Jason Restivo’s “library” was a brimming three-ring binder occupying space in the living room. Inside were books from alcohol reps and distributors, all with enough fine print to direct a thriving beverage program in Savannah, Georgia. “My wife was like, ‘What the … why do you have all this stuff everywhere?’” Restivo recalls.
Like many aspects of the hospitality industry, technology is sending business clutter the way of the pager. Beverage programs are no different. In fact, it’s often one of the most daunting and muddled aspects of running a restaurant, especially when a concept has more wine labels than calendar days. Restivo, a former general manager at local institutions The Olde Pink House and Garibaldi, is only weeks away from opening his own restaurant, Atlantic, in a former gas station on the corner of Drayton Street and Victory Drive. When it came time to stock the concept’s beverage inventory, he turned to SevenFifty, a platform he discovered around three and half years ago. In those days, the company was relatively thin on outreach. But this past September, SevenFifty announced its burgeoning online ordering platform to the masses. The system had already been in place for a few months. In Restivo’s view, it’s been an invaluable asset. “Before, I was probably emailing my distributors every week saying, ‘I’m looking for a closeout list,’" he explains. "Or, ‘Can you send me a new updated inventory portfolio?’”
SevenFifty labels itself an “online platform for the wholesale alcohol industry.” The system streamlines the process, allowing buyers to create, track, and manage orders to multiple distributors. “More or less, it just takes up space on your desk,” Restivo says of the reams of paper he used to keep on hand. “It takes up space in your car, in your backpack. It’s everywhere.”
SevenFifty is more than another online shopping cart, however. For starters, Restivo says it gives him access to products and services he couldn’t target before. Whether it’s 2 or 7 in the morning, Restivo can work on his restaurant. And that business isn’t limited to just ordering and stocking. SevenFifty is an order management system that leverages email workflow between buyers and distributors. The idea is to connect all communication throughout the tiers of the wholesale system.
There’s a live feed of distributor’ databases (of over 500,000 products) that allows operators to go in and search, with the help of filters.
After creating an order the instructions, which can be inputted by the buyer, are sent to the rep. Details like vintage, item numbers, and size format are itemized to avoid confusion on the back end.
“I have the ability to create multiple lists,” Restivo adds. “So when I’m looking at something and I don’t have a physical spot for it in the restaurant, I’m still able to put it in a list and then that way it reminds me.”
SevenFifty allows users to organize personal lists, which can compare products, plan menu changes, and print out tasting sheets. Managers then share recommendations with servers and reps, such as “Today’s Wines by the Glass.”
In addition, Restivo uses SevenFifty as an educational tool. If he’s searching for a certain vintage that’s out of stock, SevenFifty will show him similar options. Included in the material is pricing information, tasting notes, grape variety, and other vital details that broaden his base simply by browsing.
“Right now, I’m in front of our wait staff and our bar staff showing them how to use SevenFifty,” Restivo says. “Because it breaks it down in ounces, which is really important for cost of goods and teaching people about costing. And also, it tells you what’s available. … It also allows you to say, ‘Hey, I really wanted that … but now when you add a filter, you can see there’s a couple more out there that you never knew about and you can see a price comparison. So, for me, it’s not always about what can I order, but more encompassing all the different facets. It’s almost like a full-service website.”
SevenFifty has a Teams function where operators share educational materials. Everything from lists to product data. Accounts can also be linked to multiple licenses in the case of multi-unit situations.
The dynamic interface has been very helpful in educating Atlantic’s new staff.
“When we’re training, I have everyone sit at a desk inside the restaurant on their laptops, and we can literally search and talk about what we see,” Restivo says. “It’s very easy for me to talk about the importance of balancing finances. We’ve even broken it down to this is our by-the-glass and we’re looking to sell this many to guests a night.”
“I teach them, if it says maybe 10 in stock, that’s not something we use by the glass. Maybe that’s something we commit to bottle. Not only am I showing them the label that shows them the history of the wine or spirit or beer, you can teach them everything. It’s a great tool to see past what they see—to be forward thinkers, and to be proactive instead of reactive.”
In addition, the process is a safety net. Given that the email goes to the distributor, there’s a printed copy of each order. “It’s just a catch system to make sure everybody is protected and successful in every step of the way,” Restivo explains.
SevenFifty also enables users to create express account applications. This was developed to erase the challenge of account/credit applications and resale certifications when trying to create a new account with a distributor. After filling out an account application once, SevenFifty will automate the document and provide an opportunity for an electronic signature, eliminating the need for faxing or scanning.
Another note, Restivo stresses, is that the system doesn’t fracture his relationship with reps. If anything, it makes it easier for him to maintain and grow those contacts. He can introduce wines from SevenFifty to his contacts, and vice versa.
“I think as buyers it’s important we embrace tools and companies like SevenFifty,” he says. “It allows the opportunity to do one of two things. We can hold all the information for ourselves or we can do the right thing by collecting all the information and being excited about it, and then to use it as a tool to teach the staff that’s under us. Because if we don’t pass it on, we’re going to hit the lid of capability, and for this to be really explosive in our market going forward, the more people who know about how to do this, the more people who are going to benefit.”