NOVATO -- Ctuit Software has been helping restaurant chain owners better manage finances and operations for more than a decade, and now the maker of those tools is seeing to it that it has the talent and infrastructure in place to manage its own fast growth.

Ctuit (415-884-4888, ctuit.com) in the past year has made a sizable investment in computer systems to handle data from hundreds of new client locations each year, as sales have grown by 27 percent on an annualized basis for the past five years. The company also plans to double the size of its Novato headquarters by February, so it can triple the size of the 19-employee workforce there in the next three years.

The number of locations served by the Ctuit Radar suite of cloud-based operational and analytical software grew by 900 in the past year to 2,700. The company claims to have a 99 percent retention rate for customers, which include Lark Creek Restaurant Group and Boudin Sourdough, both based in San Francisco, and Huntington Beach-based BJ's Restaurants, which has 130 locations.

"We're hitting a parabolic growth curve now," said Robert D'Ambrosia, founder, president and chief executive officer. "We probably can continue this growth for three to four years."

[caption id="attachment_65611" align="alignleft" width="200"] Rob D'Ambrosia[/caption]

And this growth trajectory has continued through the recent economic recession when many restaurants were hurting. Mr. D'Ambrosia said two factors have contributed to the company's recent growth: centralized, remote management and greater acceptance among businesses with cloud computing. 

Ctuit Radar provides owners and managers a dynamically updated view of the often challenging-to-manage sales, labor and cost-of-goods components of the restaurant business. For example, the food costing software module has allowed some clients to shave 1 percent to 1.5 percent from food costs if they were diligent enough to devote staff time to accurately log inventories of ingredients and calculate the cost of recipes. That may not seem like much, but when multiplied across hundreds of locations, those savings add up and help when competing on menu prices, Mr. D'Ambrosia said.

"The cost of corn and other commodities is going to go up," he said. "Consumers are getting really picky with their dollars." 

A module popular with higher-end clients is food server management, which helps coach the staff on suggesting to patrons which menu items to order together, such as side dishes and desserts.

[caption id="attachment_65612" align="alignright" width="330"] Ctuit Radar allows restaurant owners and managers to see financial and operational information from the cloud.[/caption]

From its origins in 2000, Ctuit developed its software to run from a datacenter, allowing clients to access and analyze data aggregated from restaurant point-of-sale systems, payroll providers, accounting systems and supplier electronic data interchange. When Ctuit started as an application service provider, conducting sensitive business such as banking over the Internet was not common. Today, a number business software developers are transitioning to software as a service, or SaaS, and online business banking is common.

The monthly fee per restaurant is $100 for the basic package and up to $180 when adding optional modules such as general-ledger sales reporting, accounts payable, inventory, recipe management, labor scheduling, service analysis and event management.

Revenue this year is on track to reach $4.6 million, up from $3 million last year. Projected sales next year are $6.5 million.

Seeing the growth of handheld computers such as smartphones and tablets as the next trend in SaaS, Ctuit launched Radar to Go two years ago and is planning to take that product further next year.

To manage the data needs of a growing number of client restaurant locations, Ctuit has invested more than $250,000 this year on virtualized server computer technology, a hefty investment that is expected to cut computer hardware costs in half in the next four months. The company had been spending $10,000 per each additional server computer installed in a datacenter rack, but server virtualization allows for allocating data storage and processing to less-active existing physical servers.

And to manage growing workforce needs, Ctuit signed a five-year lease of 10,700 square feet of office space at 773 San Marin Dr. in one of the Fireman's Fund Insurance Co. headquarters campus buildings in Novato. Ctuit moved from San Rafael to Novato a decade ago and now occupies 5,500 square feet at 867 Diablo Ave.

The company come a long way from a small San Rafael office with just Mr. D'Ambrosia writing software code. He added Bill Sheely, now chief technology officer, six months later. As the code took longer to develop than expected, the two-person company had to move into a garage-barn in San Rafael for a year.

The company now has 32 employees. The rest are in a software-development office in Houston, where Chief Technology Officer Bill Sheely moved in 2007 for family reasons.

HL Commercial Real Estate represented Ctuit in the Oct. 1 lease deal. Trevor Buck and Brian Foster of Cassidy Turley represented Fireman's Fund.