By Jane Tyler

I have spoken to many supermarket, convenience store and food-to-go operators around the world over the last twelve months. What strikes me is not how few are focused on tightening up fresh-to-go food production but how many.

By fresh-to-go, I mean the supply and preparation of short shelf-life products in-store, ahead of demand. This can mean anything from bakery goods to freshly-made sandwiches and baguettes, pasties, sushi, burgers – in fact, any product that is hot-hold, thaw-and-serve or freshly-prepared in on-site kitchens.

Nearly all the retailers I speak to are looking at new ways to ensure better freshness, improve availability and reduce waste for this type of offering. The problem is that their often state-of-the-art systems for replenishing packaged items don’t stretch to planning for fresh-to-go food. Or, if they do, a long-winded and costly process is involved.

Faced with this, many companies decide to create their own solutions. But any fresh-to-go planning system needs to address three key questions. Will it ensure that more appealing products are on the shelves at the right time? Will it cut and reliably report on waste? And, perhaps most importantly, will staff comply with it?

My strong impression is that retailers often create in-house solutions that deal adequately with one or two of these but fall down on another. Compliance appears to be a particular struggle as busy workers need to trust the new system for it to work.

From my perspective, such in-house projects can look a bit like reinventing the wheel. And if they don’t get staff to perform, increase profitability and deliver a better customer experience, they soon fall by the wayside.

This urge to build an in-house system to deal with fresh-to-go planning is not, however, surprising. Third-party developers that have had success in this area are few and far between.

Saying that, our work with supermarket and convenience chains across Europe proves that it is quick and easy to deploy an off-the-shelf app that addresses all three of the key questions outlined above.

BakePlan is cloud-based, so scalebility is not an issue. As an easy-to-use app on mobile devices, staff see it as a helpful aide. And because it works smoothly with ERP systems, wheel reinvention can, thankfully, be avoided.

Jane Tyler is the managing director of BakePlan Software, vice-chair of the British Society of Baking and a regular speaker at food and technology industry events in the UK. You can follow her on Twitter at @Jane_RedBlack and on LinkedIn here.