From XU Magazine, 
Issue 16

Hospitable cloud

Case study: how a rural tearoom has embraced cloud tech to effectively manage the business

A tearoom in the rural village on the North Devon coast wouldn’t be everyone’s natural assumption for the use of cloud tech, but Paula Byers offers a case study on how their integrated cloud solution of Xero, Kounta, iZettle & Deputy enables them to cope with the influx of tourists and their doubled capacity when their garden is open...

Market Street Kitchen is a small but busy tearoom in the little fishing village of Appledore.  Sole trade owner, Josie, bought the business in December 2016.  Josie took the plunge to move out of London, purchasing this hospitality business in an area that she had visited on holiday frequently as a child.

Establishing roots in the community from the outset was important to her, to prove to the locals that this ‘incomer’ was here to stay. “Moving from city to village life was a big leap into the unknown. I hadn’t run my own business before or lived outside London so it’s fair to say everything was new and scary. I had big plans for the business though, including menu changes, rebranding and refurbishment. I can’t imagine not living and running my business here now, but if you’d said 5 years ago this is what I’d be doing I would have laughed at you! Change can certainly make or break you.” comments Josie.

Tech was key

Having worked as COO of a digital charity relaunching the largest digital platform for volunteering opportunities, and with a social enterprise supporting the next generation of women into STEM, taking up the challenge of owning a tearoom meant that tech was always on the agenda for Josie.

Xero was a natural fit for the bookkeeping and we initially added Kounta, a specialist hospitality cloud point of sale app, with iZettle to manage the in person card payments, and adding Deputy later for staff management, offering a fully integrated system for single point data entry.  From our early discussions with Josie, it was clear that she was keen to embrace the latest and most efficient cloud tools to manage her new business.

That said, there were a number of other factors to consider, and resolve, before she could fully embrace the cloud

The challenges

  1. Broadband connectivity – this was essential to resolve at the outset, and something I approach with caution in a rural area.  However, a little research confirmed we were able to solve this relatively easily with an upgraded service to the property.
  2. Staff acceptance – with a diverse age range in staff, from college students to retirees, this could have been a tricky issue.  Josie approached it with confidence; talking with the staff prior to the implementation, explaining that full training would be given and supporting them after the implementation.  I believe the attitude of management embracing adoption of cloud tools from the outset is absolutely key to how staff see such a fundamental change.
  3. Upskilling herself – purchasing a business in an industry in which you have no prior experience is challenging enough; learning new tech on top of that adds to the pressure you are under as a new business owner.  Whilst Josie was fully IT literate, learning the tools to manage the business would still take time out of her busy week when she was already learning the ropes in a new industry.  Fortunately, she had a good core team around her and, utilising the support of us as cloud integrators to set up and configure her system along with providing training, has worked well.

Not all plain sailing

Initially, getting everything in place from the start was relatively easy.  The business operates 7 days a week so, as the purchase takeover was midday of normal trading, iZettle was setup for card sales with the first afternoon sales continuing to be collated manually to ensure no interruption to customers during a busy lunch service.  With the setup and configuration of the cloud tools completed off-site in advance, hardware was installed on-site and staff completed an hour-long training session prior to opening the next day.

So, whilst everything looked to be up and running, the hard work then began behind the scenes bringing Josie up to speed on business and bookkeeping management.  Along with menu development, rebranding and complete refurbishment of the premises, Josie certainly had a lot to do.  This meant that some things were slower than others, and getting a little behind with the paperwork in the first summer didn’t help when footfall increased for the tourist season and she underestimated just how busy she would be.

Feeling in control

However, getting on top of the paperwork to fully understand business expenses and cost out menus has been key to making it profitable.  Forward investment is dependent on having access to financial reports in Xero, and the ability to drill down into sales information in Kounta has been vital to understand at a granular level which menu items work and hourly sales.

The addition of Deputy last year for staff scheduling enabled more efficient control of rotas.  This also offers the opportunity for staff to manage their shifts, with sickness absence notified and covered through the app and holiday management.

‘Cloud-based apps are now just part of our day-to-day business.” says Josie. “At first I thought too much tech would be a barrier for staff and customers, so I implemented things slowly; I was concerned it would take away from the ‘country tearoom’ appeal.  But after getting confident at taking orders at tables with iPads, it’s now a talking point and means we can spend more time with customers, not running back and forth with bits of paper.  Adoption was quick and staff were up for learning new approaches.  I now have all the data I could possibly need to move forward with the business.”

A note for accommodation providers

Whilst not relevant to Market Street Kitchen as they don’t take overnight guests, Preno can be added to this app stack for accommodation bookings.  The beauty of this is that food and drink sales can be easily transferred to room bookings to be checked out together at the end of guest stays.

Ongoing process of review

The upgrade from Kounta’s Xero integration this year and their additional functionality offers further opportunities to streamline the business.  Integrated payroll processing is an option in the future too.

Josie looks so at home at Market Street Kitchen, it is hard to imagine she was anywhere else.  We are pleased to say it has been transformed compared to when she took over.  Her passion for using local produce to develop an imaginative menu of core favourites and ever changing specials makes a difference.  Oh, and we couldn’t finish without mentioning the amazing cake selection – if you ever find yourself in the area, we can vouch that it’s well worth a visit.  Heaven in Devon

Why leave it there?

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