September 17, 2021

How Ottimate Supports End-to-End AP Automation

by Jillian Straw

With working from home and task automation two of the biggest current business trends, it might be tough to see how the multi-billion dollar restaurant industry might adapt. How, exactly, could your wait staff help a customer with a wine pairing from the comfort of their couch?

Though the lion’s share of a restaurant’s activity must take place onsite, operators can’t forget about the roles and responsibilities that make the business run smoothly behind the scenes. This is where the opportunity lies for greater efficiency, lower labor costs, and, yes, even the ability to perform these tasks from home.

Ottimate was specifically developed to meet the needs of the restaurant industry. Originally founded as an invoice automation system, our features have expanded to include vendor bill pay and even our own corporate card. Now our software can automate the entire AP workflow, from invoice digitization and coding, approvals, reconciliation, and even bill pay.

In this blog, we’ll show you exactly how Ottimate supports end-to-end AP automation to give your employees more flexibility and make your books more accurate than ever.

Step 1: Digitize Invoices

Easier AP begins with digitizing invoices. As you’re well aware, receiving invoices in a busy, dirty back of house can be a nightmare: things get stained or lost extremely easily, making it difficult for accounting or bookkeeping teams to correctly document what was received. 

With Ottimate, those folks receiving invoices from vendors can go from paper to pixels in a snap—literally. All they need to do is take photos of individual invoice pages and email or upload the images directly to us.

Once we receive images, we transform them into digital documents that are then saved on our cloud. It’s pretty difficult to destroy documents when they live online (unless you believe the files are inside the computer), making them much more legible for correct documentation. Plus, the digital files are searchable, so you and your AP team can pull up any scanned invoice at any time. Sounds a lot better than digging for hours through a Bankers Box, right?

After we digitize an invoice, we automatically apply the correct General Ledger (GL) code to each individual line item. Our smart software needs just a few inputs from you or your team to become trained in how to properly assign GL codes and repeat the process for every single invoice you send to our system.

Our research shows that it costs restaurants about $21.25 just to process one invoice the old, manual way. Your business stands to save a significant amount of money just by automating this single step in your AP workflow. If you listen closely, you can almost hear the sigh of relief from your bank account.

Step 2: Route Approvals

One thing we’ve learned from building a product for restaurants is the sheer diversity of invoice approval workflows that exist in this industry. Small companies handle their invoices very differently from one another — some use third-party accountants, some insist on keeping everything in the owner’s hands — and two national chains might manage vendor payments in nearly opposite ways. Building Ottimate, we had to be flexible.

That’s why, when it comes to invoice routing, we like to say that if there’s a piece of information on an invoice, we can create an approval around it. Here’s what that could look like, though the possibilities are endless:

  • Set an invoice total threshold to trigger an approval request from an upper-level member of the finance team.
  • Require that you personally approve the invoices that are received from a specific vendor because you constantly see them overcharging your business.
  • Request approvals from each individual restaurant manager before invoices are sent to a regional manager for final approval.

These rules can be as straightforward or complex as you need them to be. The name of the game here is flexibility: your business can create more rules as you find the need for them, remove them as you continue to streamline AP, and edit existing rules as you switch vendors or add new members to your team.

Step 3: Reconcile Discrepancies

Reconciling paper invoices is challenging. When documents are consistently lost or damaged, it can feel like a bit of a guessing game for finance teams to figure out exactly what’s wrong—and even what’s missing.

Our software takes the guesswork out of invoice reconciliation. It learns the habits of your restaurant’s business operations so it’s able to determine if an invoice is missing or if vendors have made a mistake on the documentation.

Ottimate flags these discrepant invoices for review by a pre-selected member of your team. Once they’ve been able to review and determine if there actually is a mistake, they can send the issue directly to the vendor through our platform for correction.

No more jotting credits in the small, stained margins of paper invoices. Ottimate tracks them all for you in one place, letting you and your team close the books on a day with ease.

Step 4: Pay on the Platform

With all invoices digitized, approved by the right people, and mistakes resolved, you and your team can pay them off directly through Ottimate.

Our bill pay feature was designed specifically for accounting teams to work remotely. We use the same robust approval routing we use for invoice approvals, ensuring that the power to pay is only in the hands of the most trusted members of your team.

Ottimate offers several ways for you to pay the bills:

  1. If you and your vendor use ACH, you’re able to deposit funds directly into their bank account. 
  2. Use credit cards or vCards to pay vendors without needing to use a paper check. One benefit here: you can earn up to 1% cash back just by using the Ottimate Card.
  3. Vendors don’t accept ACH or credit? We’ll cut the check and send it on your behalf.

Payments can be scheduled ahead of time to ensure each vendor is paid on time—or even early. And digital payments reduce the chance that checks are delayed or lost in the mail, giving you more peace of mind that you’re building strong vendor relationships.

Automate AP from End to End with Ottimate

Automation and remote work support aren’t out of reach for the restaurant industry. Use Ottimate to streamline your AP workflow, giving valuable time back to your accounting team and keeping more cash in your coffers. Just click the yellow button at the top of this page to get started.

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