Expert Talk: A F&B Manager’s Role As an Organisational Troubleshooter

Organisational activities make up a large part of F&B Managers’ tasks. This also includes inventory handling and a lot of troubleshooting. But where are the biggest challenges? How can automated warehouse management systems help solve them? 

We spoke to Manfredo Ciani. He has a long, international experience in food & beverage management, most recently as F&B Director at Gran Domine Hotel in Bilbao. Besides, Manfredo is also one of the early adopters of Storate. In the interview, he reveals which passions are indispensable in this job – and why the biggest pitfalls lie within the organisation. Enjoy this vivid and honest insight into the hospitality industry!

Salvatore Alaimo (SA): Ciao Manfredo! You have been working as a Food and Beverage Director for the past few years. Can you please tell us about the tasks in general and for you personally?

Manfredo Ciani (MC): Sure! As the Food and Beverage Director, you basically have two main priorities: On the one hand, you have to ensure a perfect customer experience for your guests and on the other hand, you have to make sure that your gastronomy is profitable. What people outside the hospitality industry don’t know is that the restaurants in hotels are usually not the main profit generator. So in this case the F&B Director‘s role is to maximise the profit of the restaurant and minimise its loss. 

It needs a lot of cost control and analysis to track the inventory and monitor the pricing.

Food and Beverage cost control is essential for the success of every restaurant. Read how warehouse management systems help you to have an ongoing overview of the stock. 

If you have a finance team in the hotel, they will usually take care of the cost control. Actually, it is mostly them who discover discrepancies. It is then the F&B Director’s responsibility to interpret those discrepancies and find out where they are coming from and where the loss originates from. The same applies, of course, if there is no finance team. Even then, the F&B Director and possibly the supply manager have to be involved.

To do so, it is really useful to have reliable data from the different inventories, restaurants and outlets. The more organised they are and the more data I am able to pull out of it, the better I can help figure out where the mistakes are.

In my last job as a F&B Director I was lucky that each of our six restaurants had their own restaurant manager. So I could delegate a lot of the daily tasks to them. This is different from smaller hotels where both positions are often combined.  

SA: But I guess you were still working in daily business, right? 

MC: Absolutely. Another role that F&B Managers and directors take on is that of the fire brigade. Very often, we are the last problem solver for the managers. We are troubleshooters. If something happens, I have to drop everything and help the team to find a solution. 

 

If they come to me it means that they either don’t know how to resolve the problem or they tried and were unable to resolve it. Then it does not matter that I’m making a menu for next month or any other of my projects – I have to come and help. 

 

Very often it is a technical issue – when the payment system doesn’t work, it’s my job to resolve it or get external help. Other challenges include complaints by guests or guests asking for something that the team does not know how to do.

SA: What do you think are the special passions an F&B Manager needs?

MC: Well, the most important thing is to be passionate about the food and the beverage that we take care of. You must also be able to transfer this to the team so everyone knows what we have, what we’re serving, and how to improve the products we’re serving. That is important to offer the best possible service. A lot of what we do is not only give our guests a sophisticated cocktail or an excellent dish. It is about the experience. It is customer service, customer engagement, storytelling, all of that.

And actually, there should be another passion. No one likes to talk about it because it’s quite nerdy or geeky: the passion for organisation. Food and beverage are some of the most chaotic departments in a hotel because everything changes every day. You have perishable products, you’re dealing with people  – there are many unpredictable things. So I would definitely say:

In addition to a passion for the product and service, you need to be passionate about organisation too as an F&B Manager.

I am deeply passionate. I love to help others. When I see that things work better because I organise them better I really do go to sleep with a smile. If I don’t see an improvement then I start stressing out because it means that there’s a problem with the organisation. Things have to go smoothly. It does not work when people do not find items that they are supposed to have or the inventories aren’t matching or the products are missing. It’s up to the Food and Beverage Director to create that level of organisation and maintain it.

SA: What do you consider to be the biggest obstacles in the organisation’s processes?

MC: You know the saying: Usually everything that can go wrong eventually does go wrong. Most problems arise in the staffing requirements. You need a certain amount of staff every day, but people get sick, the schedule was incorrect, or we forgot to inform someone that we needed their support so they didn’t show up. The next recurring issue I would say is definitely inventory. 

The lack of inventory mostly comes out from a situation of disorganisation.

SA: Can you give us an example?

MC: One of the biggest errors I see in inventory is items that are being loaned to other restaurants in a moment of urgent need. “Oh, I need a bottle of wine, we have no more left.” – “Yes, here you go”. And then no one takes the time to actually sit down and record that this bottle has been transferred to another outlet. Then it is impossible to track it. 

Or the person who did inventory the previous day, which was done on paper, forgot to count an item that was then not ordered. So no one has it. Or a box was delivered to the wrong restaurant and no one knows where it’s supposed to go –  and the person who ordered it can’t find it. 

The biggest risk is always when the products leave the main storage and go to the outlet. Then the chaos starts. The restaurants simply do not have a suitable stock place like the central storage that can be closed by key. Let me tell you what happens then: 

Let’s say there was a box of glasses that arrived yesterday. Then it has been moved, but one knows where it’s moved to and it has probably been moved by someone who’s on their day off. So I have to investigate who worked on the shift last night, who worked on the shift this morning, and I have to start calling people and figure out where this box went. That is detective work!

SA: You have already intensively experienced our warehouse management system as you will be piloting our solution For all those who have not yet tried the system: Storate is a digital solution that can automate the management of stocks. For example, you simply scan the delivery note and import newly arrived goods directly into your stock lists. You mark the products with a unique code which enables you to track it through your whole facility. It works just as easily with requisitions. Storate gives you a permanent overview of the stock in your warehouse and can even inform you of approaching expiry dates. 

 

Manfredo, do you think Storate could help you in this matter?

MC: Definitely. It’s very good. The combination of the different floors like deliveries, withdrawals, and requisition is very helpful. I am also looking forward to the new function when you can order directly from the vendor via the app. 

SA: What would you say is the main benefit from implementing the solution at your restaurants?

MC: Well, it’s simple for anyone to take up and start handling without too much training. A lot of the other systems I saw are built on old systems and therefore very challenging to use. But Storate looks very intuitive, simple, and clear. I like it. 

It can save a lot of time for the people involved in the process. For example, my supply manager used to dedicate as much as 60% to 80% of his time to manually inputting data on our software. Keep in mind that many info needs to be considered: many deliveries, requisitions happen on a daily basis and all of them need to be reported. Storate would digitise and facilitate the whole process saving us at least half of that time. And he is not the only role being facilitated.

SA: What feature are you most interested in?

MC: I am fascinated by the function of taking a picture of the product and then simply printing out the necessary code to track it. That is great! I haven’t seen something like that yet. It will also help me to keep an eye on expiry dates and improve the process of storing and monitoring perishable food

 

In the second part of this interview we will focus on cost control and talk about how F&B Managers can benefit from our solution to manage these tasks a lot easier.

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