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What You Need, When You Need It: Intelligent Inventory Made Real

How interesting could a conversation regarding innovations in restaurant inventory management really be? If the room for the What You Need, When You Need It: Intelligent Inventory Made Real breakout session at HotSchedules’ 2017 Spark Conference was any indication, inventory management is a seriously HOT topic for restaurant industry leaders. During his presentation, Nathan Pickerill, […]

How interesting could a conversation regarding innovations in restaurant inventory management really be? If the room for the What You Need, When You Need It: Intelligent Inventory Made Real breakout session at HotSchedules’ 2017 Spark Conference was any indication, inventory management is a seriously HOT topic for restaurant industry leaders.

During his presentation, Nathan Pickerill, Principal Solutions Architect at HotSchedules, highlighted the hangups many restaurants deal with on the product and inventory side of operations and how actionable insights and intelligent workflow are key to truly driving visibility and cost savings across stores.

Here are our big takeaways from the Intelligent Inventory session:

1. There’s a Need for More Agile Restaurant Technology. Some of the first innovations in restaurant tech set out to mediate the challenges created by food cost, waste and inventory management — but there’s been a lag in development over the years. Restaurants (and their CFOs) are looking for more nimble ways to drive inventory best practices across management teams. There’s also a need to understand where issues are happening on a global scale – aggregated reporting and visibility to get better controls over food costs and waste continues to be a problem that technology needs to help solve.

2. Keep it Simple. Managing inventory can be complex, and it takes much more than checking off some boxes on a list. Good managers understand the importance of controlling food and waste costs, but with the volume of operational issues they face every day, it can be an overwhelming to stay on top of everything. Inventory management should be a simple-to-use workflow that guides managers through the inventory process. But truly managing and optimizing your inventory is bigger than a workflow. That’s why you need to…

3. Help Managers Make Cost-Saving, Revenue-Generating Decisions. If there was a moment where attendees really perked up, this was it. Pickerill walked through the ways that Clarifi Inventory, the inventory module in HotSchedules new intelligent restaurant operating platform, can serve up recommendations that help managers do the basics and beyond.

“It’s important to demystify the process of ordering against a forecast,” he said. “Managers need to be able to see why they need to order the quantity suggested for continuous learning and build trust in the forecast.”

Pickerill also talked through how new, intelligent inventory management technology provides:

  • Forecasted prep and thaw times to ensure the freshest products just in time
  • Tolerance thresholds and actionable alerts to help prevent mistakes before they happen
  • Interactive suggested review tools to prompt a second look before anything goes in the books
  • Insights that suggest proactive actions for unexpected events
  • Highlighted critical metrics so users don’t have to comb through reports

4. Prevent Inventory Problems Before they Happen! It’s not enough to send an alert to a manager stating that a particular item is low. The technology needs to use the data it collects to tell managers the steps they can take to solve the problem right there.

For instance, if a manager is receiving product from a vendor and the order is short, the system should alert the manager on the spot that they will not have enough product based on expected sales volume for the week. The system then takes it a step further and offers up corrective action that a manager could take.

Pickerill also gave the simple example of spot counting: “With Clarifi Inventory, the alerts focus managers on the high-cost items, products with the highest level of variance. All of this is automated from the configuration that happens in Clarifi Foundation. So you’re always driving favorable behavior and decisions at the store level.”

So, to recap:

  • Prevent mistakes before they happen with an inventory workflow that understands tolerance thresholds and provides managers with actionable recommendations

  • Simplify the often tedious and time-consuming process of managing inventory, giving your managers a more intelligent and efficient way to control food costs and waste

  • Give your staff the visibility they need to stay focused on quality, consistency and guest satisfaction


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