Customer Story | Michelin-Starred Fine Dining Group

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How Atelier Crenn Uses Ottimate to Make Space for Creativity

For these world-class restaurants, Ottimate allows their managers and chefs to spend more time in the kitchen and the dining room — and less time in the office.

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Steps away from the San Francisco Bay, Atelier Crenn sits on an unassuming block in the city’s Cow Hollow neighborhood. Passing by its drawn shades and unmarked door, you wouldn’t think it was home to one of the world’s most celebrated chefs. But inside this restaurant, founder and chef Dominique Crenn has, in the last decade, built a culinary masterpiece that attracts diners from across the globe.

In Crenn’s native French, atelier translates to “workshop,” a concept that reflects her vision to create a dining experience where artistry is at the forefront, cuisine is a craft, and the community is the inspiration.


Atelier Crenn opened in January 2011 and received its first Michelin star the same year. In 2012, Chef Crenn made history when the restaurant earned its second Michelin star, becoming the first woman-led restaurant in the US to claim that honor. In 2018, it received the coveted third Michelin star, and it currently ranks 35th on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants List.


Dining at Atelier Crenn is an experimental, often whimsical journey in which seafood-focused cuisine is served alongside nature-inspired poems in place of menus.



Crenn says that the restaurant is an homage to her father, a French politician who was also a talented artist, and whose paintings adorn the restaurant’s wall.

I’m not serving a menu, I’m serving a story. I want you to dialogue with me. I’m triggering something inside of you, the memories inside of you. And if I do this, I know that I’m doing the right thing.

– Chef Crenn, as quoted in Eater, Sept 2018

Amid the success of Atelier Crenn, Chef Crenn began planning her next restaurant in San Francisco.

In 2015, after two years of searching for a location, she finally found the perfect space in the Hayes Valley neighborhood, a few blocks away from San Francisco’s City Hall and historic Opera House. Nestled among Victorian row houses and chic boutiques, Petit Crenn was the perfect casual counterpart to the elevated cuisine at Atelier Crenn.

Petit Crenn quickly became one of San Francisco’s most popular dining destinations and earned a “Good Cooking” recommendation in the 2019 Michelin guide. Inspired by Northern California’s dramatic coast, the seafood-forward tasting menu is prepared in an open kitchen anchored by a wood-fired grill.

In 2018, Chef Crenn took over an empty storefront next door to Atelier Crenn and began work on her third restaurant. An elegant wine bar sporting vintage furniture and serving classical French preparations, Bar Crenn also became a critical success, earning a Michelin star in its first year.


Building a world-class team

Building a small empire in the span of several years is by no means a one-woman job. While Chef Crenn maintains an active role overseeing all three restaurants, she has assembled a full team of hospitality professionals to help run the daily operations of each business. This work includes hiring and training, menu development, purchasing, and special event planning.


One of the restaurant group’s behind-the-scenes stars is Director of Operations Maxime Larquier, who joined the team in 2017. Larquier’s mission is to help maintain and perfect Crenn’s vision, and to instill that vision across roughly 100 employees.

“I think my approach to managing the luxury brand is to create a very personal and emotional product,” says Maxime.

“I’m not just surrounding ourselves with extremely talented people. I ensure that I am always executing or improving her vision. I want everybody to feel they are respected, taken care of, and empowered to do the job.”

Atelier Crenn’s back-office challenge

Like most restaurants, the three Crenn locations were overwhelmed by paper invoices from their vendors — a problem exacerbated by a system of manual data entry.

Each restaurant would receive hundreds of invoices a month, some of which were inevitably lost or mis-entered. Payments were sometimes late or processed incorrectly.

To Larquier, the workflow’s biggest problem was its impact on his staff’s focus.

If I’m paying a chef de cuisine and I see him copying data from a piece of paper to a computer, I don’t look at that as being productive. I want them to be with their team and cooking, talking to the guests, and doing their job of bringing more value to the company.

Powering #incrennable operations with AP automation

Restaurants — no matter the size, cuisine, or number of Michelin stars — rely on standardization. From training to procurement to plating, the best kitchens are those that can execute consistently night after night. Larquier agrees this is critical for running Atelier Crenn.

“One of our biggest challenges as a manager is that everywhere I’ve worked around the world, we’re always busy. We don’t have time in the kitchen to sit in our office. And I think technology is here to help us to navigate what humans cannot do well.”

In 2016, Atelier Crenn and Petit Crenn began using Ottimate to organize and automate their invoice processing and payments. Now all three restaurants use the software — not only for AP automation, but also food costing and menu planning. 



Chef de Cuisine Nick Anichini, who manages the day-to-day culinary operations for Atelier Crenn, was impressed with the capabilities of Ottimate when he joined the team in 2018:

One of the first impressions I had of Ottimate was how in-depth it was. Extremely helpful tool for a company that focuses on organization and keeping data. The capabilities are so impressive.

Nick’s team of sous chefs collect invoices and scan them into Ottimate. After that, all the invoices and the data within those invoices is securely stored and easily accessible from Ottimate’s website.

“We collect the invoices throughout the day and at the end of the night, I or one of my sous chefs will enter them into a running decline budget. This keeps us current with spending for the week. Then we’ll scan them into Ottimate.”

Nick states that without automation, the kitchen would have to rely on a manual system that would add extra hours to his week trying to calculate food costs. Even worse, it would take precious time away from managing the kitchen, and the restaurant’s complex menu.

Ottimate solves this problem.

Instead of having to rifle through a bunch of file cabinets to look at the price of caviar this week, I just type the invoice or item section into Ottimate, it easily comes up, and I’m able to stay up to date.

Managing a long list of vendors — from large distributors to local farms and specialty producers — is typical for fine-dining restaurants. The sheer volume of suppliers and invoices can be daunting for a chef trying to figure out up-to-date pricing and stay current with vendor payments. Ottimate helps Nick track price fluctuations and calculate menu pricing when creating new dishes.

“On the creative side, when working with artists like Dominique, it’s definitely less predictable, which makes it fun. When the food costing comes along and we have a dish that we want to work on and we have the ingredients, there’s a lot of tools that we can use. When I’m in front of my computer, I take a look at Ottimate.”


For world-class restaurants like the Crenns, automating invoice and vendor management has become a crucial part of their overall operations.

Using proven technology platforms such as Ottimate allows their managers and chefs to spend more time in the kitchen and the dining room, and less time in the office.