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Startup Aims to Meet Tech Challenges of Dining Industry

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If you've seen shock-value shows such as Gordon Ramsey's Hell's Kitchen or his stomach-churning Kitchen Nightmares, you may be shocked by some of the things that are happening in restaurants.

However, what really shocked the team behind Red Book Connect -- a mobile solutions startup for the dining industry -- was the terrifying lack of backroom technology: Old PC terminals stored next to steaming dishwashers, paper time cards still being punched and employee schedules mapped out on white boards. How could such a vast industry in today's modern age still be running the backbone of their business so primitively?

Related: Restaurant Job Growth Rebounds in March (Infographic)

That question is what led to Red Book Connect and its mobile, cloud-based approach to the restaurant industry. The company says it came up with mobile solutions to deliver efficient, effective solutions to further address the restaurant industry's antiquated technology and discovered a mission that's red hot -- "serving those who serve others."

Red Book Connect CEO, Larry Abramson, was a former senior vice president at Oracle before spearheading the efforts at Red Book Connect. Now he's made this mission of service the company's proactive approach to solving and revolutionizing the back-end of restaurant clients across the industry, ranging from corporations as large as McDonald's, Fatburger and TGI Fridays to smaller local eateries that probably include your favorite local deli. The company says its products are utilized by all 10 of the top hotel chains.

"We wanted to come up with affordable, mobile solutions that were based around the four biggest issues the food industry professional faces: hiring, training, scheduling and shift management," he says.

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In an industry notorious for a roughly 150 percent annual turnover rate in employees, hiring and training to meet requirements and better the education of food-service workers is a monumental task. Red Book Connect aims to meet that challenge with its scheduling app, Hot Schedules, which connects employer and employees. No more punch cards or white boards required.

Abramson says it's been an incredible success story, with one in five food service workers using the company's software and more than 120,000 different restaurants using one or more of its products. More than just the numbers, it's been the response the company gets from grateful fans of the apps.

"We get the most incredible messages from employee and employer fans alike on social media," he says, "Even when I go into restaurants now I'll ask the employees if they're using it and when they find out I'm a part of the company that makes the app, they'll get really excited and tell me how great it's improved things for them personally. It's a really rewarding experience."

The team behind Red Book Connect offers a host of solutions for the industry that go beyond Hot Schedules, although with over 1 million users (it's consistently in the list of top business apps on iTunes) that's certainly been a great start. They have even bigger plans for revolutionizing this technologically untapped niche, which will include open-share data sourcing to improve software and apps.

It's a chance for engineers and coders to see their actual work make it into a live app that is affecting people's lives. It's a huge opportunity, and as Abramson says, "we're creating a channel for innovation."

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