William Archer Bagley, founder of Archer’s BBQ in Knoxville, TN, learned the hard way that location matters. His first attempt at opening a barbecue restaurant was a bust, situated as it was in a hard-to-see spot in a part of town that, as he says, “no one ever goes to for any reason, even great barbecue.”
Four years later, however, the site of that failed restaurant remains a critical part of his company, having been transformed into the hub of a thriving four-restaurant business, one built around a centralized “commissary” model. All the food is prepared at this 1,800-square-foot location, then immediately trucked to the company’s retail locations, each of which seats about 45 people and offers take-out service as well.
“Our Executive Chef/Partner Clark Cowan was the main force behind that idea,” Bagley says, “and the efficiency gains have been huge. So when I was developing our technology strategy, I followed the same model: We moved everything to the cloud, and that really gives us an edge over other restaurants.”
Bagley’s embrace of the cloud began three years ago, when he used Google Drive to post staff schedules so employees could find out when they were supposed to work without having to consult a hard-copy printout at work. “It sounds so simple,” Bagley says, “but even now hardly anyone does it. Employees can check their schedules from their smartphones, and we don’t have to print out and post schedules at four locations.”
Next up, Bagley embraced the cloud version of QuickBooks. That made online banking a logical next move. “Just $10 a month,” he says, “and no stamps to buy!” On the marketing and advertising side, where his wife handles photography and other duties, Adobe’s cloud-based Creative Suite makes it easy to manage images for various social media feeds. He even sees the value of a cloud-based video surveillance system. “It’s actually free if you’re just monitoring the video feeds in real time, but not storing footage,” he says. “So it lets us look into all our stores and make sure everything is being handled as it should be.”
Most recently, Archer’s has tapped into QuickBooks payroll, a cloud-based service that, as Bagley says, “lets us do the payroll in 25 minutes, at a cost of about $1.50 a paycheck.”
Next up on his agenda is a retooled website that will facilitate online ordering for customers and also provide better tracking behind the scenes for the company’s internal operations. “Right now, the stores order food by texting the commissary,” he says. “We want to move that to a Web system where we can track it in more detail and apply some analytics.”
Bagley is already using analytics on the customer-facing side, thanks to the Marketing Dashboard capabilities of ShopKeep, the company’s point of sale (POS) system. “We can track customers by visits and purchases at each individual store,” Bagley explains. “Shopkeep is able to email customer receipts, and those emails contain trackable social media links that direct customers to our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages.” That ever-growing customer list allows Archers to reward customers by sending out free rewards and other promotions.
The company has just begun to augment this customer-analytics capability by switching to a new company for credit-card processing. While it’s early days, “we see a big role for analyzing customers’ spending patterns by looking at credit card data,” Bagley says. “The fees we pay are very low, yet we gain access to a lot of data and data-driven services, which we think can really boost retention.”
Bagley says that the ability to switch from one credit card processor to another was a major factor behind the company’s choice of ShopKeep for its POS. “It was essential to us that we use a system that can work with any processor,” Bagley says. “We wanted it to be iPad-based, and the fact that it’s subscription based, with no big cash outlay required up front, is something I love. That pricing model is a big part of what makes moving everything to the cloud so appealing to us.”
So is the ability to integrate with other technologies, including email systems that can leverage customer data into better marketing outreach. “I try to take advantage of technological advances everywhere I can,” says Bagley, who was educated as a civil engineer and worked for many years in software and database design before entering the restaurant world. “We couldn’t have run the business the way we do now 15 years ago,” he says. “When you look at how many facets of the business are affected by the power of mobile, it’s incredible.”
An app seems unlikely to displace the culinary magic that has enabled Archer’s BBQ to quadruple in sales during the past four years, to $1.2 million. But if there were, you know Bagley would take a careful look at it.