The article below was published in the June-July 2015 Goldbook Issue of Restaurant Facility Business, and investigates how The Melt, a San Francisco-based restaurant chain with Silicon Valley roots, manages facilities and technology using Big Sky. To view directly, check out http://bit.ly/1Dvhwmx.

High-Tech Case Study

From ordering tools to advanced cooking methods, technology is fast becoming a compulsory component of doing business in the restaurant marketplace. No fast casual eatery better exemplifies the whole-hearted adoption of technology than San Francisco based restaurant chain The Melt. Launched in 2011 with a Silicon Valley pedigree (founder Jonathan Kaplan’s previous venture created the Flip Video camcorder), the company’s focus is on combining simple, fresh quality meals with advanced technology.

The Melt experience is perfectly laced with technology from the time you enter the restaurant (or earlier if you choose to order from their app). Customers can choose the music playing on the house sound system, track their order by scanning a QR code on their smartphone, and watch with awe as the most advanced infrared cooking machines blast grilled cheese and Wagyu-Angus burgers to melted perfection in a matter of seconds. However, as recently as 2013 at The Melt there was one piece of tech missing – software tools to manage their restaurant facilities and everything in them; from the buildings to the equipment, the sound system to the iPads, and promotional graphics to menu boards, there was no streamlined way to allow their general managers to report issues with their locations.

Enter San Diego based software developer Big Sky Technologies, Inc. After a few exploratory conversations, The Melt and Big Sky quickly realized that they shared a common interest: continuous innovation in their respective industries and a distinct interest in building tools that make the end user’s experience as delightful as possible. Big Sky’s web and mobile-based Store Operations and Facility Management software was a perfect fit for the challenge facing The Melt – how to support the end user (the restaurant teams) for all of their needs in the simplest manner, and in turn optimize the experience for the customer.

Big Sky offered a configurable solution that met the diverse requirements of the multiple teams involved at The Melt, including the Facilities, IT, Store Ops, and Marketing departments, with the ultimate goal being to track and resolve issues at the locations from start to finish, and capture the time and money spent in the process of resolution. Considering the number of departments involved, in the process of implementation the focus shifted to the idea of Big Sky as a portal for all store reference: the launching point for information, documentation, external links, and problem solving. The result of the collaboration is a fully branded restaurant manager portal that seamlessly guides users to the exact solution for the diverse challenges they face on a daily basis. The following details outline some of the system’s functionality.

The Dashboard

Big Sky’s role-based dashboards offer each user their own customized view of the organization based on the things that pertain to them. As a rule, the dashboards help users manage by exception, alerting them to the things that need their attention, and minimizing the visibility of matters that are moving along according to plan. For the restaurant managers, The Melt Facilities Manager Chris Burun wanted to clearly present the functionality of the system, while at the same time reinforcing the brand and the weekly brand message right on the dashboard. A manager is greeted on their homepage with the weekly special to be offered in the restaurant, and four simple buttons that guide them to the things they do most.

The Decision Tree

The first key button for the store managers, “Create New Work Request” launches Big Sky’s Innovative decision tree. The tree provides a simple interface with straightforward questions for the requestor, allowing them to define their issue through just a few clicks. Depending on their selections, they see new pieces of information, which Big Sky collects and organizes in the form of a request. The end product is a fully packaged request, pre-coded with department, trade, issue, and priority, primed for delivery to the correct person and department at the home office for resolution.

Along the way, the requester is empowered with the tools and information they need to possibly solve the problem on site, which is by far the most time-efficient and economical solution to any problem. Store Systems Manager Chris Baldwin adopted this fully and placed all training and trouble shooting information in the context of an IT request, giving the first opportunity for a solution to the store manager. Any troubleshooting steps taken in the process of making the request are documented, which brings transparency to the workflow and make sure any 3rd party technicians that may be dispatched know the full nature of the problem.

Melt Resources

The team at The Melt wanted to improve the way that resources were both housed and accessed. The traditional limitations with documentation lie in the fact that it is difficult to update it on the fly, it usually ends up in a binder (not being used), and often the one piece of information needed is the one thing that proves difficult to find in a sea of documents and manuals. After seeing how our decision tree was able to direct users based on their needs, The Melt wanted to build a resource decision tree to extract what information the user was looking for before presenting them with the single document that suited their needs. The result is increased adoption of company materials and a reduction in communication related to basic access to information. Additionally, the document links in Big Sky’s system access single documents, making modification and updates easy to complete for the home office.

Purchasing

Next on the bill for The Melt is adoption of Big Sky’s purchasing tools. Currently being prepared for launch in the next few months, the purchasing module will allow the restaurant managers at The Melt to access a catalog of goods and materials available for purchase. Much in the same way a work request can be dispatched to a company approved contractor as a work order for service, a purchase request can be dispatched as a Purchase Order to The Melt’s various vendors and suppliers for fulfillment. The Melt plans to allow their managers to request light equipment, furniture, cooking implements, and other supplies through the system to streamline delivery of the things they need. Some unique features available are the ability to limit what is available based on the store generation and the ability to limit quantity of any good requested in total or over a period of time.

Reporting

Big Sky’s Analytic and Ad-hoc reporting tools span across many focus areas of the operation workflow, including the cost, aging, and contractor performance for work routed through the system. With The Melt’s extensive implementation, further analytics were developed in conjunction with their needs to show core system usage, adoption by the stores, and life cycle trending across all departments. The result is the work management summary report, which is automatically run and distributed to the leadership team at The Melt on a monthly basis.

The partnership between The Melt and Big Sky for the configuration of their software tools is unique to what the innovative restaurant chain is trying to do; however it is a process that Big Sky goes through with each customer, in a consultative approach to the implementation of their established software. In the restaurant world this is a necessity. Although the end goal to establish processes, save costs, enhance visibility, and streamline operations may be the same for many, no two organizations get there in the same way.