Seems like there are services for everything these days. Paving companies, refrigeration, Electric, graphic design, advertising, hood cleaning, cleaning, pest control, music and even the weekend DJ. Restaurateurs are notorious for taking on DIY jobs sometimes to save money, but often because there is no current better way. If you are a New Yorker like I am and have been walking around the city at all for the last year, there is clear evidence of DIY on every block. Elaborate, creative, and often over the top structures that have extended if not completely replaced our “indoor” dining experience. A strong commitment to being frugal, and let’s face it; desperation often drives us. Necessity is the mother of Invention and during the pandemic we all got a crash course in doing things that had never been done before.
Over the last year we have also seen subtle variations of this theme playing out in other areas. Our comfort zones have been challenged, and after the shock of this permanent discomfort set in, and we learned to live with the pain, our natural entrepreneurial spirit started raging once again. We embraced concepts like never before. Reaching for things that were unthinkable just a short while ago. There were expansions to markets not previously considered, shortened menus, pop ups, ghost kitchens and concepts, expanded delivery systems, and creative financing.
In 2020, something else fascinating happened as well. After years of quiet reluctance, slow progress, and a tiny bit of fear, restaurants began to embrace (yup, it’s a long four-letter word) technology. You need some evidence? Seen a printed menu lately? How did you last order take out? How about a recent job interview? Do you own a Zoom shirt? What color is it? Training videos before your first day?
For good or bad, we have been forced to embrace these technologies much faster than ever before, and with any crisis, our businesses will either emerge stronger or be gone to reinvent another day. Personally, and I am biased of course, I believe these technologies are an incredible asset that unfortunately took a crisis to finally push us over the top. As operators are diving in with both feet, they are coming out with more records of every transaction, documentation, a structured process, and thought-out workflows. All of which drive new efficiencies, better insights, and gained appreciation for what makes our businesses tick. In short, through tech, we are learning how to be more profitable.
So how does this all relate to service, and what form is the tech coming? We are not just talking about computers and the use of smartphones. Software out of a box is a chore to implement and none of us are hard core software engineers but even if we were, the word software itself conjures thoughts of sitting alone well into the wee hours of the morning trying to get things to work. The data entry can be endless and extracting useful information can sometimes take more time than it is worth so instead, we look to technology services.
The model that combines software and service known as SaaS often delivers greater efficiencies. Just like it can be more efficient to hire a plumber who has the skills, tools, and experience to fix your plumbing, we look to services that can deliver highly efficient software solutions which are fully supported. Key advantages of the SaaS model include “anywhere accessibility”, operational management (think no data entry), lower upfront costs (no major investment), and less ongoing payroll expense to maintain long term.
To find these solutions, start with any “software” that is available via an online subscription. Then look to those solutions that are managed. Where you receive not only the access to the product, but also to the team of people who manage and maintain your process. They become your virtual plumber, refrigeration expert or electrician. You do not have to create these systems on your own and best of all the systems are largely maintained for you and at a fraction of the cost that it would take for you to do on your own.
As this relates to procurement, consider all the elements available in a strong centralized and highly leveraged purchasing SaaS solution.
- Online & mobile access to product, suppliers, ordering, analytics, recipe, and Financial integration.
- Managed Supplier selection
- Product identification (brand ID, like items always defined)
- Proper bid collection (match all suppliers to products you buy)
- Support for order processing and confirmations (day and night)
- Resolution of delivery issues and providing ETAs (your advocate)
- Distributor price management (pricing integrations, error free ordering processing)
- Margin compliance and pricing audits (ensure mistakes are avoided or corrected)
- Manufacturing contract negotiations
- Financial integration (invoice mapping, Item General ledger assignments)
- Recipe and menu management for ideal food costs (always updated against incoming costs)
- Group Purchasing (bonus) – save thousands of dollars every week by participating in a larger network of operators.
There are many areas where DIY may make sense, but if you are looking for a highly efficient and managed SaaS solution for purchasing make sure your provider also offers Group Purchasing for the most bang for your buck.