Take stock of the job

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Alex McGill from Venners looks at why it's best to call in the professionals

Stocktaking in any modern licensed premises can be highly demanding, physically and mentally. The bigger pubcos run more complex

businesses than the tenanted trade but a good stocktaker should be able to turn his or her hand to any size of operation.

Stocktakers usually categorise products into groups, providing statistical analysis of these. Therefore, a sound, wide-ranging product knowledge is a major advantage when entering the world of licensed trade stocktaking. Imagine a stocktaker who has no idea of the workings and operations of a pub or

restaurant trying to identify the numerous products - if they do not know that rioja is a Spanish wine or that Funky Monkeys are vodka shots, for instance, they'll be in trouble.

Stocktakers also need a good knowledge and understanding of the many and varied EPoS systems in the marketplace.

The company I work for, Venners, generally recruits people with a pub, restaurant or

hotel background as they will most likely have good product knowledge and understand the

basics of stocktaking.

So what qualifications do you need? Surprisingly, nothing formal in the way of exams. Anybody can become a stocktaker as long as they have a reasonable grasp of maths and English. When hiring a stocktaker, ensure he or she is a fully-fledged trade professional.

Venners has devised several tests that candidates are given at an interview to assess skills such as maths, English and product knowledge. Common sense and the ability to analyse and write a coherent, informative and constructive report are also useful.

Companies such as Venners prefer to train in-house, even if the person employed is already working as a stocktaker. There are differing levels of stocktaking ability and Venners demands the highest standards. Novices starting with the company undergo at least six months' intensive one-to-one training. They train on-site alongside an experienced stocktaker and are appraised regularly by their area manager to determine their progress and to further assess their training needs.

Experienced stocktakers who are taken on undergo a training period, although Venners expects this to be less than six months. Experienced stocktakers who join Venners are always surprised at the specification it works to and initially some struggle to achieve it, but good in-house training ultimately wins through.

Stocktakers also need good communication skills. They will deal with all sorts of

people from many different areas of the business, from the manager at a working men's club to a celebrity chef or from a director of a pubco to a hotel general manager.

Stocktakers also have to be diplomats as they can be the bearer of bad news. They have to be careful how situations, that follow the publication of poor results, are dealt with.

By its nature, stocktaking demands you work at a different location every day, so stock-

takers must travel to and find the premises where they will be working. Being able to drive is not essential although it can be an added

advantage if working outside London.

Next time I will look at how a stocktaker produces accurate and meaningful results.

l Venners, which has been responsible for providing stocktaking and audit services to London & Edinburgh Swallow Group, would be pleased to offer support, advice and general stock-related assistance to any operators who may find themselves running food and beverage operations as a consequence of the administration. Contact Ian Walker on 08700 607800.

Till rolls and holiday

Q I am having a visit from representatives of HM Revenue & Customs. They have said they want to see till rolls, which I don't have but I log all my takings in a weekly statement book. I went to a meeting six years ago at the town hall about these visits and they said it was not compulsory.

A I contacted the Revenue & Customs national helpline on 0845 010 9000

and it confirmed that you do need to keep till rolls for six years. The helpline quoted

from the Revenue's VAT booklet Keeping Records and Accounts, Notice 700/21,

page 13, sections 5.2 and 5.3. This states that if the six-year rule causes you serious storage problems you should consult the Revenue's national advice service. It may be able to allow you to keep some of your records for a shorter period. If you do not already have Keeping Records and Accounts, I suggest you obtain it. The Revenue & Customs website is at www.hmrc.gov.uk​ and this leaflet is available to download either as a pdf or text file, as are all the leaflets it produces.

Q My wife and I are badly in need of a holiday but are struggling to find someone suitable to look after our pub. What do you recommend?

AFamily and friends may seem the logical solution but I strongly recommend you use a professional bonded relief agency. This will give you assurance that your business is being managed by competent and experienced people and provide compensation should things go drastically wrong. A stocktake when you go on holiday and another when you return should solve any stock issues that occur during the relief.

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