Reviewing the order guides from each of your vendors is a very good idea for several reasons, but looking over static reports when this information can change almost daily is not going to help you build a profitable business.
Frustrated with the lack of real-time information to help me make smart purchasing decisions, I created what is now known as the “Ultimate Ordering + Budgeting Tool”. A low cost and extremely powerful spreadsheet that has been critical to my success and to the success of my catering, restaurant, wholesale + retail clients. How, You Ask... ?
The Ultimate Ordering + Budgeting Tool utilizes filters and formulas to deliver information to you quickly and in real time. When used to its full potential it can be the most powerful tool in your kitchen and one of the most valuable to your business.
Here are the Top 5 Benefits of using a Custom Order Guide (yes, there are more) and how they can help you and your team save time + money.
Quickly Compare Products, Quality + Pricing Across All Vendors
As a Purchasing Manager it is your job to make informed purchasing decisions - to obtain the product that best meets your need, that is the best quality, and the best price. If you are working with just one vendor for produce, for example, you limit your sourcing options and eliminate the ability to cost compare to ensure that you are getting the best product on the market at the best price. With two or more vendors in your arsenal, and by utilizing a Custom Order Guide, you can consider several product options and identify the best price very quickly.
If for example you're sourcing beets and want Baby Chioggas with beautiful tops attached, you'd filter the sheet quickly to show your beet options - eliminating from the view any without tops - and you would get something like this...
A quick scan of the options show that Rutiz Farm has Baby Chiogga beets with tops for a price of $2.00 per bunch. Other vendors or farmers do not offer exactly what you need, so you order from Rutiz Farm. If you needed Gold beets with tops, and size didn't matter, you would likely choose the gold beets from Domestic Produce because they are the lowest priced option at $0.89 per bunch.
This example assumes that all products are of equal quality. If you are sourcing a mix of Organic and non-organic products; grass-fed and conventional meats; wild and farmed seafood, etc. I highly recommended that you include these details in the item info so that you can easily compare quality too. It would look something like this...
Eliminate Pen + Paper Ordering - SAVING YOU LOTS OF MONEY
I get it. It's a quick, down and dirty, simple ordering. And you've been doing forever, right? And it works great, right?
I beg to differ.
What I've discovered is that pen and paper ordering without an inventory guide typically results in missing items.
For example, if there is no butter for you to see in the fridge and you don't remember in that moment that butter usually sits in that space - you won't write it down. Butter seems obvious, but it's happened!
The result is that butter doesn't get ordered, and the the next morning someone (possibly you) is sent to the store to purchase the missing butter (and other products that inevitably are discovered missing), losing production time, overspending on retail products, not getting the quality product that you want, etc., etc.
I've also uncovered a lot of over-spending that results from pen + paper ordering.
The most vivid memory I have of this is a client who requested a general audit and my recommendations for areas of improvement. In reviewing his invoices I discovered that Cauliflower and Basil came in from two different vendors on the same day, and that the pricing was very different between vendors. Upon investigating why he had ordered the items from both vendors he said it was a mistake and that it should have just come from one particular vendor. Get this, it was the MORE EXPENSIVE vendor! Not only did he not realize that he had ordered the products twice, but his standard for ordering the product was from the vendor that charged $4 more per pound for Basil, and $10 more per case for the Cauliflower. He had no idea. He had no system for making informed decisions.
Using a Custom Order Guide to store all of your product information, compare product quality and pricing, and place your orders ensures the best quality, the best pricing, and that you only order what you need. We identified more than $10,000 in over-spending for that client. And with the implementation of a Custom Order Guide we helped him identify additional areas of improvement and cost savings for his company, all while continuing to improve product quality.
Streamline communication between ordering + receiving teams
A Custom Order Guide not only stores product info and allows you to filter and compare your product information, but there are also column built in where you enter your daily orders. It looks like this...
Once your orders are entered they can easily be copied + transferred into the body of an email for sending to each vendor. This creates a paper trail and time stamp for each order. It also creates an order summary which can be printed for your receiving team, or stored in a shared folder for easy computer access.
The order summary indicates to the receiving team, or individual, exactly what they should expect to arrive from each vendor, right down to the brand, quality and unit pack size. If there are discrepancies between what is on the receiving document and what is delivered items can be refused, credit slips issued immediately and replacement products and fixes can be requested immediately. There is no time lost on figuring out where a mistake may have been made, and new product gets to you quickly.
Track food costs + budgets in real time
Seeing your food costs and tracking budgets in real-time can be a game changer for businesses that are trying to achieve specific food cost goals, and enables chefs and purchasing managers to make proactive purchasing decisions based on actual spending rather than waiting a week or more for accounting to catch up and to 'See how things turned out...'.
Here is a condensed look at the guide, showing the above orders for Monday, the costs for that day + the current weekly spend summary.
By adding your revenue for the week into the sheet, you can easily obtain a real-time food cost budget. You also have the option to enter your full week of orders into the sheet at once and compare the estimated costs to your revenue for a peek at where your food costs will land for the week. If you're over budget you can make changes to your purchases that will keep your costs on target. It could be something as simple as lower pars on a few items that you know you won't use this week - sourcing #2 organic peppers because they don't need to be pretty for making Romesco Sauce - or swapping in lower cost in season strawberries for the raspberries on top of the overnight oats. With a little creativity and all the data at your fingertips you are in total control and CAN reach your goals!
The expense tracking and budget section of a Custom Order Guide is a bit of an advanced customization, but it comes standard with our download, and if you are competent with excel you can create a basic system of your own with simple sum functions.
Create A Custom Seasonal Buying Guide
Information and organization create a foundation for endless inspiration and creation!
Our Custom Order Guide template is designed to record orders daily for one week at a time. At the start of each new week a fresh order sheet is created with any updated pricing, new revenue and spending budgets, and new daily orders.
As the weeks pass and seasons change you'll stop buying things like Winter Squash and replace them with Asparagus, English Peas, Summer Squash, Tomatoes, etc. As items fall out of season, you can replace them with new seasonal items in your sheet, and in doing so you are creating a custom seasonal guide for your business, broken down by week, that you can refer back to at any time! Are you as excited about this as I am?!
This means that in a year from now, when you are trying to plan a menu for June and it's only April 1st, you can look back at what you ordered in June of the prior year. You can filter your sheet to show you just fruit, just vegetables, just seafood... whatever food category it is that you need some inspiration for - you can narrow down your view to just that, get inspired, and start creating!
And, with a fair amount of certainty you can also predict the costs and appropriate pricing for your future creations based on the historical data that you have.
This is very exciting stuff!
Now it's time to get started!
If this info has you as jazzed about using a Custom Order Guide as I have been to use and share my Custom Order Guide with clients, then it's time to get to work!
The truth is, it is work to create your order guide. But the benefits I've shared here will quickly make up for it in future savings of time and money.
Gather your order guides from your current vendors, and request a product order guide from vendors you've been considering working with.
Download our Custom Order Guide Template or build your own with the info we provide here
Enter your product details and start experiencing the benefits in less than one week!
If you've got questions, or would like to hire Sarah Delevan Consulting to build out your Custom Guide, let us know!
Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll get back to you real soon.