A Roundtable Discussion with Orderly’s Restaurant Experts

At Orderly, we understand how to run a restaurant.

Why? Because we’re made up of people who have worked in restaurants their entire lives. We’ve got former bussers, line cooks, General Managers… If it’s a position in a restaurant, we’ve got someone who’s been there.

And with those years of experience comes years of knowledge.

We’ve seen the restaurant owners who think inventory is a waste of time, and have been in kitchens where technology is embraced.

We’ve dealt with managers who show up tipsy, and have worked in places where everything was perfect… Except for the food cost numbers.

We’ve got loads of advice, tips, and tricks, and we’re ready to share it with you.

We sat down with four members of our team:

  • Matt O’Neal, Manager of Data Analytics
  • Nancy Cannon, Customer Success Manager
  • Kyle Faucher, Customer Success Manager
  • Alix Huntsman, Customer Success Manager

Combined, they have over 50 years in the restaurant industry. And we asked them to share their stories.

It’s truly the most comprehensive book of advice we’ve put together. You can read the entire conversation here, or check out some of the highlights below.

Note: This transcript has been edited for clarity and brevity. Names of restaurants have been removed.


The Roundtable

To kick off, each team member went around and introduced themselves:

Matt O’Neal: I’m Matt O’Neal. I guess technically my title is Manager of Data Analytics. I have, including Orderly, 16 years in the restaurant industry. My experience is mainly in fine dining. I worked my way up from a cook up to Chef de cuisine at a French restaurant where we were doing about $6 and 1/2 to 7 million in sales a year.

I’ve seen restaurants that are super organized where you’ve got your spreadsheets and you’re running your costs daily. And I’ve been in restaurants where the method for taking inventory was basically walking around and writing on a piece of paper. I’ve dealt with the gamut, and I feel I have a pretty solid understanding of you how restaurants are run from a financial standpoint, as well as all the other fun aspects of running a restaurant.

Kyle Faucher: My name is Kyle Faucher, I’m a Customer Success Manager here at Orderly. I have about 20 years experience in the restaurant industry. I started as a busser at a local steakhouse. When I moved here to Atlanta, I was a bartender. I moved up to management after a couple years and have been a GM or directed operations for small mom and pop places to fine dining here in Atlanta. I also moved to South Carolina for a couple of years where I was a consultant with restaurants.

I’ve seen everything from totally unorganized restaurants to really super-organized ones. Working in the industry, we know that it’s crazy and chaotic. The better you organize it, the better those days go

Alix Huntsman: I’m Alix Huntsman, I’m a Customer Success Manager. My parents were restaurant owners, so I was like rocking the dish pit at like 8 years old. When I graduated from high school, my first job in college was waiting tables.

I’ve done everything from like mom and pop restaurants to like big box things like [Restaurant A]. I was [Restaurant A]’s food and beverage manager for almost 2 years. And you want to talk about just like an amazing amount of food… On a Saturday night, we would do $101,000 in sales, $50,000 of that game revenue, and then the rest food and beverage. I’ve stood in the back of an expo churning out noodles in an Asian restaurant and I’ve stood next to a window watching hundreds of burgers flipping around. Now I’m here at Orderly, and it’s great.

Nancy Cannon: I’m Nancy Cannon and I am a Customer Success Manager and I’ve been in the industry for almost 15 years. I started out as a smiling people greeter at [Restaurant B]. I was a line cook. I was a dishwasher. I was a bartender, a server. Anything you can- You name it. A GM most recently, I’ve seen it all. [Restaurant B] was corporate, and then I went to [Restaurant C] which had no rules at all. And it was an absolute cluster so that was fun to figure out.

When I first heard about Orderly, I was like, “I have to be part of this, ’cause every restaurant needs this.” You know, they need a simple way of doing things with less time. And invoicing and Quickbooks entering that Orderly takes away gets you out of the office and more on the floor. Which is the important part, because that’s what drives revenue.

The conversation then shifted to a discussion about the best and worst practices of restaurants.

Nancy brought up the issue of kickbacks. She had restaurant managers who would buy more of a certain product not because they needed it or could sell it, but because they received perks for the extra purchase.

The issue was, then the restaurant was stuck with a stock they couldn’t sell. It was wasted money.

On the side of best practices, the whole team agreed: The major thing that should be stressed in a restaurant is consistency. Let’s see what Matt had to say:

Matt O’Neal: One thing that I always remember- this was kind of instilled in me. The one thing that we really stressed in that restaurant was consistency. Consistency in all aspects of life is really difficult- It’s incredibly difficult in a restaurant.

But all those things that you were trying to do… Your line checks, all of your spreadsheets. If you’re not consistent at that, you know, you’re not going to be successful.

Nancy Cannon: I agree.

Matt O’Neal: Now, when I go out to a restaurant, I typically go to restaurants that I know are going to be consistent. I’ll pay $15 for a hamburger if I know every single time it’s gonna be the same damn hamburger that I got there last week.

Nancy Cannon: Yes.

Matt O’Neal: But if I go to a restaurant and its awesome one day and its horrible the next day, I’m not going to give you my money.

But, then we had a question. Did strict processes ever become too much? Or were they almost always for the best?

Matt O’Neal: Process of the sake of process is the thing that you generally try to avoid in restaurants.

Kyle Faucher: And I think, there’s also efficiency. You want, like, on the line you have everything within grabbing distance. As a server you carry ten things into the kitchen, you carry ten things out. So you set yourself up for success with all those processes.

Nancy Cannon: Some processes turn you into almost a robot. Like, you couldn’t be you. You had to say certain things which took, it took away from the customers’ experience. Which is the number one purpose of any restaurant, is your guest experience.

But as far as processes in, like, setting up. Of course, the restaurant has to be set up the same way every time. There are too many people that work there that if one thing is off, then the whole thing is chaotic. People are very, they are creatures of habit. I know that the tea goes here, I know that lemons go here, the lemons are over here, we freak out. You know what I mean? Like, I am just used to the lemons going here! (laughter)

Matt O’Neal: That’s true of any … I think the other thing that a lot of people outside of the industry, and sometimes people that are getting into the industry, don’t understand is at any given moment, pretty much no matter what your role is in a restaurant, you are juggling…

Nancy Cannon: A million things.

Matt O’Neal: … 20, 30, 40 different things in your head that you need to be tackling.

So, so having that system of: You know that when you go to reach for, you know, a lemon, it’s gonna be in the exact same spot.

Nancy Cannon: And it’s gonna be full. Because whoever used the last lemon, they are gonna take more lemons out.

Matt O’Neal: And again that all comes down to process, and consistency of process. Because restaurants are all about just coming in and doing the same damn thing that you do every day.

Alix Huntsman: Yes. It has to be.

Nancy Cannon: It has to be a well-oiled machine or it won’t work.

The conversation then covered the big question: If you’re dedicated to being consistent, why should you add in technology that mixes things up?

And the entire team agreed: You have to be willing to let go of old, outdated processes in favor of new ones that can truly change the way you do things for the better.

Each one mentioned how the way you do inventory counts without technology is going to result in inaccurate numbers. And hours of wasted time.

So yes, adding technology is a change in your processes that have been “working” for you. But why not make a change and make things better?

The next question was simple. What features of Orderly do they wish they had been able to use back when they were in restaurants?

Let’s see what they had to say:


Alix Hunstman: So my first GM job was this like Mom n’ Pop restaurant, and I was in charge of all the ordering. I didn’t know that I could have called one produce person like, “Hey. How much for a piece of bok choi?” Then call another and be like “How much for a piece of bok choi?” If I had Orderly, my life would have been a lot easier. Just knowing that could have stopped sitting there with like 20 different excel spreadsheets.

My old boss, he loved spreadsheets. On the spreadsheets we had our own running log, like all of our codes and which ones we are using the most. If I had Orderly, that nightmare of me trying to remember which sheet I didn’t use or where to save it and who to email it to would have been eliminated. Because it all would have been right there on the internet.

And having, you know like having a RFI would have been amazing.

Kyle Faucher: The biggest thing for me is the being able to track prices and you get to see them always. I was the one keeping those, I was looking at those invoices every week to see the price fluctuation. But, you are gonna miss something, we all do, man.

I was lucky enough to always have someone who was great at doing inventory. I did spreadsheets for it. But the fact that I can get weekly numbers on those costs would’ve been enough for me.

Matt O’Neal: Probably the most valuable thing to me is kind of how it lets you not have to try to keep all the things in your head around pricing.

You don’t have to sit there and say okay, you know, last week I talked to, you know, supplier X and we talked about my ribeye, and we locked in a price of 8.99 a pound for the next three weeks.

The really funny thing is, I’ve found there is some malice. There is some gamesmanship that reps will do. But, at the same time, there are also a lot of just mistakes.

Nancy Cannon: Yeah.

Matt O’Neal: I hated the amount of time in the office, between ordering and, you know, data entry, and all of these various things that I had to do, I’d spend two hours in the office.

Nancy Cannon: Minimum. every Tuesday, from 3:00 to 5:00, I would sit in the office and update prices on every invoice that came in.

Alix Huntsman: Oh, my god.

Nancy Cannon: That was a nightmare.

Kyle Faucher: Yeah, it was just for alcohol.

Nancy Cannon: Just for alcohol! You know, my chef was doing other stuff.

Kyle Faucher: And there’s not a lot of variance in alcohol, generally. But …

Nancy Cannon: Not a whole lot. But sometimes, especially if you hadn’t ordered it in a while.

Kyle Faucher: Yeah.

Nancy Cannon: But those couple pennies, you know, matter. So, uh, that’s very helpful. And then, it … Just the whole, like, the budgeting tool, to me, is huge. I think the budgeting tool will be huge for people to set that, here’s my guideline. You know? It’s a great starting place.

Oh, and then the time to kind of course correct. And I think that’s … It’s a game changer. Honestly.

Matt O’Neal: Ordering with a budget, you know on Thursday, about how much more money you have to spend.

Nancy Cannon: Yeah.

Matt O’Neal: And you can make a smart decision and say, “You know what? If we get to the end of Sunday night, and at 10:00 I have to 86, you know, my, my ribeye, okay. So be it.” I’m not gonna order that one extra case-

Nancy Cannon: I’ll run out of it. (laughs)

Matt O’Neal: So having the tool that gives them a budget and helps them train on it. They can see kind of what they’re ordering. You know what ordering was like last week, and see kind of what their trends are and how much they’re spending. People over order. I remember my first order as a junior sous chef. I made some really fun ordering decisions.

Kyle Faucher: Even with pars, it’s still easy to over order.

Matt O’Neal: Yeah. You would just over order it, then you look and you’d be like, “Holy crap.” You know? “We’re carrying…

Kyle Faucher: A lot more than-

Matt O’Neal:  “3,000 orders extra in beef.”

Kyle Faucher: Yeah.

Matt O’Neal: What kind of special can I run? (laughs)

The conversation wrapped up with one final question: If each member of the group could get on a pedestal and tell restaurant owners one major thing, what would it be? What’s the one thing no restaurant owner realizes that could make their lives a whole lot easier?

Let’s just say, the group had trouble limiting it to one thing.

They discussed how you don’t have to count inventory. And how you should get out of your own way, and not be afraid of technology.

Sure, you’ll be skeptical at first. But if you trust the technology, it can make your life a whole lot easier.

This lead to a larger discussion about change. And how so many people stick to what they know, or what they’ve been told to do.

With Orderly, you’re being asked to create new habits. But these new habits can save you thousands of dollars and hours of time.

Let’s see how the team puts it:

Matt O’Neal: Being willing to embrace change, but then also, you know, push through the pain of change. That’s big.

That definitely applies to technology, cause technology is easy to kind of go, “Okay. We gave it a shot.” I couldn’t get my manager to send the pictures or I couldn’t get them to do this or that or, you know, whatever this may be. Really being able, or willing to, you know, see through to the value that you perceived when you started the process. Whatever it may be.

Nancy Cannon: I think it does take 60 days to create a new habit. And then it takes like one day to break it.

Matt O’Neal: Yep.

Kyle Faucher: Okay. And that’s it. I mean, we’re, we’re asking you to change a major habit. And that’s the hardest thing.

Alix Huntsman: And then we’re holding them accountable for the habit that we’re teaching them how to do. That’s hard.

Kyle Faucher: You know, that’s the thing. Like, I know we’re changing your habits. You have to be able to trust us so that we’re trying to do the work to change that habit.

Nancy Cannon: To get the result.

Kyle Faucher: If you don’t do it, you don’t change your current behavior to what we know will make you successful, you won’t stick with us. And I know we have a valuable tool.

Nancy Cannon: Or you won’t stay with us and you won’t succeed.

Kyle Faucher: Right.

Alix Huntsman: You know, you’ll go back to the same weird food costs and the same weird whatever we were doing back there.

Nancy Cannon: And that’s just money … You might as well just light it on fire in front of your face.

Want to read more?

Download the full transcript here.

Then try out the Orderly app for yourself.

Danny Barry

As Orderly's Content Marketing Manager, Danny is always in the weeds of the restaurant business. He's having conversations. He's scouring the internet for research. He's writing until his fingers start to hurt. And it's all to help you run a smarter restaurant. When he's not writing about restaurants, Danny can be found eating at restaurants. Or, you may find him cheering on his beloved Miami Hurricanes.

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