Changing The Game For Hospitality
“Started at The Darby… Ended up at 1OAK.” Actually, I started working at The Butter Group in March 2005 as a host at Butter on Lafayette Street while I was busy getting my undergraduate degree in Studio Art at NYU. I had no prior experience in hospitality but there was something so particular about Butter that I just knew I had to work there. Butter was the coolest place I had ever seen. Something about the smell, the wood, the glamour pulled me in… I was trained as a host, maitre’d, and bottle waitress before running their customer development & VIP relations for the remainder of my decade long career. I loved everything about the hospitality industry. It felt like a performance every night. Putting on your best face, checking your personal at the door, and providing guests with the best experience possible. It felt magical.
I’ve worked almost every position at a nightclub and have prior fine dining knowledge. I’ve experienced firsthand the frustrating difficulties with hospitality software. At The Butter Group, we used ALOHA for POS, Avero for Reporting & UrVenue for Receipt tracking. The traditional point of sales systems and solutions are relics of the past and were a headache to use. Additionally, I had to manually filter and input data into excel sheets, adding another layer to the chaos. There is no reason why everyone working in the restaurant has the latest Apple or Android phone but is using technology from the 90s.
What are some of these problems that I faced that I know every other server, manager, chef faces daily? Here are just a few:
While I was a waitress, I had to use Aloha POS. It was a nightmare. Whenever I had to split checks and use the equal pay button, I would have to take a calculator out to divide the amount and then be really careful about splitting the amounts on the cards correctly. If I swiped a debit card and it happened to decline, I would need to delete the entire payment. What about when I had a table that wanted to split a check 5 ways? Another nightmare! We would limit the cards to 3, just so we didn’t have a headache with Aloha. We made sure to combat this problem at SALIDO. It does the thinking for you & automatically splits the payments with a swipe of the card.
Often times, I was unable to find items on the POS and I would have to look under every category for a specific liquor. It would take so much time out of my job and I couldn’t rely on the existing technology. Panic starts to set in when you’re spending more time at the POS terminal instead of tending to guests. I could only imagine the work of servers at restaurants and bars with massive wine/liquor books. ALOHA was unreliable and I was unable to focus on hospitality — what I do best.
Closeout was the worst! I would get home at 6 or 7 a.m. because the closeout procedures took forever. The manager would need to close out each waitress and server and then manually input all the numbers from the receipt into an excel document. We would all sit around and wait until the manager had the final number because we had no way of knowing how much we made (the profits) that night. It was so frustrating. It felt like you were a prisoner because if you left, you might not know what you made. Even if you did stay, you would be waiting for the manager to manually calculate tips. It made me feel awful that I wasn’t just able to work and leave, not to mention I was always exhausted from a night’s work!
I used OpenTable while working as a hostess and Maitre’D. I would answer phones and input data with the necessary notes in the fields provided. The limitations of this software are obvious. Anyone could add, delete or edit a note field with no audit log. How many times have you walked into a restaurant and known the GM or had your favorite server take care of you? You were a regular and they knew all about you. But if they left, did you receive the same treatment? Did it take time for the staff to get to know you again? Being able to input and track simple details, such as guest preferences, make a huge impact.
When I was at The Butter Group, CRM technology was very much in its beginning stages for the hospitality world. Some of the big players include SevenRooms for guest management, but we were not using it. While running the customer development department I took it upon myself to develop a system. Since the point-of-sale did not connect to the any type of CRM, I created excel spreadsheets to track metrics like highest spender, reservation, product bought, table sat, and other important details about the guest’s habits. I instituted “comment cards” for all the waitresses and bartenders across all venues to fill out and collect data. However, this resulted in two hours worth of additional work everyday before I even made it into the office. Sifting through scribbled handwriting, syncing up reservation names with receipts, checking any discrepancies; it was a massive headache. Imagine being able to connect profiles with spend automatically and seamlessly.
These experiences that negatively impacted my quality of life are the exact reason why we’re building SALIDO. Imagine if you could be home at a decent hour and make proper use of your new found time. Instead of wasting hours due to limitations of antiquated systems, I would have loved to use that time improving and bettering myself and doing something that I enjoy like SoulCycle.
It’s not just our goal to give operators the proper tools to operate their businesses, we want to provide them the knowledge for best practices. We created SALIDO because we know the industry NEEDS something different. Our team is composed of former hospitality veterans, like myself, and engineering experts. We have the best minds giving us feedback and helping us innovate our platform. On top of that, we have access to the best operators and hospitality groups: Stephen Starr (STARR Restaurants), Jimmy Haber (Esquared Hospitality), Phil Suarez (Jean-Georges) to name a few, who are actively providing feedback to ensure SALIDO is the best it can be.
In the end, we want to make a difference in hospitality operators’ lives as well as all stakeholders in the restaurant. We want to improve the quality of life of the restaurant employee and give them their personal time back by taking advantage of technology. We want to give them an iPhone to replace their beeper.