7 May 2024

The hidden costs of using spreadsheets to manage your hospitality operations

Running a food and beverage business often means spinning lots of plates – from managing recipes, inventory, orders to keeping tabs on staff and crunching the numbers.

And let’s face it, clarity in the finances is the lifeline of all our businesses, so accurately knowing how many sales were made, how much food was wasted, and where improvements can be made is crucial.

Many businesses start out by using spreadsheets to manage their day-to-day operations. Spreadsheets seem efficient and cost-effective at first, but as your business grows, or even aims to scale up, relying solely on spreadsheets can quickly cause challenges, missed opportunities and in some cases major harm to your business.

For over 20 years, IndiCater has been dedicated to partnering with food and beverage businesses. We specialise in streamlining operations, boosting profitability, and prioritising customer safety and satisfaction. By transitioning businesses away from spreadsheets and onto our cloud-based platform, we provide enhanced visibility and control over back-of-house operations.

We want to share some of the challenges our clients used to face before switching from spreadsheets to IndiCater.

1. Spreadsheets are time- consuming

Using spreadsheets for your business operations demands a lot from you and your team. With extensive manual input and constant updates required, they can quickly become a chore that drains your team and profits. Taking valuable attention away from the thing that really matters – driving business growth! And as your business expands, so does the size and complexity of your spreadsheets. This growth not only consumes your time during data entry but also slows down processes when it comes to downloading and opening these bloated files. The collective impact of managing these ever-expanding spreadsheets can put a serious dent in your efficiency and productivity.

The solution: Get your time back!

Centralising your data and operations in a software solution will reduce the need for your team to spend so much time completing manual tasks. A cloud-based platform can also handle the increasing size and complexity of your operations with ease, eliminating the need for inflated, slow-loading spreadsheets. This not only enhances efficiency and productivity but also ensures scalability as your business continues to grow.

2. Spreadsheets put your business at risk

Manually inputting data into spreadsheets subjects us to human error. A misplaced digit, a broken formula or a serious typo can completely fracture your operations. One small, unnoticed mistake can lead to inaccurate inventory counts, skewed financial reports, and ultimately, loss of revenue. But the most alarming risk of all is compliance. Spreadsheets lack the capability to ensure that your business is providing accurate nutritional information to your customers when they need it. It’s important to understand how your business shares allergen and calorie information to help customers to make informed, and even lifesaving, decisions.

The solution: Prioritise safety without the hassle

While there will always be a need for human interaction in hospitality operations and management software, there are ways to mitigate the associated risks. One approach is to ensure your solution is fully integrated with everything from suppliers to financial software. Solid integrations improve data flow, enabling quick and accurate report generation. Secondly, it’s important to prioritise your data security by working with solutions that regularly (and automatically) back up your information. This safeguards critical business data and reduces the risks associated with accidental deletion or loss of access. When it comes to compliance and keeping your customers safe, spreadsheets really do fall short. Your solution should integrate directly with your suppliers so you can build recipes, create labels and get nutritional data directly from the source without any additional steps or processes, giving your customers and staff the reassurance they’re in good hands.

3. Spreadsheets reduce your control & visibility

Spreadsheets are not designed for managing complex hospitality operations. They don’t automate processes or integrate with other systems or platforms like your EPOS or financial software. This approach leads to mistakes, revenue loss, and a lack of real visibility or control of your business operations. 

The solution: Gain clarity of your entire process and workflow, all in one place

Implementing a comprehensive hospitality management solution tailored to the specific needs of your business will give you full control of operations and finances. Having the ability to integrate with your entire tech stack will provide data consistency, a reduction in labour costs and the visibility you need to make informed decisions that grow your business. It’s important to work with a platform or company that will work alongside you, help customise your workflows and adapts itself to meet your needs. Don’t settle for a one-size-fits-all product solution. 

4. Spreadsheets limit your access to key insights

While spreadsheets can organise data, they don’t provide easy routes to actionable insights. It’s tough to easily recognise and pull reports on sales trends, inventory usage, food wastage in large sheets of data. Without this vital information it’s difficult for businesses to make informed decisions that drive real profitability and business growth. 

The solution: Confidently make decisions based on real-time data

The solution is simple: a straightforward, cloud-based system that enables you to effortlessly generate and retrieve reports with real-time data. Your solution should offer quick and easy access to pre-built reports or provide an API integration for creating custom reports when needed, ensuring accuracy and flexibility in your reporting. 

5. Spreadsheets kill team collaboration

From the kitchen to the office desk, multiple teams need access to the latest information to keep operations running smoothly and margins healthy. But relying on spreadsheets (sometimes stored on local drives) puts a stop to any effective collaboration. Spreadsheets are not easy to share and you’re never 100% sure when the data was last updated. Having your data across multiple sheets or tabs restricts visibility for team members, creating a bottleneck where one task must be completed before the next can begin. Inevitably, this leads to communication breakdowns, frustrated staff, and in worst-case scenarios, a single point of failure and a complete halt on operations.

The solution: Access where needed, at no extra cost

Giving your team access to the tools to do their job well is important in any business. Not only does it build a happier workforce, but it also boosts productivity and improves overall business operations. Any solution you put in place should facilitate data and operational access for your entire team at no additional cost. It should offer flexible access controls, allowing you to assign the appropriate permissions to the right individuals. Management teams should have a comprehensive yet accurate overview of all sites and operations, enabling informed decision-making all in one place.

Moving away from spreadsheets

Ultimately, starting with a spreadsheet isn’t a bad thing. Recognising even one of the challenges above indicates that your business has reached a point of significant growth – and that’s cause for celebration!  

What truly matters now are the steps you take moving forward – those that involve evaluating your operational efficiency and its impact on finances, team happiness, and customer safety and satisfaction. While it may seem like a daunting task, we’ve been assisting contract caterers, pubs, restaurants, schools and more in streamlining operations for over 20 years and would be delighted to support you on improving yours.  

We’ll sit down with you to help assess your operations, processes and workflows. Let’s talk through some of the challenges you’re facing and how we see successful businesses like yours solve them – because, in the long run, sticking to spreadsheets will cost you more than you think.

Reach out to our team to book a quick conversation about how you’re currently managing your operations.