Bricco Dining Group is an Ohio-based restaurant group with four locations. Pub Bricco, Bricco Kent, Café Bricco, and Akron Bricco serve the local community with great food and drink at great prices. Dave Sharp, owner of Bricco Dining Group, purchased these four restaurants in May of 2019.
Akron Bricco serves awesome food and drinks at great prices to an eclectic mix of businesspeople and college students. Pub Bricco is known for its gourmet sandwiches, and also delights guests with appetizers, salads and adult beverages served in a pub atmosphere. Bricco Kent features favorites from the flagship Akron location along with unique entrées, appetizers and a drink menu with 100 wine selections by the bottle. Café Bricco is a casual hotel eatery offering New American eats.
When Mr. Sharp bought the four restaurants, they were not in good financial shape, and he reported that the books didn’t line up. Previously, the restaurants were “operating off the bank account,” rather than something standard like a profit and loss statement. Processes weren’t consistent, and because managers weren’t aware of their numbers, they couldn’t be held accountable for operations.
Mr. Sharp immediately began looking for a restaurant accounting and operations system that would “get down into the granular level” and improve the restaurant group’s numbers. As he began to look into Restaurant365, he found the system did everything on his list. Another large selling point was that Restaurant365 is Mac friendly.
As Mr. Sharp began working with the restaurants, he had a simple rule: decisions were going to be made based on data. “My mantra throughout the whole buying of this company was that it is going to be a data-driven company,” he said.
Restaurant365, he explained, gave that accurate data. “The system allows so many different ways to dissect data,” Mr. Sharp stated. “It’s giving me good numbers. I could analyze the restaurants from halfway across the world just by looking at the numbers.”
Under the previous ownership, he said, only two people in the restaurant group had access to the accounting and operations data. But moving forward with Bricco Dining Group, he wanted to use data to train managers to run their restaurants more efficiently.
Before the implementation of Restaurant365, managers had been making decisions based on assumptions, explained Mr. Sharp. But “now that I have actual data, we can schedule certain reports to get emailed to managers every day or week” that show the data behind labor and sales.
Once Restaurant365 was set up, and Bricco was operating on clean data, Mr. Sharp was able to automate much of the data and numbers collection. For the latest month of bank statements, with managers entering in checks correctly and the automations from Restaurant365, Mr. Sharp reported that “when I downloaded everything, I think I spent 15 minutes cleaning up the few things that didn’t go through. Before, it was taking me three or four 10-hour days to get it all fixed,” he explained.
“I’ve had to kind of refigure my whole life, because I have so much extra free time now,” he joked.
This data informs how he trains his managers and chefs, explaining that “the numbers tell a story” for everything from prep to labor
For example, the scheduling function of Restaurant365 has allowed Mr. Sharp to discern which managers are basing their schedule off data, and which managers are copying the same schedule every week “by pencil.” But by analyzing actual versus scheduled labor in R365, and training managers on how to accurately schedule out labor, he is able to teach managers how to streamline their costs.
“It’s been hard to get managers to understand that, basically, a restaurant is just a giant math equation. But Restaurant365 really helps me bring that to life for them, because they see the numbers,” he explained.
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Bricco Dining Group initially closed for four months, which had an impact on business. However, Mr. Sharp has used this time as an opportunity to add in data-driven processes that are making the restaurants more profitable, now and in the future.
For instance, although Mr. Sharp hasn’t yet implemented inventory with Restaurant365, he has laid the training groundwork to implement a robust inventory control system in the coming months. His managers have organized the walk-ins, downloaded the inventory management apps, and are ready to analyze the numbers.
“They’re going to have the ability to walk around with a phone or tablet and punch in inventory, and then get real-time data right after,” Mr. Sharp explained. “That is going to be priceless.”
Mr. Sharp expects the same success with inventory management as other aspects of Restaurant365. “When the system has the data, we’ll take it to the next level to try to find that next 3-4% off of Cost of Goods Sold, based on actual versus theoretical food costs, and inventory, and things like that,” he said.
Bricco has already implemented Restaurant365 to track transfers between stores, ensuring accurate numbers in food costs. “I don’t have a single negative thing to say about how the transfer feature works. I mean, it’s doing exactly what I was told it would do,” he added.
Mr. Sharp has been pleased with the time savings that have come with Restaurant365. In a previous company, he did weekly bank reconciliations on an Excel sheet, sitting with a pen and a bank statement, crossing off items.
However, with Restaurant365’s automated bank reconciliation, Mr. Sharp estimates that he is saving 30-40 hours per month just on bank reconciliation. Because he is able to download the bank statements into the Restaurant365 system, “it’s impossible for me to miss anything because it’s on the bank statement. That’s huge right there in itself—to be able to download the bank statements in the system and not have to manually go through and match them up,” he explained.
Mr. Sharp is putting his new free time to good use, working toward his overarching goal of giving his managers the tools they need to be more accountable. His training is focused on ensuring that managers can make informed, data-driven decisions on their own.
Restaurant365 is helping provide the data these managers need, by “giving the managers the power to see what they’re spending, or to have a budget and make a decision on how much we should order this week,” he said.
“The data gives them the power to manage their own business, because they see the money going in and out. They enter in the invoices at the store level and put them in the Chart of Accounts. They get to analyze their P&L at the end of the month and see where they went wrong and what they can do better,” he said.
By enabling his managers to examine the sales and labor data, Mr. Sharp said, they’re able to figure out how to improve their numbers day-to-day. “Restaurant365 gives us so much data on a daily basis that we can actually exact change on a daily basis, instead of waiting for the P&L to come out at the end of the week or month,” he explained.
Mr. Sharp listed a few lessons he started with in his manager training: understanding the Chart of Accounts, the budget, “where things go, why we have expenditures, what’s the difference between writing a check right on the spot and entering an invoice” (referring to automatic payment versus deferred payment).
He says that most of his managers are younger and tech savvy, and they’ve found using Restaurant365 to be very intuitive. “They’re digging around and trying to find things,” he said. “That gets them excited about looking at the numbers and analyzing their business.”
He continued, “The data allows me to make them competitive among each other. Why is store A running a 27% food cost, and Store B running a 32% food cost? What’s the difference here?”
Mr. Sharp has future plans to bonus restaurant managers based on successes, including sales and cleanliness, once the restaurant group is on the other side of the pandemic. He is looking forward to leveraging Restaurant365’s manager log, where managers can record pictures and tasks. “For one person trying to operate four restaurants, at one time, with 170 employees, the manager log is a godsend. It’ll allow me to make that my central command,” he said. Making managers accountable through data has also led to money saved on labor costs. His restaurant managers are “scheduling to a budget, seeing the numbers, monitoring what they need that week,” and at the end of the week, evaluating the budgeted versus scheduled labor based on sales.
Using the data from Restaurant365 to monitor labor has led to labor savings, which Mr. Sharp estimated at “5%, minimal.” The biggest gain comes from how the system allows managers to “get granular,” he reported, and he anticipates further streamlined labor costs in the future when business returns to normal post-COVID. “By allowing managers to get granular and try to find those 1.5 to 2% savings, which, when we get back to doing $5 to $6 million a year, is serious money.”
Mr. Sharp shares the challenges facing many restaurant owners right now, especially for labor. “I’m subsidizing probably 200 hours of labor a week that I don’t need, but I don’t want to lose these people, and I don’t want to put them on the street. So I’m probably paying out more than I should. But it’s a conscious decision I made to take care of these people; I can’t just leave them out in the wind,” he explained.
Sales forecasting has helped the restaurants, he reported, even during the COVID era. As Ohio faces possible further restrictions on businesses, he is using Restaurant365 to examine sales and food cost data to inform Bricco’s to-go menus.
Even if sales numbers are significantly lower during COVID, “I was able to look at the three months pre-COVID, and the three months after COVID, and see how we’ve really cut back on our costs,” he said.
“I have data, and I know it’s accurate,” he added. “At least having the right data helps me sort through a piece of the chaos.”
Mr. Sharp has an owner’s optimistic, pragmatic outlook. “It’s a very volatile time in the restaurant business right now,” he continued. “But those of us who make it through to the other side are going to be sitting very pretty, because this has taught us how to run leaner.”
Although he is focused on training his team and streamlining operations right now, ultimately, Mr. Sharp is looking to turn these restaurants around and sell them as an investment. Because store managers will be using the systems and processes he put in place with Restaurant365 to run the locations successfully, he believes that his potential investor base is broadened.
“I don’t have to sell to another restaurant group,” he said. He could sell to investors or other businesspeople, “anybody who just wants an investment that’s going to make money, because I’m going to have everything laid out for them,” he explained. “As long as they find somebody that can keep operating the system, it’s good to go. It’s expanded my realm of people that I can sell my business to,” he commented.
With this turnaround in Bricco Dining Group, would Mr. Sharp recommend Restaurant365 to other operators? “I would say to another operator, do you like to know how much money you’re making?” he asked. With Restaurant365, he’s able to track, understand, and leverage the data that is making his business successful, and “I wouldn’t operate a restaurant any other way.”