UK restaurant chain Cote Brasserie has adopted Anaplan's cloud-based financial planning software in a bid to modernise the firm's budget and reporting processes.
Speaking at Anaplan's Hub 16 event in London yesterday, Cote Brasserie's new CFO Strahan Wilson explained how he has been able to reduce the company's business planning cycle from quarterly to every two or three weeks with the help of Anaplan's finance solution.
"The business is only nine years old and it was still being run as if there are only two restaurants," Wilson told Computerworld UK. "Everything is manual, everything is on spreadsheets."
Wilson, who is only two months into the job at Cote Brasserie, had overseen a similar reduction in the business planning cycle time during his previous role at restaurant chain Eat.
When he arrived at Cote the budget planning process was not nearly as streamlined.
"I found that we were stuck in the Excel dark ages," he said. "We did one budget a year, which was done for July, and it was essentially a one man operation. My finance director basically took it upon himself to manage this whole process by himself, lock himself in a room for three months and come out with the number."
In order to find a more collaborative approach, Wilson brought in Anaplan within two months, and Wilson expects to be working the way he did at Eat by early next year.
This sort of process just wouldn't have been possible using Excel spreadsheets, Wilson said. Cote has 80 restaurants across the UK, "and that means 80 spreadsheets. So each time you change a variable you need to change it 80 times if you need to change the approach, therefore you never do."
By hooking up its Sage 200 enterprise resource planning (ERP) system with Anaplan, Wilson was able to quickly migrate over and start to streamline the budget planning process.
"By changing master data once you build the module that affects that line and it doesn't care if there are 80 restaurants or a thousand restaurants, it is just elements within your model and takes all of that into consideration," he said.
Triangle of finance
Wilson said that Anaplan helps him to empower the finance team to do more interesting work "to solve business issues, which is just more gratifying than locking yourself in a room for three months to create a budget."
He uses an analogy called "the triangle of finance" to explain the process of reaching this point, which starts with getting the accounts right and ends with finance becoming a partner to the rest of the business, rather than a pain.
He explained: "At its core [finance] needs to get the accounts right. If you don't get that right then frankly there is no point doing anything else. Then you have the FP&A (financial planning and analysis) layer. Then at the top is the business partner, which is what the business finds most useful as you respond in real time to their needs rather than imposing your needs on them."
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