Café Inventory Management Tips

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As a small business owner, you wear many hats and have a plethora of tasks to complete throughout the day. It can be hard to find time to do everything, so you have to be efficient wherever possible. By making small changes to your inventory management system, you can save hours.

As always, involve your employees. Remind them that knowing the cost of goods sold is the key to staying in business. Ultimately, keeping a solid handle on inventory will help you:

Identify and reduce food waste: Doing inventory will help you discover when and where waste is occurring, and therefore an understanding of what is and is not working in your business, empowering you to improve efficiency. If you over-order, it will result in food waste and lost profits.

Prevent under-ordering: If you under-order, you will consistently run out of product and lose customer trust.

Identify theft: Theft is an unfortunate reality in many businesses. In the absence of regular inventory management—and comparison of inventory against sales and reported losses—it can be extremely difficult to identify theft.

Monitor business health: To know exactly how well you’re doing, you need to have some hard figures to back it up. An accurate inventory count, compared to sales numbers, will give you the truth.

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After establishing employee buy-in, you’re ready to implement an inventory plan and best practices:

Select specific employees to regularly do inventory: Designate an inventory point person to reduce the likelihood that it will be done poorly or inconsistently. Giving the task special importance also helps communicate that maintaining an accurate inventory is a critical component of your success.

Set aside a specific day and time to place orders: Find a time that allows you to avoid interruptions so you can focus on the task at hand: replenishing your inventory so you can give your customers the items they expect. If you’re not able to over-staff for the time you plan to do your ordering, do it before you open or after you close. Finding a consistent time and day will ensure that you review your inventory on a regular basis.

Develop a guide for placing orders: An order guide is simply a shopping list of all the items you order from a particular vendor. It ensures you don’t forget any items while reviewing inventory. Place your most critical items at the top of the list, like espresso or chocolate sauce. If you find yourself short on time, you can quickly review the most critical items.

Your order guide should contain the brand and name of each item (it is extremely helpful if it matches the description that appears on your invoice) as well as an item number.

Stay involved in the process: You don’t need to micromanage, but play a hands-on roll by following up throughout the inventory process. Compare this week’s report to last week's, etc.

Pair inventory with related tasks: If an employee is rotating stock to maintain your first-in-first-out rotation, they can probably do inventory simultaneously.

Have your order guide with you when you place your order: Once you have your “shopping list,” you’re ready to place your order. When placing an order with Intermix, we prefer if you begin by giving us the brand and flavor. If there is any confusion about the product, having the item number available will clear everything up.

Although we enjoy speaking with all of our customers, faxing or emailing orders may work better for you. Fax orders to (612) 746-8889 or e-mail orders to

If ordering via fax or e-mail, please make sure that your business name, city, and state are included. We will call or reply back that we have received your order.

Keep delivery times in mind:
Typically, wholesale suppliers like Intermix ship orders the day after they’re placed. Once shipped, delivery times vary. If you are outside the metro area it usually takes a day to deliver. Inside the metro area, the order is delivered two days after it is placed. For example, if you are in Duluth and place an order on a Monday, the order will ship on Tuesday and arrive on Wednesday. If you are in Eden Prairie and place your order on Monday, it will ship and arrive on Tuesday.

If you need a rush delivery, please let us know as soon as possible. The earlier we receive the order, the more time we have to accommodate your request.

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Again, by changing some of your inventory and ordering habits, you can save time and reduce your stress. Who doesn’t want to do that?