In my college years I worked at a popular cupcake shop here in Houston, TX. When I was finally promoted to a supervisor role in 2015, I quickly learned that there was more to a management position than having the authority to say “yes”, “no”, and “put your phone away”. I was now responsible for making sure that everyone’s cash drawers were balanced at the end of the night, that we had enough cupcakes to last through the night (but not so  much that there would be excessive waste), and checking inventory of our shelves and fridge to let our central pantry know what items we had on hand and what items we needed sent our way. In this case, when I say central pantry, think of it as a combination of a central kitchen and central warehouse. 

All the cupcakes were baked on site at each respective bakery location, but the batters and frosting were prepped at the pantry. Sodas, boxes, fondant decoration, sprinkles, and just about anything else came from the pantry as well. It was easy to figure out if we needed more items like these or not. Did we always need 4 packs of boxes to fit four cupcakes? Yes. Did we always need a bin full of half pound bags of coffee beans? Yes. When it came to batters and frosting though, things worked a little differently. Let’s break this down.

  • 6 flavors were served everyday
    • In terms of batter
      • 3 used the same vanilla batter
        • One of these had to have strawberries mixed in right before going in the oven
      • 2 used the same chocolate batter
      • The last was red velvet
    • In terms of frosting
      • 2 flavors used vanilla
      • 2 used chocolate
      • 1 used strawberry
      • 1 used cream cheese
  • Every other flavor changed depending on the day
    • Some may have used vanilla batter
    • Some may have used chocolate batter
    • Others included lemon zest, key lime zest, carrot, german, italian, or a yellow batter
    • Several used cream cheese frosting whether it be by itself or with a topping or mix in. 
    • Then there was lemon frosting, strawberry frosting, lime frosting, chocolate ganache, and your classic vanilla and chocolate. 

Do you see where I’m going with this? If not, let me explain. Inventory was done twice a week, and managers and supervisors had to see how much batter and frosting was on hand, what it could be used for, if we had enough of it, and if it was still good. The part that made this difficult was doing it all with a pen, paper, industry knowledge and a “gut feeling”.

When I discovered last year that there was actual software that was capable of calculating production plans and ordering inventory based on those plans, I was shocked! Why wasn’t I using something like this back in 2015? Why was I having to think about the 6 flavors that used vanilla batter to plan about how much I needed to order to make until we ordered more again on Thursday? Why was I having to think about how much batter and frosting we would even use in the first place based on the time of year it was? Or even the day of the week? Or even the popularity of the flavor?

Even in 2015, well past the point of knowing “there’s an app for that”, I still didn’t imagine there being a software to help me with inventory. I wanted so badly to be great at my job, and never make any mistakes. I was always stressed out when it came to my turn to count the batters and frostings. I didn’t want to be responsible for ruining someone’s production records in the next few days, or disappointing our customers. If I had had a software like what I’ve seen today, my worries would have been completely directed elsewhere – like on my actual college classes perhaps?

What’s your inventory system doing for you?