On the Job

The Perk of a Digital Inventory System for Stews

8 June 2023 By Kylie O'Brien
Credit: phuttaphat tipsana/iStock

Kylie O’Brien has worked on some of the world’s most magnificent vessels with amazing people for more than 13 years. A graduate of The Australian College of Applied Psychology, she is the author of Crew Wanted, The Stewardess Bible, The Chief Stewardess Bible, The Inside Job, and has been a monthly contributor to Dockwalk magazine for more than five years.

Superyacht hosts are well known for the high-end soirees they throw. The laughter, dancing, and festivities on board usually continue until the early morning hours. Consequently, to ensure the high-spirited mood lasts, many stews are known to start gathering up all the reserve stores on board, often crawling into tight drink lockers and under stair cabinets at 2 a.m. to get the last of the champagne as the happy partygoers work their way through the well-stocked fridges.

Since storage space on board a superyacht comes at a premium, crew can get pretty creative with stowing provisions. As the interior manager, you may know all your secret hidey holes on board for stashing the delicious supplies, but how do you keep track of them?

The fact is that superyachts, in general, are massive consumers. It's not just the logistics of how to get more fresh berries, expensive lobster, or fresh roses on board that the chef and the chief stew worry about in the middle of summer. It's also the champagne, the rare cognac, delectable chocolates, and the luxury toiletries that need to be appropriately stored and managed.

Furthermore, the crew goods will also need to be regulated, including crew uniforms, crew linen, plates, cutlery, glasses, toiletries, drinks, and food items. So, given your time restraints and physical exhaustion, especially when working back-to-back charters, what is the best way to manage this logistical waltz when each superyacht needs to run like a well-oiled machine?

Traditionally, these items were managed with a basic system that involved pen and paper and a tally-like system. The system advantages are that everyone can do it and that information can be managed at a glance, quickly and easily, especially when service is in full swing.

However, tally counts can be tedious, often needing numbers double-checked at the end of the night. In addition, while tallying, the chief stew must consider how fast the guests are consuming the items, where the consumables are stored, and how accessible the shops or provision companies are should the numbers run low, all the while keeping in mind the storage limitations.

Computerized systems get things moving faster in a streamlined process, ultimately making the crew more efficient, which lets them get on with the job they are employed to do — guest service. 

I have used this tally system for many years in the past and learned that human error is the main disadvantage; mistakes inevitably happen. Furthermore, sharing information is not easy. For example, if the primary guest ordered 50 bottles of Louis Roederer Cristal Rose and wanted to know how many bottles were left at the end of the party, the chief stew will need to control the tally so that information is immediately available, which could ultimately limit the service staff in performing their jobs properly.

When it comes to the lesser immediate consumables, such as crew uniforms, for example, it may be completely acceptable to use Excel or even a Word document to manage the counts. However, this system is laborious as it requires you to lift the beds or crawl into your secret spaces to re-count and double-check the numbers before reordering.

Luckily for us, we entered the digital age long ago, and I'm sure many of you are familiar with data solution software specifically created for superyachts. These software systems are fabulous for managing day-to-day consumables on board and assisting with project management. The positives of using a digital system over a manual arrangement far outweigh the negatives.

Computerized systems get things moving faster in a streamlined process, ultimately making the crew more efficient, which lets them get on with the job they are employed to do — guest service. As those bottles of champagne are being consumed, the corresponding numbers on all the interior crew tablets are also going down, so while the chief stew is serving the primary party guests up on the sundeck, the second stewardess can monitor the numbers while stocking the fridges on the main deck.

The value of a digital system goes well beyond just a few bottles of fizz. While this software can be used for stock control and purchasing, it can also keep important documents safe and store information such as training records and essential brand names and item numbers of luxury housewares for easier replacement. The crew's personal details, such as passport and visa numbers, will be at your fingertips. It can allow you to keep an organized list with photos of popular restaurants and attractions in some lesser-known destinations; most importantly, all department heads can see this information. 

Although I know many yachts still using the old-school method or a combination of the two, the benefits of embracing the digital world speak for themselves.

This article was originally published in the March 2023 issue of Dockwalk.


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