Startup: Buying and Managing Supplies

When you are in the restaurant business, you have to remember that as well as being a seller, you are also a buyer.  You must first purchase the inventory needed to make the product you are selling. Knowing which supplies work best for you, and which suppliers offer the best prices, will ultimately put more money back in your pocket. You must create effective inventory control to avoid theft and waste.

Over the next few days, I’ll post more ideas on how to control your inventory and get the most out of your dollar.

Create your list of needed supplies. These supplies will will vary based on several factors: your concept, menu, the kitchen staff, and the time it takes you to prepare the menu items.

Your list doesn’t have to be incredibly specific at first. In fact, let’s pretend you’re opening a restaurant and you need sugar. You don’t have to note the specific brand of sugar right now, just note that you need sugar. now add flour, chicken breasts, and iceberg lettuce. Your list is coming along nicely now.

Once your list is created, put the products into categories. Chicken breasts would fall under the “meat” category, lettuce would fall under “produce”, and sugar would fall into “pantry items”. You get the idea.

From here, you should meet with suppliers and figure out where you can get the most for your dollar. You need to stretch your dollar to get the highest profits. This is an important lesson that many entrepreneurs learn too late.  Many people don’t know where to look, or even to look at some place other than Sams or Costco. These places, while less expensive than shopping at Target or Whole Foods are not always your best bet. There are often times farms and wholesale stores that sell to restaurants at a lower cost. It’s up to you to go out looking for the best deal. Doing research is important.

Consider the convenience factor. While you’re making your supply list, you also need to figure out how much time you are going to devote to prep work. For example, a whole bone-in, skin-on chicken breast may cost you $24 for 40-lbs ($0.60 per lb), where boneless, skinless, chicken breasts may cost you $64 for 40-lbs ($1.60 per lb). That seems like a big difference.

Take a minute to figure that it may take a prep cook two hours (at $9 an hour pay) to skin and bone 40-lbs of chicken. That could raise your price from $24 to $42. Still seems like a pretty good deal considering the $64 you’re up against.

BUT when you consider that taking the skin and bone away, you’re left with about 25-lbs of usable product, it may not be the way to go. If you up your purchasing amount, you end up spending about $60 for the same amount of meat. Wouldn’t you prefer to spend the extra $4 ($0.10 per lb) to save time and have this task already done for you? With the time saved prepping the chicken, you could be making the base for your famous soup, or making your homemade BBQ sauce. These are things you have to consider when weighing your options.

Now this is just the beginning. Check back tomorrow for more information on how to buy and manage your supplies!