Expert Talk: How automation facilitates cost control and analysis in the catering industry

In the first part of our interview with Manfredo Ciani we have been talking about the different roles and skills a Food & Beverage Manager has to fulfil. We also presented our warehouse management system and spoke about which features are particularly important for him. In the second part, we look at three important factors in hospitality: Time efficiency, cost control and food waste.

Salvatore Alaimo: Let’s go a bit deeper into the benefits you expect from an automated warehouse management system.

Manfredo Ciani: One major benefit is to save time. Inventory for example takes a lot of time for the people involved in the process. Just to give you an impression: My supply manager used to spend between 60 and 80 per cent of his time by manually entering data in our software. That is a huge amount of hours he could use more wisely and, above all, more profitably. Of course there is a lot of information that has to be processed. In big hotels and restaurants, deliveries as well as requisition happen on a daily basis. The goods are constantly on the move, stocks change accordingly. A solution like Storate would digitise and facilitate the whole process saving us at least half of that time. And that is only one example. 

SA: Another example is probably cost control. I guess the cost analysis of a single dish or a whole menu is a challenge, right?

MC: Yes, it is. Let’s say a dish could be put on the menu for 50 Euros. However, maybe it’s a completely incorrect amount. I have to rely on the chef to do a proper evaluation of the price. The problem is that it’s mostly done manually. It has to be updated every period because the products change their price or the ingredients have been changed. 

Can I really ask the chef who’s working all day and all night with this team to dedicate a week of his time to sit down and recalculate everything? The answer is no. They’ll never do it because it’s too resource-intensive and they are too busy. So when things are done properly in a system like Storate where it’s automatically updated or easy to update, then it helps resolve a lot of issues in the future.

SA: How challenging do you think is to effectively calculate forecasts with food and beverages? How reliable are they?

MC: I’ve noticed in my last job with several restaurants, that certain outlets were able to meet their objectives and others constantly never met them. It all came down with the organisation. The manager of the restaurant who had it under control was very well organised and had a clear structure in his team. Instead the team of another restaurant declined to define a hierarchy and tasks. Everyone just did what they felt they should. In the end everything was completely out of sync and it ended up that they were never meeting their target.

SA: Can you also give us an idea on the size of the discrepancies and the impact that may bring to the whole business?

MC: I don’t recall the exact quantity of the discrepancy, but it was a sizable discrepancy. I would say at the end of the year 50.000 Euro were missing. Staff has a huge weight on the overall performance of the restaurant. The inability to manage them is a huge cost factor. 

About 40 per cent of this discrepancy is resulting from mistakes in the inventory. Not because we had a mistake taking the inventory, but just because of items passing from one outlet to another without the appropriate documentation. If you don’t track that, you will have irregularities in your cost control. One restaurant makes more money because they did not pay for the bottle they sold. But the other one loses. 

"Discrepancies in the inventory can be dangerous. They can produce losses between 10 and 15 per cent of the annual turnover."

SA: Let’s talk about another topic which moves me a lot: Food waste

MC: That is a large topic, right. Unfortunately it is very often left behind because hotels have other problems in their daily doing. But it’s definitely a big concern. Usually it is calculated in. So there’s the idea of, oh, I bought 50 kg of this fish, but I already calculated that an X percent of the fish is waste. So an estimate is taken into consideration on the price. But chefs as well as F&B roles need to be more aware of the possibilities of avoiding food waste. Even because then there is no way to get to know if that estimate is accurate or not. 

The food and beverage industry has a special responsibility regarding saving food from being thrown away. Read our 7 tips on how to easily produce less waste in your kitchen.

An easy example regarding food waste are buffets. Guests expect you to keep a buffet filled and presentable all the way until the end. You can’t just let it slowly finish. But what happens to the buffet at the end? Usually it’s thrown away because legally you can’t reuse it and not even give it to charity or your personnel. 

"I've seen so many buffets being thrown in the trash and it's very sad."

SA: I would like to get a little more personal. You have left your former position and are heading for new challenges. Would you be willing to share with us a little bit of why and what are you focusing on right now?

MC: I had always been so busy and had no time to really think of new offers. But when Covid arrived, the hotel shut down. And suddenly my job became managing an empty hotel, working only half the day. So I took the chance to consider a proposal from a contact in Italy to start a new business together. By the third month of lockdown, ready with cleaning up, organising and maintaining the hotel and its facilities, I said: why not take up this opportunity? So we came up with the idea of Via Pasteria Milano, where I will also take over the position of the F&B Director. 

The new job is still in the food and beverage world, combining restaurants, hospitality and real estate. We’re going to start from an easy concept of pasta restaurants. And hopefully this takes up and starts becoming successful and able to expand in multiple locations and maybe expand internationally. 

SA: What’s your main motivation here? I see that the passion is not going to change, but the motivation to become a co-founder of a new company, even though a restaurant, still is very different from being “only” an F&B Director, right?

MC: Yeah. Well, the motivation is to be able to try and set up things how I would like them to be. I have been working for various companies in the hospitality world, and I learned things from each of them. Everyone has taught me something great, and different approaches to get things done. So now I take the best of all my experiences and put them together into my own vision of how I would like things to be run.
This is also why I am an early adopter of Storate. I want to be always in control of my stock, making processes more time and cost efficient and minimising waste as much as possible.

SA: I’m sure you will do a great job and I wish you best of luck. Thank you for your time. We look forward as well to starting the pilot and collaborating closely with you and your team. 

MC: Thank you too, Salvo, see you soon!

Have you missed the first part of our interview with Manfredo? Click here to read it and discover the features of Storate

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