Managing information across a disparate portfolio, which includes both company-owned and franchise locations, was a growing challenge for Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, an upscale steakhouse that offers brunch, lunch, and dinner in hotel settings, lifestyle centers, and urban areas.
“We started in the restaurant business in 1978 with a 100-seat restaurant in Iowa,” says Ajay Singh, vice president of brand development for Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse (Moline, Illinois). “Our development company, Heart of America Group, now has 31 properties, located in six Midwestern states. There are three restaurant brands: Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse, The Machine Shed, and Thunder Bay.”
The decision to expand via franchising caused Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse to realize that it had outgrown its internal Excel spreadsheets. With eight company-owned units and imminent franchise expansion plans, Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse needed the ability to access near-real-time data to help managers control their costs on a daily basis.
“The increasing complexity as a result of our growth led us to outgrow spreadsheets,” Singh says. “Since we are franchising one of our concepts, we needed a reporting measurement that allows us to have a feed into each of the franchises.”
The first franchised unit of Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse rolled out in mid-2013.
“Using Excel spreadsheets works fine when you have two or three units,” says Joe Spalding, chief operating executive for the Heart of America Group. “However, when you get larger than this, you need a Web-based system.”
Heart of America Group searched for a solution that would allow it to share its key data from all locations with the whole team, ultimately choosing a solution from Ctuit Software that collects and disseminates information from and to all of its restaurant locations.
By making the solution a required tool for all franchisees going forward, the corporate office is now able to receive daily field reporting on traffic, sales, and labor.
“One reason we selected Ctuit was because it is the most user-friendly,” says Spalding. “It also interfaces well with our operating system.”