“I’ve made back my investment in Data Central over and over again,” Bill Kratsas states emphatically. “In an economy like this one with our sales down, our gross profits are up 3%. Our experience with Data Central and Restaurant Magic has been nothing but positive. It is a tool that absolutely has to work for us- and it does.”
In 1988, Al Mansure opened his first restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, operating under the name Al’s Pizza. His mission was to offer innovative dining fare featuring quality ingredients served in an environment and setting more akin to a local café or bistro than the typical pizza palace. Today, the company has grown to six restaurants, over 300 employees and is developing plans to franchise. Recognizing that franchising is a significant step in the company’s growth, Mansure hired his brother-in-law, Bill Kratsas, a former McDonald’s franchisee, to come on board, build the brand and work to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of their operations.
“With the software, it was essential that it provide me with a level of accountability in terms of cost and labor,” he says. “I wanted to know what my food costs should be and also what my labor costs should be by the hour. Tracking these two items helps track 90% of the costs of operating a restaurant.” He soon set his sights on three products, including Restaurant Magic’s Data Central. His due diligence led him to conclude that one program would not give him the accountability he was looking for and the other was cost prohibitive. That analysis made Data Central the obvious choice.
“It was the only system that offered a tracking report I could use to establish benchmarks,” Kratsas recalls. “It also broke labor down into more granular reporting, helping us determine when and where we need our people in order to best serve our customers. Trying to manage a restaurant without a labor report like the one Data Central provides would be difficult. You’d be left relying on simple percentages to make staffing decisions, which requires that store management strictly adhere to an established schedule, leaving little room for variance. Putting equations into that mix to break up those percentages helps you better understand where you need the staffing.”
Solutions, Benefits & Service
As far as knowing and controlling foods costs, Data Central helped Al’s Pizza replace a complicated Excel spreadsheet with an easier way to accomplish inventory. “Most of my major vendors are now integrated into Data Central and their invoices come in automatically,” he says. “We are able to control our spending by tracking food costs against food sales and alcohol costs against alcohol sales.
Of course, the transition from one tool set to another is more easily accomplished with the help of someone familiar with the new tool set and its capabilities. In this instance, Al’s Pizza drew on the expertise of Gary Giberson, a member of the Restaurant Magic Business Analysis Team. “I helped Bill get the company on board with Restaurant Magic,” he says. “What impressed me about Bill was that, due to his McDonald’s experience, he came to us as a very knowledgeable user, as well as someone with a clear understanding of what he wanted to get out of the software.”
For his part, Kratsas has nothing but praise not only for Giberson’s effort but also his commitment to the customer. “Gary has been just awesome because he comes from a restaurant background, as well,” he says. “He has helped streamline our (inventory) pricing, which Data Central now accomplishes automatically. This has helped us tremendously; without this, I’d be required to get on the system at the end of the month and update our pricing.”
He also appreciates Giberson’s willingness to get his hands dirty, so to speak. “Our recipes were created to cook with, not to help us manage our inventory,” he says. “Converting those recipes so that we could use them that way took us a long time, and Gary is now in the process of mapping those recipes to the costs. I gave him hundreds of pages of recipe information to be entered in. No other vendor associated with this business would have supported us in that, meaning it would have been left to us to do. And that meant it would not have gotten done. The labor costs of that alone would have been prohibitive.”
Kratsas also appreciates how Data Central helps them better manage the business. “Invoices are being entered regularly, items are being counted more often, and this all helps make us more aware of how we operate than we have ever been before,” he says. “It also helps our managers better distribute the hours our people work so that we can run the restaurant better. Data Central’s labor reporting shows you not only where to put the hours when you need them, but also where NOT to put them. Awareness like this breeds efficiency.”
In the end, though, the restaurant business, like any other, is ultimately about the bottom line. Streamlining costs and working more efficiently through improved reporting is all well and good, as long as the numbers add up the right way at day’s end. So how would Kratsas describe Data Central’s impact on the profitability at Al’s Pizza, especially in the throes of an economic downturn?
“I’ve made back my investment in Data Central over and over again,” he states emphatically. “In an economy like this one with our sales down, our gross profits are up 3%. Our experience with Data Central and Restaurant Magic has been nothing but positive. It is a tool that absolutely has to work for us- and it does.”