Andy O’Mara and Loren Frant bought a former tire shop on Main Street in Travelers Rest, South Carolina in 2013 with every intention of converting the space into a manufacturing warehouse for their canoe company. Having recently arrived from Maryland, they planned to live next door as they renovated.

However, O’Mara and Frant quickly realized that the building didn’t have the room that was needed to build canoes. But, with over 30 years of combined experience in an array of other industries, they did what any other seasoned businesspeople would do: find another use for the space.

As friendly folks from the neighborhood poked their heads in to see what the plans for the new space would be, the enterprising owners asked what the neighborhood wanted. Food was the overwhelming answer, and after some deliberation, pizza was the solution.

And with that, the first location of Sidewall Pizza Company was born. Over 5 years, O’Mara and Frant’s independently-owned startup restaurant group has opened 6 Sidewall locations—with another to come in summer 2020—along with 2 other concepts.

Invoice automation sets the stage for optimizing operations

From the start at Sidewall, O’Mara and Frant placed a priority on technology that could help support their rapid growth and always-on operations, like solutions for point of sale, scheduling, and bookkeeping.

Because of their large and frequent orders, Sidewall would get reams of invoices from their vendors. General Managers (GMs) had scanner apps on their phones to digitize and email them to the accountant. The accountant would then download each invoice one by one, sort them according to location and input the details into Xero.

But the apps had low image quality, making the resulting scans difficult to read. The scans also weren’t searchable, which made tracking credits and returns difficult to manage across many locations. The process was flawed, and the team found that they were missing important information. 

O’Mara and Frant knew something needed to change, so they sought a solution for Sidewall that would give them a better way to capture invoices for more accurate data along with improved ways to track inventory and cost of goods sold (COGS) as their restaurant group continued to expand. Enter xtraCHEF.

Cassidy Womack, Sidewall’s Director of Operations, oversees the GMs, key metrics, and profits of each unit. She also manages the systems required to make processes and reporting consistent at each location, so it was a natural fit for her to become a champion for the implementation and adoption of xtraCHEF across the company.

At Sidewall, xtraCHEF aggregates EDI feeds from Fintech as well as the group’s primary vendor so their giant books of incoming invoices no longer require manual scans. Instead, GMs use xtraCHEF’s mobile app to capture invoices from smaller vendors for seasonal items or receipts from one-off trips to the grocer. The software’s best-in-class AP automation has been able to provide the important invoice information that Sidewall was previously missing.

Inventory management made fun

Similar to their original AP processes, Sidewall’s inventory management systems weren’t automated enough to support the precise execution the company demanded. “We definitely weren’t getting accurate numbers,” Womack says. 

The GMs are also responsible for reporting their goods in and out on a daily basis.  Because of the relative geographic proximity of the Sidewall locations, the units frequently borrow items from each other. GMs are also responsible for reporting these internal transfers of inventory.

Without standardized reporting, Sidewall recognized that it was unlikely that transfers were being captured properly. To improve this vital process, the company rolled out xtraCHEF’s inventory management in September 2019.

Now, GMs are able to easily submit weekly inventory counts on their phones using xtraCHEF’s mobile app. Count sheets are organized shelf-to-sheet, or customized to accommodate the layout and workflow of each location. This makes it super easy for the GMs to take inventory.

“It’s so straightforward, it’s almost like a game,” says Womack. “What do you see? Enter it. That’s it. There’s no guesswork involved.” 

It’s easy for Womack to log into xtraCHEF throughout the day to pull reports and see what the day’s inventory is looking like across locations. Because all Sidewall locations generally run the same food, liquor, and wine menus, Womack has better insight than ever for where each unit should stand at any given time. 

“It’s been eye-opening!” says Womack. “xtraCHEF has been instrumental in being able to track food cost.”

It’s been eye-opening! xtraCHEF has been instrumental in being able to track food cost.

Standardized reporting to support bonus structures

O’Mara, Frant, and Womack had wanted to roll out a bonus structure for GMs for a while so they could reward those who were keeping close tabs on their COGS and hitting food cost targets. However, they didn’t feel they could implement one until they felt comfortable with the accuracy of data.

“How can you hold GMs accountable if you don’t even know where they are?” asks Womack. “Having real numbers and real money that they’re responsible for changes the level of ownership they have for what they’re doing.”

Each week, GMs submit reports to Womack that are pulled from xtraCHEF’s data based on the previous quarter and the end of the workweek. At the end of each quarter, GMs submit a quarterly summary, and bonuses are paid out then based off of overall success. 

After implementing xtraCHEF, Sidewall leadership knew they could feel confident with the information on hand to be able to implement a bonus structure. Their program is a weighted scale based on multiple factors, including prime costs and bar costs, discounts and voids, customer feedback, internal audits, and secret shoppers.   

Finding a recipe for scale

Sidewall syncs their sales data from Toast’s POS to get accurate COGS reporting without requiring any additional data entry. With sales data and accurate inventory values stored in xtraCHEF, Sidewall was able to get granular in calculating COGS.

Most restaurant operators recognize that recipe management tends to be a heavy lift. But with Sidewall’s product catalog automatically available in xtraCHEF, Womack is able to build product groups and prep recipes with ease to get the clearest picture possible of exactly how much it costs to make every item on Sidewall’s menu—including prime costs.

Womack is using the data available to her through xtraCHEF’s recipe management module to determine if menu prices can be adjusted for improved margins. As an example, Womack has a hunch that a certain pizza that Sidewall serves is eating into overall food costs because it requires three ingredients that aren’t used for any other menu item. Recipe Management will finally give her the data she needs to confirm her suspicion and work with the culinary team to replace the recipe with something more profitable.

Womack has also leaned on xtraCHEF to help get new Sidewall locations up and running more quickly than the restaurant group could have hoped. “Our restaurants already have a set menu, inventory, and vendors. I can go ahead and enter all of that information for each new location in xtraCHEF right away and have those processes in place from day 1,” says Womack. 

Implementing xtraCHEF has contributed to standardizing operations across multiple locations and given Sidewall more complete and accurate data for continued success.

“I would 100% recommend that restaurants use xtraCHEF,” says Womack. “The help, the support, the videos, and the articles have really made it so seamless. Any little thing I need to figure out, someone is there to help me.” 

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