AP That Gives Back: Plate IQ’s 2020 In Review
by Plate IQ Editors
Few statements could be more appropriate for this year than “Hindsight is 20/20.”
The year started like all of them do: a livestream of Times Square, parties with friends and family, fireworks at midnight as every time zone stepped into the new decade.
At Plate IQ, we were excited about the new year too. Growth was healthy and our industry was strong. We had plans to launch new products: amazing features that would help our customers get faster and smarter with accounts payable.
Life, as always, had other plans.
This year has tested our friends in across all industries to a degree not seen in a century. From Michelin-starred restaurants and fried chicken mainstays to accounting and bookkeeping firms, hotels, and other hospitality companies, every single business operator has been living at the mercy of the daily COVID case count.
We have had a front-row seat to the bravery, fortitude, and resilience of operators, controllers, and AP teams as they navigate the chaos.
It has been inspiring beyond words.
Today we find ourselves tentatively — once again — looking forward to the new year. With promising vaccine news and the hope of an organized response to this pandemic, we’re excited about the rebounding of the economy.
Plate IQ in 2020: Leveraging the role of accounts payable
Since our founding in 2015, Plate IQ’s mission has been to serve the accounts payable needs of restaurant operators.
Originally, that meant building software that processed invoices with peerless visibility into each detail. Then 2020 arrived, and changed what it means to serve restaurants.
Plate IQ’s product work during COVID has focused on one simple question: how can we as an AP tool help our customers keep their cash flow healthy? We wanted to give them tools to operate leaner, smarter, and to be more in-control of their business expenditure. To be part of the solution for these businesses in a tangible, sustainable way.
As we close the books on 2020, we want to surface the tools we launched and to look forward to what would surely be brighter days ahead in the hospitality and food service industries.
Gift a Plate: Helping restaurants and shelters
When COVID began to unfold in March 2020, Plate IQ came up with an idea that would drive restaurant orders and help the larger community at the same time. Within days, Gift a Plate was live.
Gift a Plate is a non-profit that uses cash donations to place takeout orders from local restaurants, which we then deliver to partnering shelters. Thanks to tens of thousands of dollars in donations, Gift a Plate has been able to deliver hundreds of meals to shelters in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Louisville, and Boston.
If you’re interested in learning more about this organization — or to make a (tax-deductible!) donation — head to GiftAPlate.org.
What we built in 2020
Plate IQ’s product development in 2020 strove to make our platform as helpful as possible to restaurants trying to keep the doors open. Speaking to hundreds of customers every week, our team had a real-time pulse of the challenges these businesses were facing. One major area we looked at was finding ways for our customers to boost their margins with spending rebates.
Here are some of the tools we launched to help.
Helping businesses reclaim thousands of dollars with Bill Pay
This year, Plate IQ added virtual cards to our Bill Pay functionality. Not only are vCard payments faster and more secure than ACH transactions or paper checks, they also introduce a critical new piece to the equation: cash back from paying your bills.
Integrating Bill Pay with a cash back program was more than just a feature. It’s a key development in our goal to shift accounts payable away from being a pure cost center.
One of the primary pains of accounts payable is that, historically, it cost money to spend money.
Hiring teams to process invoices, spending time following up with vendors, buying stamps — all of this is cost added onto the invoice amount.
Plate IQ launched Bill Pay to streamline that invoice payment process and eliminate some of those costs. With the vCard program we launched in the summer of 2020, Plate IQ went a step further and helped our customers earn back some of that spend.
Customers are able to automatically scan their invoices, set up approval workflows, and pay their invoices electronically with virtual cards, saving hundreds of hours of work.
In addition, Bill Pay offers true cash flow control that puts the customer first. With the option to pay vendors by ACH, check or vCards, businesses can decide if they’d prefer funds to be debited from their account instantly upon approval (if using ACH or vCards), or only after the check has been cashed by the vendor (if using Plate IQ’s paper check payment option).
As always, Plate IQ does not earn any money from interest on cash float.
Since the launch of Bill Pay vCards in early 2020, many customers have covered their Plate IQ platform fees with vCard rebates alone, on top of additional cash back. We expect cash back rebates to increase even more next year as the economy recovers.
Looking ahead to 2021, we hope Bill Pay vCards will transform our customers’ accounts payable into a source of much-needed cash flow for businesses.
Helping operators manage changing costs with Insights
For businesses who felt that 2020 had enough surprises, Plate IQ launched Insights. This powerful analytics tool is geared entirely towards controlling costs: from anticipating rising item costs to enforcing vendor contracts.
Insights is not just another flashing-numbers analytics dashboard. Using granular price information from actual invoices, Insights makes it immediately simple to:
- See the price fluctuations of individual SKUs
- Dig into spend by time period to understand which costs are ballooning
- Compare item price across locations, so that multi-property businesses can drive consistent purchasing business-wide
- Monitor and even prohibit pricing that violates negotiated contract terms
Being able to anticipate changing prices and purchase accordingly is critical at a time when businesses are tightening their belts. Insights was built with that real-world actionability in mind.
Controlling costs in real time with Spend Management
The newest addition to Plate IQ is Spend Management, currently in beta. This platform centralizes corporate card spending and lets businesses issue their own cards, both physical and virtual.
Putting all of a business’s corporate card activity on one dashboard is valuable. But the real power of Spend Management is controlling spend ahead of time with pre-approved virtual cards.
This payment method protects cash flow by making costs more predictable and eliminating the need for petty cash. We believe it will be a powerful tool in helping operators turn cost forecasting into concrete knowledge. Look for more on this front in 2021.
To brighter days ahead
Above all, we at Plate IQ want to close 2020 by expressing the immense pride we have in our customers. To those of you who are with us today — businesses and the accounting firms who support them — you’ve been an inspiration. You’ve met the challenge of this year heroically.
It’s an honor to build products for customers so full of creativity, passion, and grit. And in 2021, we’ll be here as you get back on your feet: to help you continue to operate your businesses efficiently and intelligently.
At the close of this chapter and the opening of another, Plate IQ wishes you happy holidays and a successful 2021.
Plate IQ Editors
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