Creating an Impact with Inventory Planning: The QSR Edition

Creating an Impact with Inventory Planning: The QSR Edition

Aug 28, 2023
Expert Tips
Creating an Impact with Inventory Planning: The QSR Edition

In the fast-paced and competitive world of Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), achieving a seamless and satisfying customer experience involves ensuring every element of the business functioning in perfect harmony. One aspect that often goes overlooked but plays a critical role in achieving this is the connection between QSR operations and inventory planning. While there are many resources on the benefits of inventory planning, it is time to delve and explore the significant repercussions of neglecting this relationship and discuss how addressing it can lead to eliminating major challenges like food wastage, out-of-stock situations, customer dissatisfaction, operational inefficiency, and ineffective inventory management.

Food Wastage: The Hidden Cost of Poor Inventory Planning

Nicolas Burquier, chief customer and operations officer at Pizza Hut, stated, "The sad fact is that 30 to 40 percent of all food is wasted each year, yet as many as one in eight people suffer from chronic hunger."

Food wastage is a pressing issue in the QSR industry, and it can significantly impact the bottom line. Recent findings indicate that half a pound of food is wasted per meal in restaurants, either left on customers' plates or discarded in the kitchen. Shockingly, consumer-facing businesses waste a massive $52 billion worth of food each year, as reported by ReFED (Rethink Food Waste Through Economics and Data). In response to this critical issue, major global retailers like Walmart, Kroger, and Ikea, among others, have taken a transformative step by joining the food waste reduction initiative called 10x20x30. The initiative challenges 10 retailers to collaborate with 20 of their suppliers to cut food waste in half by 2030. 

The primary culprit behind excessive food wastage is inadequate inventory planning. When restaurants overestimate demand or fail to forecast inventory levels accurately, perishable items often go unsold and discarded. Not only does this inflict financial losses upon the restaurant, but it also contributes to the global issue of food waste and damages the brand's reputation for sustainability and responsible practices. By simply integrating inventory data with sales patterns, Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs) can optimise ingredient quantities, presenting a great opportunity to transform consumer behaviour, reshape their own practices, and create a positive impact on the environment.

Running Out-of-Stock: How Inventory Planning Can Save the Day, Everyday

The quickest and easiest way to put your reputation at stake and drive away loyal customers is by running out of stock frequently. You don’t want a customer walking into your QSR, craving their favourite menu item, only to be told that it's out of stock. Often, these issues stem from poor inventory planning, as restaurants may struggle to predict demand accurately and maintain adequate stock levels. 

By employing efficient inventory management tools and strategies, QSRs can reduce the risk of running out of key ingredients and ensure customers always leave satisfied. For example: Samosa Party, a well-known QSR brand now, has also been ones to encounter significant difficulties in the past, with frequent daily stockouts, reaching the rate of over 25%, and a limited fill rate of only 60%. However, they managed to overcome these challenges by making quick and informed decisions. Through the implementation of an advanced inventory planning tool, they accomplished an outstanding fill rate of 95% and dramatically decreased daily out-of-stock incidents, bringing it under 3%. This incredible turnaround elevated Samosa Party to a successful and thriving brand, becoming a shining example in the QSR industry.

Customer Dissatisfaction: The Impact of Inconsistent Menu Offerings

Customers expect consistency in their dining experience, and that includes the availability of their preferred menu items. On facing inventory-related challenges, you may resort to substituting ingredients or temporarily removing items from the menu. When customers are unable to find their favourite items or encounter substitutions frequently, they may lose faith in your ability to deliver a reliable dining experience. Inconsistent menu offerings due to inventory-related challenges can lead to customer dissatisfaction and even the loss of repeat business, resulting in lasting negative effects on the restaurant's revenue and growth. 

According to an article from Harvard Business Review (HBR) by Amy Gallo, it is much cheaper to keep existing customers than to acquire new ones - up to 25 times less expensive. Additionally, Bain & Company's research by Frederick Reichheld, the creator of the net promoter score, shows that a small 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a substantial 25% to 95% increase in profits. For Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs), aligning inventory planning with customer preferences and past data can help maintain a consistent menu that keeps customers coming back for more. This valuable insight underscores the importance of aligning inventory planning with customer preferences and historical data for Quick-Service Restaurants (QSRs). By offering a consistent menu that caters to customer preferences, QSRs can foster lasting loyalty and keep customers coming back for more.

Efficiency: The Role of Inventory Management in Smooth Operations

Efficiency is the backbone of any successful QSR. Poor inventory planning disrupts the entire supply chain, causing delays in procurement, preparation, and service. Manual inventory tracking is time-consuming and prone to errors, hindering staff productivity. Examples of poor inventory management include stockouts, excessive waste, and inefficient ordering. Counting, tracking, and recording inventory stock levels across multiple items, monitoring expiration dates, placing orders with suppliers, and managing different locations can be a daunting and inaccurate task. Predictions based on manual methods put immense pressure on staff to get forecasts right every day, making it a dedicated and pressure-filled one-person job.

Consistently inaccurate forecasts due to manual tracking and prediction methods strain employees as they try to manage inventory efficiently while also handling other aspects of restaurant operations. Moreover, manual methods often lack the ability to analyse historical data comprehensively and efficiently. This can lead to stockouts during peak hours or excessive inventory waste, creating situations where key ingredients may run out during busy periods or result in unnecessary stockpiling.

As a consequence, restaurants may have to allocate additional staff solely to handle these inventory management tasks, diverting them from other crucial responsibilities such as customer service or food preparation. However, adopting automated inventory management systems can be a solution. These systems streamline QSR operations, reducing the burden on employees and ensuring a smooth and efficient workflow.

In conclusion, neglecting these challenges can set off a chain reaction of adverse consequences. From escalated food wastage and out-of-stock situations to customer dissatisfaction and operational inefficiencies, the repercussions can be both immediate and long-lasting. However, by recognizing the importance of efficient inventory management, QSRs have the potential to transform their businesses and achieve sustained success. The benefits of optimised inventory control extend beyond financial gains and efficiency improvements; they contribute to creating a positive and lasting impact on both customers and the environment. Therefore, by embracing technology, forecasting demand accurately, collaborating with suppliers, and optimising the menu, QSRs can transform their inventory management, enhance customer satisfaction, reduce costs, and pave the way for sustained success with happy and loyal customers.

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