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​Tech Efficient: Digitizing Your Stocktake and Ordering

The manual task of stocktaking and doing orders can be tedious and time-consuming. Free up resources and transform your venue by switching to a digital process. Chris Kain, Head of Audit at Stonegate Pubs, shares the benefits of this digital transformation in hospitality.

A Necessary Evil

When asking bar managers and owners which elements of their job they love the most, it’s invariably the customers they serve and the drinks they dispense. Unsurprisingly, it’s never the orders they place nor the stocktakes they complete.

Likewise, the conversation is dominated by the money in the front of house till as opposed to the profit calculations made in the back of house.

While I can usually persuade people that their profit number is as equally important as their sales I have long accepted that the attractions Front of House will always win over Back of House (which is as it should be).

As ordering and stocktaking are always likely to be a necessary evil rather than a loved element of managing and owning bars, it helps to make it as simple as possible and minimize the time spent completing it.

The Convenience of Technology

Just as digital transformation trends have impacted how customers visit us (pre-booking through websites) and make purchases (using credit cards and apps), these digital hospitality solutions can improve the accuracy and efficiency of our ordering and stocktaking.

When moving to digital, it is prudent to understand what is available and consider what will be of most benefit to you.

Portable equipment, whether a handheld or tablet, is lightweight and convenient. It can be simple to use and is easily transferrable between your team. To make sure that you maximize the benefit of portables, agree with your team a place where they can be stored and charged behind the bar. That way the equipment is always available and ready for use when needed.

Equally importantly, don’t forget the dull but crucial things like which supplier, product codes, and pack sizes you will be using.

By digitizing stock counts and ordering you reduce the opportunity for errors that occur when these tasks are handwritten and/or manually calculated. If the counts and orders are completed by different people – particularly on paper, the risk of error is even greater.

Simple and Speedy

Another benefit of digitizing your stocktaking is the ability to standardize your count units at set-up for simplicity and speed. An example would be to have all bottled beers, minerals, etc. counted as one single item rather than by the different pack sizes.

One of the consequences of customers seeking out premium spirits and ever more interesting cocktails and blends has been the increased product range that is then required. The flexibility that comes with a digitized system means that you can tailor the set-up to ‘categorize’ your range again for simplicity and speed of count.

This flexibility means that a bar with a large range of cocktail ingredients displayed together on a back bar or in a storage area personalize how their count is ordered in a very different way to a wine bar where the count may be ordered by grape style or brand.

An Important Relationship

The stocktaking and ordering processes are intrinsically linked to the point where if the count of stock on-site is inaccurate, then any orders subsequently placed will result in either too much or too little stock being held.

All the benefits of these digital hospitality solutions for stocktake, whether that be the convenience of portable equipment, the minimizing of errors, or the flexibility of data set-up, equally apply when it comes to the ordering process.

All in the Data

One of the first requirements of a sound ordering system is the setting of ‘par’ levels - the optimum stock holding of each product item. Once set, these levels should be reviewed and updated as sales of individual products increase or decrease, and a digitized ordering system will allow you to do this efficiently, ensuring that you have the correct stock levels to meet demand.

Knowing this information can also be very useful in informing decisions about menu development as it is a perfect visual demonstration of which product and categories are increasing in volume. For example, if you are needing to increase the volume of rum you order to meet demand then you need to understand is this as standalone spirit serves or within cocktails.

You can then look to increase the rum offering on your menu either within your cocktail range or perhaps by creating new rum-based specials. These decisions can of course be verified by sales data if you have that available.

As with stocktaking, a key benefit of digitizing your ordering is that your product portfolio can be set-up to reflect your needs. You can prioritize the pack sizes that are most cost-effective to you simplifying the process and minimizing human error in this area.

Getting Back to Business

Despite the fact that it’s never the orders placed or the stocktakes completed that are the most loved elements of managing or owning a bar, they are arguably two of the most important processes. At the same time, taking care of this side of the business can take up precious staff time. However, the efficiency of a digitized system means that more of your staff and manager's time can be spent dispensing drinks to the customers that they love to serve. It may take some time to set up digital and get relevant team members used to it, but in the long-run, you will benefit from accurate, timely, and flexible completion of stock counts which can provide the data to place orders relevant to your requirements.

Five Key Takeaways