Editor’s Note: Managing inventory onsite or in a warehouse is a crucial part of operations in a roastery, and the tighter the protocols the better. Weekly meetings, physical bag count, monitoring consumption, and staying connected with your trader are all essential parts of successful green coffee inventory management. When procedures are clear and followed to the letter, these tasks become part of the regular workflow that keep things running smoothly. Part 1:
Watch an off-the-cuff conversation between Sandra Loofbourow and Chris Kornman on this topic here.
1. Focus on flavor profile over origin
I’ve mentioned this a few times – don’t limit yourself to coffees from one particular origin to perform a specific role on your menu. It can be easy to fall into the habit of saying: “I need one Ethiopia, one Central America, and one South East Asia on my menu”. And it’s true – each of these origins can have a very distinct profile that’s nice to feature and maintain on a menu. But each of these origins has a profound diversity as well! Don’t make the mistake of missing out on coffees just because it’s not from the country or region you expect.
Need something chocolatey? A South American coffee from Peru or Brazil might be great, but a Uganda could work really well too! How about something tea-like and crisp? Some East African coffees might fit the bill – Ethiopia and Kenya come to mind – but we carry some South East Asian coffees that are distinctly tea-like. If a funky coffee is what you’re looking for you might gravitate towards Ethiopia, but the truth is that there are natural (or dry) processed coffees of exceptional quality and fruitiness from all over the world.
The point is: figure out what you want your coffee to taste like and work backwards from there. If your trader tosses you an unusual origin, taste it before jumping to conclusions! Producers around the world are improving quality and it’s likely you’ll be able to find what you need, even if it’s not from the origin you expected.
2. Use coffees in more than one menu position
Simplicity is key and having coffees that perform multiple roles on your menu can be a great way to limit the number of coffees to maintain in inventory while keeping the same number of Stock Keeping Units (SKUs). This can happen a few different ways: the most common is getting a coffee that works as a single origin and forms part of a blend. Another is to have multiple roasts levels of the same coffee or to dedicate one roast style for drip and another for espresso.
3. Label sustainably
One of the surprising obstacles to a rapidly rotating menu can be label limitations. If coffee labels are very specific, have long lead times, or are expensive to re-design, it can disincentivize keeping fresh new coffees on the menu. Labels should be specific but may need the flexibility that allows for replacement options without label redesign and the lengthy process of approving new SKUs and UPC labels. Plan for longevity and seasonality when designing your gorgeous labels and packaging.
Maintaining certified coffees fresh throughout the year can be a real challenge. Remember to expand beyond target origin and focus more on the flavor profile. Royal Coffee prides itself on maintaining a wide variety of certified coffees – almost 40% of our total inventory in fact. Framing your needs in terms of flavor profile – say, a chocolatey base, or an acidic highlight – can increase flexibility. Odds are, we have a certified coffee that fits the bill.