Tech Solutions

How Effective Technologies Lower Running Costs

Stuart Ridley
Business and Technology Journalist

Stuart Ridley is the Smarter Business™ Print Editor and has covered trends in small business, tech and marketing for two decades

Stuart Ridley
Business and Technology Journalist

Stuart Ridley is the Smarter Business™ Print Editor and has covered trends in small business, tech and marketing for two decades

When Michelle Grand-Milkovic and Michael Milkovic opened love.fish in January 2011 they were determined that their sustainability ethos would shine through as many facets of the business as possible.

Love.Fish Owners in Restaurant

BizEssentials Was the Perfect Solution to This Problem All Growing Businesses Face

The restaurant was a success right from the start, with 350 covers in its first week, and recent refinements have seen the weekly average covers almost double to 600+. Sometimes it’s the simple decisions that make a big difference, notes Michelle. Early investments in energy-efficient technologies such as LED-down lights and low-kilojoule gas-burners were paid off quickly with significantly lower energy bills compared to the average restaurant. 

The restaurant’s burgeoning popularity meant its communications costs went up and love.fish needed a more efficient package:

“We got a Good Living review by Terry Durack six weeks after we opened, and I came in the next day and there were 168 messages. It was like that for days. Most people when they leave messages to call back, it’s generally a mobile number; and I just underestimated the number of phone calls I’d have to make to mobiles. It also cost us up to 1.5 hours each day calling customers back."

“Telstra was fantastic: we called up, explained what the situation was and straight away they suggested the [BizEssentials] package. It’s a fixed price every month (RRP $150/m). There’s a huge benefit knowing what our total monthly bill will be regardless of the number of calls. And it has a very generous internet allowance (500GB), so we recently put in a new ordering system that uses Wi-Fi and tablets, and it has revolutionised our business.”

The BizEssentials package from Telstra gives love.fish a simple bundle combining fixed phone line and high speed business-grade broadband, all on one predictable bill, so the couple can breathe easier when the bills come in.

For us it’s not about being sustainable for marketing purposes – we actually want to make a difference. And possibly inspire other people to do it by showing them that you can be successful, you can be sustainable and make money.

- MICHAEL MILKOVIC, love.fish

How Simplifying Communications Improves Customer Service

Some of the hassle of managing customer bookings was resolved as early as October 2011, when love.fish signed up to Dimmi, an online reservations start up launched with support from Telstra.

When a customer makes a booking through Dimmi, the system checks availability in an automated inventory and sends a confirmation text and email on the restaurant’s behalf. The owner also receives an email alert, and can close off bookings when all tables are full. Michelle soon realised that to get the most from the system she needed to check bookings on her smartphone and tablet, rather than just the desktop PC. 

Wi-Fi was the obvious answer; though the old internet connection had just 15GB per month allowance being used by the restaurant’s point of sale system (POS), back-office PC and the owners’ smartphones. Switching to business-grade broadband with 500GB per month supported a major overhaul of the POS, with the added benefit of providing more reliable bandwidth for Dimmi.

The Convenience of Connectivity

Michelle explains that having just one POS meant the wait staff had to queue to enter orders from handwritten notes before they went to the kitchen. Phone orders, which make up approximately 15% of sales each day, also had to be entered into the same system. If the owners wanted to check the day’s takings they’d have to log-on and download a report to their back-office PC.

In early 2013, Michael and Michelle invested in a locally-designed wireless POS plus four mini tablets, one full size tablet, and two new smartphones.

“One POS was vastly inadequate with four floor staff taking food and drink orders,” says Michelle. “Now, for less than we paid for that old terminal we’ve simply upgraded to a better system. All orders are entered directly into the mini tablets that the wait staff can carry in their pockets, and as soon as an order is entered it goes directly to the kitchen or the bar.”

All the devices sync with each other and upload data to the server via Wi-Fi instantly. Wait staff can also communicate with the kitchen, send bills to the printer, check stock levels and even list the ingredients of a specific dish all without leaving the customer.

FEATURES AND BENEFITS

Cost Control

PRODUCT FEATURE & BENEFIT: Predictable monthly communications costs.

“Before bundles were in place you’d have that sick feeling every month when you opened your phone bill. You didn’t know whether it was going to be $70 or $400,” remembers Michelle.

“Fixed costs are hugely important in any business, particularly small ones, when everything is based on cash flow. Something like 90% of new restaurants go under in their first year. You have to have a clear budget; you have to be on top of your costs.”

“The busier we got the more expensive we got,” says Michelle. “So it was a huge relief to just know that it didn’t matter how many local calls we made and how many mobile calls we made and how much Internet usage we had, that we would be guaranteed to have the same monthly bill.”

Freeing Up Time for Family

PRODUCT FEATURE & BENEFIT: Simple, efficient communications supporting business growth.

“It’s sustainable for the business and our family,” says Michelle. “People often ask us why we’re not open for lunch but we want to have time in the day for our kids.”

“And now we’re very flexible,” adds Michael. “For the first time this year we’ve been so efficient that we were able to close for a weeks and actually travel with the kids. We wouldn’t have been able to do that two years ago. All of this technology contributes to giving us more time for everything.”

Up-to-Date Info on Stock Holding

PRODUCT FEATURE & BENEFIT: Cloud access via reliable Telstra broadband.

“All of our stock, menus, orders and takings are on the cloud, so any time I can see what we’ve sold on a given night, week or month,” explains Michelle. “I can access our system via my tablet, smartphone or desktop PC: it’s absolutely fantastic; you can actually see what sells more at what times, which is quite interesting.”

Paperless Ordering

PRODUCT FEATURE & BENEFIT: Wi-Fi connection links waiters’ tablets with Point of Sale.

“We were recycling a couple of trees-worth of paper with the old order pads,” notes Michael. “I have to say when we bought the last box I was pretty excited – it was fantastic to stop buying those boxes, from an environmental perspective.”

“It’s more efficient, more cost effective, there’s no wastage: it’s a no brainer,” says Michelle. “Now there’s no manual reporting, there’s no print outs at the end of the night, no boxes of paper reports you have to store somewhere. We used to have to keep boxes and boxes of manual till receipts in case the ATO wanted to see them. Now all that info is sitting in the cloud. Plus, we’re using less power too, because we don’t have to run the old systems anymore.”

“Going paperless and the amount of energy that we’re saving by using the cloud is a fantastic by-product and works perfectly with our philosophy,” says Michael.

Reliable Business Information

PRODUCT FEATURE & BENEFIT: Fast broadband supports close to real-time reporting.

“We have really accurate records because it’s all being updated on the go. If I were to one day decide to sell my business, all of this information is there for the potential purchaser which will verify what I’m saying and therefore guarantee a certain price for my business. Rather than just hearsay.”

Prices correct at time of publishing.

MICHELLE

“The new system has taken wait staff back to the table, which is essential for great customer service, and the extensive reporting, which I can access via the cloud, genuinely helps us understand our business better. I can see the flurry of orders and if I need to, I can direct  a waitress to stay outside moving table to table just taking orders, while the other wait staff make all the drinks and run the food.”

MICHAEL

“Technology should be all about improving the human experience. You’ve pretty much got an extra staff member for nothing. Our priority was improving the efficiency of our business. If investing in new technology raises productivity, increases customer service and streamlines management processes without raising costs, it’s a no brainer!”

BizEssentials can help keep your business costs down.

Find out how it can optimise your business here.

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