chefs preparing meals
chefs preparing meals
September 26, 2023

6 Common AP Challenges QSRs Face — and How AP Automation can Solve Them

by The Ottimate Editorial Team

In the fast-paced world of quick service restaurants (QSRs), delicious food, excellent service, and smooth operations are key ingredients for success. But there’s one not-so-secret ingredient that can level up every aspect of your business: AP automation.  

AP automation is a technology-driven solution that streamlines and optimizes the entire accounts payable (AP) process for QSRs like yours. It leverages advanced software and digital tools that transform your AP process — so your behind-the-scenes operations run as smoothly as your top-notch front-of-house service.  

Let’s explore six ways AP automation can strengthen your QSR’s operations: 

1. Eliminate Human Errors

Many QSRs rely on manual processes to handle invoices, match them with purchase orders, ensure accuracy, and make payments. But manual processes are prone to human error — like typos, miscalculations, and missing information — that can lead to financial discrepancies and inaccurate records.

Automating your AP process significantly reduces the risk of mistakes. That’s because automated solutions (like Ottimate) leverage optical character recognition (OCR) and machine-learning technologies that learn and adapt to your workflows. This tool creates clean, complete, and current records by automating general ledger (GL) code mapping, approval routing, and audit trails/report generation.

2. Prevent Payment Delays

Things happen on-the-fly in a QSR, and your customers expect both speed and excellence with every order. The same goes for your vendors. 

But with countless invoices arriving each day, a manual review and approval process can take time, which can delay payments. This can put a strain on your vendor relationships or affect when you receive ingredients or supplies.

With an automated AP system, you can avoid these disruptions, reduce your AP processing time, and keep your vendors happy with timely payments. Take it from our friends at B&G Enterprises, a leading QSR with over 150 locations that receives over 700 invoices each week:

“We did not have any type of automation system. We manually coded everything ourselves and keyed everything into our accounting system. Between opening the invoices, sorting them, coding them, keying them, checking them, and scanning them, we probably looked at each invoice five or six times before we were finished with it.”

After years of slogging through long and tedious manual processes, the B&G team decided to partner with Ottimate and automate their AP workflows. Now, they’ve transformed their process and cut the time spent on AP by 90% — reducing processing time from 50 hours to just four hours each week!

“The invoices that already have items automatically mapped and everything take, probably, five seconds. We just make sure the store number’s right, check the date, and then we move on. So it’s cut down on our time drastically.”

ap automation for manufacturing product abstract showing the payment automation feature

3. Avoid Piles of Paperwork

If your invoices are stacking up like dirty dishes, it’s time for a change. Piles of paperwork create clutter and increase the likelihood of invoices or other important documents getting lost or misplaced.

AP automation for QSRs eliminates your need for physical paper trails by digitizing your documents. This not only “cleans up” your workflows, but also contributes to a more eco-friendly business approach.

4. Streamline Approvals

Even the fastest manual processes can get stalled by the approvals process. Determining who needs to approve which invoices, tracking the right people down, and making follow-up calls can take a lot of time and effort — especially when everyone in your QSR already has a lot on their plates.

With an AP automation solution like Ottimate, you can set up custom approval flows that automatically route to the right people — all in a single click. Plus, you can easily see when or if someone’s approved an invoice or payment, making follow-ups a breeze. 

5. Increase Financial Transparency

Manual workflows slow down your AP processes, making it hard to keep your records up to date. This limits visibility into outstanding invoices, payment statuses, and cash flows. A lack of transparency can negatively affect how you manage your budget and make informed financial decisions.

Implementing automated AP workflows gives you and your team a real-time look at your financial operations — making it easier than ever to track incomplete invoices, monitor payments, and analyze spending patterns.

6. Create More Efficient Workflows 

Traditional AP processes are generally time-consuming and multi-tiered. They often involve collecting and coding invoices, getting approvals, scheduling payments, and then logging information into your ERP. With so many steps, it’s easy to create bottlenecks and clunky workflows that hinder processing speed and accuracy.

AP automation removes these obstacles by creating an efficient workflow. You can spend 80 percent less time on AP and instead focus on the work that matters. Pre-defined approval routing and automated reminders prevent bottlenecking, while automatic coding and single-click payments ensure invoices are swiftly (and accurately!) processed and paid.

AP automation for qsrs allow for owners and employees to spend more time where it really matters.

How to Implement AP Automation for Your QSR

Automating your QSR’s AP processes means more than just adopting a new technology. You need to adopt a strategic approach, so you and your team can smoothly transition from a manual process to a digital one.

1. Assess Your Needs  

Before implementing any new system, it’s important to understand your specific needs. Start by examining your current AP process: identify pain points, look for common errors, and pinpoint workflow inefficiencies that can be addressed through automation.

You’ll also want to consider the number of locations your QSR has, your budget, your current ERP, and how many invoices you process each month.

2. Determine the Right Solution for You

After assessing your needs, it’s time to choose the right AP automation solution for your QSR.

Select a solution that aligns with your business’ needs and goals. Explore features that can boost your QSR’s AP operations, such as:

  • Automated invoice matching
  • Customizable approvals
  • In-app payment solutions
  • Software Integrations

Beyond top-notch technology, look at what else the solution provider offers. For example, Ottimate’s AP Automation solution delivers a comprehensive onboarding process, customizable workflows, and ongoing, personalized support — meaning our friendly team has your back when you need it.

3. Train Your Team 

A well-rounded training plan is essential to getting the most out of any new technology or system. Once you’ve chosen an AP automation solution for your QSR, you’ll want to make sure your team receives the training they need to use it. This includes learning how to process invoices, manage approvals, and integrate with your existing ERP. 

4. Be Adaptable 

Change requires flexibility — and that includes any changes to your AP process. Keep in mind that you may face some initial learning curves when transitioning to AP automation…and that’s okay! By being adaptable, you and your team can easily navigate any “growing pains” as you put your new system into place. 

Transform Your Operations with AP Automation for QSRs

By embracing technology-driven solutions like AP automation for QSRs, you can transform your operations through enhanced accuracy, faster processing, stronger vendor relationships, and better financial visibility. And with the industry becoming more and more competitive, automation may be the strategic advantage your team needs to focus more on delivering a quality customer experience, and less on processing paperwork.

As technology evolves, AP automation will continue to become more sophisticated — making now the best time to start automating your QSR’s AP process. Ready to take your QSR’s operations to the next level? Ottimate is here to help. Take the first step in automating your AP process by scheduling a free demo today.

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