Invoices are a necessary evil, and when you’re running a restaurant group and sourcing provisions from dozens of purveyors, the paper stacks up quickly. David Silverglide, co-founder and CEO of Good Food Guys, a San Francisco-based company with 10 eateries in three California cities, was acutely familiar with this problem, fielding a whopping 700 invoices per week, each of which had to be input manually into his accounting software. “We were spending a ton on FedExing invoices to headquarters and man hours to process them,” he says. “Something had to change.”
Silverglide sat down to hear local entrepreneur Bhavuk Kaul’s pitch about his new email-automation technology. Silverglide listened, then told Kaul what he really needed was technology to solve his invoice overload. Two weeks later, Kaul returned with a cloud-based cost-management solution he later named Plate iQ.
Plate iQ subscribers load an app to their smartphones or tablets. Then they use the device’s camera to snap pictures of paper invoices as they come in. The app automatically uploads the images to a searchable database. On the back end, Plate iQ scans stored images with optical character-recognition software and automatically parses the data to populate pertinent fields in the restaurant’s accounting software. (Good Food Guys uses QuickBooks Enterprise.) The solution is fast and easy, and minimizes the potential for mistakes made when entering data by hand.
Silverglide estimates that for his subscription fee of $100 per month per restaurant, Plate iQ has saved him at least $2,000 in FedEx fees and $50,000 to $70,000 in labor. More important, it has saved him six figures in operational efficiencies: The company’s Mixt Greens and Split Bread restaurants can now track pricing as a way to determine which seasonal items to include on their menus. For instance, when the price of asparagus gets too high, the restaurants order a less-expensive item and tweak their menus accordingly.
“With fresh ingredients, we used to base purchase decisions on nothing more than seasonality,” Silverglide says. “Now, as soon as we see the price changing, we can make different menu decisions that can keep costs down.”
Silverglide adds that he and his business partners were so impressed with the results from Plate iQ after six months that they became investors in the company.
A Second Opinion
Restaurateurs salivate at the idea of a technology that would enable them to streamline the invoicing process. “There’s a ton of paperwork in our business, so anything that’s going to lighten that load is going to be a huge help,” says Will Seppi, owner of Costeaux French Bakery in Healdsburg, Calif. Still, Seppi wonders how the technology accounts for shortages, adjustments or damaged goods, noting that these changes often are handwritten on invoices and could be hard to track.
“No system is perfect,” he points out. “But this sure sounds like something worth considering. For $100 a month, I’d try it.”