Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: December 2010 (Page 1 of 4)

In 2011, Try Leading People Somewhere New

The most interesting people and businesses in the world are different in some way. They do things that other people don’t do. There is something about them or what they do that is different and people are drawn to them. They did not take the conventional route that grade school, high school and college encouraged them to take. They blazed new paths where there was no path. Even though their product may be very similar or even exactly the same as others, they do things different and that is why customers love them. They take their followers to new places – places they have never been before. This creates excitement, buzz and loyalty. Once again, Zappos is a great example of this. The guy who started Zappos decided to sell shoes online just like thousands of other companies – but knew he needed to lead his customers to a new place. A place they have never been – either online or in a real shoe store. He did this by blazing a brand new path. A path that’s impossible to even picture until someone else creates it.

Zappos is an extreme example I guess – because offering free overnight shipping (both ways) would be tough to pull off for any business – but it doesn’t have to be that extreme or that different. There are many great examples in our list of customers. Restaurants that sell pizza and BBQ for instance. Restaurants that are becoming institutions like Joe’s Real BBQ in Gilbert AZ or Pi Pizzeria in St. Louis. Thousands of places sell pizza and BBQ, but these businesses are leading their customers somewhere new. They are doing what they as creative, unique individuals are passionate about and creating a place people want to be often. They also likely ignore what their competition is doing – in fact I bet in their mind they don’t even have any competition. Even though they sell BBQ – no one can copy them. No one can do what they do. No one can take people to the same place – even if they sell a similar product at a lower price. People will pay more for Joe’s BBQ and go way out of their way to get it. Someone could likely work really hard to make the exact same BBQ, but could never pull off the delivery and the experience like Joe.

So maybe you don’t even need to invent something new – or be the pioneers in your industry. You just need to deliver your product or service to people in a way they’ve never been offered it before. Take them somewhere new, someplace they want to return to again and again.


Wil and Wes Remake Tin Cup

Earlier this year Wil and I met for a few days down near Pawleys Island SC for a little brainstorming and some relaxing over a round of golf. The brainstorming was fun and easy. We agree on nearly everything – so it was a lot of yes, sounds cool, let’s do it.

The golf – well – it was not so easy. It was textbook amateur golf. We teamed up with a couple members at one of the eleven thousand gorgeous golf courses down there and set out to smash the course record. Instead of that – we emptied brand new sleeves of $5 titleists into lakes, sand traps and back yards. Most tee shots ended with a “You think that’s OB?”. The other 3 would confidently say…”Yes, hit another”.

Unbeknownst to Wil, I took this highlight of him on a par 3 so short you could have thrown it in birdie range. The best part of the clip (other than the maintenance guy keeping his leaf blower on, stopping b/w shots and restarting right before Wil hits his 2nd) is the guy in our group at the end saying “Not bad at all…right straight at it”.

Just trying to keep it in play,

Book Excerpt – Persistence, Design, and Never Cutting Corners

Penny Karas left a career in policy-related communications work in D.C. to start Hello Cupcake. She opened her first store in 2008, and is getting ready to open a second location soon, as well as launch a national shipping platform. Penny keeps things simple, leverages really cool design to enhance her brand, and refuses to sacrifice the quality of her ingredients. Her passion for her business is contagious – you start whiffing cupcakes when you’re speaking with her over the phone! She’s learned a ton in just a few years, and we’re stoked to be able to share some of her philosophies and advice.

Don’t Wing It – It took me a few more years to develop the concept, develop the recipes, and get it off the ground…my actual storefront. I did catering out of my home for a while as I was perfecting the recipes and building out the store, and then we opened our store in August of 2008.

Live Your Own Philosophy – It really is a part of my philosophy that, as a business owner, you really have to live your own philosophy in your business.

Never Cut Corners – Even when I was baking out of my home kitchen, I never cut corners. I did it in small batches. It was all done from scratch. And that continues to be an important element of the business. We haven’t gone to any sort of mixes, even though our suppliers are constantly pushing us to buy their mixes. We do everything from scratch. We juice our own lemons, we crack our own eggs – we don’t even use liquid eggs. So it really does have a home baked feel about it.

Make Your Space Part Of Your Brand – Another important thing is that the shop has a very high design concept. And this concept of this brand experience, where you’re in a space where the space itself is part of the brand – that’s really important to me as well. So that’s one of the things we planned for the brand from the very beginning.

Use Business Planning Software…And Friends – I used business planning software to do it. I had never done that before, so I highly recommend getting a good business planning software. It guides you through the process, and you basically just plug things in, which is really nice. I counted on a couple of successful business-owner friends to review it for me, and to tell me where bank would call me on things.

Don’t Take “No” For An Answer – I went to the bank, and I knocked on their door, and I didn’t stop knocking, and I wouldn’t take no for an answer (laughs). I stuck my business plan in front of them, and they were like, “Oh no, no, no, no, no. This is ridiculous. Cupcakes? No.” And I was like, “Yes! Trust me (laughs).” So that’s basically what it was. I was very persistent. And every time they asked me for some other piece of information that was a pain in the ass for me to get, and to put together, I would do it. And I would put it in front of them, and I finally convinced them that this was something that they could support.

Double Your Budget & Your Time Frame To Get Started – I get people asking me all of the time, “Oh, I want to open my own bakery or my own cupcake store. What do I have to do?” I tell people not to be afraid of those numbers, because they seem really big when you’re just opening your first business. But you start to realize that you can handle it in pretty short order. I also tell them to double their imagined budget and their imagined time line for their business (laughs).

Marry Your Location With Your Brand – We are in the city. We’re located across the street from a very busy metro station. It’s key in a number of ways. It’s key because it’s just a great location – there’s lots of people walking around. And it’s also key because it meshes very well with our brand. We’re a very upscale, urban brand, appealing to young professionals, and that’s the part of town that we’re in. We’re right in between the neighborhoods where people live, and the neighborhoods where people work. We’re right at this very busy metro stop. There are lots of other small, independent businesses around us. It’s not an area of town that has become national chainified, like other parts of town. So I think it’s been really key for us, in both those ways.

The Schedulefly Crew

Book Excerpt – Delegation, The Little Things, and Checking Your Ego At The Door

Emad Yakoub owns Glowbal Restaurant Group in Vancouver, BC. After many years as an executive chef at some of Canada’s most famous five star restaurants, Emad has owned successful restaurants in Toronto and Vancouver for over fifteen years. He started Glowbal in 2002, and the group now owns six highly popular, successful restaurants in Vancouver. You’ll learn so much incredible wisdom from talking to Emad for thirty minutes, that you’ll want to spend a whole day with him. Here are a few of the pearls he shared with us…

Make People Happy, And The Numbers Will Take Care Of Themselves – (Emad is speaking here about opening his first restaurant) We were very happy, because we had money in our pocket. We didn’t care too much to run the numbers, on whether we were running 28% food costs, and stuff like that. We just focused on making people happy, and the money will come after that. And that had a big impact on my philosophy in the restaurant business. As much as we know the numbers, we don’t take shortcuts when it comes to our customers. The customer will always get high quality items, for a very good price.

Save On Labor So You Can Have Great Prices – I will guarantee in our city, that if the restaurant next door has the same steak on the menu, it’s going to be a little bit more than me. Because we’ve found how to save money other ways than saving it on the plate, like saving it on the labor that’s going to serve the plate. To give you an example…I’m going to get back to Schedulefly. Because with Schedulefly, the managers can – in an instant – contact 100 waiters, and tell them something based on how the tables are turning. So we could ask them to come in a half an hour later. Well, that half an hour that’s saved – the customer doesn’t see it because there’s nobody in the restaurant. So it helps us control our labor costs.

Use Technology To Communicate Info Quickly To Your Staff – We also communicate promotions through Schedulefly. So when the waiters come in, they know that today we just got a sixty pound halibut, and we’ve like to move it through lunch. So the waiter goes onto the floor not guessing what they have to sell, because we’ve already told him what we have to move. So it keeps us in touch with every individual. The manager gets so busy with so many things to have time to tell everybody.

The Little Stuff Is Actually Pretty Big – We have a financial meeting with our managers every month, and we go through all the little details, like how much paper has been used. I mean, we’re a small company, but we still run it like a Fortune 500. So how can we save on things like…when do you light the candle on the table? Do you light it at 5:00 in the summer time, or light it at 7:00 when the daylight is gone? Well that two hour difference will save you $400 or $500 per month in fuel.

Lead By Example – “Oh, I don’t know how you get your staff to be that good, or that smiley, or that perfect.” Well, it all starts from the top. If the managers have the same excitement and the same passion that I have, it will flow to the supervisor. And if the supervisor has the same passion and excitement, it’s going to flow to the senior waiter. And the senior waiters give it to the waiters. We think it starts from the top. We’re a very vocal group. Off the cuff. We love having fun at work. At the end of the day, I tell my staff, “Just have fun first.” Fun will make everything else great. If you’re having fun at work, and you’re looking after the customer with the same philosophy, the customer is going to feel it.

Wish For Your Teammate’s Success. Even If It Means Losing Them – I just lost one of my best executive chefs in the company, because he decided to open a food cart on the street. He realized that it’s not about your ego, it’s about the business sense. And he’s trying to do the same sort of steps that we did. So he decided he wanted to start his business by opening a gourmet food cart – and organic food cart – on the streets, selling organic sandwiches. He might go in and fish his own salmon. It’s very interesting, and I was very happy for him, because it showed that what we tried to do…we want everybody to be successful. And I really would not be upset if he left me to open across the street, and become my competition, because it would make me stronger.

Go Above And Beyond For Your Partners – If your partners know that you are very fair with them – and more than fair – they’re going to respect you, and they’re going to be giving more to you than you’re giving to them. My partners know that sometimes when a month is not doing very well, that I sacrifice some of my percentage for that month. And they know that I don’t have to, because there’s lots of fat months to cover it, but at the end of the day I’m making very good money, and it’s not about the extra $5,000 or $10,000. It’s about everybody making good money around me. And that makes your partners very, very loyal to you.

Want To Grow? Learn To Let Go – It’s made me change as a person. In the old days, I needed to control everything. Everything had to be in front of my plate. Everything I had to put my finger on. And then I realized, “O.k., that’s great, but I can only do three or four restaurants. I can’t do more. Physically I can’t be in but so many locations at the same time.” So it taught me how to be a lot more open in terms of giving. I give my partners lots of leeway to run things. And when they call me sometime and ask for my opinion, I say, “This is your department. I trust you.” By letting go like this, it gives me more time to grow as a person. And if I’m growing as a person, everybody around me is going to grow with me.

Check Your Ego At The Door – I always say, “Let’s take the egos out of it. It’s a business. At the end of the day, it a business.” When I interview people, I tell them, “Let’s say I was going to build you a restaurant. It’s going to be forty seats. And you are going to be cooking for superstars, princesses, and kings. And your name is going to be one of the best chefs in the city. With forty seats, you’ll be working six, seven days a week because you’ll be the only one that can do it. Or, we could open a fish and chips stand, and the line will be around the block seven days a week, and you won’t have to be there much. Which restaurant are you going to own?” And it’s funny how the people who pick the first one…we don’t hire them. They took the business sense out of it. We’re in the business to make money. It’s not about egos. There are restaurants that get “Best Restaurant of the Year” in their city, and they end up closing. And the only reason…the only reason this is happening is because the chef and the owner took out of it, the business sense. They only did it to get the award. They wanted to be named the best restaurant in the city. Or the top chef in the city. Not the busiest restaurant in the city. And if they took their ego out…At the end of the day, it has to be a business decision. Decisions need to be made with emotions taken out of them. We do things based on what the customer wants to eat, not what our egos tell us to do.

The Schedulefly Crew

Demun Oyster Bar in St. Louis – Welcome to Schedulefly!

We’re excited to make restaurant employee scheduling & communication easy for the newest oyster bar in St. Louis. A big welcome goes to Rachel and the team, and good luck with your first year. Let us know if we can do anything for you.

The Schedulefly Crew

MacFarlane’s Celtic Pub Joins The Family

We’re stoked to welcome James and the team at MacFarlane’s Celtic Pub in Lake Charles, LA, and help make your restaurant scheduling and communication a cinch.

Looks like y’all have a fun place down there. We’d love to kick back and try a few of your beers one day. Have fun, and let us know if we can do anything for you.

The Schedulefly Crew

Famous Joe’s Joins The Movement

A big welcome to Joe and the fun crew at Famous Joe’s Pizzeria in Madison, AL. We’re excited to help make your restaurant employee scheduling easy, simple, and fun.

Joe’s has been getting great reviews on Urbanspoon, and my mouth is starting to water while writing this, as I think about knocking out a few slices of their pies.

The Schedulefly Crew

Welcome to Il Lupino Trattoria & Wine Bar

We’re excited to serve Pia and the team at Il Lupino in Honolulu, HI. Il Lupino is the perfect place to experience the wonderful flavors of Italy while you’re taking it easy in Honolulu.


The Schedulefly Crew

Another Mellow Mushroom Joins The Family

Welcome to James and the Mellow Mushroom in Wilder, KY! We’re stoked to serve fourteen Mellow Mushrooms, and help make their restaurant scheduling and communication much easier.

Y’all have fun, and let us know if we can do anything for you.

The Schedulefly Crew

Book Excerpt – Simple Fundamentals, Busting Your Tail, and Using Your Marketing Budget On Comps

Kevin Doherty was a Chicago fireman when he helped start Emmit’s Irish Pub & Eatery in 1996. And he’s still a fireman today. Meanwhile, he and his partner, Ron Halvorsen (retired Chicago fireman), have turned Emmit’s into a popular and successful neighborhood pub. Popular enough that movie and television bar scenes are routinely shot there (Uncle Buck, Only the Lonely, Blink, Backdraft, two episodes of the Untouchables, Oceans Eleven, Oceans Twelve, and many more). The coolest part about Kevin’s story was hearing him talk about keeping things simple, having a clear focus on how important his staff is, and not being afraid to work really, really hard.

You Don’t Have To have Experience – We were both Chicago firemen when we got started. I still am. So we went into it with very little experience. The only experience Ronnie had in a restaurant was being a waiter at IHOP when he was in high school. I was a sales rep at the time, and worked with the Chicago fire department. When we initially opened, the cash registers weren’t even hooked up yet. So it was trial by fire. We were both willing to jump in without a net, and work real hard. And that’s pretty much it. And we learned as we went. And then just through determination and hard work, and making mistakes, and learning from a lot of mistakes that we made, we just keep the plates spinning and keep moving forward. And fortunately we’ve been fairly successful. The recession has hurt us a little bit, but we operate lean enough where we’re able to manage.

KYFS (Keep Your Fundamentals Simple) – Our fundamentals were real simple: Be a neighborhood pub in an area that’s quickly becoming a neighborhood, and treat people like you want to be treated. It wasn’t much of a neighborhood when we got started, but we knew it had potential. It’s real close to downtown, and not too many places downtown would buy a regular a drink. So we try to maintain that level of service to the people in the neighborhood that come in. We try to instill in the staff to know what they drink, to know their names, to welcome them when they walk in the door, and just don’t take any of that for granted.

Trust In And Empower Your Staff – We hired a staff that took ownership. We told them to run it as if it’s your own. We monitor obviously everything pretty closely, but we give them the freedom to operate as if it was their own. It’s a very non-corporate type of atmosphere. And because of that, we’ve got staff that’s been here since we opened. We’ve got waitresses that have been here twelve years.

Use Your Marketing Budget On Comps – We haven’t ever spent a lot of money in marketing. I always thought that instead of marketing to the unknown, we’d spend that money and market it to the people that were coming in. And how we do that is, we comp a lot of drinks for people. If they have a certain amount, of if there’s a celebration, we comp it, and we make sure it’s on their tab so they can see that they’re being comped. I don’t know where you grew up, but did you ever go into a neighborhood bar after a softball game, and after three of four beers, the neighborhood bar would buy you one? Well it seems like a lot of establishments, especially downtown, got away from that. So we try to incorporate that into our philosophy.

Want A Partner? Find The Ying To Your Yang – You’ve gotta be opposites. It’s almost like a marriage. I think opposites attract. Because partnerships are extremely tough. And first and foremost, there’s got to be an unbelievable trust between the two partners. The other thing is, there’s certain aspects that some are going to be better at than others. Ronnie is kind of a character larger than life, and he’s very social. Myself, I’m more the bookkeeper. I’m social enough, but I don’t need to be up and meetin’ and greetin’. I’d rather come in in the morning, get the books done, get the orders in, and then get out of here by six o’clock. Ronnie is the opposite. Ronnie will be sitting up at the corner of the bar, and greeting people as they come in the door. And if there’s a celebration, he’ll be buying a round of shots. And he’s pretty much the face of the place, and I’m kind of the guy behind the scenes. And that’s worked out.

Your Staff Will Let You Know Who Needs To Go – You don’t know in the hiring process. You do the best you can, and you really have to have somebody work a few months to see how they’re gonna work out. And I’m not here as often as a lot of the other staff, so I think everything is hunky dory, and then the staff starts – no one wants to rat anybody out – but the staff starts policing. I’ll get little tidbits here and there, and that will turn a light on. And then I’ll inquire with some other people, and they’ll say, “Yeah, you know what? It’s just not working out.”

The Staff Makes All Of The Difference – Yeah, that’s the bottom line. I’m not behind the bar and I’m not serving the dishes. I’m just doing the books and placing the orders. So that’s what’s gonna make you or break you, is the staff.

Be Ready To Be At Your Restaurant. Constantly. – I think the number one reason restaurants fail is the owners not being willing to put in what it takes. The hard work. It takes long hours and complete dedication. In the initial start-up stages, that’s what it requires. You almost have to be there all of the time. Because if you don’t have your finger on the pulse…no one’s gonna operate your business – I don’t care who they are – they same way you are. When you walk in the door, you’re gonna see different things that they don’t see. Whether it’s a light that’s burnt out. Whether it’s a napkin on the floor. Whether it’s that a chair is not aligned properly. When it’s your own business, you just pick up on that. And no one else is going to. I don’t care how good your manager is.

Got A Family? Think Before You Leap – If somebody asked me about starting a restaurant, I would first would find out what their family life is like. If they’re married. If they’re dating. If they plan on getting married shortly. And make sure your significant other is fully on board. I know I was dating when we opened this place. And for a while there, I wasn’t married. I don’t think I would have been able to do it if I was married, because it consumes all of your time. So I was fortunate.

The Careful Balancing Act Of Pricing – You have t watch your prices all of the time, because our prices are constantly changing. And they’re all going up. Whether it be the taxes or the price of liquor. So, yeah, it’s a balancing act. And I don’t want to raise the prices more than I have to, because that can shun people away. And yet I don’t want to put specials out there. A lot of places are doing these specials all of the time, and I don’t know if that necessarily works. I don’t want the customers to get so used to these low cost specials that when they get charged a regular price, they feel like they’re getting short changed.

Buy Your Building – So we’re looking to expand. And again, it’s all about the real estate. I’ve had other firemen that say, “I’m thinking about opening up a bar.” And I always tell everybody, “If you can’t afford to buy the real estate, or the property, along with the build out and opening your business, I don’t think it’s worth it.” There’s some good restaurants, and famous restaurants, in Chicago that are closing and looking for new locations. And I talked to one of their financial guys, and he said, “You know, back fifteen years ago, when we negotiated the lease, we negotiated a great lease. However, fifteen years later, our lease is up, and now the landlord is really whacking us.” So I look at it from the standpoint of a real estate investment. I know that’s crazy now, because real estate’s in the tank. But I look at the property first, and then the business second. That’s what we did here. And that’s what we’re gonna do over there.

Kevin, we’re stoked that you and Ronnie are opening a second location, and we can’t wait to have the chance to hang out with you two one day.

The Schedulefly Crew

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