One industry hit especially hard in the past year is hospitality.
Irish company EcoBurner work with hotels across the world to ensure their food is beautifully presented. But with travel massively reduced, EcoBurner used the 2020 downtime to plan new products and fine tune their processes.
That included expenses. With a team that was on the road (and in the air) a lot, boss Ciaran Doyle knew there had to be a smarter way to manage reimbursements.
That's when he found Pleo.
Tell us about EcoBurner – what’s the journey that got you here?
It started off from a simple idea, born in a garden shed around 15 years ago: Trying to make the process of keeping food warm on buffets safer, cleaner and greener. A buffet heating method isn't exactly something a guest would notice, but it’s an important part of the smooth running of your all-inclusive resort experience.
It’s really only in the last seven or eight years that EcoBurner became a company in the true sense of the word. We started in Waterford, Ireland and went to the UK, then the US and eight years later, we’ve now got 65 products and 60-something countries we’re exporting to.
It’s been a tough time for hotels for obvious reasons. How’s the past year been for you?
Obviously, last year was pretty horrific because we’re 100% exposed to the hotel industry.
Like most people, we spent the first two months thinking “hopefully this will be over quickly”. That became: “Will this be over quickly?” and then: “This isn’t going to be over quickly.”
At the end of that process, we sat down as a team and decided to make our own set of assumptions around timelines and things like that. We came up with a plan for what products we wanted to finish, how we could market them, looking at things like supply chain logistics.
That sounds positive.
Well, we’ve all had more time to spend with family, which is great. Before Covid-19, I was probably on the road with distributors 60% of the time. My kids are 15 and 16 and I hadn’t sat down and done homework with them for... I don’t know how many years!
So all of that stuff has been really nice.
But reassuringly, we’re starting to see a little bit of recovery in overseas markets. Fingers crossed for 2021 – we have an ambitious plan to grow our business back to where it was.
So during the downtime, one of the things you looked at was spending.
The coronavirus crisis gave us time to go back and review all of our processes. To look at the things we never would have had the time to sort out in normal circumstances.
Pleo stood out when we looked at options for managing our spending. It was the simplicity – one shared pot of funds that everyone in the company had access to.
Before, we had been using cards from our traditional bank and simple things like sending a payment were tangled up in archaic processes. Simple things like sending a payment or moving credit limits from one person to another were tangled.
So we tested Pleo with two or three cards and a few members of the team and it was just so simple. That was my big takeaway.
What difference does Pleo make for your team?
Typically, because we try not to handle foreign currency, even the smallest transaction is going to mean a credit card transaction, it’s going to mean a receipt.
So you buy something small like a cup of tea in Mexico – that’s a receipt.
It wasn’t unusual for me to have 50-60 transactions like that, sent to me on an Excel spreadsheet at the end of the month.
It’d be a two to three-hour job to go through those, classify them, match them up with receipts. Multiply that by 10 people across the company – and that’s before Finance started to reconcile them.
Now, everyone just uploads their receipts as they go and by ten o’clock on the first working day of the month, all the cards are done.
It’s saved 5-6 man-days across the company, easily.
What’s the coolest use of Pleo you’ve seen so far?
It’s Pleo Pocket for me.
Maybe more so than others in the company, the company, I would have both business and out-of-pocket expenditure. I've got money owed to me by the company and receipts I'd owe the company for other expenditure.
Before Pocket, we were reconciling that all of the time. Now it’s simple to go in and mark something as a personal purchase, paid for with my Pleo card.
We’ve rolled Pocket out to the whole team now, which has meant we could get rid of reimbursements through the payroll.
So Pocket is smoother than payroll reimbursements?
I find that any money that comes into my bank account through payroll just disappears into the black hole of life.
But if you make a conscious decision that the company owes me €150 for mileage, but we’re having dinner out and I’ll pay for that with the Pleo card… I find that easier to keep track of, rather than having an extra amount stuck on payroll at the end of the month.
How are you feeling about the year ahead?
We just want to see our customers busy again.
So much of what we took for granted in life was put on pause… the tapestry of life stuff is what I’m really missing. Even things like sitting on an airplane and hearing the flight has been delayed… That might not feel so bad any more!
I’m looking forward to getting back out there. All of our new products have been based on conversations with chefs, saying “it would be great if… “, so I can’t wait to see those products in hotels, in real life.