Question: If you owned or managed a restaurant, where could you go to order your equipment—anything from teaspoons for $1.15 a dozen, to a top-of-the-line, $100,000 commercial dishwasher? Answer: Foodservice Resources and Solutions, or FRS. For more than forty years, FRS has been providing quality products, outstanding service, and competitive pricing as part of the restaurant supply and equipment industry. Today, they sell everything from silverware to walk-in coolers from their four fully stocked showrooms in Florence, Charleston, and Columbia, SC, and Asheville, NC. From their locations across North and South Carolina, they can supply the equipment needs of any commercial kitchen, whether for a hospital, church, school, restaurant, university, or other organization.
To handle the majority of their data processing, FRS has relied on the IBM® System i® platform for more than twenty years, starting with the AS/400®. Today, they use a partitioned Model 520 that contains more than 1.2 terabytes of data for order entry, general ledger, payables, receivables, purchasing, inventory, and warehouse management. For the last four years, they have been extracting and working with that data using Sequel Data Access, the data access and analysis software from Fortra. Their relationship with Sequel started when a friend of Carl Novit, the vice president and one of the two owners of FRS, noticed that Carl was writing a lot of queries and RPG reports for the business. He mentioned to Carl that, ‘Sequel could make your life a lot easier—you should give it a try.’
Carl grew up in the restaurant equipment business, the third generation of his family to work there. During his tenure at FRS, he’s done a little bit of everything, including sales and installations of new commercial kitchens. Today, his main day-to- day activities revolve around systems and finances. A confirmed ‘green screener,’ when Carl first tried Sequel he thought “I’ll never use ViewPoint (the graphical interface to Sequel) because I really like the green screen.” Today, four years later, they do all of their reporting, including their financials and daily reports, using Sequel and Carl loves Viewpoint. Now, he describes himself as “a big graphical guy—dragging files is cool.”
“ Sequel is a very valuable tool because it allows us to take our ideas from concept to results. I’m convinced that there’s nothing we can’t do with Sequel— it’s very cool.”
In their pre-Sequel days, they’d run their nightly update process once for each of their four branches. With Sequel, they share common files and run the process just one time and Carl is constantly amazed at how fast Sequel is. He even uses Sequel scripts that he wrote to produce their financials. With his Sequel scripts, he can quickly access the profit and loss data from their four branches and their holding company for whatever time period he needs.
Carl found that Sequel was very easy to implement and use, especially the tabling feature. “When you use the Sequel client table pivot feature, you can ‘slice and dice’ your data. I pretty much create everything from raw data. For instance, we have a file that contains every transaction of every item that we have in, or out, of inventory. Each record represents a purchase order, coming from a vendor, sold to a customer, returned by a customer, transferred to another branch, or even lost (we have to write it out of inventory). We wrote client tables for all of our inventory data so that our managers and sales people can analyze the data by vendor, class, item, customer, and so forth.”
Carl really likes the speed and ease with which they can use Sequel to implement changes and updates. “If our managers tell us there’s some new report or view they need, we can create it to share among everyone. For example, when we built our new order-entry system, we analyzed what we wanted to change about the invoice register that we review every night for errors and anomalies. I made an initial run at designing it, showed my partner how it worked, and we redesigned the report. Within an hour or so, we had a report that was usable that we liked.”
Their reporting costs have also gone way down because, as Carl explains, “With Sequel, report printing is a thing of the past. We don’t print daily reports anymore—we literally try not to print anything. Our reports are all PDF files now. Every night we use Sequel to generate over fifty reports as PDF files and we automatically email them to the correct recipients. A lot of people forget about the expense of having staff just to generate reports. Sequel doesn’t require a large staff to manage it and keep it going. In fact, my partner and I recently commented to our CPA that we know our investment in Sequel has really paid off.”
Some of the end users at FRS also use Sequel dashboards, created by Carl, who is completely self-taught in dashboard design. As he explains, “It’s all on the job training—I never took an RPG or SQL course in my life. I understand my business, my data, and my needs, and I know what the System i and Sequel can do. For example, I created a dashboard containing Year‑To‑Date comparison numbers. It includes sales and gross profits for the total company for the last three years, as well as sales and gross profit for the last three years for the branches. So, at‑a‑glance, I have a three‑year comparison for each branch, as well as a comparison chart and financial indicators which show cash, accounts receivable inventory, accounts payable, and open orders. In this one dashboard, I can check month‑to-date billings and I even track some business metrics that are highlighted in red.”
So, when you add up the pluses and minuses, how does Carl see the benefits to his business over the years—why is Sequel such a good investment? “We use Sequel in many roles. As an application development tool, it’s much quicker than creating RPG code. As a data access tool, it provides fast access to data when you need to generate something quickly. And, as a data presentation tool, Sequel offers the ability to generate multiple data formats (views) and dashboards so you can present data differently to different people. Sequel allows you to customize reports and views to fit your business needs and makes you more profitable by serving your customers better. Everybody talks about desktop integration of data, and Sequel delivers.”
Carl sums it up succinctly: “It’s basically knowing your business and your data, and what you want out of them. Sequel is a very valuable tool because it allows us to take our ideas from concept to results. I’m convinced that there’s nothing we can’t do with Sequel—it’s very cool.”