Walker Group President Paul Walker’s family has been intricately involved with casual dining leader Village Inn since the company’s earliest days in Denver in the late 1950s. Walker’s grandfather, Dow Sherwood, opened one of the company’s first franchises in Florida in 1961, bringing staples like chicken fried steak breakfast skillets, double-decker clubs, and a lineup of homemade pies to the Sunshine State.
Fast-forward a few decades, and Paul and his brother Jimmy jumped into the business full-time after spending summer after summer working in the restaurants. Early on, they knew they wanted to open a network of Village Inns and that doing so would require an infrastructure far different than what was available in the late 1990s and the early 2000s. They began laying the groundwork for it in 2016. After years of struggling to automate data entry to regularly produce actionable reports, they joined Restaurant365. The most significant benefits came post-pandemic when Walker, with R365’s integrations, automation, and scalability, seized the opportunity to quadruple the company’s size and become one of its largest franchisees.
Walker knew what he and the company needed to truly grow long before such technology was available.
“Getting any reporting with Microsoft Dynamics and franchise in-house POS was difficult,” he said. “We had to use separate software to upload and download data to get reporting, and we went through five payroll companies to get the efficiency and data we needed.”
At the time, accounting and the rest of the back office were forced to physically key sales and other metrics in a spreadsheet, producing each location’s journal entry for that day, which would then be entered into the general ledger. Yet those entries were rarely accurate and reliable due to the unreliability of the underlying data, and the company could not spot theft, which Walker said was running rampant.
While the back office was able to produce weekly profit-and-loss statements within a week, Walker said there were other things that needed to be fixed in the system. Reconciling bank accounts and accounts payable was a Herculean task, as was trying to nail down food costs.
“Light Years Ahead”
That’s precisely how Walker described his front-of-house and back-office operations with Restaurant365. In addition to the massive time savings and accuracy increases the company gets in its regular reporting thanks to POS integration and automated journal entries, R365 has also helped Walker further empower his managers at all levels.
Each manager is trained to understand the ins and outs of their store’s P&L and to drill down into it.
“Then, we have a set schedule for conversations, each week, with all our managers to understand how their stores performed last week and what the agenda is for the coming week, all based on Restaurant365,” Walker said.
When Village Inn came to Walker during the pandemic an opportunity to purchase a group of about 30 stores that would potentially be closed, he said he was able to leap at the opportunity thanks to the scalability of Restaurant365.
The legal entities and accounting bases for all were set up within a matter of weeks on the cloud-based platform, allowing Walker to oversee it all at a high level, while continuing to get granular access to performance data whenever need be, all with a single log-in.
R365 tools like the AP Center also helped the organization run more efficiently.
“This saved us a tremendous amount of time,” Walker said, noting that processing invoices with an outside accounting firm often resulted in a bottleneck that slowed payments and made tracking down historical payments challenging.
Pay365 was also “huge,” said Walker. “I’m in 11 different states, so having control as well as assurance that all local rules and regulations are being followed is essential,” he said.
Yet one of the biggest assets, he said, was R365’s ability to help empower his regional managers. Previously, these individuals served as what Walker called “traffic cops” between different parts of the business to help managers get things done.
“They were only directing,” Walker said, “not taking hold of the problem.”
With Restaurant365’s all-in-one system, they can access all those different facets of the business in detail to home in on and quickly find answers to any problems that arise, eliminating the need for endless back-and-forth communication without resolution.
While Walker remains busy growing and improving his now 40-location network, he said R365 has allowed him to consider bringing new brands into the portfolio.
“What’s exciting for me is the scalability,” he said. “We can implement in weeks flat.”
And for his fellow restaurant leaders struggling to modernize and centralize their tech stack he asked one question:
“If you’re not already with Restaurant365, what’s wrong with you?”
“What else compares to it?” he asked, “don’t get left behind.”