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The first family of DC dining
Few restaurants in Washington, DC can claim as eminent a history or reputation as the Old Ebbitt Grill. An icon in a city of boldface names, the upscale restaurant serves modern American cuisine, with an emphasis on fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. It is part of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group (CRG), which operates 12 restaurants and two music venues, each focused on delivering comfortable, high-quality dining in a polished-casual environment. The group is a powerhouse among independent restaurants: the Ebbitt ranks as the #5 largest independent restaurant in the US, with gross sales of $34 million in 2018, and its sister property, The Hamilton, is not far behind at sixteenth, with gross sales of $23 million (Restaurant Business Magazine).
Where do you go from here?
Keeping on top and delivering a superb customer experience means constantly innovating. On the operations side, CRG uses MarginEdge’s restaurant management platform to streamline back of house operations, including cost tracking, POS reporting, digital inventory management, centralized ordering and automated invoice processing.
“With MarginEdge, we now have a system running on tablets that shows ingredients, procedures and pictures – it‘s easily navigated, searchable, and sharable across locations.”
Clyde’s Corporate Executive Chef, Stephen Lyons, wanted to use MarginEdge’s recipe management features to build on the value of its revered menu. Since joining the restaurant group in 2018, Stephen had been considering how to manage an extensive, seasonally responsive menu of more than 500 recipes, share many of them across locations and train staff to consistently prepare dishes, new and old. As an indication of the significance of the task, in 2018, the Ebbitt alone served 1.5 million meals, the most of any independent restaurant in the country. Recipe management was a daunting challenge at CRG, and just as important as efficiencies with the back office.
And given its size and volume, The Old Ebbitt Grill was the perfect place to begin.
Consistency on the line
At Clyde’s, menus change frequently, so keeping everyone in the loop is notoriously difficult.
Before MarginEdge, everything was on paper, with predictable challenges. “When I started, the kitchen was old school – paper recipes in folders or binders. They’d get taken out and get lost, or something would be changed and wasn’t replaced in each binder,” Stephen explains, “It was difficult to keep updated.”
Stephen wanted to collect recipes in one place, update them centrally and send changes to other restaurants in the group. MarginEdge offered the solution, “With MarginEdge, we now have a system running on Kindles that shows ingredients, procedures and pictures – it‘s easily navigated, searchable, and sharable across locations.”
When Stephen needs to adjust a recipe, he makes the change in one place and pushes it out to the kitchen immediately: “We use mobile tablets making it easier for everyone to use the recipes. The presentation picture is the first thing someone sees as they step up to the station.”
Creating menus, no guessing
A changing, seasonal menu is the creative side of the job for Stephen. In the past, he would use spreadsheets to build a new recipe. Now, with MarginEdge, costing and measurements are much simpler. Stephen explains, “At Clyde’s, we do everything in grams. I love that in MarginEdge, once you do a conversion for an ingredient from volume to weight, the system will make conversions for you on new vendor items even with new packaging.”
Other daily tasks have become less complicated as well. “Scaling is so easy. I used to have to pull out a phone and calculator if I wanted to make changes on the fly,” he says, “Now, it’s so simple to scale recipes for larger portions or scale down for sharing.”
“To stay on top means focusing on consistently prepared and delivered food. We have to be confident that every plate that leaves the kitchen will be the same every time, for every diner.”
Reactions to the new system
At first, Stephen wasn’t sure how quickly staff would adapt to the new system, so he tapped Food and Beverage Assistant Jayme Kaniewski to help roll out the technology and get buy-in from everyone. The strategy worked, and the transition has been positive: “After a few months, the team can’t live without it,” Stephen comments, “Line cooks are more engaged in the process and have pride in consistently making recipes and ensuring quality.”
Overall, MarginEdge has exceeded expectations. “To stay on top means focusing on consistently prepared and delivered food,” Stephen says, “We have to be confident that every plate that leaves the kitchen will be the same every time, for every diner. Using MarginEdge has made our kitchens better. Our chefs have been given a tool that delivers far more direct control over quality, consistency and costing.”