At a time of labor shortages and rapid, hard-to-predict inflationary pressures, it’s more important than ever for retail foodservice departments and other areas of the fresh perimeter to have reliable production management software solutions to maximize efficiency and minimize waste. 

Bronxville, New York-based At-Your-Service Software Inc., makers of cloud-based ReciProfity food costing software, is reshaping the help topics on its platforms to better serve its retail foodservice clients, said Matthew Starobin, the company’s CEO.

“Their needs different, which we found out,” Starobin said. “Invoice scanning is on the front burner, which is very important for medium-sized players. They can input an invoice in its raw form and flow it into our system.”

And for those customers who want to set up a touchless system, they can input their invoice by email and it goes directly into ReciProfity. That alone, Starobin said, can easily save operators four or five hours of labor per week. 

Production management for retail foodservice is entirely different than for restaurant foodservice, and the latest version of ReciProfity addresses those differences. 

At a restaurant, a typical prep project might be making a sauce. But in an instore prepared foods section, prep might include everything for a salad bar or a grab-and-go meal section.

And currently, many retail deli managers are making those decisions without the aid of production software.

“A lot of them are doing production on a ‘best guess’ basis, and that often leads to over requesting” ingredients, Starobin said. “They know they’re wasting product, but they don’t always know where it occurs.”

Without very specific metrics to inform their production decisions, operators risk losing a shocking amount of food to waste, e.g. “using” a full case of tomatoes for sandwiches when they only needed two-thirds of a case.

The trend of meal replacement — consumers looking to prepared foods sections and other areas of the fresh perimeter for a portion or their entire dinner or other meal — is something that companies like At Your Service have to address to provide their customers with the most up-to-date production software. 

(That trend is moving in the opposite direction, too, Starobin noted: restaurants offering items normally sold at retail.)

“That ability to manage that process is very front and center,” Starobin said. “Our retail business is definitely trending up. We do such a good job with recipes, it’s enabled us to add on these features, like production management.”

The rise in retail foodservice keeps the producers of production management software on their toes, he added — and as more and more retailers begin to understand the benefits of those programs, the demand will continue to rise.

The company’s software can be especially helpful for purveyors of prepared foods, a category that can be especially difficult to monitor because ingredients needs to be sorted by weight, Starobin said. That can’t be done effectively without a high-end software solution.

“I talk to a lot of operators,” Starobin said. “They’re all putting out the same ketchup and the items that you have to have, but they’re not going to make money on those. But to have signature items that you can’t get anywhere else, that you can’t price-compare — stores are pushing the prepared foods and deli items much more.”

Creating those signature items, and pairing them with other perimeter foods to complete a meal, is easy with ReciProfity’s ability to adapt on the fly, depending on the individual retailer’s needs, Starobin said.  

Another huge benefit of management software like ReciProfity is its ability to find and warn retailers about cost inflation before it’s too late.

“Creep alerts,” as they are known, pop up automatically, giving the retailer the option to forego the item entirely or to find a cheaper replacement (or to adjust pricing accordingly if they decide they want to keep the higher-priced item).

More retailers are trying to “restaurantize” their stores by offering more local, fresh and chef-inspired foods. But managing the amounts of fresh foods needed for those efforts can be daunting, particularly at a time when labor — and especially skilled labor — is hard to come by. That’s when production management software can prove particularly helpful.

“It’s either guesswork or it’s scientific, this whole production management process,” Starobin said. “To create a whole deli bar, all the recipes and convert that into ingredients, you need exactly this many of all of these items.”

Production management software allows operators to “cut out all the waste and guesswork.”

At-Your-Service provides customized versions of ReciProfity for retail chains large and small. Some customizations, for example, can allow companies to verify labels, nutritionals, allergens, ingredient declarations and other information.