The restaurant and bar industry is highly competitive, and many owners struggle every day to stay in business. The right technology can help restaurants and bars gain an edge, while improving back-office operations and guest experience.
Recently, Comcast Business conducted a poll of LinkedIn members in the hospitality industry. Of the more than 700 respondents, 31 percent said technology was setting them up for success, the second-highest response.
Smart Business spoke with Kevin Conmy, regional vice president of business services at Comcast Business, about how technology and the Internet can be the keys to evolving a restaurant or bar from struggling to thriving.
What technology is driving new efficiencies for back-end operations?
Multiple generations often operate family-owned restaurants and bars. Older-generation owners may prefer traditional, paper-based methods to take customer orders, track time and inventory, and pay employees. However, these businesses often lose money without understanding why.
Fortunately, many software packages and systems are specifically designed to bring the business a level of automation and help operations run more smoothly. Owners can automatically re-order items when supplies get low with real-time inventory management systems, preventing shortages of key ingredients and minimizing over-ordering. They can order food and make supplier payments directly online, making accounts payable faster and easier. Online time cards and schedule management software can improve employee management and allow servers to log in to a secure site to see their schedules with updated changes. The system can deliver announcements to quickly communicate important information, such as menu changes, to the entire staff.
Technology also allows tablets and other mobile devices to send orders immediately to the kitchen. Orders move faster with fewer errors.
How can owners improve guest experiences?
Consumers today are constantly using their smartphones, tablets or laptops. They want a fast connection to watch videos, update social media accounts or do a live video chat right at the table. Restaurants and bars can differentiate themselves with fast wireless Internet service. Having a sign that says ‘We have Wi-Fi’ brings people in and keeps them coming back. To support this, you must have a high-capacity connection out to the Internet that supports the Wi-Fi network.
Technology is also transforming how guests order and pay with tableside touch-screens. One-click ordering leads to more food and drink orders. The bill payment delivers tips directly into a server’s account.
How does cloud technology help restaurant and bar owners?
Many of these technology solutions are stored and operated ‘in the cloud’ so owners simply pay for the service and log onto a website to access the software. Then, there is no need to upgrade software or keep a server on site. Plus, the system can be accessed from any Internet connection, allowing owners to keep eyes on their businesses whenever or wherever. They also don’t have to be technology experts to use these tools, freeing up more time to manage the restaurant or bar.
And with data stored elsewhere, owners don’t have to worry about losing information because of a technical issue, theft or fire/flood damage.
However, the key to cloud-based systems is access. Businesses need fast, reliable Internet access to get online, so cloud-based systems work quickly and reliably.
What are the first steps to getting started?
Restaurants and bars need to start planning now to shift to technology-based systems and amenities. First, stay ahead of the bandwidth curve by ensuring you have a fast enough Internet connection to meet your needs today and tomorrow. Once you have a high-speed network connection out to the Internet, you can purchase cloud-based software systems or Wi-Fi access points.
Business owners also might consider bundling Internet, phone and television with one provider, so there’s only one place to call for assistance, and one bill to pay.
To enjoy the benefits of these technology tools, restaurants and bars need to embrace them now, or risk being left behind.
Kevin Conmy is a regional vice president, Business Services, at Comcast Business. Reach him at (215) 642-6457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Learn more about Comcast Business solutions or contact your local account executive.
Insights Telecommunications is brought to you by Comcast Business
Reducing your above-the-line income is a smart strategy this year as higher tax brackets go into effect.
Monic Ramirez, CPA and senior tax manager at Sensiba San Filippo LLP, says there are several income thresholds that should be managed, and planning should start now in order to avoid costly financial errors at the end of the year.
“Reducing above-the-line income will minimize the effects of the higher tax brackets and maximize the tax savings from deductions,” Ramirez says.
Smart Business spoke with Ramirez about strategies to implement immediately to position yourself for a more favorable tax bill in April 2014.
What are strategies for utilizing savings plans?
I advise clients to maximize their contributions to tax savings and retirement vehicles such as 401(k), 403(b), 457 plans, 529 plans, health savings accounts, simplified employee pension plans and Keogh plans. This year, high income earners who do not implement strategies to maximize their retirement and health savings plan contributions will be taxed on that lost benefit at a much higher rate.
Individuals and their tax advisers should revisit their decisions to contribute to a traditional versus Roth retirement plan. Distributions from Roth IRAs and Roth 401(k) plans are not subject to regular tax or the Medicare investment tax and, therefore, are a more attractive retirement savings vehicle for many individuals. However, if hovering around the threshold for the new Medicare tax, consider moving Roth contributions to a traditional retirement plan to create a tax deduction.
How will the tax increases impact planning for capital gains?
All capital gains are subject to the new 3.8 percent Medicare investment tax. Although long-term capital gains still maintain their preferential rates, high income earners received a 5 percent rate increase on those long-term gains on top of the 3.8 percent tax. Even worse, short-term capital gains are also subject to higher ordinary income rates.
By working with your adviser, you can better manage your tax rates on capital gains. There are tax deferral mechanisms that should be considered, such as a Section 1031 exchange or an installment sale.
An installment sale will spread the gain over several tax periods in order to minimize or entirely avoid the Medicare tax on investment income. Taxpayers should also consider realizing losses on existing stock holdings, while maintaining their investment position by selling at a loss and repurchasing at least 31 days later or swapping it out for a similar, but not identical, investment.
What other tax saving strategies should be discussed with your financial adviser?
In light of recent tax developments, it is important for individuals to work with their financial adviser to build a highly customized tax plan. Plans may include:
- Strategies to avoid at-risk limitations on flow-through investments. If a loss has been incurred, make sure it’s deductible.
- If self-employed, consider any capital expenditures that will be needed in the coming year. Favorable Section 179 deductions and bonus depreciation have been extended through the end of 2013 and can be used to minimize the impact of the new Medicare taxes.
- Consider moving investments into tax-exempt vehicles, such as municipal bonds, to avoid the Medicare investment tax.
While it might seem as if it’s a bit early to start tax planning, right now is the most important time to think about taxes because it may be too late to enact some strategies in December.
Monic Ramirez, CPA, is a senior tax manager at Sensiba San Filippo LLP. Reach her at (408) 776-8900, ext. 5524, or email@example.com.
For more tax planning tips, visit Sensiba's blog.
Insights Accounting is brought to you by Sensiba San Filippo LLP
The 2013 Innovation in Business honorees demonstrate vision, perseverance and the power of follow-through
There are those who would argue that innovation arises out of necessity — a result of such things as sagging sales, increased competition or challenging economic times. But the honorees of this year’s Smart Business Innovation in Business Conference demonstrate that the impetus for innovation does not need to be a reactive one.
This year’s class is dominated by manufacturers — eight of the 10 2013 honorees. Rounding out the group are a higher education institution and a venture capital/commercialization firm.
Of the honorees, several have developed dedicated innovation teams that are devoted to rooting out ideas wherever they originate. Most have designed detailed processes to test new ideas and bring them to market. Others have devoted themselves to research and discovering breakthrough technologies in the health care industry. One of this year’s honorees manufactures interactive science and nature products for kids. And yet another developed the next generation of LED lighting fixtures for the U.S. Navy.
We’ll be recognizing this impressive group of organizations and individuals on Sept. 24 at the 2013 Innovation in Business Conference, where they’ll be honored for their commitment to continuous improvement and refusal to rely on past success.
As part of the celebration, the theme for this year’s panel discussion is “Turnarounds & Transformations,” and we’ll present an insightful conversation with three executives who have been catalysts of change.
■ Steven Demetriou, chairman and CEO, Aleris International Inc.
■ Robert Lee, principal, BLee Capital LLC and former CEO, Swiger Coil
■ Bob Cohen, founder and president, Centrus Group Inc.
We’ll discuss how to rediscover your true north, and why change is imminent no matter what industry you’re in or how much market share your company owns.
You’ll walk away from this event energized — not just by hearing the stories of our winners and speakers, but by also recognizing how and why innovation can be a powerful tool for any organization, no matter the industry or size. ●
Here are this years honorees:
Dr. George Newkome
Vice president for research
Dean of the University of Akron Graduate School
President of the University of Akron Research Foundation
Thanks to the efforts of Dr. George Newkome, vice president for research and dean of the University of Akron Graduate School, the university now offers a library of thousands of resources to hundreds of Northeast Ohio polymer companies.
But that’s not the only thing that makes him a visionary. It’s that he has been able to repeat visionary projects over and over throughout his career. He is consistently asking what he could do to make the path easier for others.
One of Newkome’s first activities at the University of Akron was to work together with Barry Rosenbaum, then technology director at Omnova Solutions, who helped to identify opportunities for shared services between industry and the university.
Omnova Solutions Inc., the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. and Exxon Mobil Corp. all had libraries of polymer books and journals, but had duplicative facilities and staff. Newkome proposed that each company donate its library to the University of Akron so publications could be managed at a central location. This ensured superior service and opening the library to polymer companies.
While at the University of South Florida as vice president for research, Newkome founded dozens of innovative and collaborative programs to benefit the University of South Florida and Tampa. Research funding grew from $22 million in 1986 to $184 million in 2001.
In just a little more than a decade at the University of Akron, Newkome, who is also president of the University of Akron Research Foundation, has led growth in research expenditures from $24 million in 2001 to $58 million in 2012 and fostered the formation of 116 active sponsored research projects.
How to reach: University of Akron Research Foundation, (330) 972-7840 or www.uakron.edu/research/uarf.dot
Material development engineer
Food and beverage segment manager
TPC Wire & Cable Corp.
After listening to a number of customer concerns about keeping their food and beverage manufacturing facilities clean, TPC Wire & Cable Corp.’s research and development team — led by Todd Hadbavny, product manager; Keeley Schneider, material development engineer; and Jay Hathaway, food and beverage segment manager — had a flash of insight.
Antimicrobial products have been around for years, most commonly found in household cleaning products — soaps and lotions — as well as in hospitals and other medical facilities.
But the bacteria, fungus and mold that grew on machinery, cables, floors, walls and other equipment were a real hazard. As a supplier of industrial cable, TPC focused its mission on how to use antimicrobial technology as it applied to electrical cable.
The solution was to develop its industrial cable product, Defender, to contain a silver ion-based additive in the jacket. Silver ions attack the cell wall of the microbe, destroying the microbe’s outer defense system within a few hours.
In addition to antimicrobial properties, Defender cable was designed to be flexible. Its small diameter makes it able to fit through tight spaces. The cable can withstand extreme temperatures, harsh chemicals, oils and acids while providing long-term, broad-spectrum protection from bacteria, mold and fungus.
Despite the obvious health benefits the antimicrobial cable provides, it also offers a money-saving solution for its customers. If an inspection by a health department or agency reveals microbial growth, it can lead to fines and possibly a shutdown while the cable is replaced.
How to reach: TPC Wire & Cable, (216) 525-4404 or www.tpcwire.com
Geoff Thrope, CEO of NDI, has founded four unique medical device firms — and hopes more will follow. From Medstim, to Checkpoint Surgical, to SPR Therapeutics and Deep Brain Innovations, Thrope has solidly landed the position of being a leading entrepreneur in the field of neurostimulation.
With more than 30 years of experience, including 15 years in academic research before joining the industry, he is helping make Cleveland an intellectual hub for neuroresearch worldwide. Thrope also is a managing director of the NDI Healthcare Fund, a venture fund focusing on investments in the neurodevice industry.
Thrope’s first company was Medstim, which developed an implanted device to deliver electrical stimulation to nerves that control bladder function, thereby addressing incontinence problems.
Medtronics purchased Medstim in 2008 but Thrope quickly followed that sale by launching Checkpoint Surgical. Checkpoint is a device designed to locate, evaluate and preserve nerves and muscles in surgical procedures for more successful patient outcomes. It is becoming the “standard of care” in many nerve protection cases and was even correctly used on an episode of “Grey’s Anatomy” on ABC-TV.
The third company Thrope helped develop was SPR Therapeutics. It focuses on pain management with its peripheral nerve stimulation products for treating pain.
The fourth company is Deep Brain Innovations. This company is focused on the treatment of people afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. Clinical tests have produced some dramatic results.
Thrope continues to address significant unmet health conditions, improve patients’ lives and provide significant returns to investors.
How to reach: NDI, (216) 378-9106 or www.ndimedical.com
President and CEO
Changing the fry oil in a restaurant is the last thing anyone wants to do. It’s hot and dirty, and you could get hurt handling it. That’s why Frontline International took up the challenge of finding a safer alternative.
While maintaining the fryer is considered the worst job in the kitchen, and may be the greatest source of the revolving door of entry-level hires in restaurants, any interaction with a fryer can also be quite dangerous. Slips and falls are the leading cause of foodservice accidents, followed by burns.
So finding a solution made sense, not only to reduce the hazard, but also to involve the emerging biofuel industry and other secondary markets that use fry oil.
Frontline, under the leadership of president and CEO John Palazzo, developed Smart Oil Management, which, in a nutshell, is plumbing for oil.
Boxed or bulk oil is plumbed to the existing fryer, which in turn is plumbed to a waste oil holding tank. The system is electronically monitored with sensors to ensure that alerts are sent regarding system status — such as how full the tank is or how often fry oil is being changed.
Convenience is added with a “faucet.” With a push of a button, fresh oil flows to the fryer. To empty the fryer, it’s a similar process: push a button, and filtered waste oil flows to the waste tank.
Frontline has won the prestigious National Restaurant Association’s Kitchen Innovations Award for two consecutive years.
How to reach: Frontline International, (330) 861-1100 or www.frontlineii.com
Energy Focus Inc.
You could say Energy Focus Inc. has a bright idea — but that would only be part of the story. Thanks to a process it adopted to go through the expensive and time-consuming steps to obtain a patent, and by following a unique methodology, EFOI is able to protect the advanced technology and ideas that go into its lighting products, allowing the company to innovate the LED field.
When the U.S. Navy recently contracted with EFOI for LED lighting, a portion of the order was for LED fixtures already qualified and manufactured at EFOI. But the remainder required a solution to a legacy 2-foot fluorescent fixture with more than 1 million lamps in total, which is the major general shipboard lighting fixture for the fleet.
EFOI then developed the M1 IntelliTube. A cross-disciplinary team lead by Roger Buelow, CTO, worked almost exclusively for months on the challenges to meet strict military standards.
The success of the M1 IntelliTube and the contract means that 7 percent of the U.S. fleet will now use LED lights. This will save the Navy 1.8 megawatts in power, which translates into 1 million gallons of diesel fuel per year.
In addition, the M1 IntelliTube allows for a 40 percent reduction in total ownership cost over the fixture’s lifetime by eliminating the maintenance/storage burden.
The next step is to supply the rest of the fleet with LED solutions, increase EFOI’s LED military product line, and penetrate emerging markets like the Navy support fleet and ally navies.
How to reach: Energy Focus Inc., (440) 715-1300 or www.energyfocusinc.com
President and CEO
You really have no excuse for not making more money as an employee at DuneCraft Inc. under the leadership of President and CEO Grant Cleveland.
The company, which creates terrariums geared to excite people about plants and nature, regularly looks at initiatives that will make its team more efficient and more profitable.
Its piecework system for the warehouse is an example of innovation at work. Time studies are done and employees are paid by the piece for what they assemble. Employees can make no less than minimum wage and up to $13 an hour. The results of this system were quick, and productivity actually quadrupled.
With fewer people needed, the company was able to operate more efficiently. Sales doubled and the remaining team members each earned an average of $11 an hour or more.
The company has also been innovative on the trade show front. DuneCraft prepares customized proposals for customers prior to seeing them at trade shows. The proposals are based on what products they carried in the past, as well as their sales results by price point, theme and audience. The proposals include a color presentation of recommended items as well as a complete printout of their past sales history with DuneCraft.
By distilling the information into a report, it took much of the stress out of coming to a trade show and trying to figure out what new products to carry.
How to reach: DuneCraft Inc., (800) 306-4168 or www.dunecraft.com
LaCentre is innovative in all components of event planning — the in-house catering, event planning and audiovisual services provide unique menus, ideas, products and experiences to clients and their guests.
When planning an event at LaCentre, clients initially work with the sales team to discuss their needs, vision and budget. The creative and knowledgeable team then works with the catering and audiovisual staff to create a memorable and unique experience while meeting these three critical components.
Many clients need to fit presentations, lunch and breakout sessions into a small window of time. The sales team will provide the client with various options, such as ways to multi-purpose space or fast yet satisfying meals to achieve a great experience within the allotted time.
For example, by using crescent style seating, rather than classroom style, one room may possibly be used for presentations, breakout sessions and lunch. This small concept may in turn minimize attendees from shuffling from room to room at a venue and add an extra 30 minutes to another important element of the event.
The sales and catering teams also share innovation in menu planning. For example, they may suggest a salad with protein, served within a bread bowl, to help a client provide guests with a satisfying meal within a short period of time. Or they may suggest serving pie as dessert on Pi Day, or hot dogs and Cracker Jacks on Opening Day for the Indians.
The sales and catering teams also enjoy working with clients to create signature drinks that incorporate event colors, themes or favorite flavors. For example a “Pickle-tini” may be suggested to play off a client’s favorite snack or Blue Curacao may be suggested to turn a basic vodka soda into a teal concoction that matches the company logo.
These whimsical touches can make an ordinary event extraordinary for guests and help provide a memorable experience for everyone involved.
LaCentre’s in-house audiovisual team offers the newest equipment and ideas to take client’s events to the next level. With access to and knowledge of state-of-the-art speakers and equipment, the audiovisual team can transform LaCentre into a global meeting space — bringing together hundreds of employees and minimizing travel expenses. They can provide custom lighting displays to make the ballroom feel like a forest, for a client with a nature theme, or suspend aerialists from the ceiling, for a client with a circus theme. The sky is truly the limit for LaCentre’s audiovisual Team.
For more information, call LaCentre at (440) 250-2000 or visit www.lacentre.com.
Hughie’s Even Production Services
Hughie’s Event Production Services has been Cleveland’s choice for live-event design and production resource since 1953. Hughie’s believes in giving back to the city where it all began and the area that they’ve called home for 60 years.
Hughie’s is now soliciting donations of non-perishable food items from customers, vendors and the community to distribute to local charities at the end of the year.
Hughie’s offices in Columbus and Pittsburgh will also participate in this nine-month event for their respective cities in honor of the company’s 60th anniversary.
Donation drop-off containers are available in each of the Hughie’s offices for the length of the celebration.
As a “thank you” for your generous food donation, you’ll be presented you with a free, “eco-friendly” shopping bag with Hughie’s 60th anniversary logo. In addition, participants who provide a name and phone number will be entered into a drawing to win one of three new 32-inch flat-screen televisions at the end of the year. A total of three flat screens TVs will be given away, one at each location.
All donations received in the Cleveland area will be distributed to the Cleveland Food Bank, with Columbus and Pittsburgh donations going to similar charities. The winner of the flat screen TVs will be announced at the conclusion of the promotion on Dec. 15.
Hughie’s is a full service event production company and worldwide supplier of high-definition video projection equipment, concert quality audio systems, intelligent moving lights, staging systems, decor and more to satisfy all your companies presentation and special event needs.
For more information, call Hughie’s Event Production Services at (216) 361-4600, visit www.fooddrive.hughies.com or follow us on social media at www.Facebook.com/HughiesEPS or on Twitter @HughiesEPS.
Innovation is vital to the future of U.S. Bank, and it is a corporate priority to innovate and invest in technology and operations systems that make it easy, fast and secure to do business with us.
We invest in new ways to provide the information, products and delivery systems our customers need — and to enhance our capabilities in the areas of regulatory compliance and risk management. We have fostered a culture of innovation and are committed to investments in technology both externally and internally.
Our initiatives include solutions for consumers and small businesses, as well as for larger businesses and targeted business sectors here and internationally.
Paybefore has chosen U.S. Bank’s Contour Campus Card as a 2013 Paybefore Awards winner in the “Most Effective Solution” category. Paybefore Awards recognizes excellence in the worldwide prepaid and emerging payments industry.
For more information, call U.S. Bank at (216) 623-9228 or visit www.usbank.com.
Lorain County Community College
Lorain County Community College is recognized as an innovative leader in both education and economic development. Most recently, the Aspen Institute named LCCC as one of the top 120 colleges in the country in both 2011 and 2012. The college’s innovative spirit enables it to achieve this type of recognition, and it all stems from a unique approach to strategic planning. Vision 2.0, the college’s latest strategic planning process invited hundreds of stakeholders to participate and used their feedback to shape the college’s future direction.
By constantly observing the needs and opportunities of the communities served, LCCC is able to develop programming that unites education with job creation — strengthening the region for employers, students and the community.
For more information about LCCC, call (800) 995-5222,visit www.lorainccc.edu or like LCCC on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/lorainccc.