As an industry, we seem to continue to do what we do because it’s “the way we’ve always done it,” especially when it comes to adopting the latest technology or innovations.
And even when we try to be more innovative, we often forget that innovation encompasses challenging the status quo and viewing problems as opportunities. A great example of innovation in our industry is Charlotte Prime, one of the top Ruth’s Chris franchise groups in the world, which has a secret to success that is controversial in an industry claiming tight margins and consistently cutting costs.
The group empowers employees to invest in new ideas, run experiments and implement changes normally reserved for senior leadership. This dedication to culture is a vanguard that sets Prime apart. “You’re not just a number expected to slave away all the time. The owners [Jeff and Paula Conway] invest so much in us that GMs and staff feel invested and accountable like partners. You can’t get top sales if you don’t have top people,” states Ashley Hundsdorfer, who started with the company six years ago. “I love our ownership. They care about instilling quality of life and happiness.”
Providing your staff with knowledge, tools, autonomy and time not only results in a happier team, but also in a much more productive and loyal one. This is where the Conways share a similar approach to Silicon Valley’s culture. Silicon Valley makes it a priority to invest in employees’ professional and personal betterment — from company-sponsored professional development and flexible PTO to profit sharing, autonomy and accelerated leadership roles and responsibility.
Most operators would argue margins are too tight or it’s too risky for these types of investments, but could these investments actually be the competitive advantage to exponential success? Especially when billions of dollars each year are left on the table from legacy industry practices that everyone is following. By not investing, not empowering and being penny-wise, poundfoolish — how much do we lose in the long run, whether due to employee turnover, theft, burnout or negative culture impacting our guest experience?
Silicon Valley ethos is all about thinking differently, working smarter, not harder, and giving time back for quality of life and productivity. There’s a focus on return on investment, not just cost-cutting. And startups in Silicon Valley look at the numbers daily — not just once a month. The same goes for Hundsdorfer and the Ruth’s Chris locations at Charlotte Prime.
After working her way from the store level, Hundsdorfer was promoted to corporate and was trusted with one of the company’s most valuable assets: beverage inventory. Prime understands the impact accurately counting and analyzing the thousands of dollars sitting on their shelves has on a food and beverage operation’s profitability.
After working her way from the store level, Hundsdorfer was promoted to corporate and made responsible for and trusted with one of the company’s most valuable assets: beverage inventory. Prime understands the impact that accurately counting and analyzing the thousands of dollars sitting on their shelves has on a food and beverage operation’s profitability. In her new role, Hundsdorfer came across a significant challenge the industry has in supporting beverage profit goals. She realized that even though the group had a great back office system, Compeat, for inventory, the GM still had to print out count sheets and guess, on a 10-point scale, to measure their bottles. This process took an incredibly long time, it wasn’t accurate and it didn’t align with the Prime ethos. “Our managers were there until the break of dawn and didn’t have time to review the meaning of those numbers,” Hundsdorfer explained.
Chris Johnson, GM at The Pump House in Rock Hill, South Carolina, a massive venue that Prime helps manage, had already started looking for a better way to do inventory for himself and his location. He discovered Partender, a novel solution claiming unprecedented speed and accuracy for inventory, and he got the green light to use this technology. In the first few months of use, Johnson went from twice-a-month to weekly inventory because it was now so fast. Instead of spending almost eight hours on a questionable count, Johnson was able to complete a consistent, accurate count and import the data into Compeat in two and a half hours, when previously, just typing paper-and-pen guesstimates into Compeat took two hours.
“Even with our back office’s inventory module, our managers were there until the break of dawn and didn’t have time to review the meaning of those numbers”
After the success Johnson and The Pump House experienced with Partender’s innovative counting tool and Compeat integration, Hundsdorfer started rolling it out to other Prime locations. Now, all Ruth’s Chris locations in the group have standardized inventory operations on Partender, so anyone can easily do accurate, fast inventory and there are no more fluctuations from arbitrary guessing. Also, since Johnson and fellow GMs are now able to do a fast, accurate inventory more frequently, they are also able to put more data — more accurate data — into Compeat, which results in more powerful reporting and analytics. And the GMs actually have the time to review these analytics, to make better business decisions.
Hundsdorfer says, “We have weekly meetings with our GMs where we review our target cost to our actual, so we can improve our business. Thanks to Partender, we get consistent, accurate numbers we can trust. Our GMs aren’t bogged down with paperwork; they can spend time reviewing numbers that matter. [Since inventory doesn’t take seven to eight hours] the GMs can also have two days off, which is unprecedented in our industry and helps us attract and keep the best people.” Ironically, even though the GMs may do inventory more often now, Hundsdorfer mentions the complaints about inventory have stopped. “Everyone knows what’s expected of them.”
In the first few months of use on Partender, Johnson went from twice-a-month to weekly inventory on Partender. And instead of spending almost 8 hours on a questionable count, Chris was able to complete a consistent, accurate count and import the data into Compeat in 2.5 hours.
Even if your organization is not ready to take the innovative management leaps that Charlotte Prime has taken with its beverage program, you can still find small ways to excite, engage and empower your team, while having everyone
focus on maximizing gross profits. Since it can be extremely difficult to do it all, investing in technology like Partender can be the huge step in providing unprecedented time back to your team and setting up your beverage program for new levels of success.
Now, all Ruth’s Chris locations in the group have standardized inventory operations on Partender, so anyone can easily do accurate, fast inventory, and there are no more fluctuations from arbitrary guessing. This has also led to more accurate data into Compeat.
Top Five Lessons from Silicon Valley Tech Startups to Use as a Beverage Executive:
CHALLENGE THE STATUS QUO.
When you have problems, view them as opportunities to improve.
EMPOWER ALL YOUR STAFF MEMBERS.
Ask someone you’d normally not ask, for their input. You’ll empower them to think differently and you may get a creative solution you would have never thought of yourself.
FOCUS ON RETURN ON INVESTMENT.
Don’t just cut costs to cut costs. Think about strategic investments and how they increase your profitability — are those expensive fresh flowers really providing additional points to your bottom line?
COUNT THAT LIQUID CASH MORE OFTEN.
Your inventory data holds data on trends, profit and so much more. Don’t let your innovative approach stop at your cocktail menu. Look at your numbers often and understand what they mean for your business.
USE TECHNOLOGY TO INCREASE YOUR WORKFORCE AND OUTPUT.
Invest in technology. There will never be a shortage of things to do. Use technology to make more time for what will make the most impact on your success.