Restaurant Guest Service Titans: Three Brands That Knock Guest Service Out of the Park

Can you pinpoint what guests love about your restaurant? It is your food for sure, but it is likely more the menu that leaves them wanting more. Could it be your ambiance? What about your friendly staff? Or, timely service? After all, you place just as much emphasis on these important touches as you do the food you serve.

If not, you may want to re-think your strategy. Excellent guest service keeps bellies full and restaurants in business. In fact, good guest reviews are a barometer of a restaurant’s success.

“Restaurants simply cannot survive on first-time diners. It’s essential that good food and great guest service drives repeat business and successful restaurants,” noted Nancy Friedman, a featured guests service trainer and speaker to dozens of industries, including the restaurant business, in Modern Restaurant Management.

Maybe great service means knowing a regular’s favorite booth, how a diner takes her coffee or, simply getting orders filled quickly, correctly and with a smile. Whatever it is, guest satisfaction is why some restaurants succeed and 17 percent fail after the first year.

On average, Americans will spend over half of their food budget on restaurants in 2019. Since restaurants reach about $825 billion in annual sales, according to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant owners must tap into those profits with great guest service.

Here are three top restaurants doing just that, according to American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), and what you can learn to make your service go from good to great.

Chick-fil-A rules the fast-food roost

No one can deny the loyal guest base of Chick-fil-A, but did you know it’s been the best fast food restaurant for guest satisfaction four years in a row?

There are many reasons for the restaurant’s popularity from being known as the most polite staff to its guest loyalty rewards program. Guests feel they get speed and accuracy of fast food services with the friendliness of traditional restaurants. Plus, Chick-fil-A knows how to cater to its consumers; the company continually asks what makes them happy.

Millennial guests said they dislike waiting in line, so Chick-fil-A launched a new app for ordering before you arrive. It gave away 131,000 free sandwiches for early downloaders. With over one million downloads in three days, the company not only locked in repeat guests, but also improved the ordering process to maximize profits.

Top off these guest-service wins with their “less guilty” pleasures of chicken sandwiches instead of burgers, and you see why this restaurant chain has remained at the top of ACSI list since 2015.

Texas Roadhouse lassos full-service dining

Texas Roadhouse and Cracker Barrel have been battling for the number one spot in sit-down dining guest satisfaction, but in 2018 Texas Roadhouse took the bull by the horns. And, it’s no surprise why this full-service restaurant took the lead, two words: free food.

Texas Roadhouse prides itself on down-home ambiance and casual dining and gives away complimentary food from the moment you sit down. All guests are given free peanuts and freshly baked warm rolls with homemade cinnamon butter. According to Delish, the chain goes through 8 million pounds of peanuts a year.

Texas Roadhouse also serves high-quality meat in every cut from each location’s own private butcher.

Combine this expertise with friendly staff and low prices, and you can see why this restaurant took the top slot in 2018.

Panera Bread masters the modern café experience

The last restaurant on the list is unique because it doesn’t fit a category as easily as the first two. Yet, the chain still performs well in terms of guests satisfaction. It lives up to its vague categorization of fast-casual dining, but unlike Chick-fil-A, it does not portray a fast-food chain vibe. Instead, it opts for a bakery-café culture.

Like Chick-fil-A, Panera Bread has an app for ordering food easily, so it wins for fast guests service, rapid take-out services and other modern conveniences like free Wi-Fi for in-restaurant dining and relaxing. Like Texas Roadhouse, the restaurant bakes fresh bread daily.

What makes Panera Bread unique, and continually a guests pleaser is their menu’s variety. You can get everything from pastries and sandwiches to soups (in bread bowls), salads and entrees for adults and kids, alike. Plus, it has an extensive drink menu.

Most notably is the dedication to the health of guests. The chain was one of the first eateries to list calorie counts on menus and provide safe meat products like free-range eggs, antibiotic-free meat and chicken at scale. The company also has community cafes to feed those in lower income areas with a pay-what-you-can system.

What each of these restaurants shares in common is good food and a dedication to what their guests want and need from them. This, in turn, translates to higher sales, continued success and a dedicated fan base who will always know what to expect when they enter their doors.

Six Strategic Steps Manufacturers and Distributors can Take to Compete with Amazon Business in EMEA

As Amazon Business continues to expand across the European B2B market, it is imperative that wholesale distribution and manufacturing companies create a strategic plan for survival in this new age of Amazon. Amazon Business has been on the scene since 2015, and it seems distributors are now starting to take notice of its impact on the B2B market. A recent report conducted by Unilog, surveying 250 manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors, found that Amazon Business was considered the number one threat to their businesses today. And yet, 52 percent still have no strategic plan for competing with Amazon Business.

This may be in part due to the platform’s infancy. Despite its rapid growth, Amazon Business has only been in action for four years; it is possible executives are still adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, monitoring its development before making a plan. But, if Amazon’s history of dominating markets is anything to go by, there is no time to sit back and observe. The time to act is now.

To aid development of your strategic approach to surviving the Amazon effect, here are the top six strategic options we believe you should be considering.

  • Forming a New Alliance 

The nature of the Amazon Business platform means it’s not a single company, but instead the lead partner in an alliance of thousands of suppliers. Amazon Business is the facilitator, bringing together specialist suppliers across multiple industries and enabling products to be sold via one single platform, creating ease and convenience for the B2B buyer.

In order to deliver a similar experience, competing distributors who do not have the desire to join the Amazon Business platform may want to consider forming alliances of their own in order to create a stronger competitive edge.

For example, collaborating with leading software companies could enable distributors to provide superior online capabilities—delivering an Amazon-like customer experience directly, without partnering with Amazon.

  • Quantify Your Exposure

Understanding the level of threat Amazon Business has over your organisation is a fundamental step in building your competitive strategy. Identifying your niche and existing unique competitive advantage is an essential first step, and should form the foundation of your strategy.

Understanding your exposure to Amazon Business will enable you to identify the key areas you can build upon to secure your place in the market against this latest wave of disruption.

As an example, obtaining exclusivity of distribution rights for certain brands that do not sell via the Amazon platform will strengthen your place in the market. Alternatively, you may consider creating value add by introducing a services arm to your business, with on-the-ground sales representatives that maintain a personal relationship with customers, to develop trust and loyalty.

  • Invest in Research and Analytics

Amazon’s business model is centred around its customer and their needs. One of the fundamental requirements for any manufacturer or wholesale distributor hoping to compete in the Amazon era is visibility into the customer base and customer behaviours. In order to deliver the same level of targeted, personalised, customer experience Amazon can offer, you must be able to see how your customers are buying, when they are buying, what they are buying and other key characteristics of your customer behaviour that will support effective business development and decision making. Understanding your customer is the key to delivering exactly what they expect.

Knowing your customer in depth requires both regular customer interaction and feedback sessions, as well as a solid technology foundation that accurately monitors your customer behaviours and provide real-time, up-to-date, accurate data across all key channels. This will allow you to combine this key data, effectively analyse the data and create actionable plans to improve customer satisfaction within a timely manner.

  • Build Your Future Facing Strategy 

As highlighted in another post on whether Amazon is a threat or an opportunity, the need for digitalisation within manufacturing and distribution is more vital than ever. For distributors not yet operating online, Amazon is a significant threat, as it brings a convenience and ease to your customers that you are not currently offering. Strong digital capabilities are essential today, whether you decide to work with Amazon Business or build upon your own business capabilities in order to compete.

This isn’t just about front-facing customer technology and ecommerce – it’s also about state-of-the-art warehouse management and inventory management, sales order management, customer relationship management, product data and online marketing tools. All of these tools are essential to building out your digital presence and being equipped to deliver the same level of customer experience your customers will receive if they shop via Amazon Business.

  • Define a New Business Model

Whilst digitalising your business operations is an advantage to competing in the Amazon era, and will enable you to deliver the same level of customer experience, it does not necessarily mean you need to abandon your traditional methods. It is not a case of replacing sales reps with online tools, but instead understanding the best mix for your business.

You need to identify the value your customers see in the services you are offering, and whether they are they willing to pay for them. Do they leverage the benefits of over-the-counter or telephone services, or are they more driven toward online interactions? Understanding these elements of your customer needs will allow you to adjust your business model and invest in the right channels, based on previous customer engagements.

With both a services and a product side to the business, operating all departments from a single-source of data is essential to functioning in a seamless and efficient manner, and delivering a consistent sales experience from all channels. But before you invest in online capabilities and additional on-the-ground sales staff, you should first quantify the value your customer is seeing in these capabilities and determine your ideal mix based on customer behaviour and customer demand.

  • Invest in Integrated Technology

The secret to incorporating all of these key strategic areas is integrated technology. To deliver that seamless experience, to expand your business model, to introduce data analysis to your business requires tight integrations between all of your systems, across all channels, both in the front and back end.

For any manufacturers and distributors that think they may be at risk of losing their customers to the Amazon Business platform, the secret to surviving in the Amazon era is a centralised system with robust, accurate, real-time data to form the core of their business operations. This in turn will enable you to introduce other software advances that will further aid your innovation, such as the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence.

It’s this single source of the truth that will power a seamless experience, and allow you to increase your average order value with personalised promotions, and build your customer satisfaction and customer loyalty through trustworthy service delivery, superior product offerings, and quick and easy delivery.

Above all else, you should start to plan your strategic approach as soon as possible. If there is even a slight possibility that Amazon’s move into B2B may impact your business, and there is a risk of your customers migrating, you must be prepared to protect your revenues.

For a deeper look into these potential strategic options and how you can build your competitive strategy in the Amazon era, download our guide Amazon Business: The Challenge Facing Wholesale Distributors and Manufacturers.

Four Ways Food and Beverage Companies can Outmaneuver Amazon

As Amazon continues to pursue major market share across numerous industries, electronics retailers, pharmacies, consumable manufacturers, department stores, food delivery companies and grocery stores stand among those sectors most impacted by the ecommerce giant’s expansion.

The fourth-largest company in the world by market cap, Amazon is a contender on both the B2C and B2B fronts—a reality that at some point will likely impact the food and beverage service industry. Take restaurants, for example. Unlike institutional customers (i.e., hospitals, schools, military bases, etc.), which usually buy on contract, restaurants would be a fairly easy chunk of business for Amazon to bite off in the future.

In fact, for the thousands of independent eateries and smaller restaurant chains that aren’tbuying from any one supplier, Amazon’s offer of an easier, more streamlined way to shop for food and beverages would be a no-brainer. After all, these buyers are consumers themselves, and they’re used to shopping like that anyway.

Here’s the disruptive part: even if customers know that they’re not getting the best possible price, the reason they stick around is because they know the experience will be convenient and easy—and that delivery will be quick. They’ll put a few items in their shopping carts and, at some point, hit the “buy now” button, knowing that their goods will arrive in the next day or two, guaranteed. It’s this “once I’m in, I’m in” mentality that keeps Amazon moving steadily into new industries. In other words, a buyer for a local restaurant isn’t just a buyer for that establishment; he or she may also be an Amazon Prime member who would like to extend the B2C experience into the restaurant’s procurement strategy. It’s the evolution of consumer expectations making the leap into B2B procurement that food and beverage distributors should keep in mind.

Stepping Up to the Plate Now

So, what can food and beverage distributors be doing now to ward off any potential threats from Amazon? For starters, one of the best strategies will be to offer support that rivals Amazon’s own offering. For example, Amazon’s secret sauce lies not only in its ecommerce shopping cart, but also in the logic behind that cart in terms of creating the right flow, process and product at the right time. Making that happen requires both ecommerce and a complete logistics infrastructure. Amazon has infrastructure in place that allows it to store the sellers’ products (i.e., Fulfillment by Amazon or “FBA”) and fulfill orders very rapidly and efficiently.

Here are four more important steps that all food and beverage companies should be taking now:

  1. Don’t wait until the inevitable happens. Five years ago, Walgreens probably would have laughed off the fact that the world’s largest online book seller could invade its turf, but that’s exactly what happened when Amazon bought PillPack last year. The best strategy is to prepare now by updating or replacing any antiquated systems, developing good ecommerce strategies and shoring up valued customer relationships that may need attention.
  2. Integrate automation into your operations. If there’s one thing that Amazon is great at, it’s getting orders out the distribution center (DC) door and out to its customers quickly. Credit some of the company’s automation investments (i.e., its purchase of robotics maker Kiva Systems in 2012), with helping to propel that speedy-delivery mission. An industry that was historically rooted in one sales representative matched up with one restaurant owner, the food and beverage sector could benefit greatly from a more automated, streamlined approach made possible by an enterprise resource planning (ERP) platform combined with a customer relationship management (CRM) solution and other tools that enable high levels of automation.
  3. Take an introspective look at your operations. Look inward at your company’s processes; evaluate them for potential inefficiencies, rigidity and errors; and find the gaps that need to be filled. Recognize that you’re dealing with a business landscape that’s evolving, and that even your best customer relationships may not withstand the powerful draw of a competitor like Amazon. Using advanced technologies and automation, you start to position your company for success—should the threat become a reality.
  4. Utilize a robust, omnichannel technology platform. Thanks to the overall shift to ecommerce selling (versus face-to-face sales), food and beverage companies should be using ERP, CRM and other tools that allow them to sell online, via mobile device, face-to-face or using the phone—whatever the customer prefers. NetSuite, for example, helps companies create an Amazon-like omnichannel experience that’s vastly different than what most food and beverage companies have used historically.

Who’s Next?

Right now, food and beverage distributors aren’t seeing much competition from Amazon. The idea has reared its head from time to time—a 2017 report from JPMorgan claimed that at the time Amazon wanted to “dive into food service distribution, potentially shaking up an industry now dominated by three large players”—but has yet to transpire. Spurred on by the Whole Foods acquisition, which took place around the same time, consultants like Caryn Hecht were predicting a similar fate for wholesale food distribution.

“Amazon will continue to leverage increased buying power and lower volume cost, provide a greater product selection, and now have the infrastructure for faster delivery completely by-passing wholesalers,” Hecht wrote in How Amazon Acquisition Impacts Wholesale Distribution.

“The faster to market advantage of traditional wholesale distribution will be threatened by this new model,” Hecht added. “To remain relevant in the new frontier of retail, wholesale distributors must be ready to differentiate their offerings and services through a deep understanding of their industry and customers.”

Learn more about NetSuite’s software for food and beverage distributors.

Best Practices for Implementing Payment Controls that Protect Accounts Payable

Fraud attempts are only getting more elaborate, especially in the world of B2B payments. Whether you are a large corporation, small business, nonprofit organization or even a political campaign, payments fraud is on the rise. The AFP’s annual survey reveals an increase in the prevalence of fraud for the fifth consecutive year, with 78 percent of businesses impacted by fraud last year.

Photo: Association for Finance Professionals

B2B payments fraud is also getting attention from IT teams as it becomes more common. In fact, 85 percent of security professionals are not confident their companies have deployed sufficient technology to protect against payments fraud.

If you’re wondering why B2B payments specifically are facing escalating levels of fraud, look no further than the way businesses handle accounts payable today. Not only are accounts payable (AP) teams leaving room for error by entering invoice data manually and trying to juggle dozens of invoice approvals over email, but they also continue to rely on the riskiest payment method available — paper checks — in spite of very accessible alternatives.

Why Common Attempts to Mitigate Fraud Risk Fail

Most businesses have taken some measures to establish controls against payments fraud, but as we have learned, fraud risk is a tough lion to tame. This task requires more than an AP manager’s divided attention.

Common tactics companies deploy to attempt to protect against fraud include:

Checking the validity of invoice amounts by forwarding invoices through email to department heads who are working with the corresponding vendor.

Manually comparing invoices to their corresponding purchase orders.

Writing checks throughout the week and having the CFO sign them all en masse.

In theory, these practices are all good ideas to keep the accounts payable process secure, but they are challenging to maintain, especially as invoice volumes go up. If your AP approvals live in Outlook, it’s really easy for invoices to fall through the cracks and never get paid. It’s also easy to forge invoice approvals and very difficult to organize documentation of all approvals for quick access during audits. And when the final approval for a payment depends on the signature of a CFO, every batch of payments hinges entirely on the availability of the CFO (i.e., a lot of potential for bottlenecks).

Simple ways to effectively mitigate fraud risk

In spite of the complex approaches to mitigating fraud risk that people have employed so far, there are a few simple options companies can start taking advantage of today.

1. Transition to electronic payment methods

Unlike paper checks, electronic payments make a lot of sense for accounts payable teams to utilize because they mitigate fraud and increase efficiency.

First, electronic payments like ACH transfers add layers of security by encrypting payment data that is in transit. Virtual card technology goes a step further by employing tokenization, restricting each payment to a one-time use credit card number for a fixed transaction amount. In addition to improved security, electronic payment methods expedite the payment process across the board. More efficient payments open up the potential for you to take a more strategic approach to your payments, seeking opportunities to gain extended working capital benefits.

2. Segregate duties in the payment process

The same principle of checks and balances that keeps the United States government under control is a must-have in your accounts payable process. Segregation of duties is as simple as setting up a process where one person is responsible for queuing up business payments and another person is responsible for approving those payments before releasing the funds.

Has it ever made sense to give one person total autonomy over money coming in and out of a company’s bank account?

3. Automate accounts payable

While automated accounts payable has been an unfamiliar concept to businesses up to this point, many are realizing the opportunities it provides for greater security and efficiency and reaping the benefits.

An automated accounts payable process embeds payment controls — like the aforementioned segregation of duties — into the AP process and establishes them as simple and repeatable processes:

Segregation of duties: AP automation solutions designate separate roles in the accounts payable process by creating separate login credentials and separate dashboards. Not only does this make it incredibly challenging to forge approvals, but it also preserves receipt of all approvals in one central location for easy access at any time.

Dual-factor authentication: AP automation solutions require dual-factor authentication to decrease the probability of account takeovers. Every time someone logs in, they are required to not only enter their password, but a verification code delivered via email or text message, as well.

Auto purchase order match: For those businesses that leverage purchase orders, AP automation can take the pain out of matching them to corresponding invoices by doing it automatically and flagging any that are mismatched.

With these controls in place, it’s much easier to protect and sustain your AP process, even as you continue adding vendors on a monthly basis.

How Can High-growth Companies Simplify and Optimise Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting?

Jack Welch once said, “The budget is the bane of corporate America. It never should have existed. A budget is this: If you make it, you generally get a pat on the back and a few bucks. If you miss it, you get a stick in the eye – or worse.”

Whilst Welch may have been right to an extent, it’s no surprise that accurate budgeting, planning and forecasting is essential for every high-growth business. Together, these processes provide a roadmap for a business and give its workforce clear directions on how to reach the intended destination.

Despite general agreement that planning, budgeting and forecasting is critical to an organisation’s ongoing success, a study conducted by KPMG and ACCA, found that 46 percent of finance professionals believe that their current budget “produces a politically-agreed number not aligned to real business outlook’.”

Thomas Sutter, from NetSuite’s Global Solutions Centre of Excellence, commented on this statistic, saying “I saw this too, when working as a Finance Director and Controller. The budget numbers were not the real plan or guidance, in fact, often they weren’t even finalised until months after the year had started.”

“Think of when a business is starting out. They’re concentrating on increasing sales and improving delivery of goods and services. There are so many unknowns, they really have no idea of what’s going to happen in the next 12 months, so the budget rarely has any actual relation to the business outlook. But, of course, investors want to know what the business is expecting. So, the finance team and executives go through this whole tick box exercise that’s time-consuming and manual – none of which is supporting the growth of the business – and the budget is created on outdated assumptions and data.”

On top of outdated budgets, all this manual, time-consuming admin also leads to less time for analysis, poor strategy development and inaccurate target setting, potentially impacting all areas of the business.

It’s unfortunate that most modern companies still conduct the process of forecasting based on outdated tools, spreadsheets and assumptions, rather than using new technologies and up to date market research.

With this way of working, manual errors are inevitable.

“The larger and longer the spreadsheet, the harder it is to check each cell for data entry errors,” Sutter said. “There’s often more than one spreadsheet with multiple versions, leading to mistakes from poor version control too.”

With all of this, by the time the information is pulled together from various sources to build the budget, for a high growth business new opportunities have been missed and it’s unable to respond to volatile market conditions and business threats.

Insights from Aberdeen GroupKPMG and ACCA show us that 49 percent of finance professionals agree that the top challenge in financial planning, budgeting and forecasting is marketing volatility, creating the need to dynamically account for change. In addition to the 62 percent that believe that budgets are simply a ‘point in time’ view and don’t reflect what is happening externally, it makes for a strong case against the likes of spreadsheets.

Yet, over one third of finance professionals suggested that their businesses were still not utilising rolling forecasts.

Improving planning, budgeting and forecasting within a high-growth business

Improving the planning, budgeting and forecasting processes at most small to medium-sized businesses is even more of a challenge.

“Historically, enterprise systems have been too costly and very complex to implement, so SMEs have continued to rely on spreadsheets or applications with limited functionality, or poor interoperability with core financial solutions,” Sutter said. “The cloud has now changed all of this.”

Through the cloud, planning and budgeting tools have become more widely available to smaller business. In large part, this is because they are hosted pay-as-you-go models, meaning SMEs have low cost of ownership and rapid implementation. Essentially, the cloud has enabled a low barrier to entry into 21st century planning, budgeting and forecasting capabilities.

In addition to cost savings, speed and accuracy are two of the core benefits businesses will see from a move to the cloud.

“Reduced manual errors, only one live version and proper workflows for approvals are all clear benefits,” Sutter explained, advocating one, cloud-based, centralised view of financial data. “Amongst other things, it supports a more continuous approach to planning and budgeting and enables rolling forecasts, so businesses can be in a much better overall position.”

Learn more in the webinar “A CFO’s Guide to Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting for High-growth Companies” hosted by Kevin Reed, accountancy journalist and former editor of Accountancy Age and Sutter. It explores some key areas around planning, budgeting and forecasting within a high-growth environment, and some of the barriers preventing businesses achieving efficiency and effectiveness in this area, including a more in-depth discussion on the topic and case studies filled with advice from successful companies.

Watch the webinar on-demand now to learn more.

How to Develop a Restaurant Fundraising Program

One of the best ways restaurant owners can connect with their local communities is by developing a restaurant fundraising program. Typically, a restaurant will donate a portion of the sales from the specified night to the organization holding the event. These fundraisers provide a variety of benefits for restaurants and local community organizations. However, restaurant owners should follow best practices to develop the right fundraising program structure.

The Benefits of Restaurant Fundraisers

Restaurant fundraising programs are a great way to benefit local charitable organizations. If structured correctly, the events raise funds for the charity and raise the profile of the participating restaurant.

Groups looking for funds will benefit from having a turnkey fundraising solution at their disposal. Restaurant fundraisers require significantly less work than other funding events, as the organizer’s primary responsibility is bringing attendees to dine at the restaurant. Event funds are delivered to the organization quickly and attendees get to enjoy great food for a good cause.

Restaurant fundraisers benefit the host location by fostering deep connections within the local community. The events also bring additional revenue and traffic to restaurants, which can be especially helpful during slower seasons. Restaurant staff often take pride in supporting local causes as well, which drives positive employee morale in the restaurant.

Best Practices for Developing a Restaurant Fundraising Program

To successfully develop a restaurant fundraising program, operators should follow this set of best practices.

  • Get Connected with Local Organizations – Find the right charity in the area and reach out. School, churches, or nonprofits are all great examples. A second method is to promote your restaurant’s fundraising program within your local community and see which organizations contact you. Start with organizations in a one mile radius from the restaurant and work your way out.
  • Define the Event Structure – Determine the amount of proceeds you want to donate from the night of the event. Usually, a restaurant will select a percentage of sales to donate. However, some choose a tiered structure. For example, if the groups bring in $1,000 in sales, the restaurant gives 15 percent, if the group brings in $1,500 in sales the restaurant donates 20 percent.
  • Give Yourself Time to Plan and Promote –Allowing 2-3 months lead time to work out all the details and promote the event will drive better results. To guarantee a great turnout, both the restaurant and the organization should promote through different communication channels such as social media, local events calendars, the restaurant’s website and the local chamber of commerce. Touch base with the organization the week of the event for an estimate on the number of attendees and, if necessary, staff up for the big night.
  • Showtime – Be prepared for the big night. Educate staff about the organization, set out information tables, put up signage and encourage restaurant leadership to get directly involved. Make the event memorable with one-night-only offerings like tailored menu items or specialty cocktails.
  • Develop Ongoing Partnerships –Each fundraising event is an opportunity to build new partnerships with local organizations and connect with a large group of guests. Developing these ongoing relationships benefits the restaurant and positions the proprietor as an engaged, community steward. After the event, always hand-deliver the check to the organization contact and discuss plans for future or recurring events.
  • Evaluate Event Success – Assess the event outcome. Look at metrics such as number of guests, total sales and money raised. Note areas of success and consider new strategies for any problem areas. Finally, meet with staff to review overall performance and get feedback. Learn from your mistakes and get better with every event.

Restaurant Fundraising is a Win-Win

Restaurant fundraising is one of the most effective ways to make a positive social impact on your local community. Great for both host locations and local community organizations, fundraisers bring money to important causes while also building deeper connections within the community.

Restaurant fundraisers are good for business and good for the world. By following the best practices above, your next restaurant fundraising event is sure to be a huge success.

Visibility into Your Services Organization: Do You Measure Up?

I sat down with Robert Scott, Senior Account Executive at Oracle NetSuite, to discuss the changes to the Services economy over the past decade. Scott provides insight into how Services businesses are changing and what companies should do to keep up – here are some of his thoughts:

We’ve all heard the old adage about the Cobbler’s Children. In my years of working with services organizations, I have come to realize that to some extent, many suffer the plight of the Cobbler’s Children: they are so busy working on their clients’ problems that they often ignore their own.

We all know what happens when services organizations suffer from a lack of visibility into operations: revenue forecasts are inaccurate; managers don’t know which projects are most profitable; resource utilization lags; and identifying the changes necessary to maximize profits becomes extremely challenging, if not impossible.

I frequently speak with business leaders that still rely on disjointed homegrown systems or packaged solutions built for another purpose entirely (i.e. project portfolio management tools used in billable services organizations) to manage their business processes, whiteboard discussions for requirements gathering, email for data collection and elaborate spreadsheets for tracking and reporting. Any time the data becomes outdated, they spend hours entering and transferring data manually from individual systems into analysis and reporting spreadsheets. This occurs on a weekly or even daily basis – and as with any manual process, mistakes and data inaccuracies compound the problem.

As a result, they are unable to measure and analyze their business in real time, and consequently, to make appropriate strategic decisions to sustain (or initiate) growth and profitability. Worse yet, some don’t even recognize this problem, or can’t identify which statistical components they’re missing. And with so much energy focused on maintaining existing systems, they don’t know how or where to begin correcting the problem.

Greater visibility into finances, projects, and resources lets you analyze projects in greater depth and identify profitability by client, project type and employee. You can also identify and control at-risk projects sooner so that steps can be taken to resolve issues and maximize profitability. But how do you assess your current level of visibility to determine if you could benefit from greater insight into your operations?

Over the past 20 years, many organizations have turned to Professional Services Automation (PSA) solutions to improve visibility into finances, projects and resources. Sophisticated PSA solutions provide a foundation for standardized service delivery, including a Project Workspace to store, manage, organize, search and retrieve project-related materials such as statements of work, intellectual property, contracts, resumes and templates.

Every services organization can benefit from improving its practices. So, our team created a Services Organization Visibility Checklist that should help you get started.

If you want to learn more about the industry leading solution to help improve your business visit www.openair.com.

Software Companies Still Navigating the New ASC 606 Standards

With the deadline passed, organizations are still using technology and automation to support ASC 606 compliance. 

ASC 606, the new revenue-recognition standard, is the most significant accounting change since the introduction of Sarbanes-Oxley. One of its primary goals is to harmonize US and international revenue recognition standards under a new principals-based model, simplifying revenue recognition.

What looks simple on paper is of course often complicated in practice. Many software companies have found that the transition to ASC 606 has complicated their revenue-recognition policies while raising questions about their ability to fully comply with the new standard.

While the deadline for implementation of ASC 606 has passed as of January 2019, that hardly means that every affected company has completed its transition: many private companies plan to take much of 2019 to adapt internal policies and operations, and to complete the transition shortly before end-of-year audits. Those companies should take special note of the challenges and opportunities presented by ASC 606.

Problems related to ASC 606 fall into three broad categories:

  • Understanding how ASC 606 impacts existing revenue policy
  • Recasting revenue for past fiscal periods
  • Operationalizing a new 606 revenue policy

Fully implementing ASC 606 and adapting current organizational practices is a particularly thorny process. Software companies tend to face three stumbling blocks on the path to full operationalization:

  • Revenue Allocation. Although revenue allocations were part of ASC 605, companies routinely white-papered their way out of the need to perform them. That’s not an option under ASC 606: revenue allocations must be reported, and at a level of detail that is new to many companies. This is easily the most significant shift in revenue management under the new standard.
  • Performance Obligations. ASC 606 changes the standard by which performance obligations are defined and recorded. Its predecessor used the satisfaction of contractual terms to identify performance obligations; under ASC 606, the transfer of control of goods or services defines a performance obligation.

    For example, under ASC 605, implementation of a software platform may have satisfied a contractual clause, and therefore fulfilled a performance obligation. Under ASC 606, the obligation is not fulfilled if the implementation requires further customization and integration with existing code. The service has not been truly delivered until the customer is able to use the new platform.
  • Contract Cost Deferral. ASC 606 matches contract costs, such as sales commissions, with contract revenue.

These changes can have effects beyond the accounting department; internal conversations about 606-compliant revenue policy should address the above points thoughtfully and thoroughly. Many customers go for long stretches believing that they will not be impacted by ASC 606, only to call in a panic after speaking with their auditors. Forward-thinking companies are prepared for these impacts along with purely internal ones.

Companies who are already considering how to take advantage of their new revenue policies have a partner in NetSuite ready to ease the transition, especially in the most troublesome areas:

  • Revenue Allocation. NetSuite’s robust allocation engine supports varying levels of complexity surrounding revenue allocations.
    For example, software companies commonly identify distinct groups or bands of customers (e.g. Enterprise, SMB, Partner), whom they sell to, and they price their products quite differently. This affects the Standalone Selling Price (SSP) for each group. NetSuite uses the appropriate SSP to properly allocate revenue. Further, additional purchases may be made under the umbrella of an existing contract. Revenue allocation for the subsequent purchase may require consideration of an existing revenue arrangement. NetSuite identifies and links additional purchases for revenue allocation.
  • Performance Obligations. NetSuite supports the ability to present a bundled offering to your customer and handles the revenue on the back-end in whatever way a given company’s policy dictates.
  • Contract Cost Deferral. NetSuite automatically matches contract costs with contract revenue.

Like many with a stake in the transition to ASC 606, I have been discussing the new standard for years with colleagues throughout the software industry. Along the way, we’ve discussed the systems we’re using to support the transition. It’s clear to me that NetSuite is the only enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution currently capable of fully supporting ASC 606 implementation. While other ERP solutions are scrambling to meet their customers’ 606-related needs, NetSuite customers are enjoying the benefits of its foresight and sustained devotion to helping companies fully operationalize 606-compliant policy.

Learn more about how NetSuite software supports ASC 606.

Venture Capital vs. Private Equity Funding & How to Prepare for It

Whether you’re an entrepreneur ready to take off with your idea or a business leader guiding a startup through the trials and tribulations of growth, part of your day is undoubtedly dedicated to seeking funding and maintaining healthy relationships with investors.

Plain and simple: It’s no easy feat.

Thus, on this episode of “The NetSuite Podcast,” we sat down with Oracle NetSuite’s Global Head of Private Equity and Venture Capital Practice, Rahul Puri, to provide insight on the process and help ease some of the challenges that surround it.

Puri dives into PE and VC funding, their differences and the appropriate time in a company’s lifecycle to pursue one or the other. He reveals some of the trends he’s seeing amid PE and VC funding—including an influx in capital—and how that impacts a growing company, especially in time-to-exit. He also addresses competition in the VC market, the overlap of PE in that space and what it means for startups of varying series and sizes.

Finally, Puri addresses the importance of a digital partner to automate processes for sponsor-backed companies and investor firms—a partnership that’s key to a successful relationship on both ends. He explains how NetSuite’s SuiteSuccess model provides the streamlined platform as well as the support both firms and sponsor-backed companies need to effectively scale, reiterating that time-to-value and minimal risk are critical to the process.

However, whether you’re a NetSuite customer or not, Puri encourages business leaders to reach out to him and his team with questions regarding PE or VC funding, noting his No.1 piece of advice: “It never hurts to ask.”

When Sales get Serious: As B2C Sales Surge, elope Plans Thoughtful Growth Strategy

Here’s a quick dare. Head to www.elope.com. Search for any of this combination of the company’s custom-designed hats: the light up anglerfish jawesome hat, the racing reindeer plush helmet or the delightfully simple (and best-selling) pig kit.

Now, try to not smile.

Making sure no one could win that dare and that “Everybody’s Laughing on Planet Earth” (which is what “elope” stands for) was the mission of Kevin and Keith Johnson when the brothers launched the company as a kiosk in a Colorado Springs mall decades ago.

The brothers created elope “to share their love of laughter and style with the world,” according to the company’s website. And “more than 25 years later, that same joy of adventure, desire to make people happy and passion for creative costuming inspires every decision we make.”

It’s not too surprising then, that the product line has grown to 1,000 hats, costumes and accessories — half of which are original elope products and half of which include licensed material of the likes of Harry Potter, Dr. Seuss, and dozens and dozens of universally known franchises. The company has also grown to 45 employees at its Colorado Springs headquarters, and continues to expand its contract manufacturer in China.

When it comes to its business, a funny thing about elope is that, despite its B2C beginnings, for much of the first part of its story, it was a B2B shop. It sold products to businesses and retail partners like Walmart and Target, and did quite well. But like so many manufacturers and wholesale distributors, with the advent of ecommerce and its entrance onto Amazon some three years ago, that business model came full circle. Now, a full 50 percent of its sales come direct from consumers, with a strategy focused on growing that segment.

No Laughing Matter

Delivering “fantastical service,” is a key company mantra. But while it may have appeared fantastical to customers, executing that first year on Amazon required something akin to whooshing one of those Harry Potter wands to wield magic on the back end.

That was the year Eli Rustenbach joined the company as the Strategic Analysis Team Lead. She remembers those orders pouring in from Amazon leading up to that first Halloween, the busiest time of the year for the company. With a 12-year-old Sage system that Rustenbach describes as being “manipulated within an inch of its life to do what we needed it to do,” the company got everything out correctly and on time, but it was a Herculean (or perhaps Gryffindor-ean) feat.

“We were manually uploading thousands of orders, minute by minute from Amazon,” she said. “It was a mess.”

After that Halloween, the company knew it needed to change its ERP system. Aside from the inflexibility of the Sage system, there wasn’t a strong partner community building connectors and tools to extend it.

“When Amazon came along, Sage was by no means ready, and they’re not going to be ready for a while,” she said.

SuiteSuccess a perfect fit

Driving process improvements with technology would enable elope to focus on more strategic activities, like conducting keyword research to boost Amazon sales and finding ways to improve its customer experience on its own ecommerce website. At the same time, the company was eying expansions to eBay and Walmart.com.

Attracted to its fixed rate implementation and the opportunity to implement best practices from industry leaders, as well as configure the system to its own needs, elope implemented NetSuite using SuiteSuccess.

“Because we had been with Sage for so long, we lost ourselves in our own band aids, and didn’t know what was needed anymore,” she said. “We were excited to have different ways of doing things from NetSuite’s industry experience.”

Virtual warehouses, real growth

With a single source of data, elope leverages virtual warehouses and real-time stock information for demand planning across 1,000 SKUs for B2B and B2C sales, and to optimize fulfillment from its warehouses in Colorado Springs. With the ability to easily expand its business to eBay and Walmart.com, the company has already paid for the NetSuite implementation.

B2C sales are up 40 percent year over year, while automation, prebuilt reports, and real-time inventory data access enable elope to analyze and plan growth strategy. The company is now eyeing international expansion in Europe.

Reflecting on the Amazon debut, Rustenbach mused about the possible next “game changer,” of course not knowing what that may be. But she does know that this time, elope won’t be coming at it with a system that is old hat.

“I don’t know what that next thing is. But I know they’re going to build a connector for NetSuite,” she said.

For more, get leading practices for wholesale distributors.