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Standardized Coding for Restaurant Products. It’s about time!

Standardized Coding for Restaurant Products. It’s about time!Maybe you missed the announcement by the National Restaurant Association, GS1 US and the IFDA concerning the new initiative for standardized labeling of restaurant industry products, or maybe you saw it and overlooked the potential impact it could have on your restaurant.

The rest of the planet already has retail bar codes which are the same whether you by a candy bar in a local gas station or at a large supermarket, and nearly all of your large food service vendors have bar codes on the products you receive every day. The difference in the restaurant industry is that each vendor has their own bar code for the same product. So, if you buy a gallon of mayo from one vendor and the same gallon of mayo from another vendor you have two different bar codes on the exact same product making cost comparison, tracking, usage (not to mention book keeping) a bit on the troublesome side.

Industry organizations and founding members of the Food Service GS1 US Standards Initiative cite three main objectives and benefits as a result of companies choosing to adopt and implement GS1 standards (and 55 major food service distributors, manufacturers, and operators have already signed on):

* Drive waste out of the food service supply chain;
* Improve product information for customers, and
* Establish a foundation for improving food safety and traceability.

So what does this really mean to your restaurant? According to Stephen R Arens, (Industry Development, GS1 US) “All containers of Brand A Regular Barbeque sauce, 1 gallon size, in a plastic jug, will have the same GTIN no matter who they are sold / shipped to. The Brand A Regular Barbeque sauce, 5 gallon size, in a plastic jug will have a different GTIN than the 1 gallon size.” (The U.P.C. on consumer products is a GTIN)

This alone should make the independent operator smile, because now, when you’re comparing prices, shopping for bids or simply checking on price fluctuations you have one number to give to each of your reps or input into your database. This move by the food service industry, though long overdue, will be a time and money saver for the independent operator once it’s fully implemented. Many franchise operators already have this benefit in place because they belong to purchasing cooperatives for their particular brand. Maybe now is the time for independent operators to revisit the idea of joining or creating a purchasing coop? According to some of the co-ops I’ve looked at recently, savings can be significant. What do you think?

Further information: The GS1 Systems is the most widely used product identification system for items and cases globally; over two million companies in 150 countries use the GS1 System to identify their company’s products as they move through the supply chain; from manufacturer to end user. The GS1 System includes the U.P.C. code found on many consumer and commercial items in a number of industries including food and beverage products, produce, protein products, apparel, health and beauty care items, books, magazines, alcohol beverages, electronic equipment, etc. You can visit http://www.gs1us.org/ for more information.

James Guertin gives practical advice to restaurants on his blog The Practical Cafe.

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