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We’ve had our fair share of technology issues in our 80-year history. In the early 1980s, we had an optical scanning system. The technology scanned restaurant orders from a special sheet of paper by recognizing the presence of a pencil mark made by employees, not too different from the Scantron system many colleges use to score tests.
But we had issues processing orders. If there was even a spot of grease on the paper, the scanning technology would not be able to read the order requests.
“That technology was not the wave of the future,” says Michael Weber, vice president of Weber’s. “It ended up flopping. It was a disaster.”
We’ve been operating since before digital computers were invented. Weber’s originally tracked purchases and inventory by hand.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to pay attention to different technology trends and how people want to spend their money,” Weber said. “It will put your business ahead of others. Whenever you’re dealing with new technology, you want to try to see into the future and go with what will still be relevant in 10 years,” said Weber.
The point-of-sale and accounting software also had to be upgraded to be compatible with Weber’s new server. The point-of-sale upgrade included technology that makes it easier to change menu items and monitor guest requests.
For this project, we went with the same company, Micros, it has used since 1982. Weber’s purchased an electronic cash register from the Maryland-based company shortly after the optical scanning technology system failed.
“At the time, Micros was a small company and hungry to do business with us,” said Weber. “We chose to stay with Micros because we have a history.” Micros also rebuilt Weber’s database so it would work with new software. Weber’s General Manager John Staples had created the original database more than 20 years ago and was not eager to rebuild it from scratch.
When it came time to upgrade the accounting software and customer loyalty programs, Staples and Weber asked its point-of-sale and property management vendors for recommendations.
“We needed companies that would work with the other vendors that we have,” said Weber.
The vendors came back with a list, which Weber researched by searching for reviews online. “It’s amazing what you could find when you research companies on your own that way,” said Weber.
Weber organized a meeting with the accounting vendor, London-based SunAccounts. He likes that the company was willing to customize its software to work with Weber’s system. It also would train Weber’s accounting department on how to use it.
“The upgrade is the easy part. The difficult part is training,” Weber said.
Weber said that when it comes to technology, it’s not unusual to need extra time to work out some kinks. Even though Weber and Staples held the monthly meetings, the updates still ended up coming down to the last minute.
“Everything always takes longer than you think it will,” said Weber. “We gave them the extra time to end up with a better product when we went live.”
Weber said the process went smoother because all of the vendors worked together.
“It’s important to find companies who are willing to work with you and understand your company and what you’re trying to accomplish,” said Weber. “It allows more time to focus on the business and your customers.”
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Excerpted from Crain’s Detroit