Learn how Stay Golden, a two-location restaurant, bar, and coffee shop in Nashville…
In 2015, Jamie Cunningham, Sean Stewart and Nathaneal Mehrens opened their first coffee shop together, but two years later they were transitioning out of the business.
“We obviously learned a ton about what it takes to be a business owner—it was a great success,” Cunningham said. “However, due to some issues with a financial partner, we transitioned out of the business in 2017. It was traumatic, but morally, it was the right thing to do.”
Cunningham and his business partners knew exactly how they wanted to run a business, but took time to lick their wounds before their next adventure.
“The big thing for us is, at least here in Nashville, a lot of times if you go to a place that serves great breakfast and you compromise the quality of coffee that you drink,” Cunningham, Stay Golden’s Director of Operations, says. “If you want a really great cup of coffee, you’re usually at a specialty coffee shop where food is an afterthought. For us, we wanted to open a space that filled both gaps.”
With the goal of providing great food and great coffee to the people of Nashville, Stay Golden Restaurant & Roastery was born, now spanning two locations in the trendy southern city.
Stay Golden’s first 5,500 sq. ft. location opened in August of 2018 and the second 2,800 sq. ft. location opened in December of 2018. The flagship restaurant includes a coffee roastery and training lab, where customers can watch roasters prepare coffee beans to be bagged and shipped.
“Four hundred restaurants have opened in Nashville in the last two years. We’re seeing old staples—businesses that have been around for 30 years—close every month simply because there are so many new restaurants now,” Cunningham explains. “A lot of those new businesses are hospitality groups coming in from much larger cities like New York, San Francisco, and Chicago. The way they’ve gotten good employees when they don’t know anybody is to just come in and offer more money. It’s created a negative unemployment situation, particularly in back-of-house in Nashville.”
With the threat of back-of-house employees walking out in the middle of a shift for a dollar more per hour at another restaurant, Cunningham knew that Stay Golden would have to take steps to ensure employee retainment.
“We have unprecedented benefits in our industry. Our full-time employees have full health benefits, dental, vision. We pay for 80% of that. They have PTO that accumulates every day that they’re working. They have sick days,” he says. “And that’s just scratching the surface of what we offer employees.”
With restaurants scrambling to find the right business model in a time of high employee turnover, Cunningham set out to find what he thought was the best POS solution for Stay Golden. “A lot of businesses in Nashville have become fast-casual operations; and there’s nothing wrong with fast casual, it’s just not our style,” he says.
“I had employees who were so stressed out by the old POS’s lack of functionality that they quit.” – Jamie Cunningham, Director of Operations at Stay Golden
Instead of turning Stay Golden into a fast-casual concept, he attempted to maximize his staff by using a restaurant point of sale built for fast casual operations. After implementing a system that included iPads at every table where guests could order another drink or an extra dessert, Cunningham felt he could better spend his money on attracting fewer servers with more experience. However, the system backfired after both employees and customers became frustrated with the POS.
“Nashville didn’t care for it. Customers felt like we were trying to replace people, which, of course, we weren’t,” he says. “I had employees who were so stressed out by the old POS’s lack of functionality that they quit.”
In order to stay ahead of the rapid growth of restaurants in Nashville and high employee turnover, he knew he needed a restaurant point of sale system that would help him retain employees, not drive them away. “We knew that we had to get a different system,” he says. “We started looking for a solution, and Upserve was a great one.”
Because of Upserve’s versatility and tableside mobile ordering solution, Cunningham knew he finally found the right fit. However, he had a team at Stay Golden that was less than enthusiastic about “new” POS systems.
“I think the first reaction was that everybody knew they wanted a new system; but then, when it came time to actually implementing it, they didn’t trust that it would work,” he says. “There was definitely some stress how hard it would be to relearn. Later, employees who walked into their first shift with the system uneasy and afraid that it wasn’t gonna work, within an hour and a half said: ‘This system is so fast, it does what we want, and it was really intuitive.’”
Cunningham chose Upserve because it checked several boxes beyond just an intuitive, easy-to-use POS.
“Upserve’s online ordering and loyalty were really, really big factors. Obviously, there’s a number of ways to get online ordering and loyalty, but usually you have to go to a third party and give up somewhere between 12 and 30 percent of the sale,” he explains. “There’s some kind of marketing fee or SaaS agreement. All this stuff adds up to it actually not being a benefit to the business at all. We really wanted to have a system that implemented those things and didn’t cost us an arm and a leg.”
Now Cunningham and his staff can also see labor versus sales in real time. “We make decisions based on what we’re actually seeing versus doing the math in our heads,” he says. “It provides us with a great way to educate our shift leaders. We can establish some safeguards and some rules of thumb, like ‘If you haven’t made this much money by this time, cut somebody.’ We’re definitely enjoying those features.”
By implementing a POS that helps the staff at Stay Golden work efficiently, smoother service results in a more delightful experience for guests.
“We’ve seen table turn speed drop about 15 minutes, and covers increase about 25 percent,” Cunningham says. “The team is spending less time with a difficult POS and spending more time serving guests quickly and upselling dessert.”
“The support I’ve received with Upserve has been unprecedented.” – Jamie Cunningham, Director of Operations at Stay Golden
With a fully integrated restaurant management system, Cunningham spends more time streamlining operations at Stay Golden.
“I realized quickly that our menu items were good, they were priced right, but people weren’t buying a lot of them because of the way that we had designed our menu,” says Cunningham. Using Upserve’s Menu Intelligence, he was able to tweak the menu and then talk to design experts, resulting in a fully redesigned menu. “It took less than one day of it being in use for us to see some really practical, amazing benefits from just a simple menu redesign,” he says. “We saw people buying things that they weren’t before. It made our guests happier, they were trying new things. Our kitchen was happier. We were wasting less. For a long time, me or my partners didn’t have the capacity to just dive in and figure out what was wrong. Upserve’s Menu tools gave us massive benefits across the board. ”
While Cunningham cites new challenges every day in his Director of Operations role, support from the team at Upserve is what makes a work-life balance possible.
“The support I’ve received with Upserve has been unprecedented, to be honest. It’s been amazing for me to be able to look at my general manager or my shift leaders and say: If you have a question about this system, and I’m not here, literally just tap with Chat with Us button, and you will get an answer within seconds,’” he says. “That’s huge for me as a business owner. It means that I might actually get a day off!”
Safe from the threat of employees leaving Stay Golden over a difficult POS or competitor poaching, Cunningham is grateful for a system that empowers his team on the floor and behind the scenes.
“Upserve provides really great features that make life for a business owner or a restaurant manager easier than any other system that I’ve come in contact with. I’ve used Micros. I’ve used Restaurant Manager. I’ve used Square. I’ve used a lot of these major systems, and this one’s just the best I’ve ever seen,” he says. “To me, a POS system should make your business better, but it should also essentially be unseen. It should never be a reason why a guest doesn’t come to your business or why an employee doesn’t stay with your business.”
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