I’ve been designing and marketing restaurant inventory management software since the early 1980s. Two constant challenges throughout the years have been accounts payable processing and accurately entering receiving information for inventory items.
Even if a restaurant doesn’t have an inventory system, someone needs to determine how much of an invoice to expense to meat, produce, paper, and so on.
When I first heard about Plate IQ, I was skeptical.
I’ve tried other products that rely on OCR (Optical Character Recognition) to convert scanned copies of paper invoices into data and knew that they were only partially accurate at best. There are so many variables, including wrinkled invoices, handwritten information, and the margin for error with OCR. When I began to dig into the process at Plate IQ I learned why they are superior: It’s the audit.
They trust the code…and verify.
When an invoice is uploaded into Plate IQ, the software automatically parses every item into a separate object. Each object is confirmed and once they’ve all been processed, they’re reassembled for a final review that confirms the invoice is complete and in balance (the total invoice matches the sum of all items on the invoice).
What makes Plate IQ truly special is that they’ve not only created a number of sophisticated parsers that allow them to extract data from invoices with high accuracy, they also bring humans into the loop. When an invoice doesn’t meet the required level of confidence — that is, when the system indicates that it’s not sure it got everything right — auditors take over. That step ensures the accuracy of every invoice and it’s one example of why Plate IQ is a service and their competitors are just apps.
Plate IQ gets smarter with every invoice.
If you upload an invoice from ABC Produce for the very first time, it’s likely that Plate IQ knows exactly how it’s laid out, where to find the date, and where the items begin. That’s because there are other restaurants in your area using ABC Produce and the system is already familiar with their invoices because they see hundreds of them every day.
Along with recognizing how various vendors structure their invoices, Plate IQ uses machine learning to create rules that become increasingly accurate. Some restaurants don’t have inventory software and just want to expense an invoice to the appropriate General Ledger accounts or cost centers. Because the line item audit is so accurate, this step is more easily accomplished. For example, if all the items on invoices from ABC Produce are coded to Produce, Plate IQ can suggest it as the appropriate GL for new items. And if the system doesn’t recognize a tangelo, it only has to be told once that it’s Produce. Plus, it can even code half those tangelos to Produce and the other half into the Bar GL, if that’s how a restaurant uses them.
Plate IQ offers integrations and insights that matter.
Products like Bill.com are great, but they don’t work with your inventory system. Few OCR products handle automated GL coding, process payments, or reconcile statements. And even fewer of them make the data they capture usable by restaurants’ inventory and accounting software. Plate IQ’s integrations make all your software work better while saving you time.
Plate IQ improves insight into expenses and cost trends. The Plate IQ dashboard is simple and informative. A graph showing total spend becomes a pie chart showing each expense category or cost center. You can drill into any slice to see item details. There’s a Hot List of items with the largest variance or cost volatility. If the cost of avocados goes up 10 percent, you’ll see 10% in red. If the cost goes down, it’s green. It doesn’t get easier than that.
So why did I join?
Because Plate IQ is simply the best and most complete AP automation product on the market. It works with the inventory software you already have and it also works with your current accounting software. There are options for bill payment (printed checks and ACH), routing for approvals, and automated statement reconciliation.
I joined Plate IQ because it saves time, increases accuracy, and improves insight. Restaurants need all three, and I believe that Plate IQ is in the best position to provide them. They have a bigger vision of eliminating paper and manual data entry from the back office, a game-changing prospect for restaurants and something I’ll talk more about in the future. It’s an exciting product, but just as important, it’s a reliable one…and it’s only getting better.