Four Tips for Effective Inventory Management

Inventory ManagementEarly in a food company’s life cycle, managing inventory of ingredients and packaging is one of the trickiest elements of the job. The temptation is often to over-purchase.  It seems appealing at first because of the lower price per unit and the lower per-unit shipping cost.  But these savings can be quickly eroded by increased storage costs and spoilage.  On the other hand, not having enough on hand to meet a new customer’s order can lead to the loss of a sale.

So what should one do? Well, a few nuggets that drive our inventory management practices at The Kitchen Coop are summarized below:

  • Understand Supplier Lead Times – Once you have found that perfect supplier (your “A” team), with the best price and best quality, you need to understand their capabilities. How quickly can they respond to your needs?  How do they manage their own inventory?  Do they keep ample supplies of the item(s) you regularly need? Do they make to order?  You need to know the answers to these questions and, most of all, you need to know the supplier is going to be reliable when they tell you what the turn-around time will be.  Once you know what the supplier can provide and how long it takes them, you can plan properly.   And most important, you won’t promise a new customer an order in three weeks, when your supplier can’t get you an ingredient in fewer than four weeks.
  • Have a Local Alternative Supplier – You’ll be much better prepared if you have a backup “B” supplier that is local.  Often there is a local supplier of an ingredient or packaging element that you’ve passed over because they charge more than the one you’ve chosen (your “A”) supplier.  Maybe this “B” supplier can’t deliver in the quantity you need or maybe they’re just too expensive.   But if they can deliver immediately when the “A” team can’t or won’t, make sure you have a relationship with them.  Buy from them from time to time just to build some loyalty.  That way, the day you call desperate for an overnight delivery, they’ll be there for you.
  • Fail to Plan Equals Plan to Fail – A forecast is just an educated guess of where sales are heading in the next two to three months.  But that educated guess gives you something to run your recipe against so that you can estimate how much of each material might be needed. Forecasting is most useful if done and updated regularly, say once a month for the next 3 months.  That way, you’ve gotten to review each forecast at least two or three times and gradually you will get better at doing it. From the forecast, you can work backward using the lead times to know when to place the orders for how much. That is key to reducing the stress of last minute purchasing is proper forecasting.
  • Manage Inventory “Perpetually”  – Traditional accounting practices called for taking a physical inventory periodically and then working back into what was consumed in the prior period. Although in some ways that sounds simple, it is also time consuming and error prone.  Instead, we suggest that you track your inventory constantly by accurately recording each change in inventory that you make.  Whether you are taking raw materials out of storage and creating new finished goods during a production run; or depleting your store of finished goods and packaging with each and every shipment, if you record inventory changes as they occur, you’ll find that in the end it is not only far less cumbersome, but it also delivers you much more accurate information for decisions.   If you follow this practice, then the time-consuming full physical inventory counts can be done monthly or quarterly to reconcile any discrepancies and true up in time for the creation of the next shopping list.

The Kitchen Coop® is a new model for the food manufacturing industry. Combining a state-of-the-art food manufacturing space and equipment with industry professionals, and supplemental shared services The Kitchen Coop support small and mid-sized food companies become profitable and effective organizations.

Our facility is a third party audited 22,000 square foot space consisting of six production and two packaging rooms; dry, refrigerated, and frozen warehousing; with an office and event space. Take a video tour of our space or contact us directly info@the-kitchen-coop.com.

Featured Kitchen: AMG Hospitality

If you’re looking for place to cook in Prince George’s County, Maryland, check out AMG Hospitality, located at 14207 Old Annapolis Road in Bowie.

AMG Hospitality Kitchen 1

AMG Hospitality is a shared-use food preparation kitchen for food industry entrepreneurs. This culinary facility is state certified and equipped with commercial-grade equipment for food preparation, cooking demonstrations and educational training.

AMG Hospitality is an ideal commercial facility for use by:

  • Caterers
  • Chefs
  • Bakers
  • Food truck operators
  • Culinary class instructors
  • Special event vendors
  • Entrepreneurs starting a small-scale food business

AMG Hospitality Kitchen 2

“The facility contains commercial-grade equipment chosen for their versatility and to meet a wide range of culinary needs. Whether you’re prepping, mixing, baking, cooking, or decorating, you’ll be provided with the necessary equipment to complete your culinary task in one spacious and convenient location.”

(Source: amghospitality.us)

Kitchen features include:

  • 3 Compartment Sink/Pot Dish Sink
  • 6 Burner Range w/ Oven
  • Charbroiler/Grill
  • Convection Oven
  • Griddle/Flat Top
  • Prep Sink/Service Sink
  • Stainless Steel Table/Prep Table
  • Walk-In Freezer
  • Walk-In Refrigerator

AMG Hospitality Kitchen 3

The facility can be rented for a nominal hourly fee and can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Want to Cook It Here?

Click here to visit the AMG Hospitality kitchen listing on the Cook It Here website. There, you will find additional information about the kitchen as well as contact information.

You can also visit their website at www.amghospitality.us.

Featured Kitchen: Kitchen Local

Kitchen Local LogoIf you’re looking for a place to cook on the Northshore/Merrimack Valley of Massachusetts or southeast New Hampshire, we highly recommend checking out Kitchen Local!

This state-of-the-art commercial kitchen is located at 14 Cedar Street in Amesbury, Massachusetts, in a historic brick building only a few blocks away from Downtown Amesbury. It is conveniently located to Routes 95 and 495.

Kitchen Local is a 1,200 square foot, full-service commercial kitchen. There are two complete kitchen stations that can be rented separately or as one full kitchen.

Kitchen Local 1

The facility is equipped with top-of-the-line commercial equipment, including:

Catering Kitchen

  • 2 Stainless Steel Work Tables
  • Portioning Table
  • 24-Quart Tilt Steam Kettle
  • 6-Burner Stove
  • Double Gas Oven with Griddle
  • Hand Sink

Baking Kitchen

  • 2 Stainless Steel Work Tables
  • Stainless Steel Portioning Table
  • 30-quart Hobart Floor Mixer
  • Double Electric Convection Oven
  • Proofing Oven
  • Table-top Induction Range
  • Cutting Boards
  • Hand Sink

Additional Equipment

  • Walk-In Refrigerator
  • Reach-In Freezer
  • Robot Coupe
  • Food Processor
  • Microwave
  • Speed Racks
  • 3-Compartment Sink
  • Utility Cart
  • Mop Sink
  • Mixing Bowls
  • Cutting Boards
  • Sheet Pans
  • Assorted Stock Pots
  • Sauté/Roasting Pans

Kitchen Local 2

“Kitchen Local fills a niche for culinary professionals and provides around-the-clock access to an affordable, modern, convenient and permitted kitchen workspace. By using Kitchen Local, you can launch or expand your business immediately without a large initial capital investment.”

(Source: www.kitchenlocal.com)

Whether you’re a chef, baker, food producer, farmer, nutrition instructor or any other food professional – this kitchen is for you. Kitchen Local is perfect for food production, catering, baking, cooking classes, menu planning, training, recipe testing, product development and more!

For years, I have experienced and appreciated the value of shared-use commercial kitchens. Knowing there was a burgeoning food industry here on the North Shore, but a shortage of commercial kitchen workspace to support that industry, I realized the direction I wanted to take.”

– Lisa Sutton, Founder and Owner of Kitchen Local (Source: www.kitchenlocal.com)

For more information about Kitchen Local, visit www.kitchenlocal.com.

Want to Cook It Here? You can contact the kitchen directly at lisa@kitchenlocal.com or (978) 204-3197 or through the Cook It Here website by clicking here.

Questions? Check out the Kitchen Local FAQs here.

Featured Kitchen: TNI Kitchen

We are excited to introduce you to one of our newest kitchen listings on Cook It Here, the TNI Kitchen.
This amazing cooking space is located in Tarzana, California at 5577 Reseda Blvd.

TNI interior view 2

The TNI Kitchen is a retail restaurant space that is great for:

  • Training – Come in and work on your skills or teach others.
  • Catering – Is your catering company looking for a place to cook? This large kitchen space will meet all of your cooking needs.
  • Product Exploration and Development – Come test out new recipes in a real retail restaurant environment.
  • Product Presentations – This retail restaurant space is perfect for presenting your new ideas to others.
  • Cooking Classes – Looking to teach others about your art? The TNI Kitchen includes all of the space and equipment you’ll need to teach a cooking class.

TNI Kitchen Interior 

At only $35/hour, the possibilities are endless at this state-of-the-art kitchen.

Kitchen equipment includes: TNI Kitchen

  • 4 top burner
  • Oven
  • Grill (broiler)
  • Sandwich prep fridges
  • Thermaliser
  • Fridges
  • Freezers
  • Work Benches
  • Vitamix Blender
  • Meat Slicer
  • Proofer
  • Meat Grinder
  • Tabletop Stand Mixer
  • Immersion Blender

Click below to view the layout of this 1,024 sq. ft. kitchen:
TNI Kitchen Layout

Want to “Cook It Here?”

Whether you’re simply looking for a kitchen to cook in, or looking for a space to try out new products or teach a class, the TNI Kitchen is the perfect place for you.

You can rent the kitchen for $35 per hour (minimum of four hours) or $250 per day.

You can find more information about the TNI Kitchen as well as contact information through the Cook It Here website by clicking here.


About the Company:

The Next Idea, an international hospitality and restaurant consulting group, created the TNI Kitchen. They specialize in food, food service operations, restaurants, cafes, leisure and entertainment services.The Next Idea

The Next Idea works across the world, specializing in concept creation, development and management – everything from research, strategy, brand and product development, franchising, through to design, execution, systems and operations, and communication.

“We differentiate ourselves from our competitors by always beginning with the end user. The customer experience, the employee training experience, and the brand experience are given the upmost priority when we approach a project,” says Robert Ancill, CEO.

Click here to find out more about The Next Idea.

Featured Kitchen: A and J Commissary

A and J Commissary LogoThis month, we would like to introduce you to one of our most popular kitchens, the A and J Commissary located at 3201 4th Avenue S. in beautiful Seattle, Washington.

This fully furnished kitchen in the heart of Seattle includes 3,500 sq. ft. of new appliances, food prep stations, and walk-in cooler and freezer. It is available for rent 24 hours a day.

“We are confident that you will find it to be the finest in the city and that it offers all the amenities to make your culinary business a success,” says Ralph Murray, owner of A and J Commissary.

A and J Commissary Kitchen 1

(Pictured above: flexible cooking station, 6 top gas range, double-stack convection gas oven, tilting/braising skillet, shared large 2 compartment food prep sink, hand wash sink)

There are three kitchen areas available for rent offering state-of-the-art appliances, equipment, storage and prep areas. Whether you are starting a new culinary business or looking to expand your brand, this professional kitchen is the place for you.

The A and J Commissary commercial kitchen features include:

  • Four gas ranges with cook top surfaces, gas ovens, griddle and char broiler
  • Three imperial convection double stack ovens
  • 30 gallon tilting skillet/braising pan
  • 40 gallon tilting gas kettle for soups/sauces
  • Commercial 80 quart mixer
  • And much more!

A and J Commissary Kitchen 2

(Pictured above: baking station with dough table, double stack convection gas oven, combination gas range with 2 top burner/flat top griddle, 80 qt. mixer, hand wash sink)

The facility is open 24 hours a day and you can be assured that you’ll be working in a clean, efficient and secure location with 24-hour security cameras.

“We found that Seattle was woefully in need of a new state of the art, efficient and reliable commercial kitchen that would serve the growing number of start-up entrepreneurs that are part of a newly invigorated and expanding Seattle food scene. We think you’ll find A and J Commissary to be the finest commercial kitchen in Seattle and we look forward to being an important part of your successful culinary business.”

(Source: www.ajcommissary.com)

A and J Commissary Kitchen 4 A and J Commissary Kitchen 5

(Pictured above: well lit and spacious kitchen featuring ample stainless steel prep tables throughout, walk in freezer and walk in cooler)

To start using the kitchen, chefs will need to:

  1. Sign a user agreement with the kitchen
  2. Provide copies of business license, food business permit & food handlers card
  3. Provide proof of liability insurance with A & J commissary listed

Click here to read more Kitchen FAQs.

A and J Commissary Kitchen 3

(Pictured above: flexible cooking station, 6 top gas range, double stack convection gas oven, 40 gallon gas tilting kettle, shared large 2 compartment food prep sink)

We are excited to be part of the vibrant and growing catering, food truck, and specialty foods production community.”

(Source: www.ajcommissary.com)

For more information on the A and J Commissary, including complete list of resources, please visit http://ajcommissary.com. If you’re local, request to take a tour of the facility – we’re sure that you’ll love all of the amenities offered!

Chefs can also contact the kitchen directly through the Cook It Here website by clicking here.

New Addition to Cook It Here!

Over the last year, Cook It Here has grown to become the premier destination for discovering commercial kitchens to rent. We have been helping thousands of chefs every month find the commercial kitchens they need to be successful and take their endeavors to the next level. We feel happy that we have been able to have a small part in helping our members succeed. We are grateful to all our chefs and kitchen owners that have helped contribute to our site and make it helpful to all. To that end, we are excited to announce that we are rolling out a new feature on Cook It Here that we think will be just as helpful: classes.

During this past year, many of you have written in to us not only looking for kitchens but also asking about training and certification courses that are available in your area. Often times, we have not had a great response to those requests because these kinds of classes can be listed all over the internet. But we could only sit on the sidelines for so long before we decided that we should try to do something to solve this problem. That is when we decided to expand our architecture to also support information on classes. We have built in tools that will allow the hosts of these classes to post these classes on our site. This will make it easier than ever for you to find that training or certification that you need to take your abilities to the next level. The new feature will allow the following:

  • Host Classes
  • Search for classes based on criteria
  • Request to Join a Class
  • Approve Class Requests
  • And more!

Click here to learn more about this new addition. We hope this new feature is useful to you! Thanks for your patience as we work to get these classes listed.

We will also be starting a weekly email that will include new classes that have been added in your area as well as new kitchen listings added to the site. Be sure to register with us so we can update you!

Please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments. Thank you for being a part of Cook It Here. We are looking forward to all the upcoming classes!

A Coach for Specialty Food Entrepreneurs

You know you’re onto something great: everyone loves your recipe; no one else is selling anything like it. You’re sure to be a success, right?

Wrong.

The hard truth of the specialty food industry is that no matter how delicious or innovative your product is, you need more than quality goods to be viable in this competitive business. Unfortunately, being a great chef is not the same as being a great entrepreneur.

At CookItHere, we’ve come across a resource that can help fledgling food businesses get the footing they need to be successful. From writing a business plan to pricing your product, Deb Mazzaferro can help you develop the foundations of solid enterprise.

That sounded a lot like a commercial, but this is not a paid endorsement. We’re just excited to find such a perfect match for our audience. Deb Mazzaferro, known as “Coach Maz,” is a 30-year veteran of the specialty food industry who specializes in coaching food entrepreneurs. You can read about her and the services she offers at her website, www.coachmaz.com.

The following reprint (used by permission) is a taste of Coach Maz’s perspective on starting a food business—good information to get you thinking about the viability of your business.

Tough Love from Deb Mazzaferro

Do you believe these myths?

The biggest myth in small business and the real story…………..

Over the past 12 years, the most common entrepreneurial misconception I’ve encountered as a business coach and specialty food consultant is ….

Build it and they will come!

Nearly every specialty food company seems to believe THAT if you provide an outstanding product, the consumer will FIND it and BUY it and CONSUME it in massive quantities. Or at least enough so that Kraft foods will buy your business for many times the money you have invested.

Sorry! It doesn’t happen that way.

So, tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent developinga homemade productinto a commercially viable one, finding a co-packer, tweaking it with a food tech and packaging it in unique and beautiful ways without any upfront marketing strategy. (In my cynical view, this is actually what is meant by “small businesses provide most of the jobs in this country”….as consumers of goods and services other small businesses provide).

Little thought normally goes into “what does the consumer want or need?” and “How am I going to sell it?”

The assumption is that once it’s made, the retailer will be so enamored that price won’t matter and logistics will solve themselves. The consumer will find this unadvertised, high-priced delicacy amongst the 1,000s of products on the shelves and be creative enough to figure out how to use it….at every opportunity.

Again and again I see quality products made, brought to market, sold… but little or no money made on the entire effort.And so what I see repeated over and over is a fine product gets made which has very little margin. Once it’s presented to the marketplace, retailbuyers may have complimentary things to say about product quality, but want pricing, promotions and placement considerations. Frustrated by two years of product development only to be turned down by key retailers and distributors, owners think the system is broken.

So what is the truth?

Everything hinges on price! If the price doesn’t resonate with the consumer, it just won’t sell. Retailers know what their customers want and may reject the product outright. If there isn’t enough margin built into the pricing structure for a distributor discount, broker commission, promotions, marketing and profit……then why do it??

What is the reality?

The product gets made. “Everyone” loves it. The price is too high. Inventory needs to be sold, so margins are compromised to get to the right price point or to pay for the unaccounted for sales and marketing expenses.

What is the solution?

Determine what the consumer wants or needs UPFRONT. Find a niche. Research a target audience. Find an opening in a growing category where you provide a unique selling proposition. What sets you apart? Why would your target audience buy yours over another brand….perhaps one they already love?

1.       Create your product from the retail price backwards to the cost of goods you’ll need to obtain in order to be profitable after all expenses.

2.       Next is a business plan the outlines all the nuanced expenses unique to your niche….and then add 30-50% to that as a buffer.

3.       Work within the system; understand who you’ll need to partner with and how much each layer will cost. You are not going to change the system! Learn the lingo, ask questions, go to work for a specialty food company, get a coach!

4.       Set a dollar amount you are willing to invest….and lose. Most entrepreneurs get in and then find they spend half their time managing cash flow, raising money, securing lines of credit or putting in more of their own money than they ever expected. Once in, they feel the big break is right around the corner and they have a hard time throwing in the towel. After 3-5 years of losing money, they want to sell the business but have little chance of recouping their investment much less making a profit. However, if you are thinking of starting a specialty food business, buying an existing one and taking it to the next level is an ideal way to jump in and create immediate value by increasing revenue rather than starting a new company from scratch.

I know buying and running an existing business doesn’t celebrate your Grandmother’s cookie recipe, but……is it about that or having a thriving business?

You decide!

Is There an App for That?

The New Year is right around the corner, and with it, a chance to start fresh with your business. Are you looking to make some positive changes? Maybe you want to get better at promoting your services. Maybe you want to update your recipes. Maybe you want to revamp your pricing, make better use of your time, or be more organized.

Chances are, whatever your intention, there’s an app for that: a software application that will help you in your endeavor. Many culinary professionals are so kitchen-focused that they forget that the right technology can be as critical as any kitchen tool, saving you time, money and stress in your food business.

There is a tremendous amount of technology designed for chefs, caterers and food business operators. From maintaining a pantry inventory to planning an event, you’ll find all kinds of applications to make your job easier. Here is a just a sample of the tools available for you.

Cook’n Recipe Organizer: For home cooks or pros, this app allows you to capture recipes you see online and save them to a searchable database of your own. It offers recipe scaling and nutrition analysis, too. Another popular recipe organizer is Living Cookbook. If you’re a recipe hoarder, and if you pull your recipes from all different sources, imagine the time you could save by having them organized and categorized in one library!

If you’re struggling with pricing your retail food product, you may be able to find free calculators online. For a $49 download fee, this calculator from SmallFoodBiz.com is an Excel worksheet that helps you factor in costs including production time, overhead and markups. It’s a good starting point for beginners who can’t invest in a whole business software package.

The American Personal & Private Chef Association sells a software package called Personal Chef Office. It’s an all-in-one suite specifically for personal chefs, and it covers everything from recipe and menu planning to invoicing and financial forms. You can manage your schedule and client information. It has a nutrition analysis tool that will update nutrition information in a recipe based on your modifications.

For caterers, commercial catering software like Caterease can help with everything from event planning and customer relationship management to menu planning and managing your employees. It gets into nitty gritty, like ingredient sourcing and job costing, and logistics like diagramming the floorplan of your event. It even has an ecommerce module so you can offer online ordering to your clients. Caterease appears to be the industry standard, but it’s pricey and could be cost-prohibitive for smaller business owners. For a more affordable option of with some of the same functions, try Total Party Planner.

Featured Kitchen: The Hood Kitchen Space

We’re beginning a new series in the Cook It Here blog. Each month we’ll be featuring one of our commercial kitchens for rent. As you know, not all kitchens are created equal, and even if they are equal, they’ve still got their own features and nuances. If you’re an independent chef, our Featured Kitchen series will help you get to know what’s available. If you’re a commercial kitchen owner, perhaps you’ll find it helpful to hear what other kitchens are offering.

We’re starting close to home with a great facility in Costa Mesa, California: The Hood Kitchen Space.

The Hood Kitchen Space offers six health department-certified, fully equipped kitchens, with slight differences among them to accommodate different types of client operations: one has a tilt skillet for clients requiring high capacity cooking, and two others are outfitted specifically with baking in mind. They have a kitchen designed for demonstration cooking classes, filming, or similar events, with a private venue attached can accommodate up to 25 people. In addition, they have two prep space areas, one dry and one with a sink. Clients may also rent dry, cold or freezer storage space on a monthly basis.

Each kitchen is available for hourly rental, 24 hours a day. Rates vary according to peak or off hours, on a sliding scale based on how many hours each month you require the kitchen. Clients include caterers, cottage food operators, independent chefs, and restaurants requiring overflow or temporary additional kitchen space.

The Hood is owned and operated by two local personal chefs: Shelby Coffman and Christie Frazier. Coffman is a graduate of Tante Marie’s Cooking School in San Francisco and has completed coursework at California Culinary Academy. Frazier is a self-taught professional with coursework at Tante Marie’s, Laguna Culinary and New School of Cooking. Both have extensive experience as caterers, personal chefs and cooking instructors.

Coffman and Frazier are working to make The Hood more than just a commercial kitchen for rent. They want to create a community of chefs and foodies, with The Hood as a hub for classes, events and activities.

According to their website, Coffman and Frazier also seek to build strong relationships with the communities surrounding their business. “Giving back and creating a strong community is a priority at The Hood Kitchen Space. In keeping with this practice, The Hood Kitchen Space offers its chefs and cooks the opportunity to use local, sustainable food and practices. They’ve selected Orange County artisans and family owned businesses to supply The Hood Kitchen Space’s larders with fresh, seasonal, and organic ingredients.”

For more information on The Hood Kitchen Space, including floor plans of the kitchens and complete lists of resources available, visit www.thehoodkitchen.com.

Cooking for the Gluten-Free Crowd

Seems like it’s everywhere now—the gluten-free movement has reached the Betty Crocker aisle of every grocery store. Just a few years ago, most of us would not have recognized the word “gluten” at all, but now gluten-free products are commonplace, and gluten-free options can be found on menus everywhere.

What’s the big deal about gluten? Well, for people with celiac disease, it’s a very big deal. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by a specific gluten protein (found in wheat). Celiac sufferers experience serious gastrointestinal symptoms such as severe pain and diarrhea. The disease has also been linked to other serious problems, like recurring miscarriages and, in young children, failure to thrive.

Over the last few years, a growing awareness of food allergies has shed light on gluten-sensitivity, which is not the same as celiac disease, but has been cited as a cause for everything from hyperactivity to headaches.

Some say that gluten-free diets are just a trend. This article from Time magazine describes it as another dietary scapegoat. “Avoiding certain ingredients goes in cycles: Back in the 70s, it was sugar. Then it was fat, then saturated fat. Then fat was in but carbs were out. Gluten is the pariah ingredient du jour, and there are a lot of healthy people shelling out big bucks for gluten-free food they probably don’t need.”

As a chef, whether you agree with the wheat-eaters or the gluten-free types doesn’t really matter. What matters is which side your client is on.

If you’re cooking for a client who requests gluten-free fare, your first order of business is to determine his understanding of the term. For people who avoid gluten as a dietary preference, skipping bread, pasta and other goods containing wheat flour is often enough.

However, if your client takes the gluten restriction very seriously, you’ll need to be more careful. Many common ingredients– like soy sauce and beer, for example– may not be obvious offenders, but they contain some form of wheat protein and must be avoided. Watch for tricky items like corn tortillas, which seem like a great option for an alternate starch—but not all are free of wheat ingredients.

To be on the safe side, choose ingredients that are certified gluten free. You can read about gluten-free certifications here.

Cooking for clients with celiac disease requires special food preparation and handling to avoid cross-contamination with wheat ingredients. If your client is diagnosed with the disease, or has a wheat allergy serious enough to warrant such precautions, they’ll most likely know that and seek out chefs or caterers that are trained in gluten-free foodservice.

As always, communicating with your clients is critical—in this case, for their safety as well as their satisfaction.