If there was one misconception about our shop that I wish did not exist, it’d be this: We don’t sell out all the time. We don’t!
I have a complicated relationship with selling out of bagels. In an ideal world, we sell out of bagels maybe 30 mins before closing, TOPS. (The last 2 hours of service are typically slow for us.) Selling out near closing time gives us a bit more time to clean up at a chill pace, and the opportunity cost of lost sales is very low. If we sell out 2 or 3 hours before closing time, that’s good money we lose. Every time a customer comes up and we are sold out, I’m keeping track of every single sale we could have made. Darn it.
We forecast our production a week in advance and feed it into our ingredient ordering process. To forecast, we look at what happened the weeks prior, which is captured in painstaking detail on our Daily Recap report. (Every morning, the bakers record the production by item, and in the afternoon we record what’s left.) We also look at our sales data from the year prior, especially if we’re looking at holiday periods. Sometimes we tweak the plan halfway through the week to accommodate crappy/nice weather, unexpected construction, etc.
We don’t want to waste food. We never sell day-old bagels, so whatever doesn’t get sold that day is not held for the next day. There’s only so many bagels we can chip (we chip A LOT), donate, gift to friends or take home to eat for breakfast. I don’t like seeing food hit the trashcan. More than wasting food, it’s also wasting time that the team could have spent making other things! As an engineer, inefficiencies drive me totally bananas and this one in particular is a biggie for me. It’s the perfect trifecta of wasting time, money and ingredients.
I just scrolled through our Instagram and counted our Sold Out posts. Fourteen in total for November and December. Out of 48 days that we were open, that gives us a 29% sell-out rate. That’s a far cry from “always” but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised. That blew me away a bit. No wonder people think we always sell out, we post about it every 3-4 days! I am sure a lot of people, especially those who aren’t on Instagram, don’t bother coming because they think we’re sold out. That makes me sad. We want to feed you bagels!
We have to do something about both selling out AND the perception that we always sell out. I have a few ideas that we’re going to start testing immediately:
We’ll post more frequent updates on our Instagram story: We’re going to set alarms on our iPad registers to take photos of whatever bagels are left, twice per day (maybe at 10 and noon?). We’ll timestamp the stories so you can always go on our profile and take a reasonable guess at where we are for the day. I think this is also going to act as a check for us: Are we frequently selling out before noon? Then we should adjust our production plan!
We’re going to improve our production planning process: A few months ago, I learned more about regression models in business school and played around with our data long enough to realize the day of the week and weather conditions are closely tied to our sales. I need to go back to that model, feed it more data and train it. We should try baking to whatever plan the model gives us and see how it holds up. I think my fear of being wasteful can be mitigated if our production plan is better than guessing based on last week (just being real with y’all, what we do is on the level of educated guessing).
I always appreciate candid (and kind!) feedback from our customers. Please tell me: What else do you think we can do to prevent early sell-outs and to communicate better with you? What have been your frustrations with our sell-out days? Curious to hear your thoughts, you can always email me here :-)