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Inventory Management for Your Coffee Shop or Restaurant

You wear a lot of hats as a small business owner, with a seemingly never-ending list of tasks. It can be hard to find time to do everything, but by making a few changes to your inventory management system, you can probably save yourself hours each month.

It's important to fully engage key employees in inventory management. They should be aware that the cost of goods sold is the key to staying in business. Keeping close tabs on inventory will help you:

Reduce food waste: When doing inventory, you'll learn when and where waste is occurring, and gain an understanding of what ordering practices and menu items are (and aren't) working in your business. You'll then be able to avoid over ordering, so you can also avoid food waste and lost profits.

Prevent under-ordering: If you under-order, you will consistently run out of product and lose customer trust.

Deter theft: Theft is an unfortunate reality in many businesses. Comparison of inventory against sales and reported losses will make it much easier to spot.

Monitor your business health: To know just how well you’re doing, you need to have hard numbers to back it up. An accurate inventory count, compared to sales numbers, will give you the truth.

After establishing employee buy-in, you’re ready to implement an inventory plan and best practices:

Choose specific employees to regularly do inventory: Designate an inventory point person to reduce the likelihood that it will be done inconsistently. Giving the task special importance also communicates that accurate inventory counts are critical to your success.

Set a specific day and time to place orders: Find a time that allows you to avoid interruptions so you can focus on the task at hand: replenishing your inventory so you can give your customers the items they expect. If you’re not able to over-staff while doing inventory, do it before you open or after you close. A consistent time and day for inventory will ensure that you do it on a regular basis.

Create a guide for placing orders: An order guide is simply a shopping list of items you order from a particular vendor. It ensures you don’t forget anything while reviewing inventory. Put your most important items at the top of the list, like espresso or chocolate sauce. If you're short on time, you can quickly review the most critical items.

Your order guide should contain the brand and name of each item (extremely helpful when matching the description that appears on your invoice) as well as an item number.

Stay involved in the process: Play a hands-on roll by following up on the inventory process. Compare this week’s report to last week's, etc.

Pair inventory with related tasks: If an employee is rotating stock to maintain a first-in-first-out rotation, they can likely do inventory at the same time.

Have your order guide with you when you place your order: When placing an order, most wholesalers prefer if you begin by giving them the brand and flavor. If there is any confusion about the product, having the item number available will clear everything up.

Again, by changing some of your inventory and ordering habits, you can save time and reduce your stress. Who doesn’t want to do that?

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