Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away, I owned a catering and event planning business. While the warp speed of technology has changed greatly since then, one fact remains the same, the food industry is tough. Running a food business can be a source of great pleasure, but it can also be a little bit painful, especially when it comes to recognizing the tight margins under which we operate.
As prudent business owners and managers we are always looking for ways to “do it better”. We ask ourselves how we can save time, create more efficient operations and bring more money to the bottom line. We know the industry standards but we want more; more business, more money and more time to enjoy our lives.
It takes diligence and some fancy footwork to grow a business and when you’re at the helm, you’ve got to be at the forefront of change. If we don’t avail ourselves of the newest technological options and jump on the learning train, we will indeed be left standing at the station.
If you look around your organization I am sure you see how the tech world has already impacted your operational one. Are you ready for more, additional ways to reduce expenses? If so, consider some of the following technology options:
- POS systems such as Toast and ShopKeep can assist your in-house marketing efforts and thus reduce the need for and expense of an outside marketing firm. For multi-unit regional and national restaurant chains, there are also enterprise systems such as MonkeyMedia Software that are built specifically to streamline and improve your catering operations.
- Scheduling staff is everyone’s nightmare and very time consuming. Consider going digital and let the responsibility of scheduling fall upon your staff. Not to worry, you will still have control wherever you want it, but no more hours of phone calls, messaging and follow-ups to confirm with providers such as When to Work, Hot Schedules and PeopleMatter.
- Your website is your 24/7 sales force. Ensure that you are well optimized for search and that you have a dynamic mobile version. You will save hours of phone calls and wasted time when you have your hours posted, a link to Google Maps for directions and copies of your menus with current pricing. Transparency is key so don’t make your prospects and customers have to dig for the info they seek.
- Every picture tells a story, so go digital and save money on your marketing efforts. Shoot and upload your own photos to Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram. Take short videos with your cell phone and keep it real. Post them on your own YouTube channel and your website. These are the free sources your customers are turning to.
- Re-evaluate all of your print ads and directory listings, scale back and save money. Go digital whenever you can. Make sure that your business is linked to your local business organizations, chambers of commerce and industry events.
Outsourcing works hand in hand with technology. And many advances in technology have come our way via vendors, banks, credit card processing companies, payroll portals and accounting software. Therefore, we now have the opportunity to orchestrate a great harmonic convergence among these entities, resulting in a finely tuned profit and loss statement.
Metaphors aside, what used to take bookkeepers days, can now take hours when we allow technology to assist us in pulling the information together. The human element is still important when it comes to our finances, but the majority of time spent can be managed off-site and with an outsourced bookkeeper. You can avoid the expense of another full-time employee and still get the expertise you need. These cloud-based technologies simply require a login and password and you will save money while making money and counting money.
Another way outsourcing can reduce expense is in the marketing arena. Your time is valuable and best spent running your business and driving sales. It makes sense to turn to the experts when it comes to marketing and most likely it can be done with a marketing agency or individual who is also providing services to other businesses. They will set up a marketing calendar and hold you accountable for your deadlines so you don’t miss the boat on capturing more business. Pay them as a vendor and not as an employee to save even more.
I hope I have set your wheels in motion as you think about the unique challenges you face in your business and how you might be helped by technology and outsourcing. Don’t be afraid, be fearless. Embrace change and work smart.
Jody Birnbaum is the president of Caterconsult, Inc., a food service business management consultancy providing core strategies, methods, resources, training and support to the food service industry. Jody spent 25 years in the catering business and was the founder and owner of Pear Tree Catering, Ltd. Jody is an expert in the development and implementation of catering channels in both full service and fast casual dining establishments.