When Jacqui Graham decided to take over popular Italian restaurant Fedele’s in Melbourne’s south-east, she knew she had some work ahead of her. It wasn’t a typical restaurant takeover, however. Fedele’s was not a flailing business that had to change hands because it wasn’t working. The Italian hot spot was a neighbourhood institution, favoured by locals for providing a fine-dining experience as well as corporate and family function services. It had a loyal customer base and served good-quality food.
Instead, the challenge Jacqui found herself facing was how to take this really great family-run operation online. Everything had always been done manually, involving lots of paper. With a background in IT, Jacqui knew she could run all the front- and back-of-house services more efficiently to reduce the manual burden on her management team and cut waste. We recently caught up with Jacqui to find out a bit about how she managed to take this 30-year-old dynasty into the cloud.
Tell us a bit about Fedele’s and what makes you unique.
Fedele’s is an institution in Glen Waverley. It’s frequented by customers throughout Melbourne’s south-east and has been around as long as I can remember. It has always been owned by families passionate about hospitality. I’m just the third owner in 30 years, so it’s been a good business for a while.
We like to think of ourselves as a place where people can make memories. And they do — we host everything from birthdays and family gatherings to weddings, functions and work conferences. Our clientele is quite diverse, but we also have our loyal regulars. There is one couple that has been coming here for date night every week for almost 20 years. That’s who we are. A place that helps our customers make great memories with good food!
What sort of challenges did you face when first taking over the restaurant?
When I first took over the business the biggest challenge I faced was changing all the operating systems. Fedele’s has always been a traditional, family-run Italian restaurant and everything was manual — from taking bookings and ordering to invoicing and tracking turnover. Manual systems are a big burden to a business’ back end. They are harder for staff and create a big time cost for my management team, who are the ones chasing deposits, tracking inventory and counting takings each day.
I have worked in IT for most of my career and know the benefits of using digital tools and bringing a business into the cloud. So that’s what I started doing at Fedele’s — and we haven’t looked back, we’ve only innovated forward!
What are some of the business tools that you started using?
Most recently we started using Square for Restaurants as our point-of-sale (POS) system. It’s a POS specifically for restaurants, so it enables us to take orders, map tables, fire different courses from the kitchen, split bills and take payments — all from one device.
We also integrated the Square system with our MYOB accounting software. This functionality is important for me as it means our sales data is automatically picked up by our accountant and there’s no double-handling or recounting. We also use Cooking the Books for food-cost management and ordering, Dimmi for online bookings and Tanda for staff rostering and timesheets.
What are some of the benefits of running your business on cloud-based systems?
The biggest benefit of a cloud-based POS for me is that I can monitor everything that’s happening in the restaurant, including staff and sales, straight from my computer or an app on my phone. I no longer have to be physically present in the restaurant to keep an eye on things.
Digital tools are also more efficient for my staff to deal with and less mistakes are made when it comes to taking orders, firing courses and counting takings at the end of the day. I love that the business is also producing less waste now by being paperless. Our booking, rostering, inventory and ordering is all done digitally. We can even send customers e-receipts straight to their phone or email with Square!
What does the future look like for Fedele’s?
We’ve come leaps and bounds this year and I don’t think that will stop. We will continue to innovate and leverage technology as it becomes available to us to ensure we continually improve efficiencies within our operations. These improvements should translate to a better experience for our customers, who are our number one focus.
Moving forward we want to ensure that we maintain Fedele’s mission — to be a place for friends, family and colleagues to come together and enjoy flavoursome, hearty Italian cuisine. They are at the heart of every decision we make. While we improve our efficiencies, we never want our customers to feel rushed or unwelcome. They should enjoy coming here, like they’re coming home.
What is the one piece of advice you would give to another entrepreneur looking to go into the restaurant business?
For me it’s all about numbers. Make sure you know exactly what you’re getting into and how much funding you’ll need for overheads, labour and food. Leverage technology wherever you can — there are so many cloud-based systems that can integrate and work seamlessly together from the outset. Technology also provides you with the ability to monitor your business income and expenses in real time, which is super important. Your ability to affect change before negative impact will be your saving grace.
Finally, know who you’re serving and make sure you never lose sight of them. If you look after your customers and your team, the rest should sort itself out.
And don’t forget to have fun!