While most people in the restaurant business would seek to move from the front lines to head office, Gordon Phillips decided to take an alternative path. After serving for more than 12 years at head office, the former Vice President Restaurant Technologies for Tim Hortons/RBI decided to purchase a Tim Hortons franchise in Milton, Ontario.
Gordon turned to Lexi Oksanen to manage his new store as they sought to get it off the ground in those early days. Lexi had come from a bar/restaurant background so many of the ins-and-outs of the quick-service restaurant business would be learned on the fly.
To help them stay on top of everything, Gordon and Lexi used CLEARVIEW in a gradual roll-out.
Each month Gordon would introduce a new component that Lexi would learn to implement. As someone who freely admits she is change-averse, Lexi was a bit skeptical at first but very quickly realized it was an invaluable tool in conducting day-to-day business.
Today, Lexi and Gordon both say they could not imagine running the business without all the scheduling, labour, inventory, and other assistance, CLEARVIEW provides. We sat down with Gordon and Lexi to talk about the impact CLEARVIEW has had on their business over the past two years.
Tell us a little bit about how you both came to your current Tim Hortons store?
G: I used to work in (Tim Hortons) head office for about 12 years and then about two years ago, I opened this restaurant. One of the things I learned when I was at head office was to follow the systems because the more closely you follow the systems, the better you run the restaurant. Over the two years we’ve been open, we’ve been using more and more of the modules within CLEARVIEW and, by doing so, it makes running the restaurant much easier. It gives us a tremendous amount of assistance.
L: I hadn’t worked at Tim’s before this opportunity. I had worked in bars and fast-food restaurants and those types of things for about 10 years prior. But management was the newest facet of my learning and the hardest part of it. Gordon is more IT-oriented, so he told me to just trust all the systems, they are there for a reason. With that, I learned how to manage through the system. I don’t know what I would do without them realistically at this point.
The more I learn, the more I’m able to control things that seemed uncontrollable before like waste cost that I’m losing. It is clearer to me how to mitigate the losses much easier now. I think every time we’ve implemented something; I’ve griped about it because I don’t like change but then as soon as I see the benefits, I’ve eaten my words.
What’s the biggest time saver that CLEARVIEW offers you?
G: I would say ordering. By doing forecasts, we’re able to order accurately. Before we used inventory and ordering, we were guessing at how much we needed every week or for every order. We started using other ways like spreadsheets to calculate how much milk needed this week based on what we’ve seen in the previous weeks. But now, we just implement inventory and follow all the waste and use that to predict the amount of product we need to order, and our lives are hugely simplified. The inventory function is about getting the order right. We used to struggle with that and now we don’t struggle with that at all. As long as we trust the system, we are usually bang-on with our ordering and our inventory.
What has been the biggest cost saver for you?
L: No question, it has been scheduling. Before CLEARVIEW, I was throwing money in the wind at certain hours and not realizing it. But as soon as we got the graphs up that showed results based on our last four weeks, it became clear that for certain hours we may have had two too many bodies. That was huge and again, I’m very averse to change, I don’t know why. But as soon as it was put in front of me in a way that made sense, I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I can see that’. That was the big cost-saver at the beginning.
Waste was a huge one as well. I’m using CLEARVIEW’s information with real-life managers that have much more experience than I do at mitigating waste costs. If I ask about Timbits, they’ll have solutions for me. So, CLEARVIEW gives me the problem that I have to fix, and I can go to the community for help on that specific item so I’m pinpointing it through CLEARVIEW’s numbers but solving it through the Tim’s community at large.
What was the learning curve when you first started using the system?
L: Once I figured out that I could make my orders based on my inventory, my life got so much easier. That was a big one because not only am I staying up to date on my inventory (because head office stresses the importance of it), I could also just tie it into one of my weekly chores. I just cleaned everything up at the same time, that was huge. Inventory was probably the part of the job that caused me to feel overwhelmed at the beginning, so that one made my life the easiest the fastest.
I think scheduling too can be a huge time consumer. The new scheduling tool is awesome, it works really well. I like that it makes the team more self-sufficient where I don’t have to sign off on everything and I don’t have to fix every single problem. If something comes up and someone can’t work the Thursday shift and they know someone else can work Thursday, they have the option to drop that into an open shift and someone else could pick it up. My hands are off of it and my time isn’t taken up, it’s just one more thing off the plate.
What was your timeframe for implementing the CLEARVIEW system from when you first opened the store?
L: I think every month in the first year we added something different. We started with scheduling, that was my biggest one. And then inventory came in the next month and every month or so we implemented something else. Gordon would go snooping on CLEARVIEW for another aspect for me to learn. By the first six months, we were fully integrated. It was fascinating to learn all the mistakes we were making that we didn’t even know we were making. For example, I was forecasting using the wrong weeks. I wasn’t using optimal weeks. Before we had this information, I was calling CLEARVIEW and saying hey for stores our size, what are they doing over Christmas or what are they doing for this promotion? Now we have all that information ourselves and things are running smoothly.
If someone were considering implementing the CLEARVIEW system what advice would you give them?
L: It’s worth the initial process of learning it, implementing it, and getting your team on board. The payoff is well worth it once you understand the time you will save later. What I get out of it is every single staff member knows how to waste properly. I’ve integrated my waste to my waste sheets on CLEARVIEW so it’s as fast as possible to do inputting.
G: Lexie’s right, I see the benefits every day. You have to be patient with it, you can’t just use all the modules on day one. You have to start and progress through the modules because one module sits on top of the other.
If I’m looking at how Lexi has been most productive, I would say for sure the first one has been scheduling. When we were doing the scheduling I could see what the ideal scheduling is against what she scheduled. As an owner, I can see opportunities where scheduling can get better. So, we started with scheduling and then we moved on to inventory and then to production sheets. They all had to build one on top of the other because when you have one you move on to the next. If you try to do them all at the same time managers and owners will get overwhelmed by everything that there is within CLEARVIEW because there’s a ton of really good stuff in there.
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