Are inventory holding costs holding you down?

Recently, I was talking with a restaurant owner who was in the process of reinventing their brand. Their new brand identity reflected the lively and playful atmosphere of their restaurant. But there was one thing that was holding them back from reinventing their brand: thousands of dated uniforms. With enough polo shirts in inventory to last more than a year, their employees would be rocking the old brand uniforms for the foreseeable future.

I’ve seen it before. At one time, it was not unusual to design a new uniform look and then let it run for years. And that meant purchasing in large quantities and storing those uniforms for months on end. Same polo, same apron, same cap. But not anymore. Brands today want fresh, or as the French say “au courant.”

Don’t let your uniform inventory hold you back

Another restaurant owner—and Righteous client—took a different approach. They, too, were ready for a brand refresh and found themselves with a ton of shirts from a previous supplier. But rather than wait to rebrand until they went through the inventory (or the old uniforms came back in style again!), they decided to cut their losses and start fresh. It doesn’t happen overnight, of course. During the transition process, we helped them identify what was repurposable from the old uniforms, and turned that into money savings. The items that couldn’t be salvaged were donated to an overseas ministry for people who just needed nice new shirts to wear. Win-win.

Moving forward, this client will maintain a shorter-term uniform inventory (no more than 6 months or so). That’s because we can fulfill orders, when needed, at costs that are competitive. Which means lower storage costs, less stale inventory, and the freedom to create uniforms that remain fresh and on-brand as the restaurant evolves.

Out with the old

How you make a transition from a restaurant that carries a lot of uniform inventory to a more nimble brand, with new uniforms takes some planning. We recommend starting the process several months in advance of fully launching your new uniform. During that time, you draw down the old pieces while bringing in the new. When you follow the strategy of allowing a crossover period when both the old and the new uniforms can be worn, the pressures of a major change are lessened. But you’ll need to provide a hard stop date after which the old is no longer allowed on premises.

Don’t get me wrong: Franchisees and GMs will complain. They always do. It’s OK. Change is hard. But it’s for the good of the brand, the company, the employees and ultimately, your customers. You see, your brand is not about you; it’s about the people you serve and the people who serve the people you serve. Your employees are the embodiment of your brand, and you need to treat them as well as you treat your customers. Getting a routine refresh on your uniforms shows you care.

Break free and rebrand

So, what’s holding you back from the changes you need to make to stay fresh and relevant? If you are a restaurant concept, the answer may very well be your uniform inventory. But as we’ve shown our clients, excess inventory doesn’t have to slow you down. And once you’ve made the change and have your new uniforms on the floor, you can enjoy the flexibility and affordability of placing smaller uniform orders, when needed.

At the end of the day, people matter. What your people wear matters; how they feel about themselves while wearing it matters. So, at the beginning of the day, they need great clothing that they want to put on. That’s what you get to provide—an investment in helping people show up more confidently and more prepared to energetically serve your guests and customers.

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