There is a tendency among those not involved in the industry to see catering through the lens of celebrity chefs, food supplements and the the Food Network. These perpetuate the idea that catering is simply about quality ingredients and cooking technique. As important as these are to a food business, the professional caterer knows that factors such as profit margins, inventory and costs are equally critical. In this guide, we set out strategies for optimising Just In Time inventory control:
1. Planning, planning, planning
A challenge for a catering concern is holding only the stock they can immediately and profitably use in their businesses to reduce costs, storage space, efficiency and waste. This requires forethought and planning. The business owner needs to commit time and effort to analysing past receipts, anticipating demand spikes or dips and formulating a timetable for procuring necessities. There are some predictable peaks and troughs: pubs, for example, sell huge amounts of alcohol in December and small amounts in January, meaning different requirements from your draught soft drink supplier and beer supplier. There are, though, one-off events such as jubilees to which a business needs to be attuned since customers will be eating out or holding parties which need catering.
2. Read the news, be prepared
Margins can often depend on keeping up-to-date with emerging trends by reading industry news, watching food television and monitoring other successful businesses. First, consider the cafes and restaurants who noted the stellar success of the Nando chain and are now selling their own peri-peri chicken. Secondly, think about the boost to consumption of certain foods and drinks when they are championed by a celebrity chef such as Delia or Heston. Can you make use of this knowledge in your inventory management?
3. Choose the right suppliers
Partnerships between catering businesses and their suppliers can help to fine-tune inventory control. Suppliers can anticipate your requirements, sometimes by remotely monitoring your use of certain products. A draught soft drink supplier like Empire UK will work with a caterer, for example, to ensure that the latter has all he or she needs of a certain beverage at the right time, and no more.
The catering industry makes a huge contribution to the economy. You can ensure the health and sustainability of your business by optimising your Just In Time inventory management.