Software solutions—and more innovations—to help grow your business and your profits
By Sara Perez Webber
According to a Pew Research Center study conducted in January, a majority of U.S. adults—70 percent—believe the internet has been a good thing for society. Why? Mostly because it makes information much easier and faster to access (62 percent said this was the main reason they regarded the internet positively), while 23 percent lauded the internet’s ability to connect people with each other.
Both of those factors apply when it comes to technology tools that can help you run your company. Here we profile three software solutions that make it much easier to process the information flow in your business, from costing out events and managing inventory to calculating ingredient lists and scheduling staff. And while advancing technology has resulted in a host of products on the market designed to solve problems and connect you with customers, we share details on a few more to help you stay up-to-date on the ways technology is transforming the industry.
Culinary Software Services
Founded in 1990, Culinary Software Services(CSS)—based in Boulder, Colo.—provides software tools to more than 45,000 users in foodservice organizations worldwide. Its two main product lines are CorTec and ChefTec, with mobile solutions that work seamlessly with both lines.
The company’s most popular product for caterers, according to Kevin Paider, training manager, is ChefTec Ultra with the Event Management Module.
“This product combination allows caterers to create events using items set up in ChefTec, cost out the events, create customized invoices, generate event production sheets for the kitchen, and utilize the inventory management features included in the software,” says Paider.
When caterers contact CSS, says Paider, one of the most common problems they’re looking to solve is being able to properly cost out events and charge customers appropriately. “Incorporating events into a larger inventory management system to properly order products and reduce waste is also a major problem that we see and work with each day,” he says.
Using ChefTec’s core functionality to properly cost out recipes, “it is easy to decide how to price events and guarantee profitability,” says Paider. “ChefTec shows the current cost of each recipe as you create events, so you can build events with the profit margin you desire. Additionally, you can scale those recipes for each event based on head counts, so the kitchen knows how much to prepare and reduce waste.”
In addition, ChefTec interfaces with Caterease. This allows caterers who use both products to create banquet event orders (BEOs) in Caterease and cost them out using ChefTec; BEOs in Caterease can be sent to ChefTec for production, including prep sheets and pick lists.
ChefTec also provides the ability to utilize nutrition totals from the software to generate nutrition labels for any recipe—a big timesaver for caterers who need to have nutritional visibility for the items they serve.
Horizon Business Services
In 1991, Naples, Fla.-based Horizon Business Services introduced the first version of Caterease. This year the company released its 18th version of the event-planning software, which today boasts more than 50,000 users worldwide.
“Simply put, Caterease Software is about saving time,” says Susan Koschalk, director of marketing. “While most caterers waste hours every day doing duplicate data-entry on multiple documents—customer prints, kitchen sheets, invoices, reports, etc.—Caterease allows them to enter or change information in one place and have every related document or report automatically updated with that latest information. In addition, Caterease helps caterers avoid costly human error by preventing booking and staffing conflicts, as well as automatically calculating (and, as necessary, recalculating) detailed ingredient lists, packing lists and more.”
Caterease offers three core versions, designed for caterers with different needs. Express is for companies just getting started with automation; Standard, the most popular version, is ideal for banquet facilities and caterers with advanced menu management needs; and Professional is for large event venues and other busy operations. Users can also enhance functionality with several add-ins, interfaces and browser-based extensions. The latest update, Caterease v18, has hundreds of new features and enhancements, and Caterease has recently introduced several browser extensions to the program, including a customer payment portal, a powerful sales dashboard and mobile app for unlimited users, custom web-to-lead forms, and more.
“Caterease makes booking and editing events a snap,” says Koschalk. “Using slick, easy wizard tools, caterers can create a new event from scratch in just moments with the customer still on the phone—including emailing all detailed documentation. Since all documents pull from the same source (the event), one quick change can update a limitless number of custom prints and reports.”
Koschalk says Caterease is “the most feature-rich program in the industry,” pointing to such functions as user-friendly event booking; the ability to create custom screen displays and custom prints; automatic text and email notifications of event changes; customizable reporting and data querying; comprehensive individual and group-level security; customizable task management; wizard-driven employee management; and robust recipe and sub-recipe costing.
Chris and Bill Marsh—who, between them, had 30 years’ experience in the Washington, D.C., catering world—founded Synergy International in 1991 with the goal of building a better software application for the special events industry. Its first product, the Synergy Management System, helped caterers with food management, beverages, equipment rental, staffing and décor.
To help run their businesses, today many caterers turn to Synergy’s Fusion, an all-in-one software solution that was designed specifically for caterers. “Our Enterprise version is by far our most popular offering,” says Chris Marsh, owner. “It enables companies to have a single unified system within which they can perform the majority of their catering needs. Sales and Marketing, Food Production and Cost Management, Staff Scheduling and Payroll, along with Equipment Inventory Management, are just a few of the key components in our Enterprise version.”
Catering companies turn to Fusion to help them manage their large on-site staffs and complicated cost structures, as well as generate consistent sales to remain profitable, according to Marsh. “Fusion tackles each of these problems within a single interface that is segmented for each business need, ensuring that each aspect of the company can function efficiently and with collaboration,” he says. “In particular, Fusion allows clients to create quality sales proposals that integrate with food production, warehouse operations and staff scheduling.”
This summer Synergy is releasing an upgraded and integrated shopping cart and customer portal. “We have improved on our previous experience with online ordering by fully integrating this product with Microsoft Azure cloud solutions, allowing us to set it up for interested clients in hours, instead of weeks,” says Marsh. Fusion utilizes Microsoft Azure to provide a cloud-based software solution that requires nothing more than a tablet or computer to run. “This allows Fusion to be a lightweight solution that is fully customizable and scalable for any business size,” says Marsh.
To supplement the features of the desktop application, Synergy has also recently expanded Fusion’s mobile offerings—available on iOS and Android—which include a Delivery Driver app, allowing managers to track deliveries and the driver to provide status updates, including the ability to take pictures of the delivered product and obtain signatures; newly released Salesperson and Customer apps, allowing the sales team and customers to confirm orders electronically, track orders on their mobile devices, and see images of the product purchased or rented for an event on their order detail, along with a snapshot of the event and delivery details; a Staff Check-in app, allowing employees to update their time clocks from their mobile phones, while allowing managers easy communication and supervision of employees scheduled for any given event; and a CRM app so that sales teams can maintain their relationships while away from their desks.