Corner Bakery Café will start this month a full-system rollout of new technology that integrates labor, food and administration under one cloud-based umbrella.

Dallas-based parent CBC Restaurant Corp., and brand president Gary Price said the company needed a more streamlined solution to manage its growing business.

The company currently has 169 units, 112 of which are company-owned and 57 of which are franchised. It plans to add nearly 50 locations this year, expand its franchise base with the restaurants set to open in 2015, Price said.

“We will open another 18 to 20 units this year,” he said. “And next year, we have 40 in the pipeline on the franchise side and eight to 10 on the company side.”

With that growth, Price said the company set about more than a year and a half ago to find new technology that would streamline operations and improve the brand’s economic model, settling on Altametrics’ e*Restaurant and e*SmartClock.

Corner Bakery Café, which was acquired in 2011 by Atlanta-based private-equity firm Roark Capital Group, has units in 17 states and the District of Columbia.

Price outlined for Nation’s Restaurant News how the company found what it was looking for.

How did this solution come about?

About a year and a half ago, when I first came on board, I was quick to assess that we needed a better system to forecast the business’ production needs, labor needs and scheduling. We needed a complete end-to-end solution for labor, food and HR.

What was in place before?

We were managing the majority of that from Excel spreadsheets. So we went through a fairly exhaustive process with our IT steering committee, which is made up of cross-functional department heads here at the corporate support center, our field managers, area directors and general managers in our stores and our franchisee partners and some of their directors of operation. We started out with 10 different software and hardware solutions that we were looking at.

What was the timetable?

We started in January of 2013, and we had selected the enterprise solution by the summer of ’13. We went through the configuration process, and that took six to seven months. We went into pilot in January ’14 in a single store. We ran that for three to four months. Then we went in to the beta test and put it into 10 company stores and a franchise store. We’ve in that beta test for three to four months. We are starting full-scale rollout to the chain now.

What does it include?

It’s a SaaS, software-as-a-service-based back-office system. It resides in the cloud. The only hardware piece is the e*SmartClock. That’s a device that looks like a touch screen. All the employees can see where their schedule is, when they have to go on break. There are alerts that flash for them as well as their manager. It’s all done through biometrics. It eliminates what I call pirated time, or buddy time. The employee has to clock in and out according the schedule, which is forecast and written in the e*Restaurant [application] and tied to the e*SmartClock. The employee can’t clock out more than five minutes early or can’t clock out more than five minutes late without the manager’s approval.

Benefits of the cloud

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What are some benefits of a cloud-based system?

If you are a manager, you can pull up a report on your iPhone for your restaurants to look at their forecasts, their labor and all the key metrics of the business.

What’s the result?

It really has tightened up our ability to manage the clock and get much more efficient with our employees and, frankly, much more compliant from a labor-law compliance.

The rollout began in early August, with 33 restaurants the first week. What’s the plan after that?

We are rolling to 15 or 20 stores per week. We will be completely rolled to the entire chain by Nov. 1.

What are you most excited about in the package?

First off, it gives our operators and makes their jobs easier. They’ve been writing schedules on Excel spreadsheets. Our above-store managers didn’t have good data. It makes it easier for our employees. It makes it easier for your managers. We’re seeing in both beta and other clients that there’s some good financial return from it. For the first time in the brand’s 22-year history we have an actual-to-theoretical from a food-management perspective. Some of the things that we thought we had a good control we found maybe it wasn’t as good as we thought.

Any specific findings in that area?

Bacon is a great example. We’re in our prime bacon season, featuring our BBLT [Bacon-Bacon-Local-Tomato sandwich], which we’re known for. It has six slices of thick-cut apple-wood bacon and local tomatoes. We’re using a lot of that product, and it’s very costly. We have always have seen a spike in food costs during the BBLT promotion. When you have this actual-to-theoretical and see how much is going to waste and how much is missing, we can get control of that and smooth that cost-of-sales trend out during this period. It runs from the beginning of July through the end of September.

Contact Ron Ruggless at ronald.ruggless@penton.com.
Follow him on Twitter: @RonRuggless