The restaurant industry has been notoriously slow to embrace new technologies. Even though consumer routines like ordering and payment were quickly digitized during the pandemic, behind-the-scenes processes have remained mostly manual for many restaurants. Yet even for forward-thinking restaurants that have taken advantage of the digital tools available to bring their operations online, there’s little they can do. After all, for B2B transactions, digitization is a two-way street.
Brandon Stewart, President and COO of Kensington Hill Capital, which owns and operates 55 Jimmy John’s branches in Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Ohio, spoke to PYMNTS about the challenges the franchisee faces in trying to maintain digital efficiency in an industry whose supply chain may be blocked in the past.
“I think our electronic ordering systems are outdated – trying to order products and things like that,” Stewart said. “If it comes from a large distributor, you don’t have a problem, but there are all these accessories you need in store … Even if [you’re ordering] online it’s still multiple websites, and we don’t have an efficient way for our guys to centrally send us these orders.
At a fortuitous moment, the company automated its operations with a digital restaurant management platform shortly before the pandemic began, so payment processes were already digital at a time when restaurants were scrambling. to make any kind of profit. Stewart noted that by comparing different technology products, he landed on Restaurant365’s solution after noting another franchisee’s success with the company’s software.
“It just made our back office more efficient,” he said. “We thought we might have to hire someone else to manage [those processes], and all of those thoughts were gone when we moved to a digital back office.
In June, Restaurant365 acquired Compeat, a company known for its back office, workforce and business intelligence software. The combined company serves more than 28,000 restaurants and its products include tools to digitize accounts payable (AP), accounts receivable (AR), inventory management and payroll, among others.
Read more: Restaurant365 acquires Compeat to boost restaurant back-offices
However, despite all the digital upgrades Kensington Hill Capital has done, it remains subject to the limitations of dealing with other companies and institutions. Stewart noted that local governments still often use paper mail, so dealing with these offices for issues such as business licensing can be a headache.
“I think that’s probably my biggest problem in the back office,” he reflected.
By digitizing its business processes, Kensington Hill Capital is one step ahead. Bhavuk Kaul, CEO of Plate IQ, which creates AP automation tools for restaurants, among other products, told PYMNTS in an interview that many restaurants still operate primarily through paper-based accounting.
“Before us, restaurants would manually upload invoices and push them to a manufacturer’s platform,” Kaul said. “We try to automate a lot of these back-end processes… For us the biggest challenge has always been awareness – people don’t know that a technology like ours exists.”
See also: Plate IQ automates restaurant back-of-house operations to save time and reduce costs