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By Katherine Pendrill
Big risks can yield big rewards. That’s what James Harris, Owner/Operator of Tin Plate, learned when his family moved from New Jersey to Colorado and opened an artisan pizza restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I convinced my wife and my daughter to drop everything,” James says. “As a first-time endeavor into the restaurant world, I couldn’t ask for a better experience, a better team, and a better location.”
Starting Tin Plate wasn’t smooth sailing, though. Since James wanted to house the restaurant in a historic building that had no walls or windows, and a dirt floor in the basement, it was a huge undertaking to get Tin Plate up and running.
James’ dream was further complicated by the fact that banks weren’t lending much money to hopeful restaurateurs at the onset of the pandemic. But he was persistent. After he struck out with the banks, he eventually secured financing from the building’s owners.
“Selling the vision is half the battle with any deal. Despite the property being in disarray, my vision is what encouraged the owners to work with me,” he says. “If there is no way, finding a way is important.”
The grand vision for Tin Plate was born out of James’ fond memories of pizza nights with his family growing up. Having owned several businesses throughout his life, he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit.
“In Hoboken, I got to experience some of the best pizza in the world,” he says. “When we got to Breckenridge, being a ski town there’s lots of bar food, but artisanal pizza was the one thing missing and people wanted to experience it.”
James wanted Tin Plate to use as many local ingredients as possible for its sourdough pizza. This is part of the unique experience the restaurant strives to offer guests, which also includes being housed in a 138-year-old-building – an homage to the mining community of Breckenridge in the late 1800s.
“We’ve got concepts that most people have never experienced before at a local pizza shop. To support the community while sourcing high-quality products means a great deal to us,” James says. “A lot of heart goes into what we do here.”
Constructing and opening a new restaurant is challenging at the best of times, let alone in a tourist town during a pandemic that rocked the hospitality and travel industries to their core.
“It’s been the most difficult thing I’ve ever done in my life, but it’s been so worth it,” James says.
Thanks to his business experience, James knew early on that Tin Plate would need a solution to help control labor costs while training staff.
“Staffing is expensive, and labor is one of the most variable costs we have,” he says. “We needed a way to manage it and control our profits.”
James also wanted to avoid costly credit card fees that could put an unwanted dent in Tin Plate’s bottom line during the restaurant’s crucial early days.
To deliver the superior service James wanted Tin Plate to be known for while keeping cash flow healthy, he turned to TouchBistro POS. He also purchased TouchBistro Payments, which integrates directly with the POS to create a powerful system for streamlining operations and improving customer service.
“TouchBistro was an easy choice,” James says. “The credit card processing was one of the first elements that caught my eye. Looking at the competitive rates and year-over-year savings, it was a no-brainer.”
James also loves the level of visibility TouchBistro provides into Tin Plate’s staffing situation at any given moment. The software enables him to analyze data in real-time and make choices on labor instantaneously to drive down costs.
“If you can measure something, you can manage it,” James says. “I rely on TouchBistro’s live reporting to be able to decide whether to let someone go early or call somebody in, which in turn, increases profits across the board.”
TouchBistro also makes it easy for Tin Plate’s front-of-house staff to communicate directly with the back of house. The software helps the restaurant get orders to the ticket line and out to guests faster. This is especially important since attached to Tin Plate is another of James’ family businesses, Dynamite Cookies. This means the restaurant uses multiple kitchens to make its sourdough pizza and cookie creations.
“TouchBistro allows us to send specific menu items and ingredients to different kitchens. We can manage food production, while ensuring that customers are happy with the end product,” James says. “Our turn times are up and our customer experience has dramatically increased.”
Training Tin Plate’s staff to use the software has also been a breeze, thanks to the user-friendly technology and the integration between TouchBistro POS and TouchBistro Payments. Using TouchBistro for tableside ordering has been a great experience for the restaurant.
“All the basics are included with TouchBistro and it’s customized for exactly how we do our service,” James says. “We have a list of orders that are pretty complicated and we have our servers run through that. Just this weekend we trained two more staff members and they were serving customers the next day.”
In addition, thanks to the POS’ integration with TouchBistro Reservations and TouchBistro Gift Cards, Tin Plate has an all-in-one solution for restaurant operations. This is especially helpful because the restaurant uses the reservation software to manage its waitlist.
“To say the waitlist system is phenomenal is an understatement,” James says. “Being in a ski town where most people are visiting, you have a tremendous market for people to come eat, which means long waitlists. With TouchBistro, we can see exactly where each table stands, so our wait times have improved dramatically.”
As Tin Plate looks to the future, the restaurant aims to strike the perfect balance of both staffing and customer success. TouchBistro will play an important role in reaching these objectives.
“Being a new business, TouchBistro really helps us have better guest interactions and more successful evenings overall,” James says. “It’s secure, it’s safe, it’s fast. I love it.”
Going forward, James wants Tin Plate to become even more well known within Breckenridge so it can attract great guests and staff. And, he’s staying true to his ambitious vision.
“Our primary goal is to be rated as the number one pizza place in Summit County, or even Colorado,” he says. “We love it here. We love the experience.”
Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.
By Dana Krook
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