In busy working environments with many moving parts, keeping a stockroom or storeroom in order can fall low down the list of priorities. Too often this results in a minor headache becoming a daily nightmare. Pubs and bars are particularly vulnerable because stock moves relatively quickly and success depends on a detailed understanding of your inventory. Picking and identifying items easily is therefore a crucial part of daily operations.
At Action Storage, we have almost 30 years’ experience helping businesses make the most of their storage areas. With this in mind, here are our top tips to tackle a disorderly pub or bar stockroom:
Use the Right Storage Units
Stacked cases, without shelving or other storage units, are an extremely common sight in dry storerooms. Unfortunately, stacking cases is only an efficient use of space where there is very little variation in inventory, which is not the case in most pubs and bars.
The trouble is, different items can’t be stacked together without slowing down the identification process or getting in the way. On the other hand, if items are stacked separately, there is a huge waste of vertical space. Stacking also typically impedes the first in, first out stock rotation (FIFO) system that is best suited to perishable food and drink items.
The solution is a simple adjustable shelving system. With adjustable shelves, items that take up little vertical space can be stored in minimised shelving levels while being kept separate from other inventory. Making better use of vertical space will also reduce the need for deep stacks of boxes, which will ensure items at the back or bottom are more accessible and thus make a FIFO rotation system easier to adhere to.
On top of all this, shelving will allow food items to be kept off the ground, which can dramatically improve hygiene and reduce the likelihood of rodents. Raised units also provide easier access for cleaning your storeroom areas.
Set Up Fixed Locations
Most pubs and bars rely on a fairly consistent inventory or supply list, which means space can be maximised by setting up fixed storage locations. In practice, all this involves is to ensure certain items are stored in certain places within your stockroom.
The trick is to tailor each location to the inventory you expect to fill it. In essence, this is no different from storing clothes in a wardrobe or towels on a towel rack – specialised storage locations enable greater storage density and greater accessibility.
For example, if you consistently purchase a number of smaller items in relatively low quantities, try setting up a narrow bin shelving level. A narrow shelving level will give you more space for other shelves, maximising storage density, while storage bins will keep smaller items easily accessible.
Ultimately, fixed locations will help ensure that the right product can be found as quickly as possible, while making the best use of the available space. Having a right place for everything will also allow you to check stock levels at a glance, which can be exceptionally useful in the everyday hustle and bustle.
Choose Your Metrics
If you’re finding that your stockroom regularly falls into disorder, the root cause is most often inventory management. Settle on a few simple metrics to help judge how your inventory and stockroom are performing. Good data will empower you to take action by removing underperforming items or detecting storage issues as they occur.
There are a wide range of inventory metrics to help improve your supply chain practices and thus make your stockroom more manageable. One of the most important is inventory turnover, which measures how many times each item is sold over a given period. Items with a low turnover can indicate a difficulty turning stock into revenue, and such items may not be worth the storage space they occupy.
Disorderly stockrooms are commonly the result of insufficient capacity, which will be exacerbated by holding onto unneeded or unprofitable items. Inventory turnover and other metrics can therefore help you decide which items to discount or dispose of, freeing up space and making orderliness more achievable.
Keep Inventory Moving
Waste is a critical issue in many hospitality environments, with pubs and bars being no exception. In fact, the average pub loses as much as 8,000 to food waste every year. Sadly, much of this waste is unavoidable, but losses due to poor stock management can be resolved.
Firstly, ensure you are adhering to the first in, first out (FIFO) principle to reduce waste. Though most food and drink establishments understand the FIFO principle, it can be difficult to police in practice. As a result, a whopping 21% of food waste is due to spoilage in storage.
The trick is to make following FIFO as simple as possible for your staff. Wherever feasible, utilise FIFO racks, which will do most of the work for you. Alternatively, organise your shelving with FIFO in mind; for example, train your staff to shelve newly delivered items to the left, right or below older goods.
Labelling also plays a key role in keeping your products well organised for FIFO. There are many labelling techniques that can make your staff’s job easier. One of our favourites is to use colour coded labels to signal use-by dates on each day of the week. Colour makes identifying ageing goods much easier. A different option is the use of magnetic labels, these are great for sticking onto metal or another magnetic surfaces to keep dates and names clear without using anything sticky. Another option is to use a large, clearly visible ‘Use First’ label on your oldest items. Whenever old stock is removed, another ‘Use First’ sticker should be placed on the next oldest item.
Theft is one of the most common crimes committed against the hospitality sector, costing the industry an enormous amount each year. For pubs and bars, the situation is particularly dire: Bevinco, an international beverage auditing service, estimates that internal theft could cost bars up to a staggering 26% of gross sales on average.
On top of damaging your bottom line, theft can wreak havoc on your stockroom by undermining inventory records. Inaccurate records may in turn lead to poor ordering decisions, further muddling your stockroom and helping to cover up the very crimes that caused the confusion.
The two most basic steps to combat theft are to ensure that storage areas, especially high-value liquor storage areas, are secured and that an inventory sheet is in place. Securing your storage areas is as simple as investing in a couple of decent locks for your storerooms. Limit the people with access to these areas to more senior, trusted members of staff.
An inventory sheet keeps a record of who is taking what items when. As soon as something is added to or removed from your stockroom, whoever is responsible should mark the time and date, the items taken and where these will be moved to next. The accuracy of these records can then be compared to the results of spot checks or regular stock counts. Keeping detailed records of your stock movement, alongside wider inventory metrics, should help flag up discrepancies as they arise.
You won’t be able to eliminate theft entirely, but making sure you’re aware of when and where it’s occurred will prevent theft causing further damage to your stock management operations. Healthier stock management will in turn lead to a more orderly stockroom environment.