Sales

Running a restaurant in Slack

How the Chaia team uses Slack to create a back-of-house system that scales

Chaia restaurant counter

Long-time friends and food bloggers Bettina Stern and Suzanne Simon knew they were on to something good when they sold out of their entire stock of original vegetarian tacos within the first hour and a half of opening. That was in 2013, when the duo were serving up their “farm-to-taco” creations out of a 10-by-10 tent at a farmer’s market in Washington D.C.

 

“Slack is at the center of operations at Chaia restaurants,” says Stern. “It’s where we share leads for the catering side of the business, discuss new menu items, track repairs. Anything that affects our business has a channel in Slack.”

 

In November 2015, they expanded into their first brick-and-mortar restaurant called Chaia — a fast-casual eatery also providing catering services. Business has bloomed in the last couple of years, and the team have their sights set on opening a few more locations in other states in the near future.

“Slack is at the center of operations at Chaia restaurants,” says Stern. “It’s where we share leads for the catering side of the business, discuss new menu items, track repairs. Anything that affects our business has a channel in Slack.”

 

Chaia tacos

 

Running a restaurant is an “eight day a week” job, says Stern. At first, the management team — which includes the founders, a general manager, and a restaurant manager — worked together through text messages and emails.

“No one could keep up with anything, no one could find anything, no one knew when something was urgent and when it wasn’t,” says Stern. “There was no system. It was a mess.”

Since they introduced Slack to the team about a year ago, conversations have been “contained to pockets and buckets,” known as channels, that are easily accessible to all team members. Their Slack team has 33 channels, which altogether reflect each aspect of their back-of-house operations, including:

  • #Menu — A channel dedicated to menu planning where Stern, Simon and kitchen staff discuss the latest seasonal vegetables and how they’ll incorporate them into recipes for new menu items.
  • #Catering — Chaia’s catering service is a growing revenue generator for the business, so everyone contributes by adding contact information for new business leads to this channel so a manager can follow up later.
  • #Checklist-and-troubleshooting — The management team worked together on producing checklists for front-of-house staff and a series of restaurant troubleshooting guides in case of equipment malfunctions and other emergencies. These Google Docs are now stored in this channel for all management staff to access quickly and easily.
  • #Upkeep-repairs — Breakdowns happen, and they can be reported in this channel, but it’s also a place where repairs and work orders are uploaded and tracked so any manager can look up the last time a piece of equipment was serviced.

Lately, Stern’s been wrapped up in channels dedicated to the launch of two more Chaia locations. The thing about using Slack, she explains, is that information isn’t just organized, it’s memorialized. And it’s available to anyone who needs it, now and in the future. That’s important for a restaurant with big ambitions for expansion.

 

dining room
The restaurant’s upstairs dining room

 

“With all our ideas, tasks, and documents in Slack, we’re going to save so much time and effort when we’re opening up new locations and bringing on more restaurant managers,” says Stern. “All the information, the systems, and the processes they need will already be laid out, all we have to do is add them to the right channels.”


Lima Al-Azzeh greatly enjoys tacos and good processes.

Slack is the collaboration hub, where the right people are always in the loop and key information is always at their fingertips. Teamwork in Slack happens in channels — searchable conversations that keep work organized and teams better connected.