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How can I optimise my food operation?

Pull up a chair, because you’re about to be given a whistle-stop tour of how to enhance your business and improve your food operation.

You may have seen the huge collection of gold medals that the British cycling team brought home from the Olympics. If so, you might be wondering how they managed such an inspiring achievement? What made our cycling team suddenly succeed at a sport usually dominated by countries like Australia and the Netherlands?

The answer is ‘marginal gains’. This concept, coined “aggregation of marginal gains”, meant that coach Dave Brailsford, was able to optimise the efforts of the British cycling squad, to fine tune their training schedule and allow them to make small gains – the combination of which would create remarkable improvements on the track.

This process can be applied to businesses everywhere, increasing profitability and optimising operations.

So how can this be applied to my food operation?

1. Waste not, want not

Reduce your waste. Make sure that products are used and distributed, in order to minimise the amount of food spoil. Think about offering them (at a reduce cost) to restaurants and cafés that could use product quickly. This tactic will help you profit from food that would otherwise be thrown out. It will also give food establishments an opportunity to buy your product at a reasonable price, something they may be keen to exploit.

Try and forecast the types, quantities and timings of the different food products that need to be made. For instance, if there are times of the year that certain products sell better, or are cheaper to produce (because ingredients are in season), then make sure you take full advantage of these and reduce production of other, less popular lines.

2. Volume vs value

Evaluate the price of your product. Is it possible consumers would pay more? What prices are other producers asking for their (similar) products? Is there something that could be tweaked to enable getting your product into a higher price band? Can you reduce production costs, without compromising on quality? These questions should be re-evaluated at least every 6 months to help optimise your food operation. The more money you can make per unit, the less you have to sell to make the same profit.

3. Feed your food operation

Not all the work needs to be done by you, or your employees. Outsource! Agencies specialising in the marketing of food products, will have the depth of knowledge and skills to create and maintain your website and manage all your digital marketing needs. Outsourcing can be perceived as expensive. However, if you find the right partner, you’ll have access to an entire team of professionals that will be delivering and advising across a wide range of specialisms. Something that would be far beyond most budgets if you were looking to employ full time staff.

Ultimately, you’ll have better control of your marketing budget because it will have been tailored to suit your business needs and ambitions. What you won’t have, is the headache of long term employee commitments, holiday pay, paid sick leave, or having to use valuable production space for staff to work in.

4. Work smarter, not harder

Play to people’s strengths. If you have an employee who’s clearly skilled at a particular task, make sure they are in charge of that operation whenever possible. Set up routines. Time is often wasted when processes aren’t organised in a consistent way.

Think carefully about the best way to do things – organise your processes differently and find which one is most time efficient. For example, get rid of that box for paper receipts (which is probably left until the end of the week to be sorted?) and replace it with a digital accounting package like Xero. If you haven’t got time for that, try a DropBox account. You can photograph receipts and invoices as they’re collected, name them with the monetary amount and the company (e.g “CocaCola £896.56.jpg”) and immediately save them to the folder for that month. This type of system can be a huge, time-saving benefit to your food operation.

Finally, automate as many processes as you can. For instance, use a platform that automatically sends a payment reminder for overdue invoices. Automated admin processes will free up staff time, allowing them to focus on tasks that can add value to your business.

5. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Take full advantage of any third party tools available to you. Developing new processes, or software can be time intensive and money hungry. Use an email marketing provider to help manage your campaigns and lists. Switching from paper to an automated, digital billing system, will save time and help you keep a track of every payment. The use of intelligent business software is increasing rapidly and with so many products available, there will almost certainly be something that can benefit your business.

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David RiceCreative Director

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