Times are tough for the independent pizza shops in small-town America.
“You don’t see many independents anymore,” says Todd Sichelstiel, of My Father’s Place. “I think we’re the last one in town. We’ve got the chain guys, but the independent ones have all closed down.”
“I should have installed a POS earlier,” the veteran owner/operator admits.
At the beginning, Todd was reluctant to buy a computer. His staff had been urging him to get a POS, but computers just weren’t his thing. “I don’t understand computers,” Todd confesses. “I’m one step above idiot when it comes to technology. I would rather just have gone on with pen and paper. In fact, when I started shopping, I was looking for reasons why I shouldn’t buy a POS.”
To Buy or not to Buy?
Doing an online demo with a SpeedLine rep helped Todd understand the benefits of a POS system: “My rep explained stuff well,” he recalls.“She just made everything so simple. It was easy to understand.”
Although Todd does not love technology, he has a keen business sense, honed by years of experience in the restaurant industry. When he saw that a POS could help him grow his sales, he overcame his aversion and installed SpeedLine in March 2008.
The proof was in the pudding: “The payments on the loan I took to purchase SpeedLine are less than $400 a month,” Todd says. “I’ve been making an extra $1500 a week, so it’s a drop in the bucket.”
“The way the economy is right now, you’d think it’s odd that my revenues are up,” Todd adds. “But SpeedLine really did boost my sales.”
Mastering the Software
Todd credits his employees for helping him figure out his new point of sale.
“My employees like to use the system and to find out what they can do with it,” Todd says. “Before, if we had someone ask for extra ranch sauce for their wings, we would yell across the kitchen. We would forget to write it up, and it would never get rung up. But now, with the POS, it won’t get to the cook unless it’s entered in the system. And the kids like doing it.” As a Christian businessman, Todd recruits many of his employees from local youth groups. “They’re good kids, always friendly and smiling,” he says. “I have about 35 part-time and 3 or 4 full-time. I have enough of them working for me that I can always work around their schedule if they need time off for the prom, cheerleading, or football practice.”
“My staff enjoy our POS,” Todd adds. “To me, it’s quantum physics, but for these kids it’s 1+1, and they’re teaching me. I know I have a long way to go, because I’m not fully using all the capabilities of the POS yet,” Todd says. “I’ve purchased a major piece of software, and I’m just using the basics. But I am going to grow with it.”
An Entrepreneurial Spirit
It is this willingness to take risks and explore new avenues that brought Todd where he is today. Ever since he entered the restaurant business, he has been seizing opportunities to get ahead.
“I started out doing dishes at 13, using a hot temp machine,” Todd says, “and I worked my way up. As a manager, I got tired of working for other people and looking at everyone else making money. I was working in New York State with some Italians and I thought I could do this myself. So I decided to take it down South.”
After he moved to a small southern town in April 1987, it took Todd a year and a half to secure financing and set up his business: He opened My Father’s Place in October 1988.
The new flavors and dishes Todd brought with him from Rochester, N.Y., took his new home town by storm. “We brought sheet pizza down with us,” Todd recalls, “and it was a big deal. We’re the only ones who sell it in this area. The pizza comes as a sheet with 32 slices. It’s cheap and it feeds a lot of people. It’s great for schools: The teachers get two for a class of 20 and everyone is happy!”
And the sheet pizza wasn’t the only novelty: “When we arrived, people didn’t even know what chicken wings were,” Todd says. “Now, we sell 600 to 700 lbs of wings a week – That’s a lot of wings!”
“When we first opened, we had four cold subs, four hot subs, chicken wings and pizza,” Todd recalls. “I used to have ladies come in here and ask why we couldn’t make a salad when we had lettuce, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and olives for our subs,” Todd says. “Since we had everything, we started throwing salads together.”
Over the years, the menu has expanded to include stromboli, calzones, salads, egg rolls, pasta dishes, desserts, and more. Recently, Todd started selling pre-made frozen pizzas and wings for customers on the go.
But new dishes and a POS are not the only things Todd added to his repertoire. Ever the entrepreneur, he had a Web site built for his business and he started to sell merchandise online, including giftware, clothing, flour, and signature bottled sauces.
“We are in an air force community so a lot of these guys move in and out after a few months or a few years,” Todd explains. “I have sent wing sauce to Germany, Washington, Texas. Today I’m boxing some up to send to Chicago.”
“I thought bottled sauces would do great since so much business is online nowadays, but so far, I haven’t sold enough to retire,” he chuckles.
In addition, Todd makes Wi-Fi Internet access available to his patrons. He is also currently looking into adding an online ordering menu to his Web site and integrating it with his SpeedLine POS.
Not bad for a self-professed technophobe…
“You have to try new stuff,” Todd says matter-of-factly. “These days, I tell people if you don’t have a POS, you’re going to rot on the vine. Especially now. When food and labor were less expensive, it was easier to fake through it. But not anymore. It costs too much to run a business.”