Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: April 2014

Willy Taco

Last week we filmed an interview with Kenneth Cribb, co-owner of Willy Taco in Spartanburg, S.C. Without a doubt, Kenneth is one of the hardest working restaurant owners I’ve come across. The dude flat out leads by example.

He welcomed customers, served meals, bussed tables, made drinks, and spent the entire afternoon and evening being a great example for his team and ambassador for his restaurant. It was inspiring to watch. And like other great leaders he reminds me of, he quickly brushed off all compliments I gave him, constantly deferred attention to his business partners and his team, and humbly asked that we not focus on him during the interview but on the team of owners, managers and staff he is a part of.

Kenneth and I talked about everything from Willy Taco’s zero-waste program, to the magic of their success being in the food preparation, to the importance of indie restaurants in their communities, to how he and his four partners have made their partnership work, to being a big fish in a small pond, and more. The videos will be as fantastic. In the mean time, here are a few pics from the shoot…

And finally, I have to give Luke credit for ingenuity. He had forgotten his microphone pole and went to Wal-Mart to pick one up. They didn’t have one, so he bought a pool stick and rigged it up with tape, coat hangers, and a few other items. I couldn’t help but take a pic of his handy-work…

It’s not worth it for $162,000. Or even $800,000…

Last week we received a nice note from a person who works for a large retail clothing company with hundreds of locations. He believed Schedulefly could be a great solution for his company, and told us he wanted to help us win the business. Using pricing info from our site, he determined it would be something along the lines of a $162,000 deal for us. That’s an annual amount, so if you look at these things in terms of five-year chunks, we’re talking about over $800,000 in revenue for our small business of five people.

Yet I didn’t pause even a second before sending the guy this note, which I knew we would all agree with wholeheartedly…

“Thank you very much for the nice note and the offer. We really appreciate it.

We are 100% focused on serving restaurants. We know our software works well in restaurants and makes life easier for people that work in them. Schedulefly may work in your organization, but it may not. We find the non-restaurant users sometimes have different needs than restaurant users, and may prefer tools or features that we don’t provide, causing them not to love the experience of using Schedulefly – and we want people to LOVE the experience and be happy every time they log in. We know we can provide that to restaurants – we have no idea whether we can in other types of businesses.

My guess is most companies that do what we do would jump at the opportunity you are offering, so I recommend checking out other providers in our space. Somebody most likely has the perfect fit for y’all – it just doesn’t happen to be us.

Take care and best of luck finding a good solution!”

Five years ago we likely would have pursued this opportunity. I would have jumped on a plane to go sit in a board room and present to a team of decision makers. I would have worn a suit and a tie, and I would have been nervous about the presentation and anxious to win their approval.

And I would have been making a mistake by even being there. Pursuing the opportunity would have been a distraction for us. Winning the business would have been short-term financial win, but a barrier to Schedulefly’s long-term success. It would have blurred our focus and kept us from narrowing in to build a business that is the perfect fit for a specific group of people, not an average fit for anybody who needs help with staff scheduling. So, it was easy to write that email, and I am thankful to be a part of a team that is unified in our purpose and that doesn’t want to let any distractions get in the way of building our dream business.

Thanks for reading,
Wil

What I’d tell a young me (new video)

Last week we filmed Chester Kroeger for the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series. Chester has owned Fudpucker’s in Destin, FL and Fort Walton Beach, FL for thirty years. He started it out of a snack bar in a night club, and has grown it to two locations with a total of over 60,000 square feet.

The interview featured a wide range of topics, from why Fudpucker’s has a lake full of over 100 alligators, to the advantages independent restaurants have over chains, to the changing attitudes and expectations of staff and customers over the last decade, to the importance of avoiding complacency, to what he’d tell himself if he could travel back and give himself advice before starting in the business. Here’s what he had to say about that specific topic:

//player.vimeo.com/video/92088497

Here are a few pics from our visit. Chester and his team are absolutely incredible people, and if you visit the beautiful Emerald Coast along the Florida panhandle, make sure you stop by Fudpucker’s. It’s an amazing operation!

Our new book

As of today our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked, has sold 7,713 copies. Paperback = 4,678 copies and Kindle = 3,035 copies. Most people seem to like it. It has 28 reviews on Amazon. Nineteen of those reviews are 5-stars, nine of them are 4-stars.

We’re pretty excited that the book keeps selling lots of copies three years after we published it, though I can’t say we are too surprised because it contains mostly timeless wisdom and advice from successful restaurant owners from all over the U.S. The success of the book gave us the idea for the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, which includes over 50 videos that have been viewed around 35,000 times. And that video series has lead us back to another book!

Late this summer we plan to publish a second book very similar to the first, featuring owners we’ve filmed that were not interviewed for the first book. I’ll provide an occasional update as we put it together, but while the first book featured twenty owners and is over 300 pages long, this one will feature around a dozen owners and be about 100 pages. A quick, crisp read with short chapters and meaningful advice and wisdom. And a great read if you are interested in learning from owners who’ve succeeded in the tough restaurant business.

Thanks for reading,
The Schedulefly Crew
(Wes, Hank, Wil, Charles, Tyler)

Email is awesome

This morning, while most people were sleeping, we sent out more than 6200 emails to restaurant owners and managers. The email is a terribly handy list of everyone who is scheduled to work that day. It includes the schedule that they are on, their shift time and their cell number and email address – just in case. This email goes out every morning – to those who opt in to get it and the email arrives wherever the person checks email of course – their phone, their laptop, wherever. It’s not fancy with a bunch of graphics or sales pitchy with a bunch of other crap they don’t care to read about. It’s just a list of their employees that are working that day.

I was thinking today how crazy it is that Tyler gets up every morning at 3am and prepares them for sending. It’s a ton of copy and pasting and sending – but we think it’s worth it and our customers love it. The list grows every week and these days he is usually finished by round 10am.

Anyway, I’m totally kidding about Tyler, but I just thought today about how awesome email still is.

Wes

p.s I really do love email and I think it’s because these days I don’t send many emails at all – often I don’t send a single one – all day. And because of that – I don’t get many in return – which is nice. I used to work for companies where email was all anyone did. When there was nothing to do – you fired off a few emails to stir up some work. Maybe you checked on the status of something that you already knew about – or asked a question that was a waste of time to answer. But it worked, we stayed busy in our offices or on our phones – checking for new emails. This was me, back then…

5 unconventional tips from successful independent owners

Over the last two years I’ve traveled all over the country interviewing successful restaurant owners for Schedulefly’s “Restaurant Owners Uncorked” video series. Without fail, each owner we film offers a piece of advice that not only seems unconventional and thought-provoking at first, but that also has been a key part of why they’ve been successful. Here are five of them…

“roll the dice”
Julian Siegel – The Riverside Market & Cafe – Ft. Lauderdale, FL

“Finding people in this industry is really hard. And sometimes we do get in a jam. We do get understaffed. And everyone says, “Oh, just put it on Facebook.” And, “Put a sign on the door.” There’s nothing worse that I can imagine than walking into a restaurant with help wanted sign on the door.

Its not like its a lumber yard. When people walk up to your restaurant, you kind of want them to think that you’ve got everything under control here. So the help wanted sign on the door doesn’t work. Same with social media. I couldn’t imagine putting an ad on Facebook – ‘We need servers. We need help.’ Because you want to kind of always feels that you’re secure in your business and you don’t need help; good help will come to you.

Some of our best employees have come to us via accident, just walking through the door. I think . . . there’s always a network. You’re always going to run into situations such as, ‘Oh, my sister’s friend’s cousin is in town and she’s really good.’ Or, ‘Oh, my best friend’s son; he’ll work out. He’s a dream.’ You know, you get a lot of referrals, which is great because at least there’s a level of connection. And every time we’ve gone ahead doing advertising through employment firms, I mean, they’ll have a thousand resumes. They’ll set up a hundred interviews. Ten will show up. One is qualified. I prefer just to roll the dice and let the right person walk in the door.”

“cook with happiness”
Katsuya Fukushima – Daikaya – Washington, D.C.

“I always tell my cooks you have to be in a good place. You have to be happy. You have to be positive. Because if you’re not its going to relay into the food.

You know, a happy cook makes happy food. And, when people eat that food its just going to make them happy. A good example is that movie, Like Water for Chocolate, where the girl was crying when she was making mole. So people started eating it and they all started crying because that was the emotion she felt when she was cooking it. I think thats a great example. Because you have to have a positive approach to cooking, and you have to love what you’re doing because . . . its a hard business and if you put that energy into a plate, how can someone not appreciate what you’ve done when they eat it?”

“inexperience as a positive”
Mike Schatzman – Union Sushi + Barbeque Bar – Chicago

“It’s an industry of negatives and positives. You know, people have just maybe negative experience in all the restaurants that they work in, and that’s just going to carry them through to any other establishment that they work at. So, you know, there’s lack of hope or lack of growth. And some people may not necessarily view it as a career path.

I think for me the fresh perspective was great because I had no preconceived notions coming in here. I didn’t have any negative experiences. I didn’t have any positive experience. So, everything here was based on hope that we were going to do something good, but also creating a positive environment. And then just doing things differently.

It may not necessarily be an industry that’s adaptive to change. So, its very interesting because people are set in their own ways. Unlike corporate America right now, which is all about how fast you can move, how fast you can change. And a lot of companies have been very adaptive to change – right? – with technology; embracing new ways of doing things; scheduling; all that type of stuff. But, I think that that perspective allowed me to excel because I had no preconceived notions. And my goal was to do things the most efficient and cost-effective way as possible. Not necessarily following a so-called unwritten rule of ‘Here’s how it works in this industry and here’s how you need to get it done.’”

“grow half as fast as you think you should”
Daniel Holzman – The Meatball Shop – Brooklyn

“When you’re moving forward, it seems like you’re crawling at a snail’s pace. Everything seems like its too slow. And from the outside there’s a ton of pressure to open more restaurants, and strike while the iron’s hot! But, from the inside looking back, we feel like we’re moving so quickly – almost too quickly. Looking back, we think ‘Wow, we’ve only been open for two years – we have three restaurants and we have another one on the way.’

There are a bunch of things that you’re not going to realize have fallen through through the cracks until they’ve fallen through the cracks. And the only way that you can kind of minimize the mistakes that you make is by moving a little bit more slowly than you would feel comfortable with. So, you know, however fast you think you can move, if you cut it in half, you have a better chance of catching things before they’re out of control.”

“mistakes are good”
Marilyn Schlossbach – Langosta Lounge – Asbury Park, N.J.

“Well, in my career, many failures come my way. You know, anytime you grow a business, there’s a lot of challenges. And when I opened my first restaurant, my parents had both passed so I had no mentors to help me. My brothers had all moved out of the area. And I was kind of on my own.

I am a very driven, passionate person, so I tend not to think about consequences all the time – which is good and bad.  So I made a lot of leaps of faith to do things that I thought were great ideas, or wonderful concepts, or just wanting to feed people things that I thought they would love. And I’ve never had issues with the food end of my world, but on the business end, when you’re creative your challenges don’t always get worked out in your mind very quickly. So, I’ve had to learn to be the scheduler, the accountant, the bookkeeper, the trainer, the design person, as well as the chef. And, you know, I never went to hospitality school, I never went to culinary school, I never finished college, I never went to business school. So, all of these things are learned day-to-day.

And back in the eighties – early nineties, we didn’t have the Internet. You couldn’t go Google something like, “How do I make a schedule?” You had to figure it all out. And sometimes it worked and a lot of times it didn’t. I ran into issues like bad locations, or agreeing to a rent that was too high, or leases not being negotiated well, which is a huge problem in our industry. But you learn from these mistakes, and it makes you stronger.”

It’s been very fun and educational and rewarding to have the chance to meet and interview dozens of successful independent restaurant owners over the last few years. I’m always impressed with how many creative, wise, meaningful ideas they each have to share.

We’re heading on another shoot tomorrow, so more vids will be coming soon. Thanks for reading.

Wil

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