Total Food Service recently had the chance to talk with the co-founders of CaterTrax: Rich Rund, Chief Executive Officer, and Dan Welch, Chief Information Officer.
Can you share the CaterTrax story with our readers? Where did the idea come from?
CaterTrax is a 12-year-old company that is backed by a century of catering experience. Our family opened their first foodservice operation in early 1906, catering to the working people of Rochester, NY, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They sold hamburgers for 10 cents and soup for a nickel. This was the humble beginning of a lineage of restaurants and catering businesses that manifested the hospitality spirit that CaterTrax is rooted in today.
I (Rich) grew up in my family’s catering business; for the Rund family life revolved around food. I started out peeling potatoes as a kid and worked my way through the ranks learning every aspect of the business. After graduating from Michigan State University, I worked for Houston’s Restaurants in Atlanta, Chicago, and Sacramento. I returned to Rochester in the mid-1990’s and joined Microworks POS Solutions Inc. where I learned website development and gained my first insight into technology’s ability to support foodservice operations.
In 1999, I returned to our family’s catering business which still relied on spreadsheets and calculators for everything and we were buried in complicated logistics. We needed something that could help us get organized and communicate better. I enlisted the help of my brother-in-law, Dan Welch, and channeled the Rund family’s entrepreneurial spirit to found a company specializing in catering management technology. In 2000, we started building a catering system specifically for Rund’s Catering and their client, ExxonMobil and the rest is CaterTrax history.
Who were the entrepreneurial visionaries behind the company?
Myself (Rich) and my brother-in-law Dan and we’re both still involved in the day-to-day operations. My dad was also involved in shaping our company in the early days. I’m the CEO and directly oversee our product innovation team who are actively developing our product roadmap and Dan is our CIO, leading our technology teams. As you can imagine we’ve worn many hats since day one but we’ve always stayed highly involved in executing our vision and mission.
What was the niche that you saw?
CaterTrax’s software, the TRAX Platform, started as a way to manage orders and production at the Rund’s catering operation but we quickly realized the possibilities for others in the foodservice industry. We recognized that our system was scalable and was a viable solution for non-commercial foodservice operations that serve on a larger scale and have a lot to manage.
Talk about what the key features were in the CaterTrax solutions when you launched?
The original iteration of the software stored events for future reference, allowed for order revisions, and automatically alerted catering, kitchen, finance, and delivery personnel to any changes. We recognized that catering orders that are filled out by hand, duplicated onto another form for fulfillment, and hand-delivered to foodservice personnel in the cafeteria was a norm that made it easy to make mistakes. Our original platform was designed around the direct need to control this chaos.
Walk us through how CaterTrax has evolved to meet changing needs of your customer base. Take-out management. Catering Rooms Manager.
We’ve always said CaterTrax is “built by caterers for caterers.” That’s actually our tagline and we truly mean it. In the beginning, we were the caterers building this software from the ground up, using our own experiences to create something that would make a difference for our own family’s business. When we finally looked up from our computers, we realized we created something that others could benefit from and it took off with ExxonMobil as our first official user followed by the Atlanta Bread Company.
We knew that staying rooted in hospitality would be key to our continued success and we stayed committed to the idea that we are built by caterers for caterers. We have former foodservice employees working in every department of this company from folks who build and service the sites, to those developing our software. Still, the true “caterers” in this sentiment today are truly our clients and partners and we’re listening to them.
The TRAX Platform’s ability to save time, boost efficiency, and organize operations is fundamental, but to truly improve the lives of those we serve, our products and services need to make them more confident. The less stress and anxiety an operator can experience, the more confidence they can pass along to their staff, and ultimately to their customers, and the better their business runs. As we continue to fuel innovation we look at more than just system functionality. We examine the many features of our system to determine where we can foster greater confidence so we can deepen the value we provide. Our annual survey is a key barometer we use to stay in touch with our users. We take the good with the bad as we read every response that comes in. We are learning from our users all the time. In addition to our annual survey, we’re also launching our new Insight Community where users can opt in to provide ongoing feedback. The Insight Community will provide actionable intelligence we can use to meet our users’ needs at a faster rate.
CaterTrax offers some truly innovative inventory management solutions. Please talk about those. Advanced Menu Pack?
Inventory management actually isn’t the best term to describe what our software supports. Food Cost Management really represents the value Advanced Menu Pack brings to the table.
If you are in catering, you’ve likely run into supply issues that leave you with not enough or too much and these mistakes cost the business money and potentially customer satisfaction. Building inventory management features into our systems enables clients to keep a tighter turnaround on inventory. Clients can see the difference in their bottom line with lowered carrying costs, less rush orders, and less waste.
Our Advanced Menu Pack (AMP) add-on increases kitchen staff’s efficiency. AMP includes sub-product categorization for recipes on the menu, theoretical food costing, menu ID’s and label printing. Consider yourself the person responsible for buying ingredients for an order. You need to understand with a certain number of guests how much chicken or produce to buy. The recipe has the amounts of cilantro and chicken by person needed for the chicken burrito menu item and when that lives in the TRAX Platform all the information is calculated for you – no shortages, overages, or mistakes. Our clients are also frequently reviewing their menu item prices. If chicken were to dramatically increase in price from the supplier a client could adjust the price and see how it impacts their bottom line using our theoretical food cost features. We’ve found features like these truly help our clients control inventory – a big cost-saver, as well as time-saver, for them.
CaterTrax has built a portfolio of success in the school and university marketplace. What has been the key to that success like Hofstra?
Hofstra is an account through a strategic partner we don’t have permission to talk about, but we can share that our company has had a lot of continued growth in the higher education industry. Campuses are offering catering for alumni events, important donor dinners at the President’s house and for student organizations, while running the foodservice across the campus for students, faculty and staff. These operations have busy catering days almost every day of the week. The TRAX Platform delivers the best way to optimize operations in the kitchen so the foodservice team can do what they do best, provide the best experience by serving the freshest food at a fluctuating volume.
The TRAX Platform is also a centralized system of record for all foodservice transactions, so reporting for all locations across the campus is rolled up making it easy to understand trends and make smart business decisions. Everyone on the foodservice team can log into the TRAX Platform from their desktop or mobile device to understand what needs to be prepped, print packing slips for delivery, or access routing sheets for quality control.
Many healthcare facilities have specified CaterTrax. How does CaterTrax make the healthcare operator more efficient?
Many healthcare facilities utilize our Catering and Floor Stock solutions and depending on their campus they may also deploy our Take-Out Solution. Catering is ordered for medical staff meetings and social events. Our Floor Stock Solution is used for stocking food staples on certain floors in the hospital, and provides foodservice staff a way to track inventory levels across the hospital and assign different budget codes if applicable when they are fulfilling supplies. All of this is done with the convenience of a computer or tablet. When visitors are in visiting loved ones, the Take-Out Solution can offer a great service to them. They can order ahead online and arrange to pick up when it’s convenient for them – it’s a line-buster. Similar to the Higher Ed industry, the TRAX Platform provides a way to make operations more efficient so that the staff can focus on delivering hospitality to their guests.
Talk about CaterTrax’s approach to training at installation and beyond.
You can build the best software out there, but if people don’t understand how to use it, they won’t use it. We consider ourselves a “Service as a Software” company rather than the reverse. We have invested a lot in our training department to ensure the investment in our software is returned to our clients. With any technology there is friction in adoption and it’s important to provide those resources to instill confidence. We are fortunate to have a very high client retention rate and we can attribute some of that to taking care of our clients and ensuring they have the support they need to be successful.
Walk us through the reporting tools that create added value from CaterTrax for management.
Reporting capabilities are built into the TRAX Platform with many easily accessible standard reports that can be used to monitor an operation’s key performance points. Through our Professional Services’ team we also offer custom reporting or data feeds at a nominal cost. As we said before, the TRAX Platform is a centralized system of record and there is an immense value in a system that aggregates data, eliminates manual labor, and makes the information you need accessible. Our multi-unit operators and enterprise partners also capitalize on our roll-up reporting capabilities for corporate initiatives. Whether it’s information about your top performing customers, or the products and packages you sell, or the volume of orders you are processing, we put the power of your data into your hands.
Let’s talk about the impact that CaterTrax has on the employee that is serving the guest in a number of capacities.
Organizational chaos is a major issue for any catering operation and this also holds true for non-commercial operators. The TRAX Platform gives operators control over, and insight into, all the moving parts and pieces of their operation. They’re able to communicate with customers in a trackable way so details and requests don’t get lost. They can track and report on everything. We’ve said before caterers sell confidence and this system makes our users confident that they are meeting the unique needs of their customers and delivering their unique brand of hospitality. The other key thing is that our solutions are highly configurable so that where and how our users serve their guests are built into the system. Our software is a silent employee that moves the administrative barrier out of the way so our clients can focus on connecting with customers, serving great food, and delivering hospitality.
What’s the next step for an operator that wants more info and a “test drive”?
Give us a call at (800) 975-8729, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our website. One of our knowledgeable sales executives will provide a custom demonstration of the TRAX Platform tailored to address your industry and business challenges. During this time operators that want to experience the software can log in as their customers and see how easy it is to order anytime, anywhere.