Why a real-time inventory must be a priority

Your dishes need to be fresh — but is your inventory data stale?  When up to 40% of their cost base is tied up in stock, food and beverage (F&B) businesses need real-time visibility and control of their inventories at the click of a button. With the new breed of POS, it’s possible. 

Margins are under intense pressure within the F&B sector — and any inefficiencies with your inventory can eat away at profitability. Ordering too much, over-portioning and wastage can easily wipe out all the good work you’ve done.

To take control, you don’t just need effective inventory management. It needs to happen in real-time. But where do you start?

Ensuring your core data is accurate

Getting this right begins with recording your ‘ins’ (purchases), recipes (including items and batches), your outs (sales and write-offs) and status/corrections (counts).

Today, most systems will register sales and consumption automatically. But, so often, the other data you need for an accurate inventory and cost control relies on members of your team sitting and inputting details from bits of paper, spreadsheets and other systems. Goods received, stock counts, recipe changes, batch updates, waste … it all needs to be recorded.

Let’s be honest though. When a restaurant or bar is working at full-tilt, there’s no time or space for trained staff to tuck themselves away for a few hours, inputting data.

In fact, it’s more common for documents to be sent on to the office for someone else to log into a computer. Multiply that with numerous locations within a chain and the problems mount. Office-based staff then get overwhelmed with paperwork. This, in turn, leads to delays, errors and inconsistencies.

The result? You’re always playing catch-up. There’s no real-time insight and no control.

Bringing inventory up to speed

The good news is that your inventory doesn’t need to lag behind your business any longer.

With the new breed of system, inventory management isn’t consigned to a dark corner of your business. It’s brought out into the light. In fact, it’s as much a part of day-to-day operations as your tills and kitchen systems. The moment something happens, it’s recorded.

With the right tools, it’s effortless for staff to record those ‘ins’, recipes, ‘outs’ and corrections instantly. Key data is recorded on the system instantly and nowhere else.

The inventory gets updated at the moment any key activity happens across your business:

  • Scheduled stock counts can be completed in moments via a mobile. With a series of prompts for users, it’s quick and accurate
  • Sales will update your stock levels immediately
  • You can record waste and stock transfers directly on the till
  • Batches can be created and then logged on the KDS instantly
  • Write-offs can be logged on the system immediately
  • There are no lost records between the POS, KDS and BoH. That’s because the KDS is part of the unified system (you don’t pay for a separate licence)
  • Purchases are automated — based on current stock levels and accurate AI sales forecasts. Acceptance is easy, on a mobile.

Suddenly, you’ve eliminated human error and you can spend less time and money on your inventory. As the information becomes ‘live’, you can control wastage and COS in real-time.

For a chain such as Farmer J, the right technology has proved essential for controlling margin.

Farmer J founder Jonathan Recanati puts it this way: “It’s how you source your food, manage your stock, train your staff about portioning and plan your production. The most important tool in controlling your margin is your ePOS and your stock management system. iiko gives you the ability to track your stock movement down to the little details.”

“More transparency on your stock gives you a better ability to react if there are issues. With the little movements you make, within maybe four weeks you can save a percent of your bottom line. With iiko, you get that transparency of where there’s margin leakage and you actually know where to look.”    

Seeing the bigger picture

With your inventory operating in real-time, you can look across your locations and know your immediate position — from stock levels to gross profit margins — with absolute confidence.

Everything is captured. You can see everything in real-time from your operational costs down to the granular ingredient level in real time. You can see what’s been turned into batches, ready for sale. You can track it through every stage in production, location and sale. At any point you can spot issues and identify errors.

With a real-time view of your inventory, you’re able to respond with precision on-the-fly:

  • If you need to order more supplies, the system tells you clearly
  • If you’re busy, the technology can order the exact amount you need — automatically
  • If one location needs stock from another, movements can be tracked easily

Thinking one step ahead

iiko also includes powerful analytics including ‘what if’ analysis options. If you changed Supplier A for Supplier B, what would be the impact? If a regular supplier raises their prices, then this is another way to protect your hard-won margin. With iiko, you can see the margin implications right away — and take action. 

You can also compare and contrast suppliers to find your best/worst performers — in terms of how this affects your margins.

The fine line between failure and success

Even the most popular F&B businesses can come unstuck if they lack effective inventory management. Dealing with those small-but-critical percentages can be the difference between failure and success. With your inventory operating in real-time, you’ve got the controls to take matters into your own hands.