BRIDGES: From startup to tech star 7Shifts CEO Jordan Boesch keeps roots in Sask.

With over 25,000 restaurants in North America now using 7Shifts and capital in the bank, Boesch is excited about the company’s next phase.

- Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7Shifts, a Sask.-based tech company that develops business software for running restaurants.
– Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7Shifts, a Sask.-based tech company that develops business software for running restaurants. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Jordan Boesch was just trying to help his dad when he taught himself to code software.

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The elder Boesch ran a chain of Quizno’s locations in Regina at the time.

“I watched my dad painfully manage staff and teams and try to manage all the incoming availability and the changes that would take place even after a schedule is created,” Boesch recalled during an interview at his company’s head office in Saskatoon.

He wrote a “really simple and rudimentary” program allowing his father to upload a spreadsheet that staff could then download via a website. From there, Boesch said he kept picking away at improvements to the concept. He founded 7shifts in 2014 as a platform for restaurants to handle scheduling and communications.

“I always just love solving problems. And I particularly enjoyed building solutions that involve technology to solve the problem. And so it was a natural progression that I gravitated towards continuing to build solutions,” he said.

Boesch went from working on 7shifts as a side gig to having a full-time career and then managing several expansions.

He believes 7shifts was able to find and capitalize on a niche that the tech world ignored.

“The thinking earlier on was that ‘restaurateurs can’t afford to pay for software, and they won’t.’ We thought that there was an opportunity to build something really great that was tailored for restaurants,” he said.

Boesch said he’s learned a lot about his customers along the way.

“The people that get into restaurants and running them, I have a saying ‘it’s like running a startup for the rest of your life.’ Like, they just work crazy hours, and they’re grinding it out,” he said.

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Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7shifts, founded the Sask.-based tech company that develops business software for running restaurants in 2014.
Jordan Boesch, CEO of 7shifts, founded the Sask.-based tech company that develops business software for running restaurants in 2014. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

7shifts moved its head office in 2016 from Regina to Saskatoon to tap into a larger pool of potential workers. The company will soon relocate from its current offices in the city’s Broadway district to a bigger space in the new Nutrien Tower at River Landing. 7shifts has also set up offices in Toronto and New Jersey.

“I think, through the various stages of growth, we’ve proven that we could add a lot of value to our restaurant customers and partners along the way,” Boesch said of the rapid expansion from scrappy startup to a more established firm.

“What started off as something that was very risky, has since evolved into something that’s far more mature, and where restaurant operators depend on us on a regular basis,” he said.

Boesch said he’s had to learn to grow and manage key relationships with investors. The company has managed to secure multiple rounds of financing, including $13.3 million from four U.S. investors in 2019.

7shifts announced in February that it had secured its biggest investment yet; an $80 million commitment led by SoftBank, a Japan-based multinational investment company along with Ten Coves Capital and Enlightened Hospitality.

Boesch said he’s learned along the way that finding investors is about more than having your numbers in order.

“Anyone that’s writing you a cheque to help finance your business, at least in the software world, typically ends up taking a board seat. And so you want to make sure that you’re working with a great partner, right? That you’re aligning with a good partner that you can work well with longer term,” he said.

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The major investment caps a rapid turnaround from a difficult chapter for 7shifts. With the company’s fortunes bound so tightly to the restaurant industry, the closures and restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic came as a major blow in 2020.

After years where finding new employees was one of his biggest challenges, Boesch found himself having to lay people off.

“Having to furlough a quarter of your staff is a difficult thing,” he said. 7shifts was able to bounce back to pre-pandemic revenue levels and start bringing people back within six months, something Boesch credits to his team and his customers.

“By all accounts, compared to a lot of other companies, we actually did quite well during the pandemic, despite restaurants suffering. And that was through a lot of just supporting our customers and building great things to help them through the pandemic,” he said.

(left) 7shifts CEO Jordan Boesch and chief revenue officer Justin Holmes. Holmes joined the Saskatoon-based company in 2018 as VP of marketing.
(left) 7shifts CEO Jordan Boesch and chief revenue officer Justin Holmes. Holmes joined the Saskatoon-based company in 2018 as VP of marketing. Photo by Michelle Berg /Saskatoon StarPhoenix

Chief revenue officer Justin Holmes joined 7shifts in 2018 as a vice-president in charge of marketing. He said he’s seen Boesch get better and better at empowering others as the company has grown.

“The bigger we get, the more control he’s got to give up,” Holmes observed.

While pushing for such rapid growth necessarily means there will be some friction, Holmes said Boesch has always encouraged frank discussions.

“It’s an open conversation,” Holmes said. “There’s no politicking or anything like that.”

With over 25,000 restaurants in North America now using 7shifts services and a fresh round of capital in the bank, Boesch said he’s excited about the company’s next phase.

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“Everything from the moment a worker is hired, trained, scheduled, paid and retained, we want to have an impact over,” Boesch explained.

In the longer term, he said he hopes the company’s products can help lower turnover and create benefits for both restaurant owners and workers.

“What we’re really working towards is a hospitality job network where we can match workers up with restaurant opportunities, given their skill set and their background, in a way that’s flexible enough for the worker that gets them paid what they deserve to be paid, and also helps restaurants hire better people faster when they need them.”

Boesch is also looking forward to continuing to add to his team. He said watching people grow their careers has been a particularly rewarding part of 7shifts’ success.

“The amount of opportunities that we’ve created for individuals that have never worked at a software company before, and allowing them to have that foot in the door to a long term career for them? That is probably the most exciting thing for me,” he said.

While Saskatoon’s technology sector is growing fast, it doesn’t yet have the same profile as Silicon Valley or even more established Canadian tech hubs in the Toronto and Ottawa areas. Even so, Boesch said he plans to keep 7shifts rooted in Saskatchewan because his family lives here.

“But I also like the challenge of building a global company in a place where people don’t think you can do that,” he said.

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