Conway CPA Michael Rasmussen, an accounting professor at the University of Central Arkansas, was working in southern California 15 years ago when he hatched the idea for Eyenalyze, a service that aims to level the playing field for independent local restaurants by providing them with the financial and managerial tools available to large franchises.
Rasmussen, whose practice is limited to the restaurant industry, was asked by a local restaurant owner to eliminate much of the business’ paperwork so the owner could leave by 3 p.m. each day to pick up his ailing daughter from school.
“She had cancer and was going through treatment, and he wanted to spend all the time possible together,” Rasmussen said. “So we worked tirelessly implementing systems to ensure he was home.”
The daughter recovered, and a seed was planted. Once in Arkansas, Rasmussen teamed with Ed Hornyak, a certified executive chef who graduated from the Culinary Institute of America and is considered the founding father of the culinary school at Pulaski Tech, and Eyenalyze was born.
“Most independent restaurants don’t have access to the financial and managerial tools provided to franchised operators,” Rasmussen said. “We’ll change this. Eyenalyze takes two areas of restaurant expertise — accounting/finance and operations/management — and produces a product that addresses the needs of these two perspectives.”
And about that name: Eyenalyze?
“At 3 in the morning several years back, I was told to find a word that after four keystrokes on Google search there was no other search found,” Rasmussen said. “I was searching for something related to ‘Keep your eye on your numbers’ and ‘Analyze the data continuously.’”
Mission accomplished. Local clients include the new Cache restaurant from Payne Harding in the River Market, Vino’s and local Jimmy John’s and Subway franchises.
The Eyenalyze software mirrors the technologies developed by the country’s top chains and makes them available — “affordable and accessible,” Rasmussen says — to local operators. The software captures data from point-of-sale (checkout) machines used by 80 percent of the independent restaurants and food-service suppliers in the industry, he said, and provides sales information, labor costs, plate costing and gross profit information.
It exports financial information daily into most accounting systems and presents easily readable, real-time information — a daily financial scorecard — available on any device with Internet access.
The focus, of course, is local restaurants, but Eyenalyze can work with any business that potentially serves food. The firm’s client list includes hotels, country clubs, caterers and even breweries.
Rasmussen is up front about his restaurant focus: “Simply, I love to eat and serve the next big chain,” he said. The primary purpose of Eyenalyze is to help local restaurants compete, ensuring that Rasmussen and “restaurantophiles” like him will continue to have local options.
The admiration is mutual. Clients have contributed a healthy chunk of the $200,000 raised by Eyenalyze on its way to a goal of $250,000 from angel investors. Helping struggling restaurateurs has been the most satisfying aspect of launching Eyenalyze for Rasmussen.
“They need tools that they can’t afford and we can deliver to stay in business,” he said. “In my CPA practice, I found that I could be more effective by accessing my clients’ data remotely and placing the data in a location in the cloud accessible 24/7. In the accounting world, most CPA practices are generalists. I saw successful practices creating niche markets and focused on one area.”
Eyenalyze enlisted the help of Innovate Arkansas to get started. IA advisers helped Rasmussen develop a Lean Startup business model approach that has helped the Eyenalyze team spread its message and get in front of investor groups.
The team is based in central Arkansas but for now Rasmussen outsources the Eyenalyze tech to southern California because of his connections there and its status as a mobile development hot spot. But he’s committed to staying in Arkansas.
“We intend to host the software and create an innovative sandbox team here in central Arkansas to develop data applications geared to be pushed to the mobile environment so restaurant operators can get their daily scorecard while waking up to a fresh pot of coffee every morning,” he said.