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Our adventure

Dec 9, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Man, time sure does fly. It's hard to believe it's almost 2017. We are mighty thankful for another fun year and wanted to thank the more than 1,600 new restaurants for their business this year - as well as the thousands of restaurants who've been with us for more than a year. We really do appreciate being chosen and we get excited at every single restaurant that joins us. Since we focus on restaurants with just one location or maybe a handful of locations/concepts at most - we get to thank many many people for choosing us and for their business - as opposed to thanking just a few groups of people that make a decision for hundreds or thousands of locations. It's a very fun and rewarding adventure to serve them. Speaking of that - we recently added a short paragraph to the Our Adventure page on our website - I thought I'd share it here as well. It sums up the kind of company we are working hard to become.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve really doubled down on our focus of offering a simple software product with a small, helpful team behind it. We’ve done this because it makes the work we do, and our lives in general, so much more enjoyable. Since the 5 of us here are just like many of you, (consumers and customers), we truly appreciate those companies that offer just what we need with really great service behind it. We know how awesome it is to find a company like that and we know the feeling of loyalty we have for those companies, once we do. It’s almost as if we found something surprising. Something unexpected and something we love. For that reason, we work very hard to be that kind of company too.

Cheers and Happy Holidays!
The 5 guys at Schedulefly

Today our customers are leading the movement

Dec 4, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
In 2007, Wes wrote the first lines of code for Schedulefly. That was the beginning of a movement, a movement to lead independent restaurants to a new place with staff scheduling and communication. Back then all restaurants were using pencil and paper or Excel, and Schedulefly was launched to give them a better way.

The problem was figuring out ways to get restaurants to follow us. We tried all sorts of things to spread the word, from email campaigns, to exhibiting at trade shows, to cold calls, to mailing flyers, to going door-to-door, to hiring a PR firm, to offering customers $100 for every successful referral they made, to using Twitter. You name it, we tried it. Yet when our free trial sign-up forms came in and we read how people found out about Schedulefly, we saw they had either searched online or they heard about us from a new employee, or a friend in the industry, or through some form of natural, organic referral. Online searches and referrals. That was our bread and butter. No matter what else we tried, the evidence was clear that our outbound efforts were a waste of time and money.

That meant we needed to do two things well: 1) make sure people that found us through search were clear when they visited our web site about who we are and what we offer, and make it easy for them to get started with a free trial; and 2) live up to the expectations of people that heard about us through a referral, which meant a focus on straightforward, reliable software and exceptional customer service and ease of doing business with. We payed enormous attention to those things, and decided to take a patient, long view of our business, focusing not on finding ways to get people to come to our site, and instead on what happened once they got there.

Today, 250,000 people at over 6,000 restaurants use Schedulefly. They come to us partially by online search, but mostly by referral. Referrals from friends, new employees, new managers, etc. We see it every day on our trial signup forms. It never ceases to amaze me how many of the trials come in from good old fashioned word-of-mouth.

At this point, we are no longer leading the movement we started. Our customers are. We have 300 free trials going at any time, and a large majority of them came in because one of you told somebody about Schedulefly. It's breathtaking to watch it happening, and all five of us feel grateful to be a part of it. We will keep waking up each day and doing our part, making sure the software is straightforward and reliable, and making sure any time one of you needs something, we take great care of you. Otherwise, you are taking this thing wherever it's going to go.

Thank you for taking us this far. It will be fun to see where we wind up.

Wil

"It's just an incredible business"

Nov 29, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
I recently interviewed Michael Chernow for our upcoming book, "More Restaurant Owners Uncorked." Michael started The Meatball Shop in Manhattan with Daniel Holzman in 2010, and it quickly grew to six locations and gained national attention. Last year he ventured out on his own to open Seamore's, a very popular local seafood restaurant in Brooklyn. Michael's passion is contagious for the restaurant business is contagious. Here's a small clip from the interview.

What lit your fire to get started in the restaurant business?

"I grew up in Manhattan, and I wanted money in my pocket. In order to have a five-dollar bill in my pocket at all times, I needed a job. When I was thirteen years old the only place that would hire me was a restaurant. So luckily, I kind of just fell into it. But very quickly thereafter I found out that I was more passionate about people, hospitality and food than anything else. And, really, my passion resides in people. The best way to feed that passion is to surround myself with people all the time. So, that’s ultimately what I set out to do. I followed my passion, followed my dream, and ended up really creating a life beyond my wildest dreams through luck and hard work.

Without the people, the food doesn’t matter. It’s really a people business, internally and externally. You can have amazing food, but without the right people behind it or serving it, it doesn’t resonate. My real pride and passion is in the people that work with me. I put them before everyone and anyone, outside of my wife and my son. If you put all your blood, sweat and tears into your staff and into your people, that makes everything work like a well-oiled machine. Everything else will fall into place. The people are the most important piece of the business.

I break it down like this … If you have a retail concept, like a clothing store, a guest walks in the door, and you have one or two people walking around the floor trying to sell product. You have one or two cashiers. In the restaurant business, somebody walks through the door and there’s a host at the door. There’s a manager on the floor, there’s a bartender, there are five servers, four bussers, somebody at the take-out station, six cooks in the kitchen, five cooks out there prepping. So, that same sixty-dollar transaction which needs about four people in a retail store, needs about sixteen to eighteen people in a restaurant. You have to understand the amount of people that it takes for the same sixty-dollar transaction is huge.

Being able to keep all those people happy and excited and pumped to work is a full-time job. I love it. That’s the part that I love most. The instant gratification is truly incredible if you do the right thing. Every day is a new battle, a new challenge. You have a lot of people that are doing different jobs. Everybody has a protocol. If everybody works well and does what they’re supposed to do, you win. It’s just an incredible business."

You can listen to the entire conversation with Michael as well as interviews we've done with dozens of other successful restaurant owners here on our iTunes podcast.

Wil

"Have an intentional life"

Nov 18, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Angela Salamanca owns Centro in Raleigh, N.C. During her interview for our podcast, this exchange stuck out to me...

What is it you hope that people who area a part of the Centro team take with them?

To not be afraid. To take what’s there and run with it. To honor your talents. To learn how to work as a team and realize that there’s really a lot of power in letting other people be part of your dream, or be part of this journey. How to be intentional every day when it comes to the shift, when it comes to your relationships, when it comes to everything. Just how to be intentional about who you are in the world, or who you are through your team, or who you are for your family. Because it makes a difference. Everything that you do and everything that you say to anybody in the world makes a difference. Sometimes that difference can really change their lives. It could be something little or it could be something huge. Make sure that the difference that you’re making is a real difference, where you can move somebody into action so they can do whatever it is that they want to do like moving to another country or pursuing a different career or really taking on the possibility of recreating family and relationships. Have an intentional life. I feel like that’s what’s made the biggest difference in the way that we work.

Angela is a very passionate woman who inspired me when I interviewed her and who lives the life of intention she hopes her team members will. You can listen to the entire interview here on iTunes.

Wil

Steve Palmer of The Indigo Road Restaurant Group shares his story...

Nov 15, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Here's a fun clip from our new podcast episode with Steve Palmer. You can listen to the entire interview here on iTunes.

What are the pros and cons of being in such a competitive market like Charleston?


It’s forcing us to think more creatively. I’m paying a lot of attention to the twenty-eight to thirty year olds that are opening their own restaurants. I looked at Jeremiah Bacon, who’s our chef-partner in two restaurants and is my age, and said, “Listen, in two or three years we’re not the ones that need to be coming up with the creative ideas. We’re just not. We need to be listening to the generation behind us.” I’m paying a lot of attention to the young kids that are opening restaurants much earlier than my generation. I was forty before I was a partner in my first restaurant. Now they’re working two, three, four years in a restaurant and then opening their own. I’m watching them both for what I want to do and what I don’t want to do.

The servants-heart mentality isn’t there as much anymore. That’s a non-negotiable for me. I will never compromise on serving others. When I see these hipster restaurants where you feel like you’re privileged just for them to be serving you, I learn a lot about what I don’t want to do. I think people will tire of that. I think when the cool factor wears off, what you’re going to be left with was how you were treated. And I do believe that’s a phase in our industry. It might be a ten-year phase (laughs), but I do believe it’s a phase. We just opened O-ku in Charlotte and it’s very, very busy, and people are, over and over again, talking about the service, the service, the service. I’m starting to see where people are starting to go, “Hey, we want to be treated nice again.” I don’t care if the chef has a bunch of tattoos and they’re playing rap music while I’m eating. Yeah, the space is cool and it’s packed and everybody wants a beer, but I want to at least feel like the people are glad I’m there.

On the other side of that, I see a lot of very creative ideas and things that I wouldn’t have thought of. It’s fun to watch. There’s something to be learned, concepts that five, six, seven, eight years ago, people would not have resonated with. There’s a restaurant here called Xiao Bao Biscuit. It’s an Asian restaurant that was opened in a gas station. The chef is American and his wife is from Vietnam and they opened this small plate Asian place. They’re in a huge spread in Bon Appétit Magazine this month. From a cuisine point-of-view, the lines have gotten really blurred. There are people that are opening Southern restaurants and they’ve got kimchi on the menu. There’s this blurring of the lines, and the food press seems to love those kinds of places.

It’s a very interesting time in our business. But good service is timeless. I think people will come back for it over and over again. It’s what makes people feel good. And I don’t think that’s going to go out of style. I hope it doesn’t.

Our lack of marketing is our marketing

Oct 14, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
In the past, we tried many of the sales/marketing tactics you really should do as a new (or established) business. Things like trade shows, email campaigns, partnerships, cold sales calls, warm sales calls, flying on planes for in person meetings etc. They all work to some degree and as we were told - if we keep doing them over and over and over - our success rate will increase. And I am sure that’s true. The problem for us was we just didn’t like any of them and we were not interested in hiring people who did. Since we’ve never had any outside investors - we've never been on anyone else’s schedule and therefore could grow at any pace we wished.

Looking back - especially at the last 5 years - our marketing has been defined mostly by our lack of traditional marketing. Keeping our product simple and consistent over the years is our marketing. Treating our customers like we treat our friends is our marketing. Being very easy to do business with is our marketing. And creating content that aims to help the industry we serve is our marketing.

It's not unlike that killer family-owned Italian restaurant (with a focused one page menu) in your city that you just heard about from a friend - even though it's been there for over 10 years. So you go and you say “Why in the world have I not heard about this restaurant?”. And after it took an hour to get a table on a Tuesday at 6:00pm and after your solid meal and service, your so pleasantly surprised and stoked that you consider calling the owner over to suggest some marketing ideas you have to bring in more customers. But you look around at all the standing and seated smiling faces and realize that the lack of marketing and the consistency of the food and service over the years has created this successful business. You realize that their lack of marketing is part of their secret sauce. And speaking of secret - and the 1hr wait on a Tuesday - you now consider maybe not telling anyone about it! But you head home so delighted that you send a text message to your Mom and a few other close friends that you know would love to be customers too.

Wes

The Barkeep (new video)

Oct 6, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Jared Chafin is the bar manager at Indaco in Charleston, S.C. He is great at what he does and has tons of passion for his craft, so we feel lucky to have had the chance to make this video about him. Enjoy...


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Marilyn Schlossbach, a member of the Schedulefly community, shares her story

Sep 27, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Marilyn Schlossbach owns restaurants in Asbury Park, NJ. She is a self-taught chef, a passionate woman who devotes herself fully to her family, her business, and her community, and a creative person who works hard and inspires everybody around her. Here's her story. Don't miss this one...



All of our Restaurant Owners Uncorked podcast episodes are available here on iTunes.

Travis Todd, member of the Schedulefly community, shares the story of Ocean Odyssey

Sep 20, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Travis Todd's grandparents started a small crab factory in 1947 to produce some of the finest Blue Crab meet on the eastern shore. Nearly 70 years later, the business has evolved into a beloved destination restaurant run by third generation family members. Travis Todd grew up around the family business and has been a part of it for most of his life. My opinion from listening to Travis talk about a lifetime spent in the business is that he's a down-to-earth, hard worker who is a great leader for his team and has a genuine passion for his family's business. This interview was both fun and inspiring for me. I hope you'll take time to enjoy it...


Why we never ever want to be a big company

Sep 14, 2016 | Schedulefly Crew
Because the experience of being a customer almost always sucks.

Somewhere along the way - the people who started the company got so wrapped up in the ever-growing complication of running the company that they stopped caring (or somehow no longer know) about the experience their paying customers are actually having. What’s ironic is that it’s usually the long time loyal customers who get treated the lousiest. The people and businesses who are not yet customers get the most attention and are usually offered specials and deals and discounts to come on in. Come on in and join this miserable world where we over promise and under deliver. What’s also ironic is the people themselves - the actual employees and owners of this big company - are good people and they are also people who get treated lousy as customers of other big companies. As much as they wish they could make a difference at their own company - they can’t. The have to follow procedures and guidelines that have been created over the years because of the sheer size of the business and the complication that comes with running it. They have to treat all customers exactly the same - regardless of that customer’s situation or need or issue. The system is too big now and it’s too late.

We’ve all been frustrated with these companies to the point of wanting to find a better solution. The problem is switching to another company takes energy, money and time. It's pain to switch. So generally we stay - not because of some contract we can't break - but just because it’s a pain to leave. I don’t know how the owners of the companies sleep at night - especially if they go out and read what people say about their company on the internet. That would do me in.

So we choose to run our business the way we do because we just don't want it to suck. There are just 5 of us here at Schedulefly and it’s been just us 5 for years - even after adding 1000’s of customers together. We are all owners and we all help people in some way in this business. We try and keep it very friendly and helpful and irritation free for people to do business with us. We never ever want to be a part of a company that loses the ability to do this and loses sight of how a customer gets treated. Contrary to most big companies - we care about our paying customers more than anyone else. Of course we still want to grow and welcome (the right) new customers with open arms - but we have to do it in a way that doesn’t send us down the path of becoming a company where it's no fun to be a customer.

And bringing on the right customer brings me to my last thought on this topic. We often have to say no to people to keep Schedulefly enjoyable for both ourselves and our current customers. We have to say no to adding things that we don’t offer - even though it could be easy to do so. It’s very very difficult to say no when it could mean more growth and more revenue - but it’s critically important. Businesses don’t say no enough. For us - unless it makes sense for everyone whose already here - it’s a no. If we said yes all the time - I guarantee the 5 of us would be looking for more help and more employees and eventually all of us (as well as all of our customers) would be looking for a better life else where.

Wes