Managing four restaurants with one iPhone


IPhone apps and a Bento database.

Patrick Albrecht, owner of four restaurants in Atlanta, GA that employs 200, has outfitted his 15 managers with iPhones which they use to access the company’s Bento database, iCal calendars, and enterprise software. They can instantly look up, enter, and revise information about menus, banquets, employee schedules, point-of-sale transactions, and access daily reports from anywhere.

Great Food Group Inc’s owner Patrick Albrecht has a lot more than food on his plate. And to keep his operation running smoothly and cost-effectively, he depends on the iPhone.

“There used to be a lot of headaches,” Albrecht says, “Trying to track down information. Who booked the banquet? Where did they leave that piece of paper? But with the iPhone, we know exactly where everything is. And we can access it anywhere, anytime-instantly.”

“You hear from every restaurateur that they have to run through the restaurant, the kitchen, maybe up a flight of stairs to their back-office computer, just to enter information or look up a report. We can do that wirelessly from anywhere.”

The iPhone is also a handy little marketing tool. When Albrecht gets excited about a new dish from the kitchen, he photographs it and instantly uploads it to the restaurant’s website and digital display at the bar. He posts on Facebook and Twitter to keep his customers updated about upcoming events and daily specials.

“I was never convinced about social media until recently when one of my managers started using Facebook on a daily basis. The day I heard, We came here because we saw you on Facebook,’ our lives changed. We now have all managers linked to our Facebook and they are able to update it with pictures and special at any moment of the day.”

Bento -An Easy-To-Use Phone Database wielded by Restaurants Owners
With the Bento database Albrecht can replace an entire filing cabinet and make all of his company’s data accessible with just a few taps. And with iCal, Albrecht and his team are always synchronized and up-to-the-minute on banquet bookings. They know exactly when large parties are dining and what they’ll be served.

In other words, they no longer have to worry about who has the paperwork.

“Our employees are no longer bogged down in the back office. They can focus on the customer.”

Personalized service, right at the table

Trained in Europe in hospitality and culinary arts, Albrecht joined forces with his father Paul, an award-winning Atlanta chef, in a family tradition. In their business, customer experience is paramount. And the iPhone has been instrumental in making that experience seamless.

“We use the WineSnob application a lot,” Albrecht reveals. “When a diner wants to pair their meal with the perfect wine, we do a quick look-up on the app.” At the bar, Drinks, another iPhone app, has replaced the need for a giant bar book filled with recipes. “It’s a database with over 4,500 mixed drinks,” Albrecht explains, “and it’s searchable. So it’s much faster than a printed book and it works great in the low light at the bar.”

With the iPhone, service at Albrecht’s restaurants gets even more personal; “We had a wedding reception at one of our restaurants. Right after the ceremony, the photographer emailed me a photo of the bride and groom. Using my iPhone, I posted it to our MobileMe account and had it on our digital display as the couple walked in the door.”

Albrecht also offers customers unique services at the table. When he walks through the dining room, a customer might approach him with a question about cakes. He whips out his iPhone and flips through photos of his pastry chef’s portfolio. If the customer places an order, Albrecht can process it right there.

Banquets can be planned table-side, too. “I can sit right there,” Albrecht says, “no paperwork, no laptop necessary. I just book the banquet using the calendar on my iPhone, and it syncs back to my iCal server. And all of the managers can see that we have a new booking.”

Albrecht can even make a transaction when he meets a customer on the street. “Let’s say I’m out at the grocery store, and I see a customer who wants to come in for dinner that night. I can use MochaSoft’s Remote Desktop app on my iPhone to check Open Table, our daily reservation system. Or I can just log on to Open Table’s iPhone-friendly website. If there’s a spot available, I book the reservation right there.”

More efficient, more mobile

Restaurants are busy, noisy environments. But with iPhone, Albrecht keeps his staff focused on the customer. “My managers have what they need right in their hands. They don’t get bogged down in the back office, and they can text each other during service rather than running around or shouting.”

And Albrecht can stay in touch with his restaurants all day long, no matter where he is. Rather than record the day’s events in a printed logbook as they used to, Albrecht’s employees now use Mac OS X Wiki server. So Albrecht gets email updates as they appear, from each restaurant, sent right to his iPhone. This new means of communication has taken care of one of his biggest concerns about expansion: the inability to be in more than one restaurant at a time.

Albrecht and his team have integrated the iPhone so completely into their operation that they have a hard time remembering how to do business without it.

“When we open a restaurant,” Albrecht says, “there are four things we concentrate on: the food, the wine, the ambiance, and the service. Now there’s a fifth: The iPhone.”