The Professional's Voice

Technology can help lead the fight against rapid foodservice price inflation

Sobering news of an unprecedented 6% rise in foodservice price inflation in March highlights the scale of the “costs” challenge confronting the hospitality industry in an uncertain post-Brexit UK. The latest edition of the CGA Prestige Foodservice Price Index, published in late April, reveals a dramatic rise in the price of fish and continued sugar, meat, cereal and vegetable inflation is at the root of spiralling costs of production facing food operators.

According to the report in Propel’s Morning Briefing, “the inflation rate of 6.0% is substantially up on historical averages, and March prices were higher year-on-year in all ten sub-categories of the Foodservice Price Index measured by Prestige Purchasing and CGA Strategy…(and) inflation will remain well above average over the next few months”.

Although the weak pound, rising oil prices and increases in the costs of fish, meat, poultry, vegetables and dairy products are out of the direct control of the industry, hospitality operators can mitigate the impact of foodservice price inflation on their businesses by asking their technology providers how EPOS-based hospitality management systems can help alleviate wholesale pricing pressures.

Extensive functionality automatically available to our clients

There numerous tools within any good EPOS solution that not only allow you to keep a tab on the prices you pay for your food but also enable you to manage and minimise costs across your business. The latest 2017 version of our corporate brochure has literally hundreds of bullet points highlighting the extensive functionality that is automatically available to our clients.

As an example, our smart intuitive Stock Management module can automate the entire product ordering process. This solution has many clever checks written into the software to ensure price and stock discrepancies and variances are flagged for immediate resolution.

For instance, predictive purchase ordering (PPO) enables the system to reorder food and drink products when they reach pre-determined stock levels. PPO also scans your supplier database to select the most competitive prices for foodstuff so you’re not paying over the odds unnecessarily. As many of you will know from your own professional experience, prices between different suppliers can vary enormously, especially when you are desperate for produce and are buying at the 11th hour. Without the proper safeguards in place, it is very easy to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

Instant real-time reports are ready for analysis whenever you need them

Checking on what you’re spending and when and where is of paramount importance. Because all our systems operate 100% in the cloud, instant real-time reports are ready for analysis whenever you need them. These reports can be tailored to your specific requirements. Popular reports amongst our clients are stock holding and movement, supplier performance and detailed wastage analysis.

Wastage, according to the people behind the Hospitality and Food Service Agreement, currently sees nearly a million tonnes of food wasted each year by the hospitality and food service sector in the UK at an estimated cost of £2.5bn. This is the equivalent of more than 1.3bn meals being wasted every year or one out of every six meals being served. Add wastage to food inflation and healthy margins are much harder to maintain.

I was chatting to one of our clients, Nick Wong, Finance Director at Fulham Shore, who owns and manages the Franco Manca, Real Greek and Bukowski restaurant brands. He appreciates how we design new reports and work with new data streams to give everyone at Fulham Shore a different angle and additional insights into the business.

The Devil is in the detail

With over 65 outlets under his supervision, it’s crucial for senior decision makers like Nick to be able to see the entire global picture. Our head office StockLink Enterprise software helps by centralising supplier and product data while also allowing you to drill down reports to individual purchase invoices within minutes. As we all know, the devil is in the detail. The real beauty is you, like Nick, decide on the information and reports you want and we configure the system to give you the big data you need to make informed decisions.

Our Recipe/Menus module allows you to pre-cost and plan your entire food offering in microscopic detail, right down to costing pinches of salt! This feature can also be used to implement changes so you can simply alter recipes to take into account the cost of the relevant ingredients. For instance, using a different type of fish for a dish. The CGA report highlights “a lean start to 2017 for US salmon fishermen, poor cod catches and sea lice problems adding to farming costs”. Cooking instructions and prep notes for the amended menus can easily added to the system so chefs and kitchen staff are fully aware of the changes.

What’s more, you only need to make the changes once as both real-time or future planned updates can be made at head office through one POS terminal or back office PC. Everything automatically updates across the system.

Never be afraid to interrogate 

Controlling costs also means keeping a tight rein on staffing levels through our own Labour Management modules and third party apps such as S4 Labour and Fourth Hospitality. We link to and share data with over two and a half dozen powerful and popular apps because of the intelligent use of API technology.

Few EPOS competitors can match this, which is why it is one of our unique selling propositions. Indeed, a client recently commented on the fact that our new EPOS solution simplified the connectivity of new apps and improved the speed of service and were two of the major reasons behind their purchasing decision.

Obviously I am illustrating our own solutions here but any good EPOS-based business management solution should give you access to similar functionality. The most important thing to do is never be afraid to interrogate how your technology can help you control and monitor your costs. The world of EPOS is constantly evolving and is usually led by operator initiatives where they ask “can we….”



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