Espresso Blog

Inventory Management: As Simple as Getting to Know Your Customers

by Julie Beals on August 3, 2017

It's never a bad time to evaluate the products you're carrying. Take a moment to look at everything on your counter and in your refrigerator and ask yourself, "How many of these do I actually sell?" If you find yourself wondering why you brought some of them on board, it’s time to revisit your menu.

One key to managing inventory is getting to know your customers, your neighborhood and surrounding businesses. Do you have traditional coffee drinkers? Experimental ones? Office workers who want lunch options or mainly a morning crowd? This makes choosing the products you want to carry—and stocking them—a simpler task.

Every item on your menu should have your customers in mind.

If your customers are more traditional, ordering drip or pourover coffee, or cappuccinos, set those bottles of flavored syrup aside and use them for upcoming specials. Focus on what's selling today—and maybe bring in a wider selection of roasts and origins, or expand your espresso selection to include macchiatos or flat whites.

If you have a lot of willing-to-try-anything customers, offer weekly or monthly specials like a Black Forest Mocha or A Dog Walking Two Cats (OK, we made this one up, but you could have fun creating a flavor combination to go with the catchy drink title). In these cases, plan to order enough syrup for the duration of the special. Estimate a little high—nothing is worse than running out of a big seller. If a drink proves extremely popular, add it to your menu. If you do add it to your menu and sales die off, feel free to remove the item and run it periodically as a special. Absence can make the heart grow fonder.

Order in bulk whenever possible

If the majority of the lattes you serve are vanilla, then order a case of syrup. Ordering in larger quantities will accomplish two things.

1) You won't run out of vanilla syrup

2) You’ll receive a volume discount for your large order

Make a list of other items you order frequently and consider buying them in larger quantities as well, to take advantage of bulk pricing.

Do you have health-conscious customers?

It may be beneficial to expand your smoothie offerings to increase sales. Our smoothie vendors link suggest mixing flavors together to create new ones, allowing you to offer more flavors while carrying less inventory.

Or maybe you've already tried expanding your smoothie menu and didn’t see an increase in sales. If that's the case, pare down your offering to the top two or three best-selling flavors. This will allow you to carry less inventory and free up precious refrigerator space.

Pots of tea can sell well to non-coffee drinkers as well. Consider offering white, green and oolong in addition to the usual black and herbal varieties.

Lastly, take the time to manage your inventory.

How many times have you called in your weekly order only to find out upon arrival that you're out of chocolate sauce and didn't order it? Or have you accidentally ordered a perishable item that you already have plenty of, making it destined for the trash bin or forcing you to scramble to create a special menu item that will help you sell it?

Set aside a time each week to devote to checking inventory and placing your order. This way you won’t be rushed and you’ll avoid rush shipping on that must-have chocolate.

Taking time to manage inventory is an investment that will pay you back in a number of ways. It will save you money, it will ensure you have the right amount of product, and with a little practice, it will save you time.

More tips for managing inventory

Contact us with any questions!

Topics: coffee industry, inventory

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