Schedulefly Stories

Growing a software business one restaurant at a time

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What’s the Rush?

We are in our 11th year here at Schedulefly and in many ways just now finding our stride. I mean that in terms of what we believe in and who we want to serve. Financially – we grow slower than we used to – simply because we have more customers – so there are more to lose. That’s expected. So we lose right at 1.5% of our customers each year for a variety of reasons including restaurants outgrowing our software (and needing more features) and also restaurants going out of business. That means we retain 98.5% of our customers each year and that is a number we are proud of and I think a number that could only be consistently reached with a simple product like ours. We could certainly grow much faster and add more restaurants than we do – but that would require a different sales and marketing model than we have and would likely cause that 1.5% churn rate to tick upwards. It’d be like casting a bigger fishing net to catch more fish with each throw – only to THROW BACK a larger % of what we caught right away that were not the fish we wanted (by-catch). I’m more of a sight fishing kind of guy. I catch less, but when I do – it’s the one I wanted to catch. This equates to customers sticking around much longer and keeping our retention rate at 98-99%.

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Friends of Schedulefly: Karen Hoskin

“I get the Crib Sheet every morning so I can monitor labor costs, and I use the site when I am away and need to get help from someone on the ground. Nobody can say they “didn’t know” because every tool is right there with them. We’d be lost without it.” ~ Karen Hoskin

Montanya Distillers is nestled high in the Rocky Mountains at 9000 ft. in the charming downtown of Crested Butte, Colorado. Our high alpine location makes great sense for making rum, since the altitude positively affects almost every aspect of fermenting, distilling and aging rum. Their non-GMO sugar cane comes from family farmers in Louisiana, who grow and mill directly for them. Their water comes from one of the purest spring and snowmelt-charged aquifers in the USA.

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Friends of Schedulefly: Meherwan Irani

“”Not only does Schedulefly give us an indispensable product but they deeply care about what they do and how they do it, and that’s a level of authenticity that makes us proud to be their customers and friends.” – Meherwn Irani

Created by husband and wife team Meherwan and Molly Irani, the Chai Pani Restaurant Group was first introduced in Asheville, N.C. in 2009 with the opening of Chai Pani. Doing away with traditionally formal Indian dining, the Chai Pani team continues to deliver a menu and atmosphere as diverse as the country’s own culture, changing the preconceived notions that most Americans have about Indian food while serving up mindblasting chaat, thalis and more.

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Schedulefly vs. $50,000,000

Restaurant employee scheduling software is becoming big business! Over the last few years, other companies aiming to serve the same people we serve have raised over $50,000,000 in venture capital. We’ve raised $0.

It’s not that we haven’t been able to raise money (we get lots of offers). It’s that we don’t want to. Perhaps the best way I can explain this is by sharing an email I sent yesterday to a VC who has been contacting me regularly over the last six months. Until now, I’ve just replied to her emails with some form of “thanks, but no thanks.” However, this time she mentioned the logos on our Home page, and how impressed she is that we serve those places because she is familiar with several of them. So I went a little deeper in my reply. Here you go…

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We left $250,000 (and a million headaches) on the table…

We have some great posts from the last 10 years or so that are timeless – nothing has changed – they are still relevant. Some posts talk about things we did (or did not do) that are more than just a story – they are more like inflection points in our journey – and I think they help people understand what is important to us and why we are here. I like sharing a few of the older ones again now and then for new readers. I’ll start with one of my favorites that Wil wrote back in 7 years ago…

Wes

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November 2011

“Are you crazy? Do you realize how much money you left on the table?” That’s what somebody asked me when I told them the following story:

A couple of months ago a large restaurant chain called us. They were already very familiar with Schedulefly, liked it a lot, and wanted to consider rolling it out to their locations across the U.S. They’d pilot it in about 10% of the locations over the next month, and assuming the pilot went well, deploy it nationally.

I’ll admit I got a bit excited at the possibility at first, so instead of going ahead right then and telling them to call another company in our space that was built to serve chains, I entertained this idea and quoted them $250,000 per year. What can I say? I got momentarily focused on the wrong thing – the money – and forgot about the cost to our business, and to our lifestyles, if we decided to take this on. It was a mistake.

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Friends of Schedulefly: Rayme Rossello

“They [Schedulefly] call and text and email and they have our backs, as we grow and thrive and also when we stumble and learn.” ~ Rayme Rossello.

Comida was created by Rayme Rossello in 2010 and is operated by an incredible group of people who love what they do and infuse their passion for food and drink into every bite and sip. Comida is comfort in the form of Mexican street food. What was originally only served out of the window of our big pink Food Truck, Tina has grown up into a small restaurant group with 3 locations along the Colorado front range.

Comida offers simple, authentic small plate dining at it’s unpretentious best. We feature slow-cooked, authentic, traditional Mexican street food (with just a hint of the South), incredible handmade desserts and refreshing beverages using the freshest ingredients and artisanal preparation all served with care in an environment that is visually rich but unpretentious – a feast for the senses on all levels.

The Comida Cantinas are small, funky, not overly precious but delicious neighborhood joints filled with the flavors we have come to love over the years while visiting family and friends in Mexico. The food we serve is filled with tons of flavor and richness. It is, however, authentic to the basic flavors and presentations of Mexican food only to a point. The rest has all been created out of a desire to try new things with these flavors as the base. Our roots are based in street food. Little bites, affordable, quick and delicious.

“I love that not only does being a part of the Schedulefly family truly feel like family but the tools it offers are ones that help us be better at what we do. It’s not just an online platform for shift swapping, it a place were we can learn from one another, post messages and share shit that matters. And that is all backed up by a committed and informed group of guys that actually give a crap. They call and text and email and they have our backs, as we grow and thrive and also when we stumble and learn.”

The Story of Bida Manda

We just finished our latest film that tells the story of one of customers. It’s a powerful story about a brother and sister who built a restaurant that honors their parents’ love. Our great friend Luke Pearson at Lift Films helps us with the production of these films and is a complete badass with his camera and a mac.

Enjoy!
Wes

One more tribute to Sup Dogs

We’re finishing our next film, The Story of Bida Manda. That means The Story of Sup Dogs will be removed from our Home page, where it’s been since the summer of 2017.

I wanted to display it here again because it deserves a proper sendoff. You may have already seen it, but I guarantee you won’t regret it if you watch it again. It’s a fantastic story about the Oliverio family and the amazing team of people at Sup Dogs. In the dozens of times I’ve watch it, I’ve never failed to both tear up and cheer.

I’ve gotten to know Bret very well, and like everybody who knows him I respect and admire him quite a bit. He’s an inspiring dude. Serving people like Bret and his team are the reason we are are so honored and happy to run Schedulefly.

Enjoy….

Wil

Friends of Schedulefly: Tad Peelen

“In many ways we are friends with Schedulefly because they remind us a lot of ourselves. We like the simplicity of the product, and the caring nature of the staff that makes it all happen.” ~ Tad Peelen.

This is the first in an ongoing series of posts about restaurant owners we’ve become friends with over the years. They are people we admire and respect greatly, and we wanted to share a little bit about them and their restaurants and why they enjoy being a part of the Schedulefly community. First up, Tad Peelen. Tad owns Joe’s Real BBQ http://joesrealbbq.com in Gilbert, AZ. The team at Joe’s celebrating 20 years in business in 2018, and we couldn’t be more proud than to have a chance to serve them. Here’s Tad…

“When we opened in 1998, we didn’t know exactly what to expect being the first lunch/dinner restaurant in downtown Gilbert, Arizona, but we had quite a few goals. One was to make enough money to treat our employees well. Another was to make our downtown area a destination. We desired to become iconic enough over time to be thought of as the go-to place for special events… that place you simply must take those visitors when they come to town. We have had plenty of failures over the years (BBQ breakfast wasn’t evidently a priority for many), but we managed to score on some of the other fronts. Our insurance broker shakes his head each year at renewal when we tell him we really want to continue to offer a $500 deductible health insurance plan for our full timers. Offering 401(k) with matching was exciting because it let us give a great benefit to our part time and full time employees alike.

I still get excited when I see people celebrating a special event with us every day. Of course it helps that we offer a free birthday meal (we gave out over 29,000 last year), but we also have the pleasure of seeing anniversary celebrants, reunions, and groups big and small getting together to enjoy each other and good food.

As we look ahead to our next 20 years, we are making sure we keep moving ahead rather than resting on our laurels. We are doing all we can to source locally. We got all of the MSG out of the building, and all of the high fructose corn syrup. We loved being a “Coke” restaurant for many years, but love more being able to serve delicious soda with no HFCS. Where we couldn’t find a suitable replacement, we just learned how to do it ourselves. Marshmallows, for instance are nearly impossible to find without HFCS. So we make our own from scratch now. Those little red hot candies that used to add color and flavor to our homemade applesauce can’t be found without HFCS. So we got creative and after we peel a box of apples we now add an organic natural cinnamon for flavor, and a secret organic farm-grown ingredient for that great color. Vanilla prices have skyrocketed, so we’re learning how to make our own. We have some Madagascar beans right now spending time in a bottle of Tito’s and a bottle of Maker’s Mark to see which one might produce the best vanilla for our cookies. Not having to answer to corporate leadership allows us the freedom to experiment like this as much as we want. That’s why we love what we do!

I am proud to be a Friend of Schedulefly because they care about independent restaurants in very much the way we care about our employees and our customers. In many ways we are friends with Schedulefly because they remind us a lot of ourselves. When you call our restaurant and need to speak to someone, whether it is an owner or anyone else, you get a human. No phone tree. No long waits with bad music. We like the simplicity of the product, and the caring nature of the staff that makes it all happen.”

Your customers are where?

Occasionally I’ll meet someone new in a small talk kind of situation and they’ll ask what I do. I’ll say something along the lines of “I own a company that sells software to restaurants”. The first response to this is usually either “Oh, you mean like Open table dinner reservations?” or “Oh, like POS software for entering orders and stuff?” I’ll say “No, nothing like that. The restaurants use our software to schedule their employees. Staff swap shifts on their phones and managers approve changes. Stuff like that.” They’ll then say “Oh cool. So restaurants like Chick-fil-a and Outback and stuff?” I’ll say “No, actually we don’t serve chains – we focus on independent restaurants. There are just 5 of us in the company so we have a pretty narrow focus.” Then they say “Ok, I see. Neat. So are you mainly just in restaurants here in Wilmington?” Then I’ll say, no actually we have customers in every state in the U.S and some overseas. At this point – that’s usually the end of it (because small talk typically doesn’t get much deeper).

I think two things are happening that make it seem unusual that I would own (with just 4 other guys) a business with customers in all 50 states. The first thing is I don’t look like a person who owns a big business. Big businesses have customers in all 50 states, not a 5 person company with an owner who doesn’t shave and lives at the coast. The second thing is when I mention independent restaurants. To most people, that term probably conjures up an image of a small mom and pop restaurant. Which means, along with my overall vibe, I own a very small local company selling to places I can visit on foot. Anyway – you get the picture.

So recently I had a conversation like this with someone who started to ask more about how we get to these places and where they are. He knows we don’t have sales people and we don’t cold call restaurants or send email blasts and it was really hard to understand how word of mouth could spread like this – across the country. He’s a sales guy – so go figure. Later that day I mapped out exactly where our customers are on a google map just for fun. It’s fascinating to look at – because you can see where we have clusters of customers all jammed up in a small area. Word of mouth is literally visible on the map. You can see little bread crumb like tracks of customers between clusters too – where a place like Denver has a tight wad of customers and there are a few places outside Denver on the way to Boulder and then another tight wad of customers in Boulder. It’s really cool to see how it’s spreading. All without a single call bothering someone. Or a single ad on their Facebook. Or a single email in their inbox. I really believe that some of our customers use us because of that. I know I would.

Anyway – here are a few shots of that map and our top 25 cities so far.

Space shuttle view of our customers

New York City customers

San Francisco customers

Customers in the North East

Dallas/Ft Worth customers

Hawaii customers

Denver customers

Top 25 Schedulefly cities (# of customers)

New York 345
Chicago 225
San Francisco 112
Raleigh 105
Los Angeles 103
Denver 91
Brooklyn 82
Charlotte 76
Toronto 68
Vancouver 67
Oklahoma City 64
Seattle 61
Houston 58
San Diego 51
Washington 51
Boston 48
St Louis 46
Baltimore 44
Miami 41
Minneapolis 40
Boulder 40
Nashville 38
Sacramento 37
Philadelphia 37
Atlanta 33
Charleston 32
Columbus 30
Dallas 29
Pittsburgh 29
Indianapolis 28

Wes

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