When Patti Farmer says her work, colleagues are family to her, she’s not just speaking figuratively. Before serving as the Chief Operating Officer for The McMurray Group /A&W in British Columbia, Farmer started her own business and ran it for 12 years before selling it to her brother Ben. Her husband is also part of the larger A&W family currently serving in the corporate head office.
Farmer began her current position as COO in 2009 when Wyatt McMurray asked her to join his operation. As COO, she oversees 42 A&W restaurants mainly in BC which range geographically from Vancouver Island to the B.C. interior to northern BC, and they even have a restaurant in Whitehorse, Yukon. This puts Farmer in charge of one of the largest geographical region of any A&W franchise group in Western Canada.
Staying on top of everything that goes on in 42 restaurants spread that far apart could pose a challenge for anyone in Farmer’s position. She stays ahead of the game by reviewing daily reports first thing in the morning and flagging issues to discuss with her area managers.
We spoke with Patti Farmer about her experiences with the CLEARVIEW system and how it impacts her daily routine and that of her frontline employees and managers.
What are some of the biggest time-savers that you feel CLEARVIEW brings to the organization?
A lot of the more manual tasks around food cost and inventory now gets automatically calculated based on the recipes. Back in the day, that was all done with bookkeepers at corporate head office where they would manually figure out what the theoretical usage should have been and what the actual usage was and what the variance was. Having those kinds of job duties done automatically now is a huge time saver for sure.
For me personally, because I oversee 42 restaurants, I look at things from a very top-line perspective. I look at the executive summary every morning and I check if anything seems out of line. That’s probably when I’d hand it off to my area manager and say go check on the discounts at the store or why is Labor so high? Being able to do that quickly certainly saves me a lot of time.
What was your introduction to CLEARVIEW and what it could do?
When I joined in 2009, Wyatt had already implemented CLEARVIEW so it was quite an eye-opener for me just seeing everything there was to see. Just being able to get daily sales and all of the data that we can pull up at any given moment was just unbelievably cool.
When I was with A&W corporate, I was an area manager in Toronto, and we didn’t have that information at all. We had to wait until the end of the week to get sales data. Back then, a lot of the inventory cost calculations were pretty much done by hand. It was quite a phenomenal change from my perspective.
What leaped out at you as being the most helpful?
I would say just the daily information at my fingertips is unbelievably helpful. Things like being able to wake up at 6:00 in the morning, open on my computer and see how we did yesterday are pretty phenomenal. We can look at forecasts and I can see if we’re trending ahead of our forecast or behind. Do we need to adjust our labor because we’re off our forecast?
It just enables us to put in place all sorts of things so our area managers can look at the data each morning and give instructions to the stores based on what they see in CLEARVIEW.
In terms of cost savings, how does CLEARVIEW help the bottom line throughout your organization?
I would say we run a tight ship and CLEARVIEW certainly has enabled us to do that with our cost of sales. We can look on any given day and react quickly if any store is running a high variance. We can look at what those items are, we can put a program in place to get things back in line.
We can identify very quickly what the problem is and if it looks like it’s a theft problem or a waste problem or a myriad of other things that may be going on. It could be that we’re running too much inventory and products are expiring. All of these things have helped us with the bottom line.
What advice would you give to somebody who is considering putting in the CLEARVIEW system?
It’s a hugely positive tool and I would highly recommend CLEARVIEW to anyone who asked for a recommendation. I look at the costs and I would say that’s definitely well worth the money.
I would point to the ability to look at labor schedules and have an intelligent conversation with an area manager or a store manager about their schedule if labor is running too high. With CLEARVIEW, we can all look at the same thing at the same time. Before CLEARVIEW, we didn’t have the ability to do that.
I’m certain that what we spend a year on CLEARVIEW saves us much, much more.
See CLEARVIEW in action.