Last week we received a comment from a waiter who was losing money because the restaurant he was working in had depleted their wine inventory to a point where he could sell nothing more than a $20 buck bottle of Two-Buck-Chuck. His concern was that since he worked on tips, basically commission, he was losing the ability to make income since the top end wines which sold for $50.00 to $120.00 were not available. On top of this he was more concerned that the customer base would begin to erode because selections were slim.
He wanted advice.
That´s a tough one. And, usually after a long winter inventories are low in numerous eateries across the country. But, the timing of increasing inventory, and attracting customers has to be as synchronized as Mark Spitz´ breast stroke. There is little room for mistake in this critical corporate maneuver. What happens when you don´t have everything offered on your menu, whether it is wine, or appetizer, entrée or dessert, the customer becomes suspicious of problems, begins to go elsewhere, and mentions the problems to friends and word spreads. Plus, if you cannot up sell to everyone who comes into your restaurant, you have a major deficiency in your planning.
How do you deal with light inventories? First, make it a priority. Talk to your vendors and see what type of deals you can make with them. Bring in other products to substitute those that you do not have. Also, don´t hesitate to change your menu. If you don´t have all the items on your menu, change the menu. Don´t think about using an out dated menu.
One of the major hurdles that you will face as an owner is staff morale. When your staff is subject to losing income because you do not have the inventory needed to fill your wine list, or make the entrees on the menu, momentum stalls.
And finally, you may see that customer counts are down. When that occurs, you must immediately begin advertising to maintain your market share. But make sure your inventory is plush before you begin your advertising campaign. Another scenario- customer count isn´t down but sales are. This is a direct and immediate affect on the lack of inventory. And, it will eventually have a dire affect on business growth.
Nothing ruins the reputation of a restaurant faster than not having items listed on the menu or the wine list. Adequate inventory is as important to a restaurant as gas to a bus. Inventory is the fuel that moves a business forward. It´s the food for growth. It´s the meat in the entrée, the crÃ¨me fraiche on the strawberries and the cheese on the burger. It is the most important aspect of the restaurant business. Don´t shrug it off with thoughts that inventory will grow as the season progresses. The season is here. If you don´t have the wines on your wine list, you are already playing catch-up.