When starting a restaurant or a bar, you have to think about many aspects – what to serve, where to buy your products, how to get your clients, and cash flow, etc. Inventory processes don't come to mind immediately, but it’s just as important as everything else.
We talked with Michal Kowalkowski, Co-Founder, and CEO of No Spoilers, a Polish firm that offers a tech solution for inventory processes.
In the restaurant business, you start with inventory control at the beginning of the month or week, and then you make another one for the following period. In the perfect scenario, it’ll look something like: the first inventory control minus everything you sold, minus order losses reported by employees, plus incoming orders coming from suppliers equals the next inventory control.
At No Spoilers, we present all losses that weren’t reported by employees and also present the monetary value of those losses – both the retail and wholesale values. This lets us calculate the real food and beverage cost for the restaurant owner.
This is important because when you create a recipe, you plan a profit margin and the cost of that item. If you lose a lot of the product during the production cycle, then you’ll see it in our system and can adjust the pricing or take action to reduce the waste.
We set up the company with the goal of making inventory-controlled processes as easy and as fast as possible. When we first started, we cut down the time for inventory control by about 40%.
After verifying this rate of success, we started looking to other areas related to inventory control. No Spoilers is a full solution, from inventory control and automated order generation to restaurant suppliers and generating a report of all unreported losses.
We also have predictive order generation functions, based on your typical usage of resources in the kitchen, to reduce your food waste. So our users reduce both food waste and money waste. It also saves time for managers as they don’t have to do manual calculations and stock control.
In the beginning, we wanted to provide the inventory management tools – which were already available for big chains – to mom-and-pop businesses and small restaurants.
This didn’t work out. Owners of small restaurants – usually up to two venues – often felt they were on top of everything and weren't keen to implement new technical solutions.
Initially, it was quite a challenge with those clients and we realized we’d need significant resources put into client education about the importance of doing inventory control and how to calculate food cost.
Small restaurant chains of at least five venues were our real target. They know exactly how much hassle is involved in inventory management, don’t usually have solutions, and have very limited capabilities in their point-of-sale systems. They know they need it and why it’s important. It was quite easy to sell our product to them.
We had our product ready to launch right at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Everybody entered lockdown and sales flopped almost completely. It was impossible to make any sales, so we tried other things.
We ran a marketing campaign making our software free to use during lockdown. There weren’t many takers, but we contacted businesses to convince them that lockdown was the best time to implement technical solutions. However, many people had reduced their staff or had them on leave, so they didn’t have the means to implement it.
We had limited pilots and tried to perfect our solution in a few restaurants before the market reopened. Luckily, since lockdown was lifted, sales have been quite crazy for us. The clients we were chasing for months came back to us to implement our software before reopening their businesses.
The demand is awesome, but COVID hit us hard too. We had a much bigger team before starting sales, so, when sales started to pile up, we had to decide whether we should start hiring people back. We couldn’t manage all the clients we suddenly had. We got some of our team back on customer support but were scaling with much uncertainty surrounding our next steps. It has been great so far, but we’re cautious.
We process data from our users available in their point-of-sale system. We integrate them with this system and with accountancy software. Sales data comes through our cloud and is exported later to accounting software.
We have to take that quite seriously and, of course, we comply with all European regulations when it comes to GDPR. We use mostly cloud services compliant with the European Union regulations and take all precautions we can to protect servers.
Lately, we’ve received the Seal of Excellence from the European Union, which entitled us to an €800,000 grant to help us increase our food waste prevention capabilities. This is very exciting, and we’ll run pilots in countries such as France and Germany during this program, and probably enter the United Kingdom’s market soon!