Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: February 2015

The Schedulefly "App" for all web phones

I have a Schedulefly “app” icon on my iPhone that says “fly.” Here’s what it looks like…

Many of you also have this icon on your phone, and you assume it’s an app from the app store. It’s not. It’s our mobile web site, which works on any web-enabled phone. Unlike an actual “native” app, you never have to download any updates because they are made by us here at Schedulefly without you having to do anything.

All you have to do to have this same icon on your phone is…

1. go to http://m.schedulefly.com
2. enter your username and password
3. check the box to stay signed in
4. login
5. follow your phone’s steps to save the icon to your Home screen

It’s that easy. And you’ll love having all you need in Schedulefly just one finger tap away.

Wil

How to raise money for your restaurant and approach success with the right mindset

Scott Maitland has owned Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery in Chapel Hill, NC for nearly twenty years. He’s an incredibly sharp businessman and entrepreneur, and this interview turned into what amounted to a full-on class session on the mindset you need to have when opening a restaurant and how to raise money for it. 95% of the advice would apply to any entrepreneur, and you simply don’t want to miss this conversation if you have any interest in raising money and starting a successful restaurant. Get your notebook out and get ready to take some notes, because this advice is just pure gold…

http://restaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com/embed/frame/posting/2015-02-20T10_05_00-08_00?json_url=http%3A%2F%2Frestaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com%2Fentry%2Fembed_params%2F2015-02-20T10_05_00-08_00%3Fcolor%3D43bee7%26autoPlay%3Dfalse%26width%3D440%26height%3D85%26objembed%3D0

If you don’t want to listen to this podcast on our blog, you can download it from iTunes and listen on the go. Our podcast series is here

Thanks for listening.

Wil

Why we run Schedulefly like a general store

My friend once said to me about Schedulefly, “Y’all run that business like you are some old timers running a general store.” It’s so true. I love that analogy.

But why did he say that? And why do I think it’s so accurate? Well, we’ve both spent time in the N.C. mountains in Valle Crucis, and there is a great general store there that has been around forever. It’s legendary. When my friend made his comment, he had this place in mind.

You can probably imagine it. It’s run by a few “old timers” who have never lost site of the importance of getting the basics right every day. They don’t have everything, but they have everything you NEED when you are spending time in Valle Crucis. They know who their customers are and what they want, and they’ve taken the time and care to make decisions for those customers, narrowing the choices down so people don’t have to stand there trying to decide between 15 different types of a product. Their prices aren’t super cheap, but they definitely don’t compete on price – they compete on the experience they offer. They don’t apply any sales pressure because there are no commissioned sales people. You rarely have questions because everything is laid out so nicely, nothing is cluttered. Your time their is defined by words like “warm,” “welcoming,” “simple,”pleasant,” and “easy.”

Mind you, if you need assistance, you’ll receive GREAT service. If you approach one of the folks at the register and ask a question, they will smile, look you directly in the eye, happily answer your question in a very friendly way, and then let you go on your way. Or, heck, if you want to join in on their conversation, they’ll readily pull up a chair and welcome you. Otherwise, they hang out behind the cash register, sitting in rocking chairs and staying out of your way, telling stories and one-liners. You hear a lot of belly-laughs.

It’s not that they don’t work hard on their business. You can tell they are in there after hours, dusting, sweeping, re-folding clothes, re-stocking items, tidying up, and making sure everything feels right. And it’s not like they have no marketing savvy. They know people often harken back to “the good ole days,” so they deliberately help preserve a little bit of our past. Finally, it’s not like they don’t care intensely about building a very successful business, In fact it’s all they care about because they love the business so much. They don’t have anybody to answer to but themselves, and they put the same tender care and patience into their business that they would in raising their children. So rather than risk spoiling it by trying to do too much or grow too fast, they take very careful care to get the basics right over and over and over, and win customers slowly, one at a time, every day, every week, every year, every decade.

All this means the experience you have when you go to this store is more pleasant and relaxing than the experience you have with almost any other business, anywhere. It’s (unfortunately) such an uncommon experience these days that you relish it. You feel compelled to tell others about it. In fact you don’t just tell others, you rave to others. You won’t shut up about this place. Until, finally, when one of the people you’ve told is in Valle Crucis, she feels obligated to give this general store a try, and see for herself what it’s all about.

And when she walks in the door, a few “old timers” are sitting around, smiling. One of them jumps up, looks her in the eye, smiles honestly, and says “Welcome, let us know if we can help you with anything.” And she already feels at home.

Wil

It’s one of the most memorable restaurants I’ve visited, and it’s owners never even wrote a business plan (new podcast)

Julian Siegel and his wife Lisa started the wildly successful Riverside Market Cafe in Ft. Lauderdale, FL without a business plan, and they bucked conventional wisdom from day one. It’s one of the most memorable restaurants I’ve ever visited, from the honor system for bottled beers, to the couches and wing back chairs located in the middle of the restaurant, to their absolute faith in organic, word-of-mouth growth and placing signifiant amounts of trust into team members to follow their lead.

On any given day, you’ll run into anybody from a billionaire to a misguided skateboarder to a life guard to an out of work poet, all hanging out and enjoying the relaxed, inviting atmosphere and the delicious food. Don’t miss this episode – you’ll most likely never hear any other restaurant owner share the same philosophies as Julian.

http://restaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com/embed/frame/posting/2015-02-11T10_22_39-08_00?json_url=http%3A%2F%2Frestaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com%2Fentry%2Fembed_params%2F2015-02-11T10_22_39-08_00%3Fcolor%3D43bee7%26autoPlay%3Dfalse%26width%3D440%26height%3D85%26objembed%3D0

If you don’t want to listen to this podcast on our blog, you can download it from iTunes and listen on the go. Our podcast series is here

Thanks for listening.

Wil

Email marketing and why it was wrong for us

I love having a business that can make decisions based on our own personal beliefs and what we feel is right – or not right. It’s that simple. It’s also a dream to have such a clear focus on certain types of restaurants – because we are serving a lot of people just like us – people that share similar philosophies on how they do business and how they treat their customers and their staff. Bottom line, because we respect what our customers do – we really don’t want to do things to try and grow our business that we would find annoying if it were done to us.

Years ago, in the early days, we emailed restaurant owners to let them know about our company. We were advised on the process and figured it was a good way to get started. For many kinds of companies it’s a good way to create awareness. But for us, it never felt right, so we stopped blasting emails soon after we started. Even though it does work if you keep at it, it’s expensive in more ways than one. Plenty of things work, but that doesn’t mean we should do them.

The thing is, it was not because of the lousy results we saw (which is normal, which is why you just have to keep sending), it was because how I felt about sending them. I, personally, don’t purchase items (for my business or myself) as a result of being emailed by the company that makes them. I love to discover things I need or our business needs when the timing is right and believe down to my core that most of you do too. Of course the company emailing us thinks they are selling a great product. Of course they think it will make our lives better or easier. But how do they really know that? I guess they can assume we might like it – but they really don’t know what’s on our mind and what wheels are squeaking the loudest in our business and personal lives. You know what I mean? I mean, I think it’s really all about timing and when the timing is right – most people seek out a solution to the problem. And they do so by looking at their options and by asking trusted friends and family and colleagues for recommendations on how they solved the problem and what they like.

So what made me the most uncomfortable about blasting tens of thousands of emails was that when the owners did actually hear good things about us – either from asking friends or being told without even asking, they might then recall our annoying attempts to pitch our product and company. Ugh! Because of those emails (that they likely tossed in the trash), they already had a first impression of us in their mind and had not even tried us yet.

It’s just not worth it.

Wes

This, by the way, is also related to why we don’t exhibit at trade shows.

"Our restaurant is an extension of our home" (new podcast episode with Jake Wolf of Capital Club 16 in Raleigh, NC)

Jake and his wife Shannon own Capital Club 16, one of the best and most respected restaurants in Raleigh, N.C. Jake talks about his restaurant being an extension of his home, leading by example, transitioning from being a chef to being an owner, treating his staff like family, and other ways he and Shannon have built an impressive following of loyal customers and long-term, happy staff.

You can listen to Jake’s interview here, or subscribe to the Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast series in iTunes here and listen to Jake and others while you’re driving around or otherwise on the go…

http://restaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com/embed/frame/posting/2015-02-10T09_15_17-08_00?json_url=http%3A%2F%2Frestaurantownersuncorked.podomatic.com%2Fentry%2Fembed_params%2F2015-02-10T09_15_17-08_00%3Fcolor%3D43bee7%26autoPlay%3Dfalse%26width%3D440%26height%3D85%26objembed%3D0

Introducing the Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast series…

Five years ago we decided it would be a good idea for me to record phone calls with customers who wanted to share why they liked using Schedulefly and how it helped their restaurant. We posted the recordings on our blog, and they were fine for a while but after about ten we realized that our blog was mostly read by customers, who didn’t need to hear other customers praise our app. Plus, it got a bit old putting up content that was sorta the same message over and over… “I really like Schedulefly a lot!”

So, rather than focus on ourselves, we decided to put the emphasis on our customers. We thought it would be cool to speak to independent restaurant owners and have them share their stories, their advice, lessons they had learned, and so on.

We were right. I mean, I don’t know how many people listened to the interviews, but I do know that we realized quickly that we had some INCREDIBLE content on our hands. These were people who had figured out how to succeed in a very tough industry, and they were readily sharing what they had learned along the way. The do’s. The don’t do’s. The secret traps you can fall into. The unconventional things they tried that had big payoffs. It was just amazing content, and it inspired us to publish our book, Restaurant Owners Uncorked. The book was published four years ago this month – it continues to sell well on Amazon to this day. And the book inspired us to create the Restaurant Owners Uncorked video series, which has been a fun, inspiring project. We’ve been so incredibly lucky that all of these owners have shared so freely with us, whether on paper or in front of a video camera.

So now we’re excited to come full circle, with the introduction of our Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast series. It’s in iTunes here, and we have two episodes up now. We plan to do about 50-75 episodes this year, so if you are into this sort of stuff, make sure to subscribe to the podcast to get new episodes as we release them.

I’ll occasionally write posts based on what I learned from speaking to an owner. The first two podcasts are Tad Peelen from Joe’s Real BBQ and Joe’s Farm Grill in Gilbert, AZ, and Mat Frey of Bub’s Burgers & Ice Cream and Bub’s Cafe in Carmel, IN. These guys were both in our book and our video series and discussed similar content, so I won’t post summaries here, but I hope you’ll listen. They are both very sharp owners who have proven to know what it takes to succeed in the indie restaurant world.

Thanks,
Wil

A really well run restaurant

While in college in coastal NC some 20 years ago I worked at a really great and well run seafood restaurant called The Bridge Tender. It was on the waterway and directly next to the draw bridge that led to Wrightsville Beach NC…hence it’s name. It was (and still is) a local favorite all year long and a vacationer’s favorite during the summer. In fact – it stayed pack every night of the summer – causing it to be a sought after job for broke college students. A few buddies worked there – before I did – and would boast about making $150-$200 a night in tips. For a college student whose rent and bills totaled a few hundred bucks a month – it was a lot of money. The veteran wait staff (who got the primo shifts and sections) could make $1000/week cash in the summer. That’s not too shabby.

So after hearing about this over and over and comparing it to my current job weaving hammock beds (making $3.00 a piece) – I decided to turn in my t-shirt and board shorts, get a hair cut and see if I could get a job there. For many reasons – it would turn out to be a huge change leaving my not so stable day job where me and my surfing buddies would show up around 10am, weave 3 hammocks for a whopping $9.00, then bail because the wind switched offshore and the incoming tide brought clean waist high surf. Ah yes, it was the life – but it was time to clean up and make a little more progress.

As a surprise to me when I applied for the wait staff job, the owners told me that I would have to be a dishwasher first. It was a rule. Everyone in the restaurant had to do it – the kitchen staff, the wait staff and the bartenders. Heck – even the managers had to do their time. No one walked right into a great paying restaurant job without doing their time in the soggy guts of the restaurant that – at the end of a hot summer night – smelled like a 3-day old wet towel. You had to earn your way out – no matter who you were or what kind of experience you had. When a spot opened up – and you were at the top of the list – you graduated….

So my timing was pretty lucky and I think I washed dishes for about 3-4 months. Since the turnover in the front of the house staff was so low – there were stories of people staying back there scrubbing pots and pans for years just waiting their turn. Who knows for sure it that’s true – but I was out and was glad. I threw my dish washer outfit in the nearest dumpster and was issued a seriously pressed pair of brand new dickies khaki pants and a burgundy collared shirt with the Bridge Tender logo on it. It felt great – I was out of the evil, window-less dungeon and now in the sweet smelling, temperature controlled dining room with happy customers and a wonderful view of the intracoastal waterway. I’d made it!

While the crazy challenges I faced learning to become a good server over the next few years were many – the one thing that I did not have to learn was where everything was and how the kitchen was run. Due to my time dish washing and assisting other staff with all manor of things in the back, I was intimately familiar with the kitchen and everyone who worked in it. I never had to ask where we stored extra ketchup, how the bread warmers worked, which walk in freezer had the blue cheese in it or where the napkins and silverware lived.

Looking back on my time there – the owners had a great system and it worked. While they turned away many “all star” staff that felt they were overqualified or too good for dish washing (I witnessed that happen a few times), they ended up with a super team that worked well together and really appreciated what everyone in the restaurant did. It was genius.

Wes

View of the draw bridge from the restaurant…what a cool place to live and work.

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