With more than 30 years in the franchising business, BLCO Enterprises has grown into managing 29 KFC, Taco Bell and A&W franchise locations across Canada and parts of the U.S., employing more than 700 people. The company aims to serve its communities better by upgrading its current stores as well as building and acquiring new stores. BLCO is dedicated to community giving, participating in KFC’s Add Hope and Our Harvest programs by donating surplus food that is safe to eat to local hunger relief organizations. True to its vision to be a “big-hearted company for our customers, for our employees, and our shareholders,” BLCO strives to be the best franchise manager in Canada and the U.S.
As BLCO Enterprises worked to streamline its accounting and operations across 29 locations and multiple divisions, the company realized that scaling its QuickBooks Desktop system created an extremely inefficient workflow.
Sarah Ballard, director of finance and a Certified Public Accountant, explained that BLCO was using many different sources of information that needed to be transferred into QuickBooks manually, from the store point-of-sale (POS) to other store operational software.
The accounting team spent hours daily and monthly doing cash reporting from the stores, entering journal entries manually, and “paper checking” everything out. The office was also juggling invoices coming from email, mail, and fax, on top of troubleshooting late invoice deliveries and wrong addresses. Bank reconciliation took approximately 18-20 hours a week, and month-end close was an extensive, time-consuming process that frequently wasn’t completed until four weeks after month end. Even after these accounting tasks were completed, Ballard wasn’t convinced of the accuracy of the information she was getting from manual data entry.
When asked what she was looking for in an accounting solution, Ballard was clear: “definitely reduce the amount of data entry we were doing and reduce the resources and time spent on our extensive number of invoices.” Also on her wish list were consolidation, detailed reports, a fixed asset tracker, and an accounting solution that integrated smoothly with the POS system.
Ballard decided to try Restaurant365, an all-in-one, cloud-based platform built to help restaurant operators run their businesses more efficiently and profitably. The restaurant-specific solution offers robust accounting products, like bank reconciliation, as well as tools like fixed asset tracking, custom financial reporting, and full integration with POS systems, food and beverage vendors, and banks.
BLCO Enterprises had recently acquired four restaurants in a standalone company that had yet to be folded into the main company, and Ballard decided this was the perfect way to test R365. With the help of one of R365’s implementation specialists, Restaurant365 was up and running in all four restaurants in less than three weeks.
“I’ve done a lot of implementations over the years in my career, all kinds of them,” said Ballard. “Patty Hernandez at R365 is probably the best implementation specialist that we’ve ever had.” Ballard also credits the dedication from her BLCO team. “Everybody was excited to get it up and running, knowing that it would make their jobs a lot more productive.”
Ballard shared an email she wrote to a peer after switching to R365, saying, “I honestly cannot say enough good things about our installation and user experience. Our operations team as well as our accounting team are very happy with the information being provided from R365. We are so excited to dive into using the system more extensively. The intercompany benefit is worth it alone.”
Now with 29 active locations on Restaurant365, Ballard is seeing major gains in efficiency in both accounting and operations.
Ballard said the biggest payoff from R365 so far has been the sheer hours saved through the accounting solution. Using Restaurant365 has saved the accounting team:
- Roughly 20 hours per month for bank reconciliation (because it is now automated)
- 20 hours per month for P&Ls (because an accountant no longer needs to key data by hand from QuickBooks into an Excel sheet)
- At least 10-20 hours per month from streamlining AP (because of the R365 integration with Sysco)
Ballard estimates the team is already saving in excess of 50 hours a month with R365 but is looking forward to the full implementation and training rollout to the entire company, “I anticipate that time savings to grow.”
As director of finance, Ballard is finding R365 an invaluable tool for her own responsibilities. Last year, Ballard estimates she spent about 100 hours doing budgets, because she had to manually enter numbers into QuickBooks when the import from Excel wasn’t possible. When Ballard used R365 this year, she estimates “it took me about 10 hours—so that’s just 10% of the time.”
In addition, “the intercompany is phenomenal,” said Ballard. With multiple companies in Canada that do a lot of intercompany transfers, BLCO is now able to condense transfers into one entry, versus going in and out of multiple entities to ensure they’re all in balance at the end of the month and year. “Now, we just plug in which company we want it to go to per location, and R365 does it right automatically; there’s no need to go back and rebalance, which is a huge time saver,” said Ballard. And with Restaurant365 integrations throughout the entire company, BLCO is able to streamline reporting both by selecting the entities to include in a report using the same chart of accounts, and also through consolidated forecasting.
Ballard also appreciates the fixed asset tracking in R365. She said that previously, her franchise locations spent money “willy-nilly” on repairs, with the mentality that repair is cheaper than replacing. She found that QuickBooks wasn’t able to track the age of equipment and how often repairs were happening. Now that she has starting using fixed asset tracking within R365, she reported, “I think in year end and month end, we will be able to do more accurate amortization of our assets.”
Although Ballard originally saw Restaurant365 as mostly an accounting tool, she is finding that her operations team can also benefit from the restaurant management system. Recently, Ballard recounts, when posting the weekly count, she noticed that the director of operations had gone through the accounts and noted the inventory that was over-ordered or too low. “I think these trends were becoming more and more visible to them,” she said, “So I anticipate we’re going to be seeing some significant cost savings there.”
She also takes advantage of R365 for controlling costs. “Now that we have more accurate budget data, we’re able to look for variances and make sure that we have more accuracy in what we’re doing. We’re identifying things for us to start looking at, as far as cost reduction, and sending those out to the managers in a timelier fashion. They are actually able to access it in their modules, and I believe it will give them more visibility into controlling costs.”
Because of POS integration with restaurant software, store managers are able to look at real-time financial data, like P&L, at least a few times a week—far more often than before. Previously, “the data was so old that it really was not impactful. We weren’t able to action anything,” said Ballard. Now, managers and operations are able to see labor accruals, frequent P&Ls, and sales forecasts versus their labor, enabling them to make changes sooner rather than later.
The overall results of Restaurant365, according to Ballard?
“Definitely much better efficiency in our accounting staff—using them for more detailed analysis versus data entry. We definitely have more accurate and timely information than we’ve ever had. Everybody seems to be really excited to use the information that we’re providing to make better decisions and cost savings.”
As she finishes the rollout to the rest of the locations, Ballard is excited to explore other Restaurant365 inventory, labor, and reporting tools. BLCO Enterprises chose Restaurant365 for many of the accounting features, but the software has impressed Ballard most with the streamlined implementation process. When asked about her experience with the Restaurant365 team, Ballard said, “our success has been foremost in their minds. It’s just been a fantastic experience and I would love to share that with as many people as I can.”