Inside The Box Café & Catering has two cafes, a catering facility and an airport location in Tampa, Florida. But the rapidly growing business has the humblest of roots. Inside the Box Café is the social enterprise of Metropolitan Ministries, a local Tampa Bay facility for the homeless and those at risk of becoming homeless.

For more than four years, all proceeds from the breakfast and lunchtime meals at Inside The Box Café have been used to feed homeless or at-risk Tampa Bay citizens. What’s more, the employees who make the meals are part of Inside the Box’s Culinary Arts Program, which employs them in the restaurant and allows them to get job experience, and learn the skills necessary to enter the culinary industry—as well as other industries—to overcome homelessness.


Having gained early notoriety as an inspiring business with healthy and delicious food, customers flock to the Inside The Box Café locations for breakfast and lunch every day. Cliff Barsi, Senior Director of Food Services & Social Enterprise at Metropolitain Minsitries, runs the Inside The Box Café Culinary Arts Program and can attest to the crowds: “Since the beginning, we have seen breakfast and lunch rushes that have only increased over time.”

Although the meals and snacks were simplifying the transactions at Inside The Box Cafe, the lines kept growing along with the Café’s popularity. This represented a real operational challenge. “It was becoming so crowded that we used to walk through the line with notepads and pens, taking down orders to try and make the line move more quickly. But, this also did not work for us” said Mr. Barsi. The pen-and-paper order tickets—originally created to calm the chaos—had become another pain point. Orders would get lost in translation and misplaced within the growing pile. This also did no favors for Inside The Box Café’s inventory management and sales-tracking systems. 


Mr. Barsi recognized the need for a more efficient system and sought a new solution to alleviate the long lines. Mr. Barsi also thought that there had to be a better way to take orders than with a pen and paper—he wanted the ultimate connectivity. Last, he wanted a system that could track sales and inventory in real-time, and give him a better sense of which products sold the fastest. That way, he could tweak output and pricing accordingly.


CAKE’s POS, combined with its mobile line-busting extension called CAKE OrderPad, fit the bill. It also expanded Mr. Barsi’s technology beyond the minimum payment features. Mr. Barsi chose to keep a stationary CAKE POS register in each Inside The Box location for payments, but also included CAKE’s OrderPads for alleviating lines. In contrast to the antiquated pen and paper method, OrderPad orders directly feed into the main POS system and print tickets for the kitchen. This not only cuts down on staff’s time, but also eliminates any confusion about the status of an order ticket.

In addition to the streamlined ordering process, Mr. Barsi was able to make progress on the inventory and pricing front. Since the CAKE system is completely cloud-based, Mr. Barsi can now look up inventory and sales in real-time, and then adjust pricing as needed from any device.

“For the first time I feel like I am in full control of all my locations,” said Mr. Barsi. “Now, I know how a day is going, no matter where I am. And, I can make adjustments in the system if necessary.”

And because of the nonprofit nature of Inside The Box, having monthly fees for service (as opposed to one hefty annual fee) was also an added perk.


Smooth Sailing

Lines of customers at Inside The Box Café’s two locations are vastly different than they were before the implementation of CAKE. Now, a staff member with an OrderPad promptly greets customers instead of making them wait in line to place their order and pay. “On a good day,” says Mr. Barsi, “people can pick up their order by the time they reach the front of the line to pay, something we were not able to do before.”

Measured impact

This more streamlined experience could also be seen through CAKE’s data. By implementing OrderPads, Inside The Box Café was able to increase their total revenue during their peak hour (12-1pm) by more than 12 percent within only two weeks of implementation. On Mondays—which account for more than 25 percent of their weekly revenue—Inside The Box Café saw revenue increases of 32 percent.

The impact on staff

Popular to contrary belief, the implementation of this technology did not create a barrier between staff and customers. In fact, it lifted barriers and increased interaction. Since implementing CAKE, overall tips increased by a whopping 21 percent (Even as much as 23 percent on their busy Mondays).

There is also the added benefit of getting Inside The Box staff exposed to technology that will befit their career development. “Part of our mission is to give our staff the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in this or any other industry. By making technology an integrated part of their daily work life, I do believe we add a vital skillset for them,” said Mr. Barsi.

Focusing on what matters

Most importantly, says Mr. Barsi, the new system allows the focus to remain on the mission of Inside The Box Café. “Now, when customers visit, they have a seamless experience that allows them to focus on the good they are doing by contributing to our cause. CAKE has allowed us to create a more personal, friendly experience. In addition, we’re able to show our program participants the ins and outs of running a restaurant, from creating the menu to calming the chaos of peak traffic times.” 

About CAKE

Based in Silicon Valley, CAKE is a Sysco company offering restaurant-specific technology solutions. CAKE’s platform seamlessly integrates front and back of house restaurant operations, allowing restaurant owners and operators to achieve unparalleled visibility into and control over their point of sale, table and waitlist management, menu pricing, guest preference tracking, reservations systems, inventory and payroll.