We sat down with TrustPlace customer Rick Smith, Area Director at multi-concept hospitality group company BarFly to discuss his experiences implementing TrustPlace, and the value of using digital tools to improve the quality, productivity, safety, and sustainability of their operations across multiple locations in Michigan, Indiana, and Nebraska.
My name is Rick Smith; I’m the Area Director for BarFly, and I’ve been with the company for over seven years. We have three different brands: HopCat, our biggest brand, at nine locations, Grand Rapids Brewing Company, and Stella’s Lounge.
Decision to Digitize
We took small steps in the past that were unsuccessful based on the technology we were using. If we could go back to when we first started our expansion, we should’ve digitized earlier because it would’ve standardized many processes as we grew – and we grew very quickly. We had many things changing on the fly, so having a standardized resource for everybody would’ve been beneficial.
Once we saw the opportunity to get on TrustPlace, we felt like we could move relatively quickly to get a test pilot up and find ways to leverage that. It was not something we were actively looking for by any stretch. Like everyone in the restaurant industry, we were busy fine-tuning things, and when we saw TrustPlace, we recognized an opportunity to accelerate our progress.
So far, we’ve enjoyed the ability to have all of this information in TrustPlace and not have paper copies floating around, getting lost, getting ruined. It has allowed us to keep better records of some operational steps we needed to have, honestly. It also has enabled us to create more standardization across the brand, across all the different restaurants.
For our restaurant staff, there are lots of benefits. It was frustrating to lose track of some of the paperwork that we had. And the teams continue to think outside the box for new ways to use the system, make their lives easier, and make our teams more efficient. So they’ve enjoyed the ability to allow this to get done by anybody on their team. An example is our line cooks digitally completing a line check. It’s something where we hand them an iPad, and they’re able to get it done, which has been great.
If we had known about TrustPlace when the pandemic started, there were opportunities to do temperature checks as a record – we were doing a lot of that through Google Forms and things like that that were not as efficient. So I think if we could go back, we would’ve loved to have known about it a year earlier than when we got started!
To start, we put TrustPlace in the hands of two of our most highly functional teams, the teams that were in the best place to support this level of change with two general managers whose communication and leadership skills are high. We waited to see what kind of feedback we could generate from them, the good, the bad, and the ugly. And some of it was just the way that we were doing things initially, and once we were able to work through some of those speed bumps, the teams got behind it as they saw the advantages that it brings. So it was something that everybody was able to adapt pretty quickly, right out of the gate. The hardest part for us was changing habits, which is always a struggle.
Change is not always easy in the restaurant industry. But if you can find a way to improve efficiency in the long term, the initial struggles you go through will be worth it. And operationally, we view this as a huge step forward in our ability to improve efficiency and make our team’s lives easier. And as a company that recycles and composts 90% of our waste, we welcome any opportunity to reduce paper.
One of the areas in TrustPlace we plan to leverage is the TrustPlace Reference Card Library. And one of the unique features that I think is helpful is the QR codes and linking that to Reference Cards. Based on conversations we’ve had as an operations team, we plan to create a Reference Libray for our teams to access through their phones without going to a different website. This feature is easy to use and allows us to consolidate our resource library, currently spread across three other platforms.
Digitization Advice to Other Restaurant Groups
I would challenge restaurant operators to think deeply about the digital improvement opportunities that exist within their business. This process highlighted the areas where we can improve, and TrustPlace allows us to do more advanced things than using pen and paper. Digitization has challenged us to develop new information resources that our teams need and that TrustPlace makes easier than doing any other way.
When it comes to growth, we view TrustPlace as an opportunity to create real, lasting impact. One thing we struggle with is making sure that consistency is there and that expectations are clear when starting with a new team – especially when you’re bringing people from outside the company. The capability to create examples within TrustPlace that are referenceable when you’re building out a restaurant is a crucial component for us as we look to continue to grow again.
Ultimately, we’re excited about where this digitization program is going. We value our partnership with TrustPlace; the customer service has been head and shoulders above what we’ve experienced with some other companies. And just knowing that we’ve been in lockstep throughout this entire process has been a breath of fresh air. So we appreciate that!