Web Application for Catering Business

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Hello,
I am currently maintaining my catering business on MS Excel;
I maintain the following columns:
1-      Category
2-      Product
3-      Kcal
4-      Element (ingredient)
5-      Measurement (How the ingredient is bought: KG, Pack, Box etc.)
6-      Output (How many end products this element produces)
7-      Cost per element
8-      Total cost
9-      Sale price (per client)
10-      P/L
11-      Orders (by client)
12-      Expenses (Rents, Salaries, and Deliveries etc.)
Are you aware of a simple web based system that can cover this for me?
Not only accounting, I am selling B2B and B2C. I do sandwiches, juices, salads, and parfaits. I want to track the cost of each item and its elements.

I want to sell to each client with different price depending on a criteria I want to maintain.

Be able to follow up with orders placed by clients and print out their invoices and receipts.


Thanks,
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David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
General Logic Considerations

1) First you'll have to determine how you will maintain + present different pricing to different clients.

2) So looks like all your B2C clients will see same pricing + B2B clients all have different pricing.

3) One approach will be for B2C prices to be available for everyone to see (no login). Then if a client desires B2B pricing (which I'm guessing means a discount on volume), they will login to see their unique pricing.

Tip: If your product is good enough, give no discount + also add a fee to orders you deliver.

Tip: I had a friend who ran catering business out of her apartment selling to 600+ clients/week at $125 minimum/order, keeping around 60% of income as profit.

My first suggestion to you is hire someone to walk through your business + ensure your pricing vs. work vs. delivery mechanism is optimized.

There are many ways to approach food services most people rarely consider.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
You can always just setup a simple WordPress site with unique pricing based on login.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
You have a number of things that you are really doing.

1) Tracking Customers

2) Tracking Profit (Cost per element)

3) Products (Category, Product, Output, Notes for ingredients)

4) Sales

5) Reports

5) Expenses

6) Paying vendors

7) Receiving money

8) Preparing for your accountant

9) Payroll

This can get messy with using just a spreadsheet although for starting out was probably easy to get up and running. As you grow that will not be manageable.   As a developer, I would say create a custom program that can use an api for an accounting software. The advantage is every business is different and it is not always easy to fit a pre existing  mold. The downside is that can be expensive.  For what you are doing, I would look to Quikcbooks as what you need is already there.

https://quickbooks.intuit.com/industry/restaurants/
https://community.intuit.com/questions/1636274-is-there-an-option-for-price-level-in-online-version-i-have-different-prices-for-different-customers
https://quickbooks.intuit.com/community/Inventory-and-projects/Use-Advanced-Pricing/m-p/203698

If possible,  use quickbooks online.  Work with presales to set up your needs for variable pricing.  Even if you go with the top tier at $150/month it will be less than doing a custom program.
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Author

Commented:
Dear David,

Commenting on your points respectively:

1.      I am not going to present the prices on a website or a menu. The prices are based on quantities and accounts of course. I sell to coffee shops as a supplier, and I can sell to individuals who order by phone or in future via the website. I will want to setup a different price for each client inside the system.
2.      Answered in (1).
3.      I am asking about the a system that handles my backoffice and not an online website to promote my products. Maybe I can accept if the suggested can be connected to a website for customers to start placing orders, but the subject of my question is a backoffice system.
4.      Products are good enough but the market is not very good, and corporates – who will make the bulk of my business - look at cost before quality. Once I start delivery I will charge for delivery of course.
5.      In my region I cannot work from home. I have to have licenses. I cannot sell to corporates from home. I can sell home to home only.
6.      My partner is a chef, and we are handling this together.
7.      I don’t have a huge capital, so very conservative with spending.
8.      Answered in (1).

Regards,

Author

Commented:
Dear Scott,

1.      I am an IT guy myself with 20 years of programming experience, but as you said it won’t be feasible to develop something from scratch.
2.      I have tried QuickBooks and tried something else called CaterEase. The latter looks more to fit my needs.
3.      I have just started and I don’t have except one client who orders few items a week so that is manageable by excel and that’s why I am in a hurry to set things up before volume increases.
Why don’t you have a look at CaterEase if you haven’t already seen it and let me know what you think? I am kinda confused with a final decision.

Regards,
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
If you break it down perhaps to Accounting needs (Customers, Products, Costs, Sales, Billing, P/L, Payroll, inventory etc) this is where most accounting packages will work.  Where that will probably fail is tracking specific ingredients and quantities needed. That is where I would still use Excel.  

Products like CaterEase are for your front end, managing recipes, events and staff.  As you can see, that does not help with the accounting you need.

You have to decide what your budget will allow.  If your budget is $100/month then you need to choose one. If it were me, I would spend that on quickbooks because managing recipes, quantities and planning what is needed can be done on excel with a little effort and knowledge you already have.  Event scheduling can be done in Outlook, Google or Office 365.  As you grow, you can add on with a catering specific management software that will most likely have hooks for QB.
David FavorFractional CTO
Distinguished Expert 2018

Commented:
1) Simple solution for providing pricing will be to have each person register (person or company) + provide unique pricing per login.

2) For accounting, best to just use some sort of existing system like Quickbooks.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
Going back to your questions:

I want to sell to each client with different price depending on a criteria I want to maintain.
This falls under the accounting functions you can do with Quickbooks.


Be able to follow up with orders placed by clients and print out their invoices and receipts.
This will fall under the accounting functions you can do with Quickbooks.

Not only accounting, I am selling B2B and B2C. I do sandwiches, juices, salads, and parfaits. I want to track the cost of each item and its elements.
This will fall under the accounting functions you can do with Quickbooks by setting up products and using advanced pricing to manage different pricing for different types of customers. You can also override default pricing too. Your estimate, invoicing and even taking payments can be done via quickbooks.

Are you aware of a simple web based system that can cover this for me?
None of this may be simple, but you can use Quickbooks web based and for spreadsheets, Google Docs or Office365.  If budget allows, then for sure add on with catering software like CaterEase because you do want to spend your time on your business and not building systems.

Author

Commented:
Thank you so much gentlemen.

This mean I will never have a single system that covers all of this, even when my business grows!

@Scott: Have you looked at CaterEase? So even later on there wont be integration between it and QB?
Developer & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013
Commented:
> This mean I will never have a single system that covers all of this

Yes, that is going to be the case.  Running your day to day business and accounting functions are two different animals.  You would be best served to use accounting software for accounting and the catering software for the day to day scheduling, menus / Recipes  etc. CaterEase has integration with quickbooks https://www.caterease.com/features/extras/accounting-software/
Seamlessly pass all financial information – optionally including line item details and even payment information – directly from Caterease into your favorite accounting package.
Our incredible interface with QuickBooks Desktop and QuickBooks Online..... Caterease will instantly create a detailed invoice in your QuickBooks program ... and will automatically link this invoice to the appropriate client (or create a new client when necessary). Any changes to the Caterease event can be instantly updated in QuickBooks, so you always have the most current and accurate information.

When it comes time to do your payroll and submit your payroll reports and tax information and work with your accountant, you will be happy you spent the time with Quickbooks.

Author

Commented:
@Scott! This piece of info you shared is very helpful! Any idea what is the min amount that I can spend on a monthly basis to make use of both features of CaterEase and QB? I know you're gonna tell me it all depends on what versions I want to buy. I am a start up and I wish to have the least of expenses on this until I make more clients and can afford spending more money.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
I know you're gonna tell me it all depends on what versions I want to buy
That is exactly right.  

The minimum for Quickbooks is $20/month and the minimum for CaterEase is $68/month.  

Read through all the options for both. You can't run your business only using CaterEase as you need to have an accounting system. You can't do everything on Quuickbooks either that both pieces of software do but with one of the more advanced versions of Quickbooks you can probably do most things coupled with your spreadsheets for the rest.  

Or you may decide to not worry about the accounting side and throw everything in a file cabinet until needed. But I think you will find that option to be frustrating at tax time especially for tracking payroll.

Or are you going to do a lot of marketing up front to where you expect a large number of jobs? If that is the case, then I would figure out what you need now and just purchase it.

If you are going to stick with your one client for now and grow organically, you may want to wait to actual purchase anything until you do get more clients and use this time to research.

Author

Commented:
Thanks Scott.

I spoke to CE's pre sales team and they confirmed that lots of successful clients of theirs run only CE and it's basic Accounting was enough for them.

I therefore have decided to go with CE alone for the timebeing and see if I can't live without QB, then I'll start with it.

What do you think?
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
Well, if I was them and my potential client said they can use only use them or me, I would choose me too :)

The real answer is you have spent a lot of time doing your due diligence, reading what was said here and talking with pre sales and at some point you just have to make a decision.

Author

Commented:
@Scott,

I have purchased Caterease, and I was not happy with the speed as it was cloud based and the connection between my region and the US was not helpful. Now they have upgraded me to the Desktop version, and I have just made the payment in order for them to send me the installation instructions.

Strange enough is that when I executed the payment, I received a receipt with the paid amount from QuickBooks!!

Thanks,
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
I think you have to be carful about writing off cloud based generically. I live in the country with almost non existent internet. sometimes speeds 600kbs to 1.5 mbps and can still get by with most things. Fortunately I get 100mbps at the office.

The point is, it may be an issue with that service for a number of reasons.

Good that you have a working solution.

Author

Commented:
I have raised the issue and when their tech support lost hope in solving it, they installed the software locally on my machine. It is good now. However, from programming perspective, they should have done a better job in terms of flexibility and responsiveness.

It hides lots of fields if you don't use their recommended resolution. Plus, their recommended resolution and font size does not suit me as the screen becomes extremely small and I need a telescope to see words!

Thanks Scott for all your help.

Author

Commented:
Thank you gentlemen for all your help!

Author

Commented:
@Scott:

I have been working with CaterEase for few weeks now and have discovered few bugs.

i pointed it out to them but they are not interested in fixing them.

i as an IT guy and a programmer find this so stupid. they admit mistakes but do not show intention to fix.

i can let go any of these except one that has to do with cost of raw materials. i discovered that they calculate cost based on two decimal places which is so ridiculous! they admitted and claimed that it was developed that way because in US they use two decimal places! for me the issue is that any ingredient entered will be in bulk size and price, however when i use that ingredient to construct a sandwich, it's going to use few grams, thus it'll show its cost as zero! i am facing this with several items which messes up my cost.

CE are claiming that they MIGHT fix it in future but not immediately because it'll affect other clients! Ridiculous!!

Author

Commented:
@Scott??? please recommend what should I do?
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
I can't help with specific details to caterease.  I found t his video https://fast.wistia.net/embed/iframe/r9f28bulpn?popover=true and it shows quantities can have 4 decimal places.

Can you just enter in the cost price per gram vs a larger measure?

Author

Commented:
i know you cant I'm just asking your opinion.
they clearly stated they cannot adjust this.

regarding your suggestion, an example is that when i enter 10KG of Sugar as bulk with cost of KD 3.700, i will later use it by Grams to construct a dessert. this dessert will consume 5 Grams only. Due to the stupid rounding, the system shows the cost of 5 Grams of Sugar as KD 0.00 cuz the actual cost is KD 0.001.

with each item i have got a difference between CE cost and MS Excel is KD 0.010 +/-

no auditors accept such differences!
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
Instead of entering 10kg of sugar, can you change the measurement to grams?  10000 grams and enter the price per gram. In other words, enter the unit of measure you will typically use.  That seems like a simple work around until they come up with a way to convert.
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
It won't change anything.
You enter 10,000 Grams instead of 10KG but for the same KD 3.700 (in the ingredient manager)

When you construct the product (menu manager), you will start picking the predefined ingredients from the list which again will show the 5 Grams sugar as KD 0.00.

What is a KD? Why can't you just use grams throughout? Enter your costs, inventory etc all in the unit of measurement that you will use in the recipe? It sounds like it is the conversion that is creating the problem and using the smaller measurement, there is no conversion needed.

Author

Commented:
I wrote a comments but it seems in the wrong place.

@Scott, if you define the ingredient as 10,000 grams instead of 10 KG, for the same price KD 3.700, then when you construct your product in the Menu Manager, you'll pick the ingredients from the items list, the over all 5 grams of sugar will cost KD 0.00..

I have attached one of the cases, BBQ Chicken sandwich.
Case.jpg

Author

Commented:
@Scott:

KD is the currency used Kuwaiti Dinar.

I showed you even if I enter grams throughout, it won't change the final cost of any ingredient.

See the sugar cost attached, I have changed it from 10 KG to 10,000 Grams, but still the Gram cost shows zero KD.
CE-Sugar-Cost.png
Scott FellDeveloper & EE Moderator
Fellow 2018
Most Valuable Expert 2013

Commented:
Ok, I understand now.

When they said, " it was developed that way because in US they use two decimal places! ", I think what they are really saying is the program didn't take into account other currencies.   If you convert KD 3.7 to U.S Dollars, Google shows $12.16.  That means the price per 5 grams is .006 USD vs .KD 001.

That still requires more than 2 decimal places and that statement does not make sense.  

The only other thing I can think of is to multiply all monitory values  by 100.  KD 3.7 becomes KD 370 and your cost per gram is now KD 0.037 and if the program rounds up properly, it becomes .04.   You just have to remember to divide.  This creates another problem. If the program is used to send out invoices, it is too confusing to have the price shown 100 times what it should be.

I would start looking for another program and having gone through this, you know what questions to ask from this learning experience. This happens a lot with software, it looks pretty until you use it and then the issues arise and you have to work around it or use something different.

Author

Commented:
Glad you got what is happening. Because it did not make sense to me either.

They suggested a workaround which was to use bigger scale, but they never considered that it'll create confusion. Bottom line, why do I need to do this? I have never seen a program that uses 2 decimals to round!

I have asked them for a refund, but they ignored.

I emailed my account manager today to give me a call, and he immediately called me. I explained to him the situation, and he promised to get a team called Customer Success to call him. He said that this team's job is to help me overcome issues and use the system.

I know this is not going to succeed due to their weak programming. But I paid a lot for this system and I deserve a refund.

Back to your point about what questions to ask, when I bought the system, it was very slow as they were hosting it in the US and allowing me to access using CITRIX connection, which was extremely slow. Compared to other DBs I used to access from the US such as SQL hosted with GoDaddy which I have been using for 20 years!

They decided then to install the software locally on my machine which took them weeks. After that I immediately started to face this rounding issue, and raised it, when they again promised that their developers will look into the matter which takes a month to implement.

After all of this time, they confirm that their developers decided they cannot do this change in rounding!

That's the reason I see that I am entitled for a refund.

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