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Q In your first article you mentioned that the trade should avoid employing cowboy' stocktakers. How can I be sure of finding a bona fide expert? A...

Q In your first article you mentioned that the trade should avoid employing cowboy' stocktakers. How can I be sure of finding a bona fide expert?

A It is easy to assume that because someone is working as a stocktaker that they know what they are doing or are properly qualified. The trouble is that inexperienced people think that stocktaking is easy. Well it isn't. The counting part is relatively easy, but the difficulty is in extracting all the additional information relevant to producing a full stocktaking result.

There are so many things nowadays that can affect the end result that if the stocktaker has not been trained properly then chances are they will not be able to identify what all these things are. When you ask a stocktaker to quote you for the stocktaking function at your pub, don't be afraid to ask them about their experience and pedigree.

Look upon it as an interview, in much the same way you would interview for bar staff. Ask for references and make sure to check them out. Professional stock audit companies such as Venners subject all their staff to a rigorous training and monitoring programme. This means that its staff are trained in the field by experienced stocktakers on a one-to-one basis and are only allowed to work unaided once they have reached the high standard that is required to do this type of work.

Venners' stocktakers are also subjected to an audit for

conformity once a year. This means that an area manager will spend the entire day with them and check all areas of their work including the accuracy of their counting, extraction of delivery information and figure work and the quality of written reports and accuracy of analysis. This ensures that they meet and maintain the very high standards required.

There is also a professional body called the Institute of Licensed Trade Stock Auditors, which run training courses and examine potential stocktakers who want to work in the licensed trade.

Make sure your stocktaker can also offer a proper after-sales service, so that any queries, questions or concerns that you have can be properly addressed to suit you.

Turn tables on food

Q. I have a regular monthly liquor stocktake in my pub, but have never bothered with a food stock. I take about £3,000 a week on food, do you think I should have a regular food stock as well?

A The amount of money you are turning over on food warrants that proper controls need to be in place just as they are for your liquor stock. There are lots of problems that can arise with your food business, but people are often unaware that there may be a problem.

Firstly you need to know roughly how much gross margin you should be making and this is obviously directly related to the menu that you are offering, in terms of cost for you to produce it, portion sizes, etc. Only after you have calculated how much you should be making will you be able to determine if you are falling short of your targets. Basic controls, such as checking deliveries, weighing meat on delivery and comparing it to the weight on the delivery note and invoice, stock rotation, looking at the dates on stock being delivered should all be part of your routine.

As a stocktaker I wish I had a pound for every butcher's delivery note I had to deal with that did not have the weight of meat included, or was illegible. I cannot believe that butchers all have poor handwriting, so being slightly cynical I assume there must be an ulterior motive. If you cannot read your delivery notes insist that your supplier makes them legible as well as displaying the weight content.

Nearer to home, high-value items such as meat and coffee are often attractive to light-fingered staff, and if you do not even know how much of a product you should have in stock, how will you ever know if anything goes missing?

Year-end blues

Q My accountant informs me that I am tying up too much money on the stock I am holding. Currently I only have a stocktake at year-end, would regular monthly stocks help me reduce my stock holding?

A With regular monthly stocks you will be able to identify sales trends and can order your stocks accordingly. Most stocktakers have the day's stockholding listed by section on the front page of the stock sheet and detail stockholding by product on the extended sheet of the stock report.

You can try to promote any product that shows a stock holding of more than 50 days, and sell it at a reduced price to clear it. In fact, all professional stocktakers should advise you of any stocks that are soon to be out of date so you can try and push these lines at reduced prices.

A good idea is to set targets for stockholding. For example, draught beer is delivered to the majority of pubs on a weekly basis, so theoretically, you should never have more than seven days of stockholding at any time in your pub. Obviously you need to be prepared for the unexpected so I would set your target for draught beers at 10 days.

If you only have a stocktake once a year then you will have no detailed information on individual product sales on which to base any targets. So to answer your question, yes I think that regular stocktaking will help you to reduce your stockholding, it will also give you more control and perhaps more importantly keep essential funds in your bank account.

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