simple. So it’s fitting that they’ve chosen a simple restaurant staff scheduling tool like Schedulefly to make scheduling, communication, and organization easy for their entire team. Berripop is growing quickly down in Houston, TX. We’re glad to have a few of them on board. Thanks Bill!

The Schedulefly Crew

Book Update – Passion, Hooks, and Making Customers Feel Special

Chester Kroeger has owned Fudpucker’s for over thirty years. He started it out of a snack bar in a night club, and grew it to a famous brand, with over 500 staff during their peek season, and two locations (Destin, FL and Ft. Walton Beach, FL). Chester has found the right blend of passion and good business sense, and he’s the kind of guy you’ll learn something from every time you speak to him.

Follow Your Passion – I sorta left the political realm, so to speak, behind, and followed my passion. Which I think is the key in life. I really do. That one word is probably the most important word that you could put by my name. If you’re not passionate about something, there’s really no point in it. It’s everything if you think about. Your business. Your job. Your relationships. It’s just…it’s the key. In my humble opinion.

Onions Will Make ‘Em Hungry – One of the things I used to do to generate business was to turn off the hood system, and just throw a bunch of onions on the grill. And honestly there’s nothing in the world that sparks a person’s appetite than the smell of a sautéed onion or a fried onion.

Seize The Moment – Well, one night, after I had done the onion thing, there was a small crowd of people by my booth – which was about seven feet wide by eight feet long. There were about four people, and one of the guys was just absolutely hammered, and he didn’t want to drive home without something on his stomach. Back then it wasn’t as big a deal as it is today. And he was talking about getting this, and getting that. And he placed his order, and as he was kind of leaning there on the bar, and he says, “Why don’t you do a t-shirt? With a name like Fudpucker’s, you’d make a million dollars.” And it gelled. It was almost instantaneous. It was another one of those moments that you have to seize.

Have A Hook – We opened Fudpucker’s in 1983 in that location, and it was an immediate success. The t-shirts are the thing that carried it. And that is the absolute truth. And I think that points to…in this day in age, you almost have to have a hook. And the hook can be anything…it really can. But it has to be something that increases your sales. There has to be a reason for people to come to see you. If you don’t have that, then why would they choose you over another place?

Offer Bargains. But Not Without A Profit – We do have some bargain things, especially during dayparts when we need to produce more traffic. And economic times like these demand that you have some value-priced items. But you know, you engineer those so that those actually make you money. I fail to understand – although I have fallen victim to it from time to time – why restaurants will sell something for cost. It just doesn’t make sense. All you are doing is devaluing everything else. You can engineer a piece of fish a thousand ways to make it profitable. What do you pair it with? How big of a portion is it? What kind of a sauce d o you put on it? Do you put a sauce on it? What do you serve it on? There’s a million things you can do to make that attractive and cost effective, and still something that people would recognize as a bargain. While you’re still making money. We have a lot of things on our menu right now that are $7.99 to $9.99. You’d think that it’s hard to make any money like that, especially when you’re serving them a full meal. But that’s not the case at all. Yes, we’re making less when someone orders that, but that person, whose on a budget, may not have come here unless we had something in that price range.

Make Your Customers Feel Special – Together with wanting to be entertained, your customer today goes out because they want to be treated special. They don’t want it to be like it’s at their house. They want to be served. They want to be taken care of. They want to feel like they matter. If you fail at any point in the course of the service experience, you will likely have lost a customer. And potentially many more.

Never Accept Mediocrity – Our motto is: “Never accept mediocrity.” And the standing order, to all of our managers…regardless of how good your staff is, there’s always one, or two, or three that could use improvement. And you are to constantly hire, and replace those people who you feel are less deserving, or who don’t cut it. Well, that sounds kind of harsh. But let me tell you what it does. Not settling for mediocrity means that everyone on your staff knows that they have to perform.

Write Down Those Orders – I don’t believe in these restaurants where the customer gets impressed with someone who, you know, has a table of six and he takes everybody’s order, and he does it mentally. I mean, that is impressive. But there’s always that question in the back of my mind: “Is this guy going to screw up my order?” So we make our staff write down the orders. People feel more assured. They feel more comfortable.

Check Your Ego And Listen To Your Staff – And you listen to them. That’s another thing that I think is an absolute necessity. A lot of owners of restaurants feel like they know everything. And I’ve been victim of that too. You know, you have a certain amount of success in life, and all of the sudden, you’re invincible. Well, trust me, that’s not the case. You can always learn. And who better to learn from, than the person who is having contact with your customers…every…single…day?

Reward Successful Ideas – We have a standing policy that if someone comes up with an idea that we use – for a drink, or for a different way of serving something, or a new item, or whatever – then we pay them. We give them a bonus. So we get a lot of interaction with our staff. And that also goes to the appreciation factor. There’s very little that you can do that’s more important than lend an ear to what someone else is saying to you. It makes you feel good. It’s like, “Wow! He really wants to know.” And we do. I mean, not all of the ideas are out there. They may not get picked up. Maybe we thought about them and discarded them some time back. But sometimes something comes along that’ll just rock your world. That happens quite a bit, actually.

Pay Close Attention To Pricing – If you don’t adequately or accurately price things, you’re not going to be in business long. Whether it’s overpriced, or under priced. Either way, you could lose.

Timely Reporting Is Critical – Timely reporting – financial reporting – is critical. It doesn’t really do you a whole lot of good when the information you’re getting is a week late. Or a month late. God help you if it’s more than a month late. Because how can you make decisions about tomorrow, when you don’t have the facts about today?

Lock In Prices In Advance – We look at seasonal purchases, and locking in prices on large quantities of product. Whether it be fish, or shrimp, or ground beef. All of things that are the core elements of our business. The things that we know that we absolutely have to have. We try to find the best time of the year to buy them. You know, you don’t want to try to buy Alaskan snow crab in August, because the season is over. It’s been over for months, and you’re going to pay through the nose for that product. You buy it when they’re catching the crab. The same thing with shrimp. Same thing with Mahi-Mahi, and other types of fish. You try to lock in your pricing, and take advantage of bulk buying.

Have The Final Say – Well, I have a philosophy, and that is that somebody has to be in control. I think 50/50 partnerships never work. They just don’t. Unless it is such a unique relationship. And those things…they’re subject to change. Something happens in your life – you’re going down a different path. All of the sudden, your viewpoint changes. Why would you have someone in your business that can basically block anything you want to do or say? The reality is that somebody has to be able to say, “This is the way it’s gonna be.””

Do Things Right And You’ll Be Just Fine – I think that as long as we continue to provide the great service, and the good food, and wow our customers, then we should do fine. It’s just a blip on the radar right now. The times are what they are, and the strong will survive.

If I were planning to start a restaurant, I’d love to learn as much as I could from a man who has been successful for several decades, and is still as excited about his business as ever.


The Melting Pot – An Online Restaurant Staff Scheduling Pioneer

The Melting Pot is truly a pioneer in the adoption of online restaurant staff scheduling and communication to make the lives of their staff easier. Before most, they saw the benefits of providing a self-service tool for their entire staff – the managers as well as the wait staff, hosts, bartenders and kitchen staff. A Melting Pot location in Ohio was one of our very first paying customers over 3 years ago. Over the years, they have helped us better understand exactly what restaurant management and staff need (and nothing else) when delivering schedules, monitoring labor costs and communicating with staff.

Since then, through good old word of mouth, we’ve added Melting Pots in Massachusetts, Idaho, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, Colorado, Kentucky, Maryland, New York, North Carolina and Alberta Canada.

Today we welcome the latest addition to our family – a Melting Pot in Idaho. Thanks George for your continued support and your help in sharing your Schedulefly success with others!


Wilmington NC’s #1 Thai Restaurant Joins Schedulefly Family

I was so stoked when Indochine, a fabulous (and truly authentic) Thai & Vietnamese restaurant in Wilmington NC, joined the Schedulefly family. You see, Indochine is a fam favorite. Oh and it’s walking distance from our house. We eat there frequently and it is always packed – every single time. Tuesday at 5:30 or Saturday at 10:30pm – it is packed. The owners, the service, the food and the atmosphere are just plain rockin’.

There is something so satisfying about providing a service and having a business that you love and respect find value in it and want to trade their hard earned money for it. Awesome. I could not be prouder to have them using Schedulefly.

Welcome Indochine team and see ya soon!


Boylan Bridge Brewpub Now Has Schedulelfy On Tap

One of the coolest things about running Schedulefly is getting to serve so many unique businesses run by truly unique people. People with really cool success stories. We serve restaurants with unique concepts, locations and owners.

Our software is loved by independent restaurateurs and teams led by entrepreneurs who trust their staff and know that making the staff happy by using simple useful tools is going to make their customers happy too. What’s cool is that this circle of happiness creates a highly successful business which in turns means they do well and they renew with us each month. In fact – 99% of our customers renew their Schedulefly subscription every month. That is amazingly cool. I think that has a lot to say about the kinds of customers we serve.

Ok – got off on a tangent there – but my point about uniqueness came up when thinking about the Boylan Bridge Brewpub in downtown Raleigh NC – a new customer of ours.

Check out the photo gallery on their website and you can almost taste their uniqueness. You can tell they love their staff and they love what they do. We are proud to have you guys on board – welcome!


Lure Fish House In The House

We are thrilled the Lure Fish House‘s team of 60 has joined the Schedulefly family. This top tier seafood restaurant pinned in between Santa Barbara and Malibu serves locally caught seafood, organically grown local produce, and wines from local vineyards.

I guess you could say they are keepin’ it fresh, keepin’ it local and keepin’ it simple with Schedulefly.

Awesome. Glad you guys are here!


Book Update – Sleeping On The Restaurant Floor, Treating Your Staff Like Family, and Serving Your Customers Like You’d Serve Your Friends

Chip Bair has been at it for 37 years. When he bought a tiny little pizza place on a side street in Idaho Springs, CO, thirty dollars back was a big day. Now there are ten BeauJo’s locations, and many more to come in the next few years.

Chip is a cool as the other side of the pillow, and the kind of guy who would give you the shirt off of his back. He makes awesome pizzas, he has happy employees and customers, and he’s learned more than a few lessons over the years. Here are a few…

Do What You Have To Do – At first I slept on the floor of the restaurant, for a couple of months or so. And then I finally got a little cabin that I got on a trade out with the dog catcher. He lived next door to me, and it was a trade out for $25 of pizza per month, which worked out real good for me. When I was first getting started I drove a Lotus Europa. In the driver’s manual it said the Lotus Europa was good for a driver and one selected companion. Lotus Europas are very small sports cars. And I would use that for picking up my supplies. Because at that point in time, the suppliers wouldn’t deliver to us up here in the mountains. So I had to pick up everything at the purveyors. And I would pull up with my Lotus, and I would have things stuck every which way in that vehicle. And finally after a month or two of that, I finally bought myself an old Ford pickup. A ’56 Ford pickup. And there was a company right behind us – a small printing shop – that printed newspapers…small community newspapers. And they would have these overruns and stuff. So I would load up my truck with this waste newspaper, and take it down and recycle it, and make $6 or $10 that would pay for my gas. And I’d go pick up my supplies and drive back up. Again, I was saving every little penny that I could and doing everything I could to make it profitable.

Always Run Lean – You have to. Probably most businesses are like this, but in the restaurant business, definitely. It’s a penny business. You’ve gotta watch those pennies, because those pennies add up to dollars. And they add up to dollars pretty quickly.

Follow Your Instincts – That was somewhat of a tough decision for me. Get a raise and become a manager for a company, or go out on my own. And I decided to go out on my own. I had always wanted to be in business for myself. I always kind of had that…you know, when I was in high school I had a small peanut vending machine business. I had about fifty peanut vending machines in bowling alleys, and stuff like that around town. So I was inclined towards a business kind of thing. One of our family’s real good friends was president of Gino’s. They were a large frozen food manufacturer. And our families would get together on occasion. They had two daughters, and I had two sisters. So when we’d get together, the girls would go off and play and I would sit with my father and Mr. Workman, and listen to them talk about business. And I found that very entertaining actually.

Feed Your Customers Like You’d Feed Your Friends – When I first started I would still go down to Denver to parties and to visit friends, so I’d always bring pizzas with me. I’d always load up the pizzas for them, and I just had the thought that at BeauJo’s we’d always make the pizzas like we were making them for our friends. And we’re not going to skimp on our ingredients for our friends. We’re not going to skimp on anything. We’re gonna get the best, and we’re gonna do the most, and so forth and so on. So that was kind of how we developed the pizza.

Expand. But Take Your Time Doing It – The first time we expanded out of Idaho Springs was 1975. I’m a double Gemini, and I have this tendency to do things in twos for some reason. I’m trying to get out of the habit. So we opened up a licensed unit in Denver in October of ’75, and two weeks later I opened up another store in Crested Butte, CO. Went from one to three. Not a good idea. Don’t recommend it. I highly recommend doing that type of thing, but not so quickly.

Be Careful When You Pick Your Partners – And he’d walk in, and we’d be sitting there thinking “What can we do here and there?” And we’d always try to think of new ideas. And we had this big horseshoe bar, and I thought, “Well maybe if we move these glasses around a bit…” And he gets up and leaves, and comes back a half an hour later. And the glasses weren’t moving. And he just had a fit. And I go, “Look it, Bruce. We were just thinking about it. It was just a thought.” Anyways, he kinda flew off the wall, and he wound up having a meeting with the sheriff and the mayor to try to figure out how to close us down. And because the liquor license was in his name, he finally came in and just took the liquor license off of the wall. So we didn’t have a liquor license, so we couldn’t sell liquor, so that was pretty much the end of that business. So choose your partners well, if you’re going to have partners. Partners are really tough.
Keep Looking Ahead – Things don’t stay the same. You either go forwards or you go backwards.

Find Others To Fill Your Gaps – You also need to be aware of what your talents are. What you do good, and what you don’t do good. So I’m not a real detailed person. I’m more conceptual. So I’ve tried to bring people in that were more detailed to kinda run the company. The day-to-day operations.

Watch The Bottom Line. But Not With Tunnel Vision – Looking at that bottom line a little too closely, and forgetting about who you are, can really hurt ‘ya.

Work To Live. Don’t Live To Work – The restaurant industry tends to beat management staff up a lot. Typically in chain restaurants and so forth, managers will work sixty to eight hours per week. Our managers work typically forty to forty-five hours per week. And we might not pay them what they could make at restaurants where they’d work eight hours per week, but we’ve always felt that there needs to be a balance between working and your life. So we’ve always had our managers working a forty-five hour week. And that’s one reason why we retain them. We deal with them as humans and equals, and look for input. I’ve seen people go in and berate their employees, and that’s just not the way we are. That’s part of our corporate culture. We believe in the family and the strength of it. And we try to follow through with that with the things that we do for our employees.

It’s interesting. Each point I highlighted above is great advice for any aspiring restaurant owner. Or any existing restaurant owner. Or any aspiring owner or existing owner of any business. In any industry.

It’s just incredible business advice. Period.


The Family Is Growing And Baby Miller Is Here!

Yesterday was an extraordinary day. In addition to welcoming a whole bunch of new restaurants to the Schedulefly family – we also welcomed Miller Benjamin Aiken. Just a few minutes ago I showed him some C# code that powers a new feature we just added – there was no reaction. I figure that’s a good sign.


Thankful for many things,

Update: Bar Graph Now Shows 24 Hour Coverage

We just updated our bar graph view of the schedule so it now shows the entire day. Restaurant managers use it to quickly eyeball coverage for the day, spotting parts of the day that might need more or less staff. The graph can also quickly answer the question – “Who is on the floor at 7pm tonight?”. Clicking the maroon colored total underneath any hour of the day will show you who is scheduled to be there.


Book Update – Soul, Sexiness, and Education Mixed Together Equals Success…

Jon Myerow owns Tria (wine, cheese, and beer cafe with two locations) and Biba Wine Bar (new concept, one location so far…) in Philadelphia. He isn’t a rich guy who’s having fun with his restaurants on the side. He’s a guy who took on equity and debt to start his first Tria location in 2004, and he’s worked very hard every year since to build popular, profitable restaurants. Like all of the owners we have interviewed, Jon shares great advice for any aspiring restaurant owner, and much of this advice is transferable to any business owner.

You Don’t Have to Be Rich to Get Started – I’m not…to be frank, a lot of restaurant owners are wealthy people who are doing it for fun. I’m not in that category. This is my livelihood. And I don’t come from money. So our restaurants have been roughly half debt, half equity.

You Need a Plan for You – You know, you don’t do a business plan for the outside world. You do it for yourself. As an owner, you don’t really have a boss, or somebody to report to. But if you have a business plan to report to, it does give you the discipline you need.

Want a Partner? Call a Lawyer – Make sure your lawyers have a plan when things go sour. If you have partners, there should be – if things are not able to be reconciled – there should be an exit strategy set in place before you need it.

Choose the Right Investors – I tell every potential investment that there is a reasonable chance that they’re going to lose their entire investment. So if that would affect their life or their lifestyle, then it’s not the investment for them.

Are You Really Ready for This? – I worked without a salary for two years. I had influential business people tell me my idea was stupid, and that nobody would go. Banks laughed at me. You know, it’s a very lonely road.

Stay True – So you have to believe in what you’re doing. And you have to stay true to it. You know, the Phillies have been doing really well every year, and part of our concept is that we don’t have TVs. It’s a place to go and talk to your friends. We don’t have karaoke, no TVs, nothing. This is pretty basic. And the last three years during the (baseball) playoffs…man, I wish I had a big TV. Because during the playoffs, a Phillies game starts, and the place empties out. But you can’t sell yourself. You have to keep true to your concept. Or else, no one’s going to know what you stand for.

Don’t Be Easy to Copy – Restaurants have a notoriously low barrier to entry. Anyone can open up a restaurant. So what we’ve tried to do, is have a ver focused concept, with an emphasis on service and on educating our guests, which makes it harder to copy.

Growth with Soul – You get it to where you want to grow bigger, but have a company that has some soul to it. You know, where it’s not like “McWinebar.” And that’s what we’re trying to do.

Want Customers? Compete for Staff – To me the biggest competition is not for customers. It’s for staff. If you compete in the labor market and get the best staff, the customers will follow.

Sex Appeal – So we have a room that makes people feel…sexier. And just warmer. And that adds value to the experience. And it will make people want to come back.

Education As a Strategy – Education has always been a part of the concept. We built a classroom in an office building, which has 24 seats. We’ve been doing classes for four years now, with a lot of world famous wine makers and brewers coming in to teach. The school doesn’t really make money, but it’s an important part of our identity. The participants wind up becoming our biggest advocates, and walk around singing our praises.

You Don’t Need an Advertising Agency – We don’t do any traditional advertising. None. We only do internal marketing. We have an email list of 18,000 people. We send emails usually once a week. And we do certain in-house promotions. For example, every Sunday we feature a wine, beer, and cheese at pretty much close to half price. And we try to focus on stuff that people wouldn’t naturally gravitate to. We sort of encourage them to try new things with a low financial risk. Because if you want to get people out of chardonnay and pale ale and cheddar, you have to bribe them a little bit. So now Sundays are one of our busiest days of the week, when originally it was one of our slowest days of the week. We don’t make as much of a profit on it, but we’re educating our customers to new things, and they’re going to be a better consumer. There’s so many externally based promotions available now, on the internet and so forth. But I just think it’s more fun to do it ourselves, and to control it, and to keep it tasteful.

Learning Something New from Our Customers Every Day,
The Schedulefly Crew

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