Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: October 2013

Successful restaurant owner offers thoughts on partnerships

We thought it would be cool to start stripping out some of the quotes from the interviews we film for our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series. Here’s Daisuke Utagawa of Daikaya in Washington, D.C. answering two questions….

What are you most proud of about Daikaya?

“I am most proud of our partnership. I don’t think this is something that one person can do because of how many talents and life experiences and varying types of expertise we all have. Daikaya is not a vision of one person, it’s a collaboration, and I’m quite proud of that. I’m very happy to have had the partners conceptualize this together, and I think that’s our strength.”

That’s cool to hear. Partnerships can often be challenging…

“All partnerships are challenging. You form partnerships because everybody has different backgrounds and expertise and you try to put it together. It doesn’t always fit from day one, but what makes it work is that we all have the same goal. So towards that goal we are always encouraging each other, correcting each other, and just running towards the common goal, which is to bring a slice of Japan in a way that the audience here will appreciate, understand, and embrace.”

In the next few days we’ll start posting the videos we filmed of Daisuke and his two partners.

Wil

A great quote about fear from Breaking Bad

Let me start by saying that I’ve watched more television shows than I would like to admit*, and I think Breaking Bad is the best show in television history. It’s in a league of it’s own. There have been plenty of great shows, especially in the last decade, but in my opinion all the rest pale in comparison to Breaking Bad. I’ve wanted to post something about the show for a long time, and I think I finally determined something that is relevant and worth writing about.

To put the quote into context, a little background on the show for the uninitiated. Walter White, the main character, is a brilliant high school chemistry who is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He has a teenage son with cerebral palsy and his wife is pregnant with a surprise baby. He has no life insurance, and realizes that when he dies he’ll leave his family in financial ruin, so he decides to put his chemistry skills to work by cooking and selling crystal meth to help build a stockpile of cash. He calculates how much money he needs to leave for his wife to be able to pay the bills and send their kids to college and take care of their son’s medical bills, and tells himself he’ll stop cooking the minute he reaches that amount. But of course that first step down a very steep, slippery moral sleep leads to Walt having to come to terms with many issues he never dreamed he’d have to deal with, and let’s just say it doesn’t turn out the way he first anticipated.

Along the way, as he “breaks bad,” he learns a lot about himself and the human psyche. In a conversation with his brother-in-law, (who is ironically) a DEA agent who has been injured and who is struggling with facing physical and emotional rehab, Walt says, “I have spent my whole life scared. Frightened of things that could happen. Might happen. Might not happen. Fifty years I spent like that. Finding myself awake at three in the morning. But you know what? Ever since my diagnosis, I sleep just fine. I came to realize that fear is the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So you get up and get out into the real world and you kick that bastard as hard as you can right in the teeth!”

Granted, this is coming from a guy who has become a meth lord, but still, it’s a great observation about what often drives us to make decisions in business and in life, and it’s something I like to keep in mind. At Schedulefly, we could easily let fear cause us to take on investors or hire sales people or plow a bunch of money into marketing or add a bunch of features to our software or make customers sign contracts. But if we did those things, it would be solely because of fear and not because we wanted to do them. Fear of keeping up with the competition. Fear of losing market share. Fear of not growing fast enough. Fear of any number of things.

Now, I’m very aware we have a unique situation and a unique business, and I’m thankful for that, but part of our business being so unique is that we’ve not let fear be our driver, and we’re proud of that. I do believe fear is often the enemy, and I hope we are always brave enough at Schedulefly to kick that bastard in the teeth and do things the way we want to, not the way we fear we have to.

Wil

* I’m caught up on Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones, I’ve watched about 75% of Mad Men, I’m dialed into Sons of Anarchy and The Walking Dead, and I’m about to start The Shield. It’s ridiculous, I know. But what can I say, I just love great film! Fortunately, every now and then some character on some show teaches me something, or reminds me of something I had forgotten, or at least that’s part of how I rationalize watching so many shows.

Energy permeates the air at Daikaya in D.C.

We recently filmed for our Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series at Daikaya in Washington, D.C. Daikaya occupies a two-story building, with a Japanese ramen shop on ground level and a cocktail lounge (“izakaya”) on the second floor.

Every day during lunch tons of people flood through the street-level doors to eat chef Katsuya Fukushima‘s ridiculously good ramen bowls. The food is great, the music is loud, the cooks are slammed, the place is packed with customers, and the energy is palpable. Here’s a quick glimpse…

We filmed interviews with Katsuya and the other two co-owners, and we’ll have ’em ready soon. Can’t wait to share them – these are sharp guys and they’ve created something very special at Daikaya!

Wil

Be willing to admit your mistakes (new raw video)

In this raw, unedited video, Mike Schatzman of Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar in Chicago talks about why he is happy to own up to his own mistakes and enjoys getting advice on how he can improve.

Service matters as much (or more) than the food

When I interviewed Mike Schatzman of Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar (Chicago) if anything surprised him when he transitioned from corporate America to becoming a restaurant owner, I thought his response was interesting…

Great advice about restaurant business plans (new video)

Mike Schatzman of Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar in Chicago on the importance of having a carefully though through business plan. I really think this is excellent advice and a must-see if you have any interest in ever opening a restaurant…


(If you are viewing this in an email and don’t see the video, it’s here)

Rules of thumb for funding your restaurant (new video)

Mike Schatzman of Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar offers excellent advice to think about when considering the amount of funding you need to start a restaurant. This is really, really good stuff and my guess is it’s not that uncommon for people to miss on some of these things, leading to their restaurant being on shaky ground the day the open their doors.

Thank you

A couple of times per year I like to turn to our blog to thank our customers, and mention a few things that our on my mind. This is one of those times.

Schedulefly was launched in May of 2007 on a server in Wes’s closet and with a couple of restaurants in Raleigh as the first customers. Tyler and Wes set out to figure out how to turn a simple solution to the annoying problem of restaurant employee scheduling into a successful, profitable business. Since then Schedulefly has grown to having over 3,400 customers and nearly 150,000 end users, and it’s because we’ve had the opportunity to serve people like you. People who own restaurants, manage restaurants, or work as servers or bussers or hostesses or cooks or bartenders or countless other positions.

We try to do three things really well here at Schedulefly to make your life easier. First, we try to keep our software simple and easy to use so that you can quickly do whatever you need to do and go on about your day. Second, we try to be really easy to do business with. That includes everything from providing great support in a friendly, natural way to keeping every aspect of our business simple (no contracts, no set up fees, no nickel-and-diming, no sales people, etc.) And third, we work on projects (like our Restaurant Owners Uncorked book and video series) that capture the advice, wisdom and lessons-learned from some of the successful independent restaurant owners we are so fortunate to serve. We hope these projects provide you with meaningful, useful, and educational content to help you in your career in the hospitality business.

Every day I wake up and pinch myself the second I think about Schedulefly. We have five guys on our team, and Wes, Tyler, Hank and Charles are all great people who I am so thrilled to work with. We all love this business. We are thankful to have the opportunity to serve so many awesome people at so many great restaurants. And we all look forward to serving more of your restaurant peers in the years to come, while always maintaining our focus on the three things I listed.

So, thank you. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you. Thank you for your business. Thank you for helping our business grow with great word-of-mouth. Thank you for entrusting Schedulefly with your scheduling and communication. And thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read this.

Sincerely,
Wil (and all of our team here at Schedulefly!)


(Wes, Hank, Wil, Charles, Tyler)

Why we’re glad our phone rarely rings

Yesterday I was handling our incoming phone calls at Schedulefly. We received fewer than 10 calls the entire day, and here’s how they broke down….

Approx 5 calls: Customers who needed to change their credit card number with us and don’t know about our new online billing system.

2 calls: Calls from people considering using Schedulefly and wanting to learn more.

1 call: A customer who asked about the best way to use Schedulefly based on their unique situation.

We have around 150,000 users, so imagine how many calls we could potentially get flooded with on any given day. But yesterday was par for the course, and we’re very proud of that. We’re proud because we have focused intensely on making sure our software is very simple. Intuitive. Easy to figure out without feeling the need to throw your arms up and call somebody.

Trust me, it’s no small task to do that. The natural inclination with software is to keep adding stuff. More features. More bells. More whistles. More of everything! It’s much, much harder to take away than to add. Or, frankly, it’s much harder to be happy with what you have than it is to add. But we try to never forget that while each link or button or tab or setting we add may not complicate Schedulefly by itself, complexity is nonlinear. In other words, one new feature might increase the complexity by one notch. But 10 new features might increase the complexity by 50 notches. I’m not saying we will never add anything, but I am saying that at this point we’re much more interested in finding things to eliminate vs. things to add.

Also, I mentioned above that we received two calls from people wanting to know more about Schedulefly. Given than we have hundreds of restaurants in trial at any time, that means at least one person at those restaurants visited our web site before starting a trial with the intention of learning more about what we offer and how it might help them. Our web site has to do a great job of giving them the information they need while not overwhelming them, or making them think Schedulefly seems like more trouble than it’s worth.

So it’s a careful balance, figuring out just the right amount of features in our application and the right amount of information on our web site. And once you think you’ve figured it out, it takes some restraint at times to keep from wanting to add more stuff to both of them. But the more you practice that restraint, the easier it comes. And the better off your business will be, if it’s anything like ours.

Therefore we keep our software simple. And our customers rarely need to call us. And we are able to support nearly 150,000 end users with a team of five people. We’re stoked about that!

Wil

P.s. I’m taking calls again today. I’ve spoken to four of five people – billing and “more info” related. None of them has needed help with using Schedulefly. My hope is that we can get to a point where we routinely go entire days without calls. Hey, I’m always, always happy to speak to people about Schedulefly. But if a day came where nobody had any questions because our we site and our app were so clear…well, that would be pretty special.

Inexperience as a positive (new video)

Mike Schatzman is a first-time restaurant owner. He left corporate America three years ago to open Union Cafe + Sushi Bar in Chicago. He and his partner Chef Chao have built a very successful restaurant, and in this video Mike shares why his lack of experience has been a positive…


(If you are reading this post in email and don’t see the video, it’s here)

I really admire Mike’s ability to focus on the positive aspects of any situation, which he alluded to multiple times in his interview. He’s not saying that experience is a bad thing, but rather that he focused on using his inexperience to his benefit, and didn’t view it as a negative. Love it!

Wil

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