Caterer shares preferred tools for event staffing and accurate payroll
For the people behind the food, QuickBooks Time and QuickBooks are a recipe for success.Gretchen Talbert loves making bread, and focaccia bread is her specialty. She enjoys experimenting with flavors and toppings, from sweet caramelized onions and spicy garlic to savory cheeses. But Gretchen’s kitchen isn’t just her creative space. It’s also the home of her small business: 3 Girls Catering.
Her sister and co-owner, Lisa, is the second girl. The third girl left a while ago. But that’s old news for Lisa and Gretchen, who’ve been running the business for over 13 years.
Like all business owners, Gretchen and Lisa have had their struggles. They moved to town with no clients, unsure how they were going to break into the market. But the universe was on their side.
“When I came in to do our final walkthrough,” Gretchen says, referring to her catering kitchen, “the owner was sitting at her desk, crying. She had this big stack of manila folders.”
The owner, as it turned out, was also a caterer, and she was in the process of filing for bankruptcy. When Gretchen asked her about the folders, the women said they were catering jobs that she’d already booked. Unfortunately, she couldn’t refund her clients’ money or do the jobs. And she didn’t know how to tell her clients.
“So I said, ‘Can I have those?’ She gave them to me, and I just called each person in that stack and let them know their caterer was gone, but we were ready,” says Gretchen. “We took over all those events—some of which we did for free because they had already paid. And just like that, we were in every venue within that first summer. We’ve been busy ever since.”
QuickBooks makes running payroll easy as pieAs any small business owner knows, running a business doesn’t mean you get to do the thing you love all day, every day. Gretchen doesn’t always have time to bake bread when things like hiring, managing payroll, and sending invoices get in the way. Now, she has an office manager to help. And Lisa takes care of scheduling. But from the beginning, Gretchen knew the business would need more help than that. So six years ago, she and Lisa put their business on QuickBooks Payroll.
“With QuickBooks, we know our bills are being paid, that the money we’re receiving is correct,” says Gretchen. “We know what’s outstanding. And payroll runs smoothly.”
Emily Gray, the office manager at 3 Girls Catering, agrees. And when it comes to payroll, she’s especially grateful for the time savings.
“QuickBooks Online just streamlines everything,” she says. “If I can come in and knock out payroll in 20 minutes once a week, that’s huge. I can spend those extra few hours I would have spent doing payroll by hand on booking events for our company. And that can be the difference between $10,000 or $15,000 per week of revenue for us.”
QuickBooks Time gives employees ownership over their schedulesNo app works better with QuickBooks than QuickBooks Time. At 3 Girls Catering, each employee has the QuickBooks Time app on their phone, so they can track time and check their schedules.
“Our employees can see which events they have coming up or who they’re working with,” says Emily. “If they see we have 15 jobs, sometimes they ask if we need help in the kitchen.”
Empowering employees to take the initiative doesn’t just result in more help where it’s needed. It also means less work for Emily, who can repurpose the time she would spend chasing down an extra pair of hands.
“If an employee needs a few extra hours, they can always come in and help out,” she says. “Or if they realize that we were slammed that weekend with a bunch of events, sometimes they come in and help put things away or reorganize. It’s a great feature.”
But QuickBooks Time isn’t just an app that employees love. As the person managing payroll, Emily says she appreciates how it’s also accurate and easy to use. Plus, QuickBooks Time’ GPS and geofencing features mean Emily knows exactly when an employee has left or arrived at a job site.
“I’m not chasing people down. I’m not spending a ton of time trying to figure out when people were at an event. I love it.”
When back-end tools work together, businesses grow and thriveCompetition is fierce in the catering world. It’s one of the reasons Lisa and Gretchen were lucky to get a foot in the door when they moved to a new city. But growing the business doesn’t only depend on innovative new menus, a stellar reputation, and word-of-mouth marketing. Growth is also the result of efficiency and tools that help people work faster, more accurately, and with confidence. And that’s where QuickBooks and QuickBooks Time are making a difference.
In the beginning, we didn’t have a system for keeping track of orders and payments and time,” says Lisa. “We just used a notebook and wrote down the client’s name, phone number, and what they wanted. We didn’t know what we were doing. We didn’t have any other way to look back on previous jobs other than trying to re-read our handwriting.”
But as 3 Girls Catering grew, Lisa says, they realized something had to give. “We knew we needed help, so we implemented QuickBooks. And that was a game-changer.”
Now, Lisa, Gretchen, and Emily have everything they need at their fingertips. They can look back on past jobs and not only see what the client ordered but how many hours they spent on that job. Then they can use that data to plan the next event. And they can assign the right number of employees to a job from the beginning. They can work smarter, not harder, to build a business that will continue to thrive.