Hot Tips & Takes: Fred LeFranc’s Advice For Surviving (and Thriving) During Supply Chain Disruptions

If you don’t know Fred LeFranc, you should.

A true restaurant industry veteran, Fred has spent his entire career in hospitality. He’s earned a reputation as a passionate advocate, a change agent, and a trusted advisor to countless executive leadership teams and CEOs across the country.

Fred co-founded Results Thru Strategy in 2006 and currently serves as managing partner. RTS works with clients to identify their competitive edge, evaluate their operations, and develop strategies that achieve consistent, meaningful growth. Recently, Fred also became CEO of Engleman’s Bakery, a wholesale bakery operation based in Atlanta.

He and his colleague Briana Brenson, Chaos Coordinator at RTS, sat down with Kickfin to discuss the current state of the supply chain — an ongoing Covid-era problem with no end in sight. Here’s their take on the situation and some tactical advice for restaurants struggling with supply chain headaches.

How did we arrive at this massive supply chain disruption?

As we all know, when Covid first hit, everything shut down. Production slowed or even ceased for some goods. (Remember the toilet paper shortage?)

But pretty soon, we started seeing this surge in demand when everything began to reopen. The supply chain simply couldn’t keep up — and it still can’t.

It’s happening across every industry. Things overseas are a mess. We’ve got gigantic ships, full of containers, just waiting offshore to be unloaded. Part of the problem is that even when there are people to work (the longshoremen are there) these two-week quarantines are sidelining a lot of the manpower.

Food and beverage has been hit hard. It’s having a huge impact on restaurants.  Even major players like Chipotle and Starbucks are saying they can’t get their product.

What are you telling RTS clients who are in the thick of this mess?

It’s a nightmare. Too much business, plus supply chain problems and a worker shortage — it’s truly a perfect storm.

Fortunately, it’s not going to last forever. And to help them make it through the storm, we’ve been repeating this mantra to restaurants: “Less is more. More with less.”

Unpack that for us. What do you mean by “less is more?”

Less is more is about adjusting the menu to items that have appeal, profit and ease of production.

Menu creep always happens. Menus get bloated because we’re afraid to take anything off. Even the slowest selling item is someone’s favorite. People complain when menus change.

But if you’re intelligent about it, less really is more. Moving toward a smaller menu is going to allow you to be more efficient.

As an example: most restaurants have four stations. During a pandemic with a supply chain problem and a worker shortage, maybe try to revamp your menu so that you can move to three or even two stations.

The mono-concepts that focus on one product are already benefiting from this. Think about it — you don’t get a chicken wing at In-N-Out. Those concepts make even more sense now. As much as you can focus on a single product or concept, that’s going to help you reduce variables on the supply chain side, and it’s going to help you make it through this tough period of time.

And what about “more with less?”

Do more with less. That is, do more with fewer people.

Automation and robotics are helping to fill in labor gaps for a lot of restaurants. We’re seeing an increase in the use of “co-bots” — for example, a robot starts the pizza, then humans add the final element.

QSR especially is changing the way they’re doing things. The days of cashiers in QSR are essentially gone. And there’s more automation in the kitchen — technology like Chowbotics is making that possible.

There’s also the phenomenon of delivery and drive-through, and it’s really driving change in the fast casual space. For example, it used to be that if you wanted Panera, you had to drive over there. Now, with third-party delivery, there’s this ripple effect. People just want the food, and they don’t care where it’s coming from or how it appears in their hands.

Shake Shake, IHOP, Cracker Barrel…you’ve got all of these brands reevaluating their physical space, and they’re experimenting with QSR, drive-thru, delivery.

We’re at a real inflection point in the industry. Covid is where the pivot started, but now that we’re on this path, we’re not going back.

So you’re saying that we’ll continue to see a trend away from dine-in, even post-Covid?

Demand for in-house dining is still high. And to be fair, independent restaurants were kicking the big chains’ butts before Covid when it came to dining-in. But now with the pandemic, the food you love can be brought straight to your home.

Which means if I decide to actually go to a restaurant, it has to be a truly great experience. That’s where the independents will always win, and the chains will struggle. But right now, the chains are the ones that have the resources to more easily survive the pandemic.

Everyone’s talking about the labor crisis. What’s your take? How can restaurants “win” at hiring right now?

If you’re hurting for staff, take a look at what other folks are doing. Sign-on bonuses, retention bonuses, tuition assistance, free iPhones. It depends on how bad your staffing problem is.

Personally, I think the hospitality employee is — in a way — getting revenge for years of being undervalued. And I 100% believe that people have a right to a living wage. But if you’re paying $15 an hour, you need to make sure the job they’re doing provides value and ultimately a good return. So here again, automation may make sense for certain types of service roles and functions. I also think we can figure out a way to balance out the economics — to charge a little more so that we can pay a little more, and create value for everyone.

I would stress that restaurants need to focus just as much on turnover as they do on hiring. Turnover is a hidden cost, but it’s a huge cost. And the churn rate in this industry is astronomical.

So we’ve got supply chain disasters, labor shortages, Covid surges…what’s your best advice for restaurants that are holding on for dear life?

Look, we’re more resilient than we thought we were. Yes, hospitality got hurt. The independents really got hurt. Some of them went out of business permanently.

But the good news is that if you’ve made it this far, there are things you can do right now to continue to stay afloat, and even achieve growth: Evaluate. Reduce. Maximize. More with less, less with more.

 

Interested in learning how Results Thru Strategy works with restaurant and hospitality concepts? Contact them here.

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We know how important same-day payments are for veterans of the service industry who are accustomed to quick cash — and we’re now seeing that same demand expand into other industries as well. 

Kickfin co-founder Justin Roberts joined MasterCard’s InConversation Webinar series to discuss why immediate payment disbursal is key for the restaurant industry and the gig economy as a whole.

Watch the webinar here or read our recap for the highlights: 

People live paycheck-to-paycheck

Not just some people are living paycheck to paycheck. Most people are. 

That’s right: around 64% of U.S. consumers are just getting by. Even more shocking, 51% of consumers who earn over six figures are still living paycheck to paycheck, despite their higher tax bracket. 

It’s a major reason why employees need access to their earnings sooner rather than later. The pressure of watching your bank account slowly drain in the two weeks between payday is putting a lot of pressure on people, leading to a much greater demand for instant payments than ever before. 

Instant payouts are now table stakes

A PYMNTS study found that people of all ages prefer to be paid out immediately, as well as some other interesting statistics:

  • When given the choice, 68% of respondents said they would opt for an instant pay out
  • 40% of gig workers surveyed were willing to pay a fee for an instant disbursement
  • 81% of respondents were willing to switch jobs to an employer that offers instant access to earned wages and tips

It’s safe to say instant payouts are becoming the expectation for today’s modern workforce. But not all instant payouts are created equal.

Consumers are much more likely to engage with an instant payout system if they aren’t required to share their bank account and routing numbers and can access funds with just their debit card credentials. Why? It’s faster, more convenient, and feels more secure. 

Instant payouts and tip management: a perfect use case.

Instant payout innovation has come at the perfect time for the restaurant industry, which is struggling more than ever with the hassles and cost of cash.

If you’re in the restaurant biz, then you know: Most consumers pay with credit cards these days, not cash. That means there’s rarely enough cash on hand to pay out tips at the end of a shift. But employees still want and need instant access to their tip earnings.

Enter: instant payouts. Offering employees the option to receive their tip earnings directly to their bank of choice, the second their shift ends, can go a long way in improving employee satisfaction and ensuring their financial security.

But instant payouts are more than a work perk for employees. The operational benefits for employers range from reduced administrative burden and significant time savings to stronger compliance and streamlined reporting.

Modernizing your tip management strategy: 5 best practices 

There are three key components to your tip management strategy: 

  • Tip pool policy: How are you divvying up tips among your staff? 
  • The payout method: How are you distributing those payments?
  • The systems and tech: What are you using to facilitate those payments?

Under the current circumstances, restaurant operators are under immense pressure to bring their tip management into the future. 

5 best practices for tip management 

Based on our experience working with restaurant operators across the country, we’ve found that these five practices are the perfect recipe for building a successful tip management system.  

  1. Determine the right model and method for your restaurant, based on your location and tech stack
  2. Get a written tip policy (and get it legally approved
  3. Solicit employee feedback in a structured way
  4. Leverage technology for efficiency, accuracy, and compliance
  5. Don’t over-complicate (but do over-communicate!)

Tip management solution must-haves

When seeking a new tip management solution, make sure you carefully vet each system to see if it really meets your needs, or if it’ll be just as frustrating as cash. Here are a few suggestions for what should be on your checklist: 

  • Instant payouts
  • Direct to bank of choice
  • Availability of employee funds
  • Payroll option 
  • Integrations 
  • Simple implementation + onboarding process 
  • Around-the-clock customer service 

Big emphasis on strong customer support teams. Restaurants and bars don’t have “typical” business hours, so neither should your tech support.

Bar Louie automates payouts with Kickfin 

In a recent case study, we took a deep dive into our partnership with Bar Louie, a chain with over 60 locations that took advantage of our new integration with Toast. They made the switch from cash payouts to Kickfin’s instant, direct-to-bank payouts and haven’t looked back.  

Two-minute tip-outs

Before Kickfin, managers spent an average of 45 minutes per shift working through Bar Louie’s complex tip out policy and counting cash. The tip pooling rules were important to them — it’s what makes the entire staff feel like they’re getting their fair share. 

Using the Kickfin0Toast integration, Bar Louie was able to automate the tip pool calculation process and send tips straight to employees in under two minutes – a potential annual savings of 15,000 labor hours across all locations.

>> See more customer success stories 

Do you want to see these kinds of cost-saving results at your business? Let’s talk. Get a demo of Kickfin and see why restaurant owners and employees alike trust us to manage their tips.

Kickfin’s best-in-class tip calculation tool has some exciting new bells and whistles.

If you’re already using Kickfin’s tip pool calculator, then you know how much time and hassle you’re saving by automating everything. (And if you’re not? Head over to our tip pooling software page to see how it works!)

As we partner with more restaurants to bring their tip management into the future, we’re continuing to innovate our product so we can address their biggest pain points.

In this case, that means enhancing our tip pooling features so you can auto-calculate tip amounts even for the most complex or unique tip pool or share policies.

Check out a few of our latest features that will make tip calculations easier than ever.

New Release: Splitting Large Party Tips 

If your restaurant often hosts large parties, you know that the tip share can get confusing. Say one server is taking care of a party of 40 with a bartender assigned to only make drinks for that party. Meanwhile, the server has a few other two-top tables that are getting drinks from the main service bar. At the end of the night, how do you ensure that the large-party bartender gets their fair share of the tip out (without spending an hour on your phone calculator)? 

Kickfin can now automate that process for you, alleviating questions from your event bartender and saving time and effort on the part of your managers. 

Seamless Integrations 

Kickfin is partnering with your POS system to integrate seamlessly with your existing restaurant tech. Already, we’re serving Toast customers through our integration — and your POS just might be up next. 

Kickfin integration users get access to new product features first, like our new tip-out transparency tool. Your employees can log into their Kickfin accounts and see exactly how their tips have been split between team members, offering them full transparency into your tip policy in action.

Manager Tips 

We’re always listening to feedback to improve the Kickfin experience, and this one goes out to all of our restaurant partners who asked us to streamline the manager tip reallocation process.

>>Learn more about managers & tipping laws

In most cases, managers are not allowed to earn tips since they are salaried employees. But we all know that managers often step in and take care of tables to help servers get out of the weeds. Well-meaning guests will most likely leave a tip, not knowing that the manager technically can’t accept them — so where does that money go?

Kickfin now features a default pool, where tips “paid” to a manager are automatically redistributed to tipped staff based on your restaurant’s tip policy. 

Improved Labor Data Accuracy

We all know how easy it is for an employee to forget to clock out after a long shift. And sure, they aren’t going to get paid for a 16-hour overnight shift, but when payday comes around, those extra hours create a nightmare for your payroll team. 

With Kickfin, all employees are required to be clocked out in order to finalize payments — so you’ll catch the labor data mistake long before your payroll team has to sort it out. 

Even Better Security 

We’re committed to protecting you and your employees’ hard-earned money, so we’re adding an extra layer of security for certain transactions. You can now enable double approval of payments that meet certain conditions:

  • First payment for new employees
  • Employees getting their first payout in X number of days
  • Employees receiving more than X payouts in a 24-hour period. 

With these extra guardrails in place, you can always be sure that the right money is going to the right person. Reach out to our support team to configure your custom security measures.

Using Kickfin is a win-win for operators, managers, and employees alike. Restaurateurs save on cash delivery and labor costs, managers shave hours off their workload, and servers have the same instant payment that they’re used to — without the hassle and uncertainty of cash. 

Want to learn more about Kickfin? Let us show you the ropes with a demo

You heard it here first: 2024 is the year of integrations. 

In an effort to make Kickfin even more user-friendly and adaptable for our partners, we’re working with restaurant tech leaders to integrate our tip management solution with their existing systems. 

First up — Toast! A trailblazer for cloud-based restaurant management technology, Toast is a favorite POS system for restaurants, food trucks, and bars. You probably know them best for being the first to create handheld POS devices, drastically changing the entire restaurant ecosystem. To make life easier for their customers, Toast partnered with Kickfin to create an integration that makes tip pooling, tip distribution, and calculation smoother. 

As restaurant tech innovators ourselves, this partnership is the perfect fit for Kickfin. 

Our goal at Kickfin is always to save time for managers, prevent loss for operators, and create more financial freedom for hospitality employees through pioneering technology that digitizes many of the analog processes that the restaurant industry is built on. 

As a member of the Toast Partner Ecosystem, we’ll be able to deliver our product to Toast customers and modernize their tip management systems with ease. Using technology that they’re already familiar with, Toast customers can reap the benefits of Kickfin with minimal ramp-up upon implementation.

“No two restaurants split tips the same way, but invariably, it takes too long and involves too much risk,”  said Justin Roberts, the co-CEO of Kickfin. “This integration allows for the utmost customization with a near-zero learning curve — truly the best of both worlds for restaurants that want to save time, reduce labor costs and make life easier for their team.”

And one of their partners is already enjoying the ROI with Kickfin. Bar Louie takes great pride in making tip distribution equitable for all of their employees, so they rely on a complex tip pooling system to ensure fair pay. Prior to using Kickfin, managers at each of their 60 locations spent 45 minutes at the end of every shift to make calculations and divvy out funds to all of their servers. Now, they’ve streamlined their tip-out process with Kickfin — and managers are doing the same work in less than a minute! That’s an annual average of 15,000 hours saved across their entire chain. 

>> Hear more Kickfin success stories

After implementing Kickfin, managers can spend their time on what matters most: delivering excellent customer service. That means more table touches, more support for your staff, and more time to focus on server training. 

With managers spending more time on the floor (instead of counting cash in the back), you’ll see better customer reviews, better service, and increased sales — all from digitizing your tip-outs with Kickfin.

We’re excited about our new partnership with Toast and the opportunity to make digital tipping a reality for their customers. For restaurants who aren’t using Toast, don’t worry! We look forward to providing similar integrations across the restaurant tech industry.  

Want to see these results for yourself? Find out how to become a Kickfin integration partner or check out a demo of our platform.

No growing pains here! 

We’re thrilled to announce that Inc. listed Kickfin in their list of the top 10 fastest growing companies in the Southwest. (In fact, we earned the #1 spot in the software category and were listed as #9 overall!) We’re honored to be included alongside innovative companies that are making a big difference in our region. 

Inc. measured Kickfin’s growth from 2020 to 2022 — which wasn’t an easy time for the restaurant industry, to say the least. In spite of the challenges posed by the pandemic, restaurant concepts across the country embraced Kickfin’s technology. 

As a group, the 2024 Inc. honorees averaged 136% growth and created 17,606 new jobs over a two-year period. Individually, Kickfin grew by a whopping 1,304% (yes, really!).

We want to recognize and thank both our amazing customers and the Kickfin team for being part of our success story and allowing us to be a part of theirs. 

Our Customers

For years, restaurants manually calculated and paid out cash tips — despite the increasing hassle and liability those old-school methods entail. It’s not because operators are tech-averse; there simply wasn’t a good way to automate the process that didn’t create new friction or require new workarounds. 

That’s precisely why we developed Kickfin. Of course, we’re proud of what we built and the team behind it (more on that below). But we owe a great deal of our success to the customers who trusted us enough to give Kickfin a shot — especially those early adopters who are now some of our longest-standing customers.

There’s a leap of faith involved when you partner with a vendor and layer in new technology, particularly when it impacts something as important and sensitive as how you pay your people.  We don’t take that lightly, and we are incredibly grateful for the opportunity to serve each and every customer who’s been on this journey with us.

>> Hear from our customers about their experiences with Kickfin

Our Team 

Every person on our team wholeheartedly believes in our mission and vision for the future. In short: we’re here to make the tip management process insanely easy for everyone so that paying out your people is (almost!) as great as getting paid. 

As backstory: Our co-founders, Brian and Justin, came up with the idea for Kickfin while dining out together and noticing that an armored car was dropping off cash. They asked why a restaurant would need a cash delivery when most patrons pay by card; the manager explained the cash was needed to pay out tips at the end of the shift. The inefficiency (and expense, and risk…) of that process was a lightbulb moment for Brian and Justin.

They set out to build a team who not only understood the problem, but could think critically and creatively about a solution — and bring it to life. 

From sales and marketing to product and support, every Kickfin employee has had a hand in the growth and success of our company, thanks to their passion for our purpose and their commitment to being best in class.

We’re proud of what we’ve achieved thus far, and we’re excited to continue collaborating with our customers, innovating on their behalf, and taking Kickfin to the next level together. Onward and upward!

See Kickfin in action!