Customer Story | National Fast-Casual Chain

Cava Ottimate customer story graphic

How Cava and Zoës Kitchen’s Merger Led to a Better AP Process

“Ottimate got us unified. Instead of my team having to toggle between two different things, they use one platform, both for Cava and Zoës, and for all corporate invoices. It’s just easier to manage everything when you’re on one simple process.”

Whitney Hamiter
AP Manager
40 reams
of paper eliminated each month








In 2018, Mediterranean food chain, Cava, acquired the fast-casual brand, Zoës Kitchen, forming the Cava Group. The merger resulted in a company with over 300 U.S. locations — and a hefty load of paper invoices. 


To manage the seemingly endless piles of paperwork, the Cava Group’s accounts payable (AP) team knew they needed to find a way to combine each company’s AP process to create a unified workflow that could save time, reduce paperwork, and make it easier to approve invoices. 


The Challenge: An Overwhelming Paper-Based Process


Even before the acquisition, Zoës Kitchen struggled with a manual and error-prone AP process that involved printing and scanning thousands of invoices each week. General managers at each restaurant location would receive invoices, enter them into an inventory software, and then scan and send the paper invoices to the corporate office. 


It was a slow, error-prone process. 


So when AP Manager, Whitney Hamiter, joined the company in 2016, addressing these inefficiencies became one of her top priorities. 

We would print out 5,000 pages a week of just invoices. I used to have someone every Tuesday who would sit there and print. That’s all they did.

“The rest of us would grab pages and audit against the inventory software. It was a huge pain.”


Aside from creating piles of unnecessary paperwork, the process was far from transparent and made it difficult to find invoices whenever oversight was needed. “If you ever had to reference an invoice again, you had to go through a whole filing cabinet.” 


After Cava acquired Zoës, Whitney and her team suddenly found themselves responsible for streamlining a second manual AP workflow. But as the mountain of paper doubled, so did Whitney’s resolve to fix it.


The solution


Cava didn’t just bring a higher volume of invoices — they also brought a new accounting system, NetSuite. This meant Whitney’s team needed to find a solution that not only solved their AP challenges, but also easily integrated with their new ERP. 


They found the answer in Ottimate’s invoice automation solution.  


“[Ottimate] integrated well with our accounting software,” shares Whitney. 

Some of the vendors we work with don’t have any kind of feed into NetSuite. We liked the setup and the ease of that connection — really the simplicity of Ottimate in general.

Ottimate takes digital invoices directly from vendors and pushes them into both NetSuite and NetChef, Cava’s inventory management software. Not only did this free up expensive NetSuite storage space, it also created a critical link between the different software in the company’s tech stack.


This meant a simpler process for the AP team — and an easier transition for store managers. “They don’t like these complex systems,” says Whiteny. “They want to just go in and approve really quickly. The look and ease of the software is a big benefit.”


Whitney and her team were also able to create customized approval routing, to ensure the right invoices are sent to the right people for approval and oversight. 

We liked that we could create our own workflows in Ottimate. In our corporate group, for example, we’re creating an escalation process that’ll get certain invoices in front of the right approvers faster. It’s super helpful in getting a more up-to-date P&L.

The Results


Going Paperless


Thanks to Ottimate, Cava and Zoës have finally taken control over the piles of paperwork that used to plague them. Invoices are now electronically sent directly to their Ottimate account, ready to be reviewed, and physical invoices are automatically turned into digital, searchable files.


“If someone in corporate wants to look at a specific invoice, instead of accounting having to pull it up for them, they can just go into Ottimate and find it. Same for the stores. If a GM is wondering what’s hitting their P&L, they can see quickly. It’s really made the close process more efficient.”


Advanced Approvals


Whitney also uses custom logic in Ottimate’s interface to streamline the approval workflow. This ensures that specific invoices reach the right approvers promptly, and that unapproved invoices are automatically escalated — resulting in greater visibility and faster approvals.

If the insurance invoice comes in, we can send it right to that department for approval. And then we have the delegation of authority set up so that if the reviewer doesn’t approve it by a certain date, Ottimate escalates it to the next person automatically.

Tracking Costs


Ottimate’s spend analysis tool is helping store managers and the supply chain team stay ahead of changing costs.


“Store managers notice now if an item is charged strangely. If one invoice charged $5 for a case of beef and the next was $10, they’ll reach out to the vendor.”


Accrual Reporting


Ottimate’s reporting feature helps the team with daily tracking and more accurate accrual reporting — including for invoices that haven’t been approved and pushed into NetSuite yet.


“I use the accrual report on almost a daily basis,” Whitney says. “We’ve asked a lot of vendors to send things directly to Ottimate rather than their corporate contact. So even though something wasn’t approved and pushed into NetSuite for close, I’m able to accrue for anything. All the reporting is just much closer to what it should be.”


Greater Efficiency for Beautiful Unity


With an automated AP process in place, Cava’s AP team is able to get more done in less time. Not only is their invoice workflow more efficient, it’s also become a lynchpin for the company’s combined financial processes. 

Ottimate got us unified. Instead of my team having to toggle between two different things, they use one platform, both for Cava and Zoës, and for all corporate invoices. It’s just easier to manage everything when you’re on one simple process.

Ready to automate your AP workflow and create a more unified process for your restaurant group? Learn how Ottimate can help — schedule a demo today!