Food Costs Down

By George Popson | May 01, 2007

La Madeleine Bakery, Cafe & Bistro is part of the quick casual segment of the food service industry, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner with a French flair. The chain opened its first restaurant in 1983 in Dallas, Texas and now operates 63 units nation wide. The company's bakeries are its livelihood, so providing them with the right tools is a necessity to excel.
In the past, la Madeline depended highly on spreadsheets and legacy software to manage its distribution centers; however these tasks proved to be extremely tedious and time consuming. The company was challenged with error-prone manual procedures and a lack of consistency across locations.

Management decided that automation was the best answer and turned to Instill Corp. ( to increase operational efficiencies and reduce food costs. Through Instill's procurement solution, la Madeline's units are now able to automate the order guide management, routing and confirmation process to and from distribution centers, for both broadline and specialty products. A particularly useful function of the solution is its ability to create automatic orders and enable unit managers to review and compare orders with their actual food inventory. Electronic ordering has reduced double entry errors, misplaced faxes and miscommunication incidents and has allowed the bakeries to get a better idea of product use, sales and future projections.

Order routing
Once the unit manager has submitted and order, Instill's procurement solution routes the order to the appropriate distributor and returns a confirmation validating the product availability and delivery date. Information from the order and delivery confirmations are automatically linked from the food cost system to the accounts payable system to process payments. The time savings for unit managers has allowed them to spend more time with customers as opposed to performing inventory management and purchasing routines.

Some of the main benefits realized through this faster, more simplified procurement process include enhanced unit compliance with order guides, improved understanding of food products purchased by each unit, improved inventory accuracy, better food quality and consistency across the brands, and fewer disputed invoices with the distributor. With the improved system, la Madeline experiences less waste and less inventory on hand. The company has accomplished its goals to reduce food costs and is on its way to accomplishing many more.

George Popson is senior director of information systems at la Madeleine Bakery & Cafe

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