With costs on the rise, investing in new equipment may not be at the top of every licensee’s priority list. According to Robert Morrall, managing director of Route, when it comes to cellar management, a dose of ‘out with the old, in with the new’ may be precisely how pubs can actually save money. 

Keep cool and carry on

As every good licensee will be aware, optimum quality product requires optimum quality storage and for beer, that means a cellar kept at a constant temperature of between 11.5°C and 13.5°C. Simply achieving this can account for around 50% of total energy required for drink chilling which in itself accounts for 10% of an average pub’s total energy expenditure.

The upshot of this is that if cellar cooling is inefficient, money is wasted – a lot of money. So how likely is it that a pub’s cellar cooler is inefficient? Well, put it this way, most old-school cooling systems produce just 1KW of energy from 1KW of electricity. That might seem fair enough. Until, that is, you compare it to modern systems which can more than triple the cooling energy from the same level of electricity. That can lead to significant savings.

Yes, it may mean an initial outlay but in the long-run, investment in such technology pays for itself in a relatively short space of time and from then on, can dramatically reduce overall operating costs.

Of course, just because a cellar cooling system is more efficient does not necessarily mean it is being used efficiently. The warmer a cellar environment is the harder the cooler system has to work and subsequently, the more energy it will ‘eat up’. Here, it’s worth considering small-scale technologies that can have a big impact. Simple temperature sensors to keep tabs on ambient temperature are a must. Other options may be ‘low heat’ light bulbs that help keep things cool. As I say, simple steps.

A clean sweep on cost saving

If cooling cellars is the number one thing that springs to mind when thinking about how to improve overall cellar management efficiency – line-cleaning must be a close second. And the good news is it has just as much potential for cost savings.

On average, most managers will need to clean their beer lines at least once a week, in order to avoid the build-up of deposits that can affect the quality and consistency of drink dispensed to customers. Needless to say, poor quality beverages quickly result in poor sales and a falling reputation.

The problem is that line-cleaning is often wasteful. As well as taking up time, up to two and a half hours a week, every time a line is cleaned any stock that remains in the lines is flushed through and therefore wasted. The amount will obviously vary according to the size and number of bars a club operates, however, a typical figure can be around 240 pints worth of drink per month.

But once again, modern technology is coming to the rescue. For example, there are now multiple innovations on the market which automate the process to enable much less beer to be wasted (and of course to save time in comparison to a manual process). They also often allow one line to be cleaned at a time ensuring that remaining taps are fully operational.

In addition to automating the process other systems, such as BeerSaver for example, actually reduce the need to clean lines as often. As much as three in every four scheduled cleans can be cut, automatically reducing potential wasted stock by up to 75%. Once again, the cost of installing such as a system can often be recouped very quickly, sometimes in as little as one month. After that, every drop saved is money in the coffers that would otherwise be literally, poured down the drain.

Taking stock of the situation

Of course, saving money on stock is not limited to efficient line cleaning. How cellar stock control is managed can make or break a pub.

Detailed records of orders placed and stock received is a must. Analysis of this information when mapped against takings can reveal vital information for stock control accuracy in the future. But that’s just part of it, prices fluctuate all the time and without constant tracking, prices paid can soon creep up. If responsibility for monitoring such stock management aspects is handled by an external accountant or bookkeeper, response to changing supplier prices of this nature may not be quick enough.

One answer to this problem is the use of online e-procurement systems. Route Online for example, enables users to place orders 24/7, track all supplier contracts and ensure the price agreed is the price paid. The system also flags up price changes and shows immediately how they affect the bottom line – allowing quick decisions and swift supplier changes. Online management products of this nature are particularly beneficial for businesses that also offer food services, as it allows both wet and dry supplies to be monitored and controlled on one system, providing an extra level of control and a realistic view of the potential impact that one side of the business has on the other.

Crucially, an online e-procurement system also means that at any one time, a manager should be able to know exactly what they have in their cellar, what’s due in, and any discrepancies between the two, all against a real-time financial backdrop.

Such online systems also enable licensees to keep a tighter grip, using real-time intelligence, on what is and, more importantly, what isn’t selling well. For example, a trends report out in July suggested that cash strapped consumers may be going out less but when they do, they want to spend on more expensive, premium brands as a treat. Of course, it costs money to back such a trend in the hope that it will work. Licensees able to keep up-to-the-minute track of how products are selling, and what suppliers are charging, are in a much better position to do this as they can react immediately to how sales pan-out rather than having to wait for accounts to be sent out, analysed and sent back.

It’s not about spending, it’s about saving

I come from a cost saving background. My passion is looking at where hospitality businesses can maximise assets, keep costs down and make the most profit. Some people may think this is in direct conflict with me advising on investing in new technology. It isn’t, for the simple reason that investment is not the same as spending.

Any hospitality business that spends just for bragging rights that they have the latest ‘this’, the newest ‘that’, is crazy. What isn’t crazy is seeing where technology can improve, enhance and streamline operations – where it can add to overall efficiency and therefore generate savings. Investment here is not just sensible, it is advisable, and when it comes to cellar management, is certainly worth considering.