Writing the prep list in the morning is a very important task. The morning prep list is a vehicle for which food and labor dollars are spent. In many cases, the person who writes the prep list is not an owner or a member of upper management. And, the opening manager will often take a lashing from customers, co-workers and supervisors when prep levels are out of whack.

If you don’t prep enough, you will run out of product and disappoint guests. One shouldn’t discount the impact on guest satisfaction and sales when menu items are not available.  When stock starts running out during the heat of the battle on a Friday night, the opening manager is wide open to ridicule.

On the other hand, if you over prep, you run the risk of spoilage, a poor food cost and/or poor food quality. And, high food cost isn’t the only casualty of over prepping (or ruining batches). You must take into consideration the labor it took to produce the item or items that are being tossed. When you throw away prepped food, you are throwing away the labor dollars spent to create those items as well as the food cost dollars.  Either scenario is a major impediment to a successful restaurant.

So what is the solution? When the boss starts asking why there is too much or not enough prep, do you say that you made your best guess? They might think that your best guess isn’t good enough. The best way to determine proper prep levels is to look at past sales. For example, if it is Monday and you want to know how many ribeyes are needed, look at the ribeye sales for the past four Mondays, average them out, and add 20%. Now you have your par or build-to amount. Most opening kitchen managers don’t have a crystal ball. So, this is the work around for not being psychic.

Obviously, this system will need some adjusting for special events (local tourist event or sporting event), holidays (Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, New Years’ Day) , and seasonality (Graduation Week, etc..).

This practice can be a little time consuming, but well worth it. When this system is used, the opening manager, and the restaurant is empowered with a true information. If menu items run out or are left over, at least you have peace of mind that you did your best without a crystal ball. And if the boss asks why prep seems off, you can explain your thought process with words that don’t include “best guess”. Good luck and good prepping!


P.S. You can look to Cloud Dine’s Restaurant Operating System software for help and quick data for prep pars.

Nexus 7 2013-003


One concern we’ve heard from restaurant owners and managers with using Android tablets for their point of sale is that they are worried employees would play games and text friends while working. Worry no longer. Android 4.3 (codename: Jelly Bean) came out in late July and now includes restricted profiles. What does this mean? It means that the owners and managers can now restrict access to just work applications.

Here’s what google has to say about restricted profiles. (from https://support.google.com/nexus/7/answer/3175031)

About restricted profiles

As the tablet owner, you can create restricted profiles that limit the access that others have to features and content on your tablet. For example, you can create restricted profiles to prevent family members who may have access to your tablet from viewing mature content.

You can use restricted profiles for several purposes, including these:

  • Parental controls. Selectively restrict family members from accessing mature content.
  • Kiosk. Set up the tablet to demonstrate selected apps and features to customers.
  • Retail. Let customers explore tablet features, but prevent them from browsing or playing games.
  • Point of sale. Limit employees to the use of selected sales and register apps.



Photo credits: Nexus 7 2013-003 by Thomas Lok Attribution-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License


Good News! Hewlett-Packard recently announced their entry in to the Android tablet market with their new HP Slate 7. Retail pricing is just $169, even cheaper than the $199 Nexus 7 or the $329 iPad mini. It’s slated for release in April 2013.

So why is this good news?

Because it lowers the cost of our system. Cloud Dine Systems uses tablets and cloud computing to power our point of sale system. The cheaper tablets makes our system even more affordable.

The best news? Tablets might get even cheaper.

In India, the government  is providing subsidized Aakash 2 tablets to university students for Rs. 1,130 (about $20 US Dollars) and commercially for Rs. 3,999 (about $75 US Dollars). They are only available in India currently, but hopefully, in the next couple of years, similarly priced tablets could be available worldwide.


Photo credits: Dollars by vovan13 ©iStockphoto.com

20 dollar money

During a recent discussion with a restaurant franchisee, the issue of profitability came up. As he put it, the restaurant business has three basic levers that the owner/management can control: food sales, food costs, and labor costs. I call these the trifecta of restaurant profitability since you simultaneously need to get all three correct. (Ok, food and labor costs are prime costs, so technically it should be called exacta or perfecta of restaurant profitability. I wouldn’t describe most restaurants as exact or perfect. So I went with trifecta.)

These are so important, but when was the last time you looked at them in your restaurant?

Here’s a simple suggestion for each to get you started.

  • Food Costs
    Create a simple sheet that tracks throwaways daily. The restaurant franchisee found $75 a day in savings here.
  • Labor Costs
    Pick a day of the week and look at the staffing verses the sales. Is there an extra hand here?
  • Food Sales
    Pick the five most popular items on your menu. Does your wait staff consistency upsell add-ons for these entrees (assuming it makes sense)?


P.S. We are working on a product to make the management of the trifecta much easier. More on that in 2013.


Photo credits: Money Shots Ver4 by StockMonkeys.com Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

looking through

In simplest terms, our vision is to create the definitive restaurant operating system that will make restaurants more profitable, more efficient, and ultimately create a better dining experience.

So what does this mean?

We want to provide restaurateurs a comprehensive and integrated set of tools to clearly see, manage, and optimize their restaurant from soup to nuts. If it’s affecting the restaurant, we want it to be part of the restaurant operating system. It’s a fairly ambitious vision that will take time to completely realize.

Right now, we are working on the core set of services for the restaurant operating system. We will be making it available soon. Over time, we’ll be adding additional services (35 identified to date) to complete the vision. It will include the features of a traditional point of sale (A POS with the functionality restaurants have been hoping for), plus a whole lot more.

Yes, it’s ambitious. Yes, it’s going to be a lot of work. But it’s time we brought the restaurants of the world into the information age. Restaurants deserve better information technology than they have been forced to cope with and we are going to bring it to them.

Our dream is to reduce the restaurant failure rate, reduce burnout, and give restaurateurs and staff a better life. Our vision of the restaurant operating system is a vital tool to help do that.


Photo credits: Looking Through by ultracuerpo Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

org chart

Following up from last month’s post, here’s the other half of why I founded Cloud Dine Systems.

I did it to create the change I want to see in the world and to make a place I would love working at.

Most business organizations today are hierarchical. I call them Taylor organizations since Frederick Winslow Taylor pioneered their workings around the turn of the century in “The Principles of Scientific Management”. They focus on specialization, top down communication, and foremost, efficiency. Unfortunately, they are characterized by slow reactions, turf wars, unempowered employees, and poor communication. It’s very difficult for these types of organizations to innovate.

The world is changing more quickly than ever and Industrial Age, Taylor organizations cannot keep up. The Information Age requires a new type of organization.

I believe this new type of organization will be:

  • Networked and flat instead of hierarchical. (Like this).
  • Directed by data driven self-organizing teams instead of top down commands.
  • A learning enterprise employing the feedback loops of Lean Startup and Innovation Accounting instead of the rigid, fear-based, command by fiat.
  • An innovative powerhouse operated by cross-functional agile teams without department silos.
  • Financially transparent through open book accounting with every partner sharing in the profits and held accountable by their peers.

This type of organization is much more nimble, empowering, and ultimately, I believe, more profitable than traditional Taylor organizations. Part of the reason I founded Cloud Dine Systems is to prove this and create a place I love to work at.


Photo credits: IBM/Tabulating Machine Co. organization chart by Marcin Wichary Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License

red start

Why did I start Cloud Dine Systems?

Here’s half the answer. The other half will come next month.

Short version:

A wave of enabling technologies recently came into existence that will allow restaurants to be run in radically more profitable and customer focused way. Cloud Dine was created to bring the potential of these technologies into reality.

Longer version:

Recent innovations in technology have created sweeping changes in the possibilities for how restaurants operate. The list of changes coming together is amazing. Just to name a few: commodity hardware in the form of consumer off the shelf tablets, ubiquitous wi-fi wireless networks, cloud technologies, internet enabled smartphones, inexpensive internet connectivity, remote management technologies. These changes and others combine to create the foundation for a revolution.

Cloud Dine Systems was founded to utilize these enabling technologies and revolutionize the restaurant business.

So why should you care as a restaurateur? Because these coming changes will increase your profitability and efficiency. The last significant technology adopted by restaurants was the change from paper based systems to computer based point of sale systems. This increased the net profitability of restaurants by 1 to 3 percent. The upcoming revolution will have a similar impact and then some.

I believe these changes will reduce the horrible restaurant failure rate (by some counts 70% fail within ten years), reduce the need for 80-100 hour weeks with the associated burnout, and give restaurant owners and staff some of their life back. The potential to make a positive impact on millions of lives is a lot of the reason why this is worth doing and why I’m doing it.


Photo credits: Big Red Button by stephenhanafin Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License

There won’t be a regular blog post this month. I’ll be traveling for a month through the Mediterranean countries. (France, Spain, Italy, Greece & Turkey) It’s been a exciting, busy time since I left RightNow/Oracle to found Cloud Dine Systems and it’s going to become even busier. I’m taking a month long vacation since for the next few years my time is spoken for.


Edit: It was great to recharge the batteries.

Wanted to share a cool picture of a giant puppy from the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain.  At 43 feet ( 13 meters) tall it dwarfs the people around it. (That’s me at the base.) Definitely the biggest dog I’ve ever seen. And it’s just a puppy, imagine how big it will become.

Guggenheim Bilbao Puppy

Photo credits: Copyright © 2012 Cloud Dine Systems, LLC. All rights reserved.
Hello, my name is anonymous by Quinn Dombrowski, on Flickr

Naming your company is tough. Here’s what we did. Hopefully it will help someone naming their start-up company.

What to use for inspiration? Take a look at the customer’s daily environment. Look at the items they use. Listen to the expressions they say. If you don’t have access to their daily environment, then watch tv shows about them and read books, industry magazines, and blogs about them. To add more names to the mix, create noun plus verb names from the items and terms found earlier.

We came up with 257 names. And that’s just the ones that passed the “worth remembering” test and I wrote down. Culled down to 29. Then 7. Finally, one victorious – Cloud Dine Systems

The secret weapon for us: Idioms. In our case, “Cloud Nine” which means “a state of extreme happiness”. (For idiom lists check out http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/ , http://www.idiomconnection.com/, and http://www.phrases.org.uk/ ). I imagine metaphors and similes would work just as well.

Why did we pick Cloud Dine Systems? It just worked for us on multiple levels. The play on an idiom used to express extreme happiness tied into one of our fundamental values: creating customer delight. From a less inspirational, more factual point of view, we use cloud technologies to create our solutions and serve the businesses that create dining experiences.

Hopefully this will help someone looking to name their own company. If you have any other suggestions for inspiration or techniques that worked for naming, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.


Photo credits: Hello, my name is anonymous by Quinn Dombrowski Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License