Toast Customer Story

Ethan Stowell Restaurants Find a Comprehensive Solution in Toast

Award-winning Seattle restaurant group Ethan Stowell Restaurants built their brand on delivering culinary experiences tailored to the surrounding neighborhood. Ethan Stowell Restaurants are all unique with the exception of their versatile POS system.

“Each restaurant is designed to fit the neighborhood its in,” says ESR’s Operations Director Michael Pagana. “From high-end dining to late night pizza, our restaurants are always evolving with the culture of the community around them.”

Michael and the ESR team first began evaluating new technology when their existing legacy system no longer met the demands of their growing multi-location businesses.

“To make our multi-unit restaurants successful, especially the pizza concept, we knew we needed to streamline the kitchen operations and improve the restaurant online ordering experience,” Michael says. “My job was to find technology that could help us be successful with both the single- and multi-unit concepts."

Rather than get locked into another long contract with their existing POS provider, ESR piloted Toast at Tavolàta - Capitol Hill, their new 100-seat full-service restaurant.

"We found that Toast was able to handle seat numbers, coursing, multiple floor plans, private dining, happy hours, tasting menus, and catering with ease," Michael says. "Once it passed the test at arguably our busiest and most technically demanding restaurant, we were ready to roll it out everywhere."

ESR rolled out Toast to all concepts, including award-winning restaurants Anchovies & Olives and How to Cook a Wolf and the growing pizza group Ballard Pizza Company.

"Managing our restaurants in the cloud with Toast saves me countless hours a month that I used to spend traveling back and forth [between locations]."

Michael Pagana

Operations Director

Simplified Vendor Relationships with an All-in-One Solution

In addition to a restaurant POS system, Michael also sought to simplify and streamline the group's vendor relationships. ESR was working with a multitude of different technology providers to run different aspects of the business.

“Because we had grown to a multi-unit concept, we needed a ton of third-party companies to do what we wanted,” Michael says. “We had a separate company for gift cards, loyalty, credit card processing, reporting, and online ordering. Third-party online ordering was particularly painful at Ballard Pizza Company. We were receiving more complaints than orders! We eventually abandoned online ordering all together, even though we knew we needed to make our pizza concept successful.”

Toast’s all-in-one POS system, which enables restaurants to integrate all these components into one platform, got Michael’s attention.

"Having one company to call if we have a question is huge,” Michael says. “We don’t have to go to a list and see which vendor we should contact. Hardware, software, processing, gift cards, reporting, labor, online ordering - Toast is the call.”

Ballard Pizza Company relaunched their online ordering and delivery system with Toast and finally found success. Toast's built-in online ordering module is easy to use, mobile friendly, and tied directly to the in-store kitchen ticketing system.

“Online ordering and delivery with Toast is awesome,” Michael says. “We receive compliments about our online ordering and delivery all the time now. It’s just so simple for customers to use and easy for us to manipulate.”

In addition to their point-of-sale technology, Toast was able to replace four external vendors for Ethan Stowell Restaurants.

Powerful Multi-Location Management

All 13 ESR locations were running an on-premise legacy system prior to implementing Toast. The server-based system required onsite effort to make menu changes, pull reports, and troubleshoot any issues.

Upon implementing Toast’s cloud-based solution, Michael quickly saw the effects on his car’s odometer.

“When we were using a PC-based system with onsite storage, I had to go on location if something went wrong or needed to be changed,” Michael remembers. “Toast gives me complete control to help out at the restaurant no matter where I am. I don’t have to drive to each location to make menu changes, turn on discounts, or pull reports."

Michael looks at sales and labor reports daily - a task that took hours to complete when restaurant data was stored on-location. Toast arms restaurant operators like Michael with immediate reporting accessible at their fingertips.

“With Toast, I can see real-time sales at any location. That’s been the biggest benefit to the three of us on the executive team,” Michael says. “We can access any restaurant at any time and get the information we need. I get a report every morning that shows all sales, comps, labor, and overtime from the day before - it’s amazing.”

Needless to say, Toast is a timesaver.

"Managing our restaurants in the cloud with Toast saves me countless hours a month that I used to spend traveling back and forth,” Michael says.

Agility with Light Hardware and Intuitive Software

Switching POS systems at 13 locations is a sizable project — doing it in two weeks is momentous. After the successful pilot at Tavolàta, Michael worked with the Toast team to swiftly transition the remaining Ethan Stowell Restaurants to Toast in just two weeks.

“With so many different aspects of the business integrated into Toast, we had to move quickly with the rollout,” Michael says. “The Toast team facilitated a smooth transition. They were there for us when we needed them, but were also willing to step aside and let us do things our way. We got the right balance of support and autonomy with Toast.”

The rapid rollout was facilitated by modern tablet-based hardware, which arrived at each ESR location preconfigured and ready to go.

“The Toast Operations team that packs and ships the hardware made our setup seamless. It was very plug-and-play,” Michael says. “Everything comes wired, zip tied, and labeled —they’ve thought of everything! They do the best job I’ve ever seen.”

With the hardware up and running, Michael and the Toast team organized small group training sessions for servers and managers.

“We have 250 full-time staff,” Michael says. “The simplicity of the Toast system really helped with the transition. People told us they liked it better than any other POS system they’d ever used - it works just like their iPhone.”

Not Just Software, A Solution

Michael admits that he was hesitant to invest in a cloud-based POS system at first. Like most restaurateurs, he had years of experience with legacy systems. When he found that Toast's philosophy aligned with ESR’s vision for success, he never looked back.

“Restaurants are getting squeezed from all angles,” Michael says. “We need solutions to be successful. When you go with a legacy system, you’re going to get the basics, but there’s a lot of problems that they can’t solve. Toast is solving our problems. We will never switch back.”

Toast was the right fit for Michael and the ESR team because it's a cloud-based, all-in-one solution complete with the right support.

“We did a lot of research. We knew what we needed and we had a tight timeline,” Michael remembers. “Toast did a great job with the pitch, execution, and follow-through. We definitely made the right decision.”

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