“How automated our restaurants are is crazy. I’ve never seen any business—even big chains—as automated as us,” says Chris Cole. And he should know. The Founder and President of Güd Eats has more than 20 years of experience in the restaurant industry, including years of restaurant management before starting Güd Eats as a food truck back in the spring of 2017. A permanent location in Saskatoon followed almost immediately, and after a pandemic-forced delay, a Regina location opened at the end of April 2020.
They’ve found a delicious niche. In the last three years, Güd Eats has attracted a dedicated fan base by serving “craveworthy plant-based eats,” using the human affinity for crispy, salty, messy, tasty things to show customers how diverse plant-based food can be. Their products are consistent, fresh, high-quality, and incredibly satisfying. They bring big, balanced flavours to all of their menu items, and they’re always experimenting with new options.
Their unique take on fast(ish) food attracted the interest of Leo’s Group, which acquired the brand in November 2019. With the greater resources of the Regina-based hospitality management company behind them, there are even bigger things ahead for Güd Eats.
And according to Chris, it would be impossible to run the business the way they do without reliable internet access.
Connectivity is Everything
How does internet and tech affect the actual business of preparing and serving food?
“We’re running two SaskTel internet accounts per location, because we use that much Wi-Fi,” Chris says, and pauses to count before continuing.
“The Regina location has eight iPads, and the Saskatoon location has nine running constantly. We’ve got one running Skip the Dishes. One for Uber Eats, and one for Door Dash. There’s a punch system in the back, and we use iPads as point-of-sale in both locations. And then the kitchen has the exact same so they can see delivery times and see when the drivers are coming so they can time food properly.”
When customers order through delivery apps, the receipts go directly to the kitchen, by-passing the front-of-house to get orders cooking faster. It’s a model that surprisingly few restaurants use, but it makes sense to Chris and his team. The kitchen is incredibly self-sufficient, and the automation allows them to prioritize orders to keep output on track and ultimately make customers happy.
Making Life Easy for Employees
Tech-based solutions and simplifications are part of pretty much every step of the business’s workday, starting with scheduling. Güd Eats uses restaurant scheduling software from Saskatoon-based 7shifts to simplify the complicated art of staffing.
“Even into 2013 and 2014, we were still writing out schedules. It just seems funny to me now that it’s so easy,” Chris muses. “It’s easy to give up shifts and bid shifts and move them around. Communication is key to running businesses now. You will not survive if you don’t have communication.”
And to make that communication easier, forget about texting everyone individually to share information. The team of 24 dedicated individuals use Workplace from Facebook, a smartphone app designed to make team communication easy and streamlined.
“We’ve adopted a lot of really easy communication tools. Within Workplace we have community chats and management team chatboards. Our day-to-day communication is pretty efficient.”
No Coins, Please
Güd Eats is now a 100% cashless business. It was something they’d been considering for a while, and COVID-19 made the decision that much easier. Cashless payment makes cashouts faster and more efficient, eliminates the need to keep a float on hand, and makes reconciling receipts much easier.
Even tip-out is automated.
“We use a company called Today Cash. All our tips go into the bank account, then everyone on our teams splits the tip-out pool equally. We give everyone a MasterCard and load their MasterCards up so they can use it for everyday spending.”
When tips are distributed, an email goes out to staff letting them know that funds are available. From there, employees can move the money to a bank account if they want or spend it directly from the card.
The Impact of Online Ordering
It’s no surprise that online ordering is a big part of their business model, too—you can find them on Uber Eats, Skip the Dishes, and Door Dash, as well as placing an order on their website. While the volume of online ordering has certainly increased because of lockdown and social distancing requirements, those options have always been part of their operations.
Online ordering and curbside pickup played a huge part in the initial launch of the Regina location. While it wasn’t the introduction they had planned, the community responded enthusiastically.
“I thought that opening a restaurant that people are really excited about during a pandemic would be really great for the morale of the community,” Chris says. And he was right. Orders came flooding in—to the point where they couldn’t always keep up with sudden and unpredictable demand. The days were long for everyone on staff, but they were also rewarding.
“Sales have steadied out a little bit now as other restaurants are open and people are starting to go back out. It’s great, because we can schedule and plan based on real sales, instead of honeymoon sales.”
Some things about Güd Eats will never change—like their passion for serving up delicious, memorable vegan meals—but where tech and connectivity is concerned, they’re always looking for new ways to move forward.
Food photography by Robyn Chatlain and Harrison Bourdon.
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