Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

Month: May 2015

You only come through here once (shared a second time)

This is a re-post of a story I shared about 3.5 years ago. Frequently I am reminded of the phrase “You only come through here once” when faced with a decision to do or not do something and today I was again…so I thought it was worth telling once more!

That’s what an old, well known, Fly Fisherman from the Florida Keys told me once as I pondered buying a classic fly rod that is not made any longer. It was used, in great shape and hard to find….yet the last thing I needed was another expensive fly rod. As I held it and felt the action on it, my cousin Mark and I chatted with “Bonefish Bob” (Robert E. Berger) about the old days of bonefishing in Islamorada – he even told me about the fly fishing guide who owned that rod and all the Tarpon that had been caught using it. Who knows if that were true – but I loved hearing about it. Bob was known for his fly fishing passion, his tackle shop (Ye Old Tackle Shop it as called) and the stories he told while you were there. He told us stories for about an hour – stories of his childhood and of leaving his shop every afternoon back in the 60’s and 70’s fly fishing with the great Ted Williams and catching 12lb bonefish with him like they were bass fishing in a pond out back. It was mesmerizing to listen to him talk while looking through his amazing eclectic collection of old and new fly fishing tackle and art.

So anyway, maybe he was just a damn fine salesman or maybe what he said to me hit home – either way – this was his plan. He said (as I was putting the fly rod back on the rack and clearly not going to get it)…”Wes, you only come through here once”. At first, I thought he meant his shop. Then I thought he meant Islamorada. Then, after a moment of silence, I realized he meant life. You only come through here once. He was right. And given the scene I was a part of that day – talking to him as if he were a friend – in his fly shop – looking at a classic fly rod not made any longer that had been connected to countless Tarpon….I had to buy it. I had no other choice. It was a perfect cast he made to me…and I ate the fly.

Sadly, Bonefish Bob took his own life the next year (this was 5 or 6 years ago). We found this out as we motored out of the famous Bud and Mary’s marina headed out to find some Tarpon and were reminiscing about our trip last year and a visit to his shop. I was holding the fly rod I bought from Bob, telling our friend and guide about it. He told us he was gone.

I think about that advice he gave me now and then when faced with a decision. It’s so simple, yet so applicable to just about anything in your life. I am so glad I bought that rod and I am glad I got to meet Bob.


"Stand for something"

Seth Gross has been in the restaurant business for 27 years. He currently owns Bull City Burgers & Brewery as well as Pompieri Pizza, both in Durham, NC. One thing that’s clear when you speak to Seth: he believes in standing for something. For instance, he only uses grass-fed beef for his burgers, and has vowed that if he ever has to resort to corn-fed beef, he will close his restaurant. He also won’t use tomatoes on his burgers or pizzas during the winter months, because he can’t get fresh, local tomatoes then. More examples abound in this really fun, inspiring conversation. And you’ll also learn how he’s been able to get customers to tattoo themselves with his logo. Enjoy….

Making an impact

Occasionally we receive an email from someone that likes what we are doing and likes the future of the industry we are serving and wants to invest in our company. In 8 years, we’ve never considered it because we simply don’t need it. Even if we did take the cash, we would really have no use for it because our growth strategy would stay exactly the same as it’s been this whole time. And that’s because it’s fun and pretty predictable and definitely manageable.

More recently, we were contacted by someone who suggested that taking capital and/or becoming a tool in a broader suite of tools could help us make a bigger impact on the independent restaurant industry. Hmm. It’s hard to tell exactly what was meant by that – but I can tell you that our definition of making a bigger impact is much different. The impact we see us having on our industry is one that money just can’t buy. It’s not a sexy, newsworthy impact…one created by the assembly of companies and people and investors that everyone hears about. It’s an impact made by saying no to complication and broader solutions and saying yes to staying the course and making the perfect customers really happy – one at a time.

So where does that leave us for the future? Not making a big enough impact over time? Maybe. Or maybe I should I ask the woman who recently signed up for a new account for her new restaurant and told us (via email) that she has used us in the past and said “WE LITERALLY CAN”T LIVE WITHOUT YOU”. She used all caps too. I don’t know, I feel we’ve made a big impact on her and her business. Or maybe I should call the guy who recently gave my parents his business card while dining at Mellow Mushroom and told them that Schedulefly was the greatest thing ever created. He said that – I laugh at it because it really isn’t – but his enthusiasm for us is so awesome. He was sitting at the bar having dinner and overhead my parents talking about it with the bartender and said he used to use it. He gave my Dad his card because he wanted to sell Schedulefly. He knew we didn’t have sales people yet felt so strongly about the value it added at his restaurant that he just knew he could be successful at selling it. Seemed like a big impact was made. For the record, still no sales people.

And it goes on. Nearly every day someone new says something that would make us believe an impact had been made. And these days – 8 years into our journey – if 15 new restaurants sign up each day for a trial run of our software – 10 of them (atleast) say they heard good things about us from someone in the industry or that they have used us in the past. We don’t pay people to talk about us. We don’t even make it easy for them to talk about us – becuase we are not on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram or any social media site at all. But we do try to make the experience for them enjoyable enough that they will say something great. So we just focus 110% on being really easy to do business with and offering a fast, uncluttered, focused, useful software application that makes life for people in our industry a tad easier.

The bottom line is, I really feel like we are exactly like many of the customers we serve. We serve THE BEST local independent restaurants in cities all over the country. They are known for their narrow focus on what they serve and their service. They don’t serve everything. Most don’t have huge menus, but smaller ones with a clear focused list of quality choices brought to you by knowledgable staff that make the experience of being a customer easier and more awesome. I even read about one that didn’t allow take out – because they knew the overall experience could only be controlled when the customer was seated in the restaurant. While that’s a bit unusual, I admire them for taking a stand and not trying to make everyone happy. They are saying no, in order to make a bigger, better impact over time.


"Hubris will lead to failure"

Sean Degnan co-owns the very popular restaurant bu•ku in Raleigh, N.C. Five years into it, Sean and his team are still paying close attention to their customers and flexibly making changes as they go. We discussed a wide variety of topics from finding the right business partner to finding the right landlord, but what really sticks out is Sean’s humility and focus on learning from others. He has the right mindset to succeed long term in the tough restaurant business, and while he’s only been an owner for five years, the wisdom he conveys is similar to what I often hear from owners who’ve been at it for decades. Enjoy…

We have produced 16 podcast episodes so far, and they are all here. If you have a free podcast app on your phone, you can subscribe to our channel and enjoy these as we drop them into iTunes. Each episode lasts 30-60 minutes, with me and an owner chatting about the restaurant business in a casual way. Our hope is that you’ll learn something and enjoy listening to independent owners share their stories.


"You can live in fear or you can live in love" (new podcast episode)

Kristian Cosentino is opening Dirty Water, a highly anticipated restaurant in San Francisco. For the first time in the Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast series, we spoke to an owner who hasn’t opened his doors yet. But if you are interested in what it takes to start a restaurant, don’t miss this conversation. Kristian has been planning Dirty Water for two years, and we discussed everything from overcoming doubters (and self-doubt), to why he decided to stop fulfilling other people’s dreams and focus on fulfilling his own dreams, to finding the right type of landlord, to finding the right type of investors, to refining your business plan, to why it’s always important to listen to your gut, to… some really good lesser-known bourbons! This is a highly educational, fun conversation…

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