How to Streamline Restaurant Operations with Tech Implementation

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About The Episode

In this episode, we sit down with the industry expert to discuss the digitization journey of restaurant businesses and how tech implementation can improve your restaurant business.

Our guest for this episode is Brett Smith, VP of Customer Success at Planday, a workforce management platform for shift-based businesses.

During the podcast, Carl and Brett discuss the challenges that restaurants face when it comes to technology adoption. For example, some restaurant owners may be resistant to change and may be hesitant to invest in new technology due to cost concerns or concerns about the impact on their business operations.

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Carl: Hello, I’m Carl Jacobs and in daily life I’m the co-founder and CEO of Apicbase. In this podcast, I look for answers to help you grow your food business. I’ll be talking to numerous experts so you can learn from their experiences.

In this episode, we talk about onboarding employees into new technologies with Brett Smith, VP Customer Success at Planday. Planday is a powerful employee scheduling tool, and Brett brings over years of experience in the hospitality industry, including ten years as operations manager at Hard Rock Cafe and seven in the Customer Success Team at Planday. She has overseen dozens of implementations of technology in hospitality, and I’m super excited to hear about Brett’s unique perspective on the challenges and solutions for software implementations in the restaurant industry.

Hello, everybody. Welcome to this next episode of the Food Service Growth Show. And with me today is Brett Smith. She’s the vice president of customer success at Planday. Welcome to the show.

Brett: Thank you.

Carl: It’s great to have you. As I just told you in the pre-recording you’re the first woman on the show which I’m very happy and that we also include women in our show which is great. Thank you very much for making the time. Before we jump in into some more deeper topics, the first question I always ask is can you give me a little bit of an insight? Who is Brett and where does she come from and what did she do in the past?

Brett: Sure, absolutely. So first off, my name is Brett Smith. And you know, as Carl said, I look after our customer success teams at Planday. Originally I come from Canada. I actually sit in London. I moved to London about 15 years ago, so I work out of our UK office in our headquarters sits in Copenhagen. So when I when I first moved over into London, I went straight into hospitality where I was at for ten years with a fairly recognizable brand called Hard Rock, and then a few stints at a few other hospitality businesses thereafter before joining Planday in 2017. And I’m coming up on six years here. So yeah, a little bit of a spatter past, but mainly in hospitality and that’s kind of where my passion lies.

Can you maybe tell a little bit about the roles and responsibilities you had at the Hard Rock Cafe?

Brett: Yeah, absolutely. I was an operations manager there focused at the end more so learning and development and training manager. So we actually worked for the European side of the business. So Hard Rock Europe, which runs a group of corporate cafes and retail shops and hotels within Europe. So my job there really was to look at what kind of systems we’re using, ensure best practice and adoption of those systems and really just doing what we call our BPE’s or best practice evaluations to ensure that we’re holding up the specifications of the brand and the brand standards that come with operating such a large brand.

Carl: That’s actually interesting because I can imagine how many, first of all, you know, branches were you responsible for. 

How difficult was it to maintain a certain quality throughout all of those branches?

Brett: Absolutely. I mean, you know, I wouldn’t say it’s just my responsibility in terms of a team of responsible people for the training that goes on in Hard Rock in Europe. And of course, the head office kind of comes from Orlando, but they invest a lot of money into their training and learning and development programs. And you can tell that when you walk into a Hard Rock, probably because you’re going to get a very similar experience depending on which one you go to.

But right now, I’m not sure how many corporate cafes they have right now because they’ve probably gone through a little bit of the same pain that other businesses have gone on through COVID. But generally, as I think about 30 to 35 when I was there and it was really going in from right from the build, so building brand new ones and implementing those systems with brand new teams, some that have been employed by Hard Rock before. But of course the majority very new to all the systems and all the training and all the different specifications. So it was quite you know, it was about a usually a two month long stint you would do over in the new openings and spend time on the ground on the floor with the teams. You know, like I said, a lot of theory training but a lot of practical training was the important piece of being there face to face with these teams.

I can imagine. You say you’re with Planday since 2017 so your time at the Hard Rock must have been from 2005 to 2015, something like that. And how digital was the world back then in hospitality?

Brett: Sure. I mean, it was actually a really, I guess not a big shock. Hard Rock was very advanced and they had a huge technical team also working out of Orlando. And that’s because they also deal with the music side of things in terms of festivals and whatnot. So they actually built their own, some of their own tooling at first when I first joined. So they kind of had their own labor scheduling tool that they had built themselves and were working with their own booking systems, which they also built themselves. But slowly as we started to, I guess, digitize even further into the business, we soon realized that continuing to build and experiment was not only expensive, but also we weren’t being able to deliver as quickly as going out to some experts in these types of tools. So we ended up not long after I joined, actually probably two years in, moving out and actually depreciating the systems that we had built and going out to procure some systems in the different markets we were in to kind of build up that fully integrated tech stack and unlock some of the opportunities that came with that.

I hear you say that Hard Rock was a very advanced business. Then after Hard Rock, you went on to work at some other hospitality businesses. How was it compared to those in that time?

Brett: Yeah. I mean, it was surprising. I was quite shocked really, to find out how many businesses were operating without technology inside. You know, Excel comes up a lot. I’m sure we still all use Excel for a lot of functions, but a lot of people, you know, maybe built a spreadsheet they’ve been using for the last 25 years that serves a great purpose. And, you know, it can be an amazing spreadsheet, but then you just, you know, you don’t unlock all the communication benefits and engagement benefits with team members and employees and whatnot. So I was quite shocked. But I did find that it kind of lined me up to be able to start to have those conversations with the businesses and be a bit more advanced in terms of how to work with technology and hospitality.

So it was definitely a benefit for me having all that experience coming from such an integrated environment going kind of back to the basics and thinking, okay, well what can we add on here to improve operational efficiency and how can we look at becoming more digital and at least starting that digitalization journey? So yeah, that was kind of, it was a benefit if anything. But I was fairly shocked about how little of a tech stack some of the businesses had.

Carl: So you opened the conversation in those businesses about, you know, the importance of digitization. Were you listened to or did it take a long time or, you know, how is the reception within a business where you come in and say, “Hey, guys, I come actually from Hard Rock. They are very advanced. They have probably a competitive advantage because of that.” And how did they respond to that?

Brett: I was met with a lot of pushback in the beginning. You know, Hard Rock had big budgets. And I think some other smaller hospitality businesses struggle with securing the funding for systems in the beginning without being able to show, I guess, a quick return on some of them. So yeah, there was a lot of pushback at first, but actually one of the businesses I was working with was using a software company I work for now, Planday, so that kind of was my segue into software was going, okay, you know, I see value in this. I know that this will provide value to other hospitality businesses.

And yeah, I want to go work for you guys. I want to help you on this journey because I see that there’s a big problem or a big challenge to solve. And I think we can solve that. You know, a little bit of my history in hospitality and being from the UK and helping Planday with that entry into the market. So it was a really nice segue, as I said. But yeah, lots of pushback and not so much success at that stage.

So that’s how you got to know Planday, I guess. Then you worked with Planday and then you moved to Planday. Is that how I should understand it?

Brett: Yeah I was one of their customers, one of their first UK customers, working closely with them on the implementation and on the build and the business I was working in. So yeah, really got into, you know, into the deep product knowledge using the system while I was there and then was able to offer my skill sets out to help them penetrate the market a bit more.

Carl: Fantastic. So they must be very happy with you because of course you come from an operational background. That’s the best kind of support you can get. So let’s move into your role at Planday and Planday in general.

Maybe for people that don’t know Planday, can you summarize in a few sentences what Planday does for their customers?

Brett: Absolutely. So Planday is a workforce management system that specializes in scheduling and time and attendance. And depending on the size of your business, you know, we can handle anything from scheduling to people management to contract management. But the real big value add is really ensuring that you’ve got a nice, clean and clear payroll, in reducing payroll errors, as well as increasing the amount of communication and engagement of employees, you know, holiday absence, sick management. So everything around workforce management really.

Imagine I’m a hospitality owner or a business owner in hospitality. What’s the key reason why I need to use a tool like Planday? Instead of Excel or just pen and paper. What’s the key ROI I get from using a tool like Planday?

Brett: I think success looks different to everybody, right? I mean, it also depends on who you’re talking to within that business. For us, it’s to increase operational efficiency across all kinds of different areas of your business because Planday is used by not just your payroll person, but your HR manager, your operations managers, your general managers or C suites looking at the reporting tools. It really is covering the entire business right down to employee level who are actually using the application, requesting holidays and viewing their schedules and communicating with each other.

So not only do we take you out of, you know, employees starting their own WhatsApp and Facebook groups to swap shifts, we have that all in the system and it’s all easy, very super user friendly on the app. So it kind of gives you some of that historical data as well to be able to analyze, but also just have everything in one key place so you don’t have to be working in different systems or how many versions of Excel files, I’m sure.

Carl: Yeah. So I guess that also, you know, answers the question that Planday is a platform approach rather than, you know, a point solution approach. Is that correct?

Brett: Yes, absolutely. You know, similar to you guys, it’s very much ecosystem based. You know, we don’t process payroll. We prepare for payroll, we say, and we integrate with the best payroll providers that are out there. And it’s the same with our booking systems. We don’t actually take any bookings in through Planday. We integrate with the experts in the system. And you know, we consider ourselves the workforce management and scheduling experts who want to go out and integrate with other experts in that ecosystem.

Why did Planday go for this approach and not become one of those payroll providers and things like that? Why did you go for this ecosystem kind of approach?

Brett: Sure. I think for us it’s a scalable solution. We’re a global business. We operate in 7 or 8 core markets, but we can sell our product anywhere. Our product is available in 17 different languages, although we only operate in some core markets. So yeah, it was definitely more scalable. You know, we’re not having to build and clog up that product resource on looking down those other avenues and starting to build out those more complex solutions. Really focusing on the learnability and usability of our own product and applying the development resources to maintaining and staying ahead of the game in terms of the development that we’re experts in. So I think the biggest one would be it’s a more scalable solution for us and it allowed us to enter other markets fairly quickly without so much compliance that you get maybe with like a payroll solution.

Carl: Alright. I heard you say you were going for operational excellence and you are actually integrated across the whole business from very operational people, you know, using it to clock in or to put some holidays in it, up until the C-suite.

How, for people that are considering implementing Planday, do you go about making sure that you integrate in the most efficient way? Where do you start and how do you roll out over your whole business?

Brett: Sure, sure. I think, you know, first thing first is get a good project lead. Whether that’s somebody that is within your own business already, that has strong organizational and somewhat project management skills depending on the size of that implementation. Or if you don’t have that person, hire a consultant or hire an expert that can help with this. It’s important. It’s a huge business decision because the person needs to be highly organized and understand how to measure success and calculate the ROI of the implementation. But I think one of the bigger ones as well is you really need to understand or get the internal buy in to understand that, is this digital strategy part of the overall corporate strategy or business strategy?

So will it ensure that initiatives are working towards the same goal and avoid any potential duplication of effort or conflicting priorities? So you really want to understand that you have the buy in from the whole business and people really need to get behind it, especially your leadership teams. So a project leader or somebody who is ultimately a senior responsible owner for that implementation will help get that buy in. So I think, as I said, success looks different for everyone. But on your project team, you very much need optimistic people who are happy about this. If you have somebody negative on that team, get them off that team. It needs to be very solutions focused, not so much problem focused.

And I guess my biggest call out would be, you know, ask the room, what does success look like to you? What do you want out of using this product? And you may have a payroll manager say, well, we want to reduce payroll errors by 10%. Maybe operations say we want to be more visible on the floor and reduce admin tasks by 5% and have success statements for every different person in that group. You know, execs, we want a clear overview of our costs and we want easy access to reporting. We want to reduce overall costs, you know, right down to a floor manager. I want my employees to see their holidays like, have these statements and always revisit these statements. And then at the end of the implementation, if you’ve managed to reduce those payroll errors by 10% then some of the smaller, smaller maybe feature requests or development requests that they don’t find are working perfectly, or maybe you’re on the way to building some of those for them.

They’ll remember what would success look like. To me, it’s not just a small, tiny little feature that maybe I would like to work a certain way. No, I actually wanted to see if this would reduce our payroll errors by 10%. So make sure that what you have you can measure first to make sure you’re always coming back to these kind of impact measurements and success metrics.

Carl: Yes, that sounds very familiar to how Apicbase approaches the project. It’s important indeed to have these project leads, which kind of is the advocate within the business. Dare I ask you the question, you know, when you are implementing a software like Planday, which is the biggest hurdle? I mean, of course you get the sign off of the project, you have this project lead, you’re going in the business. Everybody’s happy. And then, you know, the real life starts. And maybe from a learning perspective to businesses that want to switch into Planday is like where does a C-level guy need to or a project lead needs to watch that it doesn’t go south because of certain reasons.

So what’s the biggest challenge that you have to overcome and why do certain projects not get implemented?

Brett: Yeah, for sure. I think main challenges always is maybe reluctance from employees or stakeholders or pushback. I know with us sometimes we do have people think, “Oh, it’s Big Brother, they’re watching us. They’re coming in, they’re going to watch us. They’re going to track our every move.” And that’s not the ultimate outcome of what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make people’s lives easier.

So, you know, establishing clear objectives for a team, whether that’s stakeholders who are the project drivers, who are the stakeholders, who is guarding the, I guess, the safety of the implementation or guarding the messaging around the implementation. Because a reluctance from employees or stakeholders combined with a lack of communication can result in a very messy implementation where people aren’t sure what they’re doing, what their roles and responsibilities are around the project, and don’t have any timelines or milestones in place to understand how to get there. So it just becomes a back and forth. Just going back, and getting lost in discussions between a business as opposed to just getting actual information in terms of how to configure. So you can really get lost in these kind of business conversations.

So communication is huge. You know, users can make literally no attempt to use or even abandon the tools if we’re not communicating how they’re supposed to be used, what the benefits and the value of them are. So I’d say that that’s definitely a big one. Defining that project and communication.

And then as I was mentioning earlier, you know, you need to be able to measure impact and be able to prove that value in a sense to promote that successful project. So in the early stages, you know, if you do have mass user adoption and you’re noticing that people are starting to use that project, share those insights with the business, with the project team, let them know about the adoption of the tool, how it’s looking, how many people have logged in on the app. You know, we’ve got this many iOS users, this many Android. And you know, we hit a milestone today because, you know, 100 of your team have started booking holiday through our app like these are cool data points that you can use to really drive some excitement about it.

Carl: Do I understand correctly that you are the one or your team is the one that, you know, communicates from a customer success perspective actually to the customer or has it the customer a dashboard where they can see those kinds of milestones?

Brett: Yeah. So it depends because we work in a kind of, across segment sizes. Of course, if we’re talking more in our larger enterprise implementations, we’re going to have project leads both on the customer side and on our side, and that will be really agreed with those project teams to draft up whether we choose to use a system such as Microsoft Teams or Trello as a project management tool or a way to communicate some task management, I think is really important.

So choosing your own system to implement a system will keep you on track and you know, you don’t want to get lost in email threads, right? You want a place where we’re holding everything and we know who’s accountable. I always say, you know, when multiple people are accountable, nobody’s accountable. So make sure you’re really clear on each role within that business. But yeah, we don’t really necessarily have a dashboard, but we definitely put it on a PowerPoint or in a teams call and kind of say, you know, this is what we’re seeing and make sure that it has an impact on that project team to understand the why behind what they’re doing is important.

Carl: All right. Maybe when we look at your role, you’re the vice president of customer success. I’m maybe a little bit, you know interested also in understanding your role within Planday. We’ve talked a little bit about Planday for your customers, maybe about your role as a VP of customer success.

What’s your exact role within the company? And maybe also, can people in hospitality learn from this?

Brett: Sure. First, I’ll start with what I do at Planday. So in terms of looking after our success teams. I look after our first line support team, our finance billing support team, our content and education team. So producing content for our help centers and automating the way we support our customers through chat, email and in phone functions, omnichannel support. And then I have an excellence role in terms of how we look at our onboarding implementation teams and of course account management or customer success management teams. So kind of working on the larger enterprise accounts.

So I’m kind of scattered around the business quite a bit, but all in all, it’s ultimately, I’m responsible for the experience of our customers and ensuring that experience is delightful and scalable because we’re also working in small business. You know, we can spend time on these large scale implementations, which could take six months, eight months, depending on the size of the business. But then we also have one and two person users who run a mom and pop shop bakery. And, you know, we need to learn how we can onboard these customers through technology and through automation and making the product more simple. So I have two sides of the scale that very different type of onboarding, as you can imagine.

Is this actually a strategy from Planday to also be available for very small businesses and for enterprises? Is this like a conscious decision or is this, you know, grown over the years?

Brett: We have had different focuses throughout the years in terms of what segment we want to look at or what segment we see the most opportunity in. And I think from a small business standpoint, we probably see more opportunity in our markets to capture those segments as oppose to the mid market and large customers. So while we do have quite a one size fits all product, you know, these enterprises and larger customers have such a higher selling price that you know that it is kind of a balancing act. I think ideally it’s going to be a scalable small business. You know, if we’re looking at how we want to scale that small business, we’re not as concerned about the scalability of large and enterprise because we don’t have to worry about the costs associated with it. So I think from a focus standpoint, it’s very much how can we scale small business? But yeah, we definitely serve all sizes in different ways.

From a personal perspective, which kind do you like the most to onboard or where do you get the energy from?

Brett: That’s a tough one. I would say know because I guess there are two sides of my brain thinking about this. And one side is I very much love being on the ground with these large businesses And I think being able to provide value and return on some of these implementations is the most visible there, especially in some more, I guess not so digitally advanced businesses. How far you can take them is really exciting and I love that and I love seeing that wow factor that you can give when you see them kind of experiene that first value with your product. So that gives me a lot of energy. But so does automation and AI and scaling through technology that gives me a lot of curiosity and energy. I don’t think anybody’s there yet with it and nobody’s really mastered it. But I do think in the coming years we’ll probably see quite a quick emergence of different types of tools for this type of onboarding. So both sides excite me, one from a very human element and one from a very technical and kind of automated standpoint.

What’s the benefit of working with platforms and platform solutions such as Planday, but also maybe Apicbase and others for a restaurant?

Brett: Now I think, you know, it’s fairly clear. Well, maybe it’s not for some people, but some of the advantages of having connected systems and being having access to those data points to help inform decisions. Not just with the operational efficiency that you can get from I mean, you know, going from paper chits a kitchen display system, you know, having that integrated with your EPOS, having that integrated with your inventory system. It just all kind of cascades into, oh, wow, all this connectivity and more importantly, the data behind that connectivity can inform decision making.

And I think that is the biggest win. But it’s also stopping repetitive tasks. And, you know, the amount, I think when we moved off paper chits at Hard Rock, I think I can remember when I was there between, you know, gosh, finding one in somebody’s burger, and the amount of time we saved by moving to a KDS on wait times was like half I think we cut them in half or something. It was pretty impressive. So yeah the opportunities are endless in terms of providing ultimately a better customer experience I think is the ultimate goal. But employee experience as well. And I think that one can be neglected as, you know, you’re going to have more satisfied employees as well as customers by implementing some tech into your business.

How did the hospitality sector change in your 20-year-long career? How did you see hospitality change over this time, especially in terms of technology?

Brett: Yeah you know, massively. I think over the last 15, 20 years, you know. Yeah. Just looking back on, you know, even like having to post a schedule on the wall, people putting x’s through it and wanting to know this. I mean, our whole, our entire business was born on people not showing up for shifts or people not knowing about their shift or not showing up to a busy bar shift or whatnot. So yeah, those days, those days are gone. Also are the days gone if somebody calls in sick of having to go through some rolodex of numbers and names and try to find a number to call somebody or spending an hour trying to get somebody in for somebody who’s called in sick, you know.

So there’s so much that has changed in terms of efficiency and being able to operate at a higher level when dealing with sickness and absence. You know, having tracking on, you know, how often are people sick? Why is this person sick every Friday? You know, there’s so much in there to unpack. And I think not just with on the kind of employee side and absence side, but yeah, like I said, with working EPOS and KDS systems and quickly seeing when a ticket is about to go over time instead of, you know, yelling at a chef in the kitchen and trying to communicate that way. 

Yeah. I mean, it’s like a different world. And even after I’ve left that side of being right in operations and hospitality and post COVID and, you know, ordering apps and booking apps and the way everything is connected recruitment apps find and hire.

It’s just so much easier. It makes me think, God, if I was still managing restaurants and I had this what I could do. But yeah, you know, you sound, like I said it ages you when you say gone are the olden days. But yeah, it’s like night and day. And it really is great to be able to help provide in what is a really tough time, some operational efficiency there to help these businesses grow as well because the amount of time spent on these type of tasks is, I think, a silent killer in a lot of businesses.

Carl: No, no. The way that you just, explained it, I think I can’t imagine that anybody listening to this podcast, if they haven’t had gone digital yet, they should go digital, especially personnel planning. Because I think you’re right. If you think about such simple tasks as finding a replacement, making sure that everybody is there in their shifts, I think, you know, how can you do this still today without having a great tool to do that. This brings us to the end of the podcast. Thank you very much Brett for joining us. It was very lovely chatting with you and thank you very much.

Brett: Thank you. It was lovely to talk to you guys as well.

Carl: What a great conversation with Brett. My key takeaway is that when implementing new software in your restaurant, it can get messy, especially if you don’t have the buy in from your whole team. So you need a good project manager to get things done. And Brett really showed us how to make that process as smooth as possible. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did, and if you liked it, give it a thumbs up and subscribe. And don’t forget to visit our podcast channel for more content. Until next time.

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Guest & Host

Brett Smith

VP of Customer Success

Carl Jacobs

Co-founder & CEO

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