Andy Schwartz, Co-Founder & CEO
The welcoming, comforting ambience that a restaurant works hard to create for their guests sets the stage for a meal that will hopefully bring those customers back. However, behind the elegant scenes of the dining room, beyond those kitchen doors, there are busy, complex and often chaotic operations that not only make the guest’s meal possible but keep the lights of the restaurant on. The back-of-the-house, or BOH, is where the real meat and potatoes of running a restaurant business are brought to bear.
Beyond running a food service operation, restaurant operators, caterers, and the like need to run profitable businesses. Profitability is key to the growth and sustainability of any business, and restaurants are no exception. Controlling costs, especially as a restaurant grows and opens new units, is critical. With the rising costs of labor, real estate and utilities throughout each segment of the industry, the operators that get a grip on the chaos of their business and better manage the margins of their food and beverages sales are the only ones that will survive and thrive.
For many operators, this is actually much more difficult than it sounds. Aside from the rising costs mentioned above, the prices of key ingredients fluctuate on a daily basis. Historically, the only way to truly know the impact of constantly fluctuating and unpredictable prices was to manually and painstakingly record this information in notebooks, spreadsheets and, for more sophisticated operators, a robust restaurant management system. That said, all of the information still needed to be manually keyed into those systems.
At the end of the month, keen operators may notice a change in the Cost-of-Goods-Sold (COGS) when reviewing their Profit-and-Loss (P&L) statements. Others just pay their bills and go about business as usual for the following period. Not only was this information accessible much later than when it would be valuable, it required hours of their employees’ time spent processing paper invoices, manually keying or transcribing data from one place to another.
In other industries, the data points required to drive decision-making are more readily available and easily analyzed in sophisticated cloud-based, mobile-friendly business process automation platforms. The founders of xtraCHEF knew this first-hand, implementing such systems for Fortune 1000 companies across a variety of sectors.
Governed by the idea that the restaurant industry was ripe for an introduction to technology that had been proven in other enterprises, a trio of visionaries—Andy Schwartz, Bhavik Patel, and Chaz Brown—co-founded xtraCHEF. Chaz, a chef and a long-time friend of xtraCHEF CEO, Andy Schwartz, knew that nothing like the tools that Andy and Bhavik offered at the enterprise level existed for the restaurant industry. Prior to xtraCHEF, nothing off the shelf took into consideration the intricacies of the restaurant industry and attempted to control the chaos of the numbers side of the business.
xtraCHEF delivers a data management and cost intelligence platform that allows restaurateurs know their costs in real-time and better manage their business. From ordering to invoice and inventory management, xtraCHEF bridges the gap that exists in restaurants between the kitchen and the accountant and allows them to use the data to control their Cost-of-Goods- Sold. The xtraCHEF application digitizes and archives bills, receipts, invoices and vendor statements, extracts and analyzes line-item details and provides the data in a timely manner to their clients. “We add value by bringing transparency to the procurement process and allow our customers to use the accurate data that we capture to make better purchase decisions, manage their inventory and ultimately boost margins,” explains Schwartz, CEO of xtraCHEF.
Eliminating Paperwork, Boosting Culinary Experience
From the beginning, xtraCHEF’s secret sauce has been in digitizing paper documents and making those data points actionable. The very first version of the product that the company developed included a mobile application whereby restaurateurs can capture and store vendor invoices, statements, credit memos and more by utilizing the scanning or photograph feature. “Restaurant employees can simply point the camera of their mobile device at the invoice and xtraCHEF will detect, capture, and correct the image,” says Schwartz.
"We go above and beyond for our customers as our customer’s success is really our success, and our team is dedicated to making sure that the solution meets the needs of our customers’ challenges today and into the future"
Once the purchase invoices are digitized, the images, ingredients, prices, and purchase history are all easily accessible in just a few clicks. xtraCHEF’s powerful search engine makes it easy to quickly find information without the hassle of paperclips, papercuts, or filing cabinets. “The best part of ditching the paper and digitizing invoices is that all of that data becomes drillable, downloadable, and shareable. We make it easy to start with the high-level analytics, drill down to the line-item level, and then download and share with the people who need to know,” says Schwartz.
Schwartz notes that their product is vendor agnostic in terms of operating systems, devices, “We offer a solution that’s going to work right out of the box for any food service or restaurant accounting operation and will integrate with the most commonly used accounting, inventory management and POS systems in the industry.”
A befitting example of xtraCHEF’s ability to improve productivity is the testimony of a popular restaurant client— The Copper Onion. With several restaurants in Utah and plans to add more, the team at Copper Onion used to spend more than 50 working hours per month on data entry to manage accounting and inventory management processes.
On implementing xtraCHEF’s automated cost management solution, they were able to reduce the processing time to a mere five hours a month with real-time accuracy and expend their focus on other valuable tasks. By taking care of the data, xtraCHEF enables restaurant managers to pay more attention to their guests rather than managing paperwork.
Unleashing the Key to Profitability
The key to a restaurant’s profitability is to set target Cost-of- Goods-Sold (COGS) ratios, diligently track your costs, and manage your budget throughout the period. “If restaurants and their employees understand their budget and their targets, they can calculate what their costs should be and then manage to those goals to run a profitable restaurant,” says Schwartz.
xtraCHEF offers a budgeting feature that allows restaurants to track their food cost targets in relation to sales in real-time without the burden of data entry or paper processing. When clients can see their budgets, see how price fluctuations are impacting their goals, they are in a better position to compare products, negotiate with vendors, and procure their ingredients more intelligently. The solution offers dashboards unique to each user group such as accounting team, operations team or the chef. “Based on our experience and our research with our existing customers, we know exactly what data points each user group needs access to,” explains Schwartz.
xtraCHEF provides a peer-to-peer cost index that gives the restaurant operators deeper insights into the sourcing and ordering of ingredients in order to make the right order decisions. They can track the status of their order and the expected price. Once that order arrives in the store, they can quickly and easily capture, record, code and reconcile the purchase. The digitized data is provided to accounting accurately and in a timely manner. Approval rules ensure that bills that require review depending on criteria determined by each client are approved before payment. Price variance alerts, email digests and interactive reports and dashboards help the operator to stay ahead of any impacts to profitability. With these features, xtraCHEF helps restaurateurs dig into how each factor of their menu affects their food costs across all of their stores in real time. “Being proactive is core value of our company and is central to how we build our product and support our customers. We want our customers to be proactive and not reactive when managing their business,” says Schwartz.
Meeting the Needs of the Restaurant Industry Today and into the Future
As the CEO of xtraCHEF, Schwartz is a motivated leader with a propensity for building strong relationships and a passion for selling. Driven by a passion to position xtraCHEF as a leader in the restaurant technology landscape, he focuses on building the company’s strategies, fostering relationships internally and externally and execution of the vision. His fellow partner, Patel brings to the table almost two decades of enterprise technology development and implementation, especially in content management and receivables management solutions. His diverse experience in the design and development of software solutions as well as his business process knowledge has served the product, the company and their customers well.
Led by these two driven entrepreneurs, the rest of their growing team boasts experience from a variety of restaurant industry, hospitality technology, and other industry experience. What all of the employees have in common is a commitment to their customers’ success. “We go above and beyond for our customers as our customer’s success is really our success, and our team is dedicated to making sure that the solution meets the needs of our customers’ challenges today and into the future,” remarks Schwartz.
Today, xtraCHEF boasts thousands of customers across 47 U.S. states. They are continually publishing new releases and recently launched its latest version of the software that offers additional ways to input daily sales to better track COGS and declining budgets, new and enhanced accounting integrations, approval module updates, and back-end performance improvements. In addition, the company has added a unit comparison Report that allows users to perform sales vs. purchases comparisons across different locations. By continuing to define and deliver success to customers, xtraCHEF is formulating a plan to extend their unique benefits to the supply chain market.