You’ve been here before—sitting in your restaurant’s back office, looking at a pile of paid invoices. You’ll need to keep those receipts for at least seven years in case you get audited, and you may need some of them to settle payment disputes with your vendors down the line. But for right now, they’re dead weight. And they’re taking up space in an already crowded office. If you’re doing accounts payable by hand, it’s costing you more than just office space; filing your processed invoices takes a lot of time, and you don’t get much return for it. Chances are, anyone whom you’d trust to work with financial information is too valuable to spend their time on filing and retrieving information. So if invoices are a pain, you may want to consider a document management solution.
It’s tempting to put off technological investments for the back of the house, especially with all of the day-to-day expenses of managing a restaurant. Manual invoicing works (mostly), and budgets are tight. Most owners would rather invest in equipment, ingredients, new hires—anything that improves revenue capacity. What owners may not realize is that document scanning and document management software does just that: it enables staff to create more value for the business. By freeing up organizational resources, document imaging and file management systems reduce the cost of running an accounts payable department such that adopters typically see a full return on their investment within a few months. This makes sense when you consider the hidden costs of an AP process. Ask yourself:
- How many hours per week do key employees spend on organizing, filing, and managing paid invoices?
- How much floor space is dedicated to storing paper?
- How much time do managers spend resolving payment disputes?
- Could your team efficiently track down and organize the needed invoices to comply with an audit?
The benefits of paid invoice scanning range from stress reduction to compliance, but we’ll start with the big one:
Stop collecting paper.
Space is an asset and it doesn’t come cheaply. So make the most of it. Losing the file cabinets and boxes will let you devote more of your precious square footage to operations that earn you money. You can reallocate the space as needed. Or put in a desk for the new hire. Or leave that space empty and enjoy a more open work environment. Open space might seem like a luxury, but recent studies show that workplace clutter harms productivity and mental health. In the digital age, information storage is cheap, and real estate is expensive. So reclaim your space and go paperless.
Control your financial information.
Invoices have sensitive financial information on them, and physically storing that information around the office is a serious risk. Boxes and cabinets (even locked ones) are accessible to anyone with an office key, regardless of their intentions. Furthermore, on-site financial documents are vulnerable to floods, fires, burglary, or (most commonly) simple misplacement. Any of these events could leave your business defenseless in payment disputes and IRS audits. By contrast, electronic storage in a secure document management system protects data from theft and loss. Data is backed up in the cloud or on your local network, and you control access as you see fit, designating each employee with an appropriate level of authority. In addition to securing your documents, having all that information in a digital format could help in two big ways:
No one enjoys being audited, but document management software makes the process less painful and intrusive than ever before. Instead of entering your establishment and disrupting business, IRS auditors can access your invoices remotely, without showing up to your establishment and getting in the way.
Paid invoice visibility access
Suppose you get a bad shipment, and now you have to find the invoice to get a refund. Will the time you spend digging through the file cabinets be worth the reimbursement? It might, but you shouldn’t ever face that dilemma in the first place. An issue with physical data storage is that it discourages you from actually using your data. Digital storage lets you produce receipts quickly, and also enables you to review long-term spending history. You can start to track price changes, discounts, and vendor performance over time. But even if you’re not ready to run business analytics just yet, your data will be organized for when the time comes.
Know the score and never pay twice.
You’ve probably experienced some form of the following scenario: One of your vendors calls, insisting they’re still waiting on a payment from the previous month. You know they’re mistaken, but the only way to prove it is to painstakingly follow the paper trail. And if you can’t do that in time you’ll just have to pay twice–or forget about this week’s delivery. Using document management software, you can quickly search for the invoice in question right from your computer or mobile device, and retrieve the check number for the vendor as they wait on the phone.
Focus on business operations—not paperwork.
Unless you have a full time administrative assistant working in your restaurant, your managers are probably spending some time keeping track of invoices. As previously mentioned, they’d be more productive (and happier) making sure that the restaurant is running smoothly. That’s what they do best. So help them! Scanning accounts payable documents and taking advantage of document management software makes employees happier and more productive, as they’re able to spend less time managing paperwork and more time on their core responsibilities.
Whether you choose cloud-based or in-house document management software, you’ll get an easy and affordable way to securely store, retrieve, share, and track post-processed accounts payable documents. And when necessary, you’ll always have the ability to share scanned invoices with just one click. Can you think of a better way to free up space and make your restaurant more efficient?
Want to free up even more time for you and your managers? Consider outsourcing the entire AP process with a digital mailroom.