There are so many amazing things to eat, but before you eat or prepare anything you have to get that food on the table. Or, if you’re a franchise restaurant owner, in your kitchen. The challenge, however, is accurately estimating the size of your orders so the supplies don’t deplete.
There are multiple important economists of the past who have contributed to the concept of “supply and demand” and how those two factors relate. It was John Locke who wrote, "The price of any commodity rises or falls, by the proportion of the number of buyers and sellers." The eternal problem for so many restaurant franchises is their ability to calculate or estimate how much demand they will have for the food products they offer.
Some days will obviously be busier than others, but you can’t always predict how weather, major regional events, or other variables could affect the shipment of your next food order. This makes it difficult to try and calculate how many supplies you’ll be needing. To help, here are three ways to keep the produce you need on your shelves:
1. Purchase & Order Often
When you have a consistent pattern in your purchasing it can help keep your fridge stocked, which is important, because we all know that consistency is never guaranteed in the dining industry. Many owners and managers have to get a good feeling for how much produce they should have at any given time, but that’s not to say that they won’t run into cases where there just isn’t enough food. Scheduling repeat orders frequently can help ensure that your produce providers can work with you to figure out how their inventory and your needs can align. They may be able to get you larger shipments in a tight squeeze.
One of the great things about working with a smaller vendor rather than a mega-corporate machine is that their shipment orders are more likely to be customizable on a smaller or minute scale. Large providers of produce are simply worried more about quantity than they are about quality, but this isn’t always evident from looking at their product alone.
The true quality that franchise owners rely so heavily on is their overall experience with their produce provider. A smaller, local provider can actively help you figure out just how much food you’ll need for that big holiday rush or any catering event. They could be the hero you need, in order to feed.
2. Create Good Relationships
No matter what business you’re in, long-lasting and healthy relationships are the lifeblood of success. When people say that “business isn’t personal,” they’re ignoring the fact that on the other end of every decision in your business there are real people you work with every day who want to support you. These are people who are not just passionate about their own careers, but about your mutual success. Make friends with your produce supplier and you’ll see how much they can really do for you.
Smaller, local produce providers have the ability to focus more on their client’s needs. This is because they’re used to analyzing the franchises that they supply and their corresponding orders on long spreadsheets filled with hundreds of other big client orders. Big produce suppliers may see you as a statistic rather than a person running a business. To them, their business interaction with you likely isn’t as personal. These broadline distributors may also have minimum quantity orders, which means that you might be forced to order too much food at once for a pricy cost. If that happens, you’ll likely end up tossing some rotten produce out.
A local produce supplier takes their business personally, which allows them to be flexible for you when you’re in an emergency. If you’ve never felt that sinking feeling in your stomach from moving multiple items from your menu in one day, you’re in a rare and lucky position. If you already have a strong working relationship with your local provider, they’re likely to be more understanding of your circumstance and get you more supplies or additional shipments much faster so that hacking away at the menu choices isn’t your only option.
3. Stay Organized
When you work in the dining business, the only thing more important than the food itself is the organization on the backend that went into making it. The best way to make sure you never run out of food is to master the sales rate of your inventory and learn how often you run out of specific products.
A full fridge does not a meal make. Meaning, just because it looks like supplies are stocked, doesn’t mean that they really are. Having an organized inventory means taking much more than just a glance at your shelves. It takes knowing the exact amounts you have and the exact amounts you’ll need per serving as well as an estimate of how many servings of that dish you expect to sell per day.
It’s easier to predict shortages when you know exactly which supplies are most likely to run out first. For example, you may know that this month your franchise will have a special menu item featuring avocado. If you know how many avocados it takes to make a serving of this item, you should get a broad estimate of how many extra customers you’ll expect to see. That helps paint a better picture of how many extra avocados you’ll want to order for that week.
These days a lot of this organization can be done digitally. This means the calculations that comprise the total inventory can all be done with helpful software that allows employees to track your produce down to the last grain. But even with the aid of technology, what really gets food to the table is your ability to manage special orders. That may take working with an experienced local supplier who can fill in the empty spaces that bigger providers can’t.
Just a Call Away!
Even if you’ve done all you can to keep track of your inventory and reduce waste, there’s still going to be times when all the prep work in the world can’t prevent a crisis. We get it! We’ve seen how quickly things can turn from ripe to rotten in this business, so work with Native Maine today to ensure the freshest, finest produce for your customers.