WHG Companies, a hospitality management company, builds, franchises, and manages hotels primarily located in small towns across the country. These hotels are full service, including amenities and free continental breakfast in the morning.
Sarah Zuehlke, the Lead Accountant at WHG Companies, began as a bookkeeper and now manages the accounting department. Among other responsibilities, her department handles Accounts Payable (AP), processing invoices on a daily basis.
When Sarah started her work with WHG nine years ago, the company had 12 locations throughout the United States. Now, there are 60 locations that WHG manages. This rapid growth has been an exciting ride, but has also led to operational challenges like keeping up with Accounts Payable.
Previously, WHG’s AP department “did everything very old school,” said Sarah. Managers would bundle and mail invoices to the AP department every week for the accounting team to process. This “snail mail” system meant that sometimes it took two or three weeks for bills to get to the central office, depending on the location, and the team dealt with other issues like lost mail.
“A lot of times, our team was getting emails and things from vendors saying, ‘why haven't you paid us?’ Well, it's because we still haven't gotten your bills,” she explained.
WHG’s AP team was doing about 10 checks per location on a heavy week. With over 60 locations, that’s over 600 checks – all by hand.
Everything was super manual. We got the invoices, put them into our Sage 50 program. And then print checks, fold checks, mail checks… It was a pretty labor-intensive process with 60 hotels.
WHG Companies has used Sage 50cloud since before Sarah had even joined the team. As a relatively niche accounting software, many invoicing solutions didn’t integrate seamlessly with Sage 50.
In fact, WHG had previously tried another invoicing solution, but was abandoned because it didn't fit the company’s needs. “We were kind of skeptical to try another solution,” she admitted. The other platform we tried “required a lot of adjustments to spreadsheets before we could import them, and they couldn’t customize them for us. We had to delete things, add things. It was just causing a lot more work for us than what we wanted to have to do.”
“We were trying to get away from all of the manual stuff and, and they weren't able to do that for us,” Sarah finished.
WHG has been using Plate IQ since August 2021. Their strategy was to start with one single hotel location, to create their best system. Then, they started to transition other batches, state by state, until all 60 of their locations were using the Plate IQ system.
When it comes to closing the books with Plate IQ, Sarah explained that she now knows she can rely on how invoice information has been coded.
When we do have to close out the books, we know things are coded correctly within our system. It's definitely improving all of our AP processes.
While Sarah couldn’t give an exact number of hours saved on AP processes, she explained that Plate IQ has prevented needing to hire someone new in the department.
“[Plate IQ] has freed up a lot of time with the team who was actually doing the processing, now they can take on more work and do other things. Our time is being freed up by not having to do so many things manually,” she concluded.
Sarah estimated that WHG’s accounting team runs “3,500-4,000 invoices on a monthly basis.” Much of this comes from restaurant food and beverage orders, which may involve 20-25 basic invoices a week for each restaurant location.
When asked about how many GL codes that included, Sarah laughed and said, “too many!” Food invoices presented a particular challenge, because some items on a food invoice might say something like “rib stk” for a ribeye steak.
However, Plate IQ is definitely learning all of that for us, which definitely cuts down the work. Sometimes it’s just like, ‘wow, it actually knew what the invoice meant!’
Sarah also highlighted Plate IQ’s functionality that can split an invoice between different locations. Some of WHG’s hotels maintain restaurants, and occasionally one restaurant will purchase a product to share with another location. Plate IQ allows users to automatically split invoices, allocating one portion from one location and another amount for a different location, which is an extremely helpful feature for WHG.
“Plate IQ is saving us a lot of time and manpower,” Sarah said.
The accounting team, regional managers, and managers use the Plate IQ system. After the initial implementation, Sarah trained her team on the basics via video calls.
“It's so simple to use for all those managers that it was just kind of a 10-20 minute training,” she explained. Managers scan or take a picture of invoices, upload it, and then Plate IQ and the AP team take care of the coding and the rest of the process from there.
“They’re learning as they go with the other formats and things that they can check, like if a payment has been made or something like that. They're learning gradually, and it’s been a great experience actually,” she said.
Now, I get a lot of good feedback from the managers, that Plate IQ is just amazing, because now they don't ever have to go to the post office to drop off their bills each week
As another example, Sarah mentioned that although the organization doesn’t use approval workflow rules, they do take advantage of the “flag invoice” feature. Plate IQ users can check the system to see “who's been flagged, if they've responded, if they resolved it, that kind of information.”
“I think we have one invoice right now that's been kind of going back and forth between us, the manager, and the regional manager to get it figured out,” she said. “It’s nice to follow the full scope, and you don't have to search through emails to see who responded and what they said.”
Sarah explained that having invoice information at their fingertips prevents time-consuming searches for information.
"Our filing has obviously gone way down,” she said. “If we do have any questions or concerns on an invoice, we can just pull it up right in Plate IQ; we don't have to go searching in an office filing cabinet trying to find it.
The interface is also user-friendly for managers to access information. Managers are empowered to take a look at their own data when needed, going into the system to “see how much they're spending on eggs for breakfast and things like that,” Sarah said.
WHG worked with Plate IQ to create custom features that imported files within the Sage 50 program, in a way that supported WHG’s operations. Given WHG’s experience with their previous invoicing solution, “we were happy when Plate IQ was totally on board with customizing our files for us,” said Sarah.
When it comes time for, the WHG team uses whatever payment method the vendor prefers in Plate IQ. Some vendors prefer ACH and virtual cards, although Sarah detailed that most of her vendors choose paper checks.
Sarah and the WHG team have recently finished their successful implementation of Plate IQ. With new accounting and operational processes in place, they are ready to take advantage of new efficiencies and support even more growth for the company in the future.
To learn more about WHG Companies, visit https://www.whgco.com/
To streamline invoice management at your growing business, request a demo of Plate IQ using the form below.