When we say, "real-time" we mean being able to right now, in this very moment, know exactly what's in your store. Maybe that doesn't sound very impressive but look at this example—which portrays a common issue for restaurants still doing inventory the old-fashioned way. Let's say you are at your second location in another city, but before you left, you asked a staff member at your first location to go into the freezer and take a count of your frozen meats before the start of your store's big promotion in a few days. You are sure there's enough there, because your inventory sheet from last week said so, and all the purchase orders have been filled. But, what if they notice there isn't enough chicken to cover the projected orders of chicken marsala for the coming week? With you out of town, and nobody in the store with authority to order more stock in your absence, it would be a great reason for them to panic. Not only will they run out of an important ingredient before the promotion is through, but someone in the store is going to get in trouble for messing up the inventory sheet last week.
In this scenario, you are losing money, and your reputation is suffering. On top of that, your staff is now in a panic and morale is dropping; all because someone messed up the inventory and purchase orders.
However, with real-time inventory management apps and software, none of this would happen. You would be notified immediately of the shortage, and even if you're out of town, if you have a connected device, you would have a chance to correct the inventory mistake and place a new order before it costs your restaurant profits for the week. With old school paper inventory sheets, you wouldn't have known about the problem until it was too late and your store lost money. Real-time inventory management apps and software solutions, like Zip Inventory, help restaurants stay on top of their inventory counts, save money and time, and keep customers happy.
There are hundreds of ways that real-time inventory management apps and software can help any restaurant grow. We're going to focus on the four biggest ways inventory management apps and software can help you succeed.
Inventory checks should be a regular part of all restaurant business as doing so helps you keep your food in stock to keep customers happy. Almost as important as keeping enough food in stock is making sure you don't have too much either. Food spoilage is a major concern for every restaurant. Beyond the expense of wasting money on food that never gets sold or eaten, you also have the added cost of proper disposal, as well as the environmental impact of such huge waste. Having real-time inventory management apps and software means you'll be notified before your food goes bad, allowing you time to run a promotion to help move the product faster. It also helps you track which foods just aren't selling, so you can be sure to stock less of it next time. Without real-time inventory management apps or software, all that food would spoil, and the cost of getting rid of it will haunt your financial records forever.
Similar to catching spoilage and waste before it gets out of hand, a real-time inventory management app or software system will alert you to any unexpected deviations from projected numbers. The right inventory management apps will allow employees to note reasons for the discrepancy, just in case it's not an actual mistake, but will also alert you to true mistakes that can end up costing your business thousands. Imagine if the inventory count was wrong for your stock of fresh chicken, and you mistakenly ordered more, believing you were about to run out. Suddenly, you find yourself with lots of highly perishable food, and no real way to move it fast enough to make money or prevent some spoilage. A real-time inventory management app or software system could have stopped that mistake in its tracks, long before you ever placed the order for more chicken.
Real-time inventory management apps and software help staff members feel confident and supported. When they're sure the inventory counts are correct, up to the minute, they will spend less time worrying about having enough product on hand to finish their shifts. Knowing that their entries are updated and immediately shared with other staff members helps them feel connected in a way they could never have reached before. No more mistakes on the paper lists, no more missing posted updates or lost sheets. Everything is kept in the database, updated in real time, and shared over every connected device.
When you have real-time inventory control at your fingertips, you can be ready to place an order for a quickly-selling food, making sure you won't run out before your promotion is through. Real-time updates of your stock sent to you about food trends, error messages prevent waste and overstocking, and the ability to generate reports on the fly helps you look at past trends and make a snap decision even in the middle of the dinner rush. When you know you can order new stock at any time based on the real-time updates from your kitchen staff, it eases stress and helps keep the business moving.
If linking to your suppliers, seeing real-time updates on inventory counts, getting error messages before problems arise, and unifying your staff aren't reasons enough to switch to a real-time inventory management system, we've got some other great benefits to share.
1. Tracking trends in sales and spoilage are always helpful, but being able to create those logs and reports at any time on any connected device, and also the option to print them, is time-saving and valuable.
2. The ability to send reports to other staff members, no matter where they are, and get real-time feedback saves time on travel and face-to-face meetings.
3. Real-time inventory management apps have touch-based controls, which is familiar and convenient for staff and management since it's similar to the mobile devices they may already be using.
There are so many ways real-time inventory management apps and software, like Zip Inventory, can increase productivity and improve efficiency, that we can't possibly cover them all right here. Even more impressive is what you can do by adding forecasting software to your inventory control system. If you’d like to learn more about additional resources, like forecasting software, that can supplement software systems, check out our “7 Ways Forecasting and Workforce Planning Can Increase Your Profits” article which is also on the Hubworks Blog.