How Coffee Roasters Can Seamlessly Handle Wholesale Orders

August 3, 2023

Bulk wholesale orders are a revenue driver for coffee roasters. Yet, managing these orders each week can be chaotic — especially if you don’t have defined processes in place.

Orders can “go missing.” Invoices fail to be sent. The wrong coffees are roasted. It’s all bound to happen if you don’t have a predetermined system.

The trick to managing wholesale coffee orders is to document and execute streamlined processes from roasting to fulfillment and beyond. 

Although this system will look different for every roaster, the concepts are all the same. It all starts by following this six-step process.

Step 1: Determine How Wholesale Coffee Orders Are Placed

Make it easy for your customers to place an order! The easier it is to order, the more they’ll order too.

If wholesale clients have to jump through hoops to place an order, imagine how complicated it will be for you to fulfill their order. Make it easy for both of you and determine how you want customers to place an order.

A few options include:

  • Phone calls or texts — Are you comfortable with giving your phone number out to clients? If so, perhaps phone calls and texts are an appropriate way for customers to place an order each week. However, keep in mind that as life gets busy, texts get forgotten and phone calls are missed. 
  • Emails — Would you rather customers email you their coffee needs each week? If email is your preference, consider consolidating your inbox by creating a single email (for example, for your wholesale orders. Just remember to keep your email notifications on… otherwise, you may miss an order!
  • Online ordering — While phone calls and emails work fine in the short-term or for emergency orders, our recommendation is to make life easy with an online ordering portal. Customers can create accounts, place orders as needed, and login to manage their orders and information. You’ll get a notification when an order is placed and have all your orders on one easily-accessible platform! In fact, we discovered that the average dollar value of an online order placed via the RoasterTools portal is 50% higher than the average wholesale order entered manually into our platform. We also found that the average order frequency for online orders is three times the amount of average manual entries!

  • PROS
  • CONS
  • Phone Calls & Texts
  • Customers appreciate the quick nature of a phone call or text message, especially during a busy work day.
  • Business phone lines can be created to streamline calls.
  • If using a personal line, what happens when someone goes on vacation?
  • Texts can easily be missed or forgotten in the chaos of a typical day.
  • Customers won’t know about new products or promotions unless we tell them.
  • Emails
  • Emails can be checked by multiple people, meaning you’re not relying on a single employee.
  • Still requires the manual step of checking an inbox and inputting orders into software or the designated organization system.
  • Online Ordering
  • Streamlines the ordering process and provides a multitude of organizational benefits including customer accounts, exclusive products, and order management tools.
  • Easy for customers to place order when it’s convenient for them
  • Depending on the online ordering system, there may be a learning curve.
  • Requires all employees to thoroughly understand the software and its capabilities.

No matter which route you choose, define a method for ordering and stick to it! Ask customers to adhere to this process to keep everything organized. 

Quick Tip: Also identify who is responsible for managing the orders as they come in. This individual must then have access to your wholesale email address and/or online ordering system and develop a strong relationship with each wholesale client. 

A handwritten scribble of an order taken from a phone call…. So much room for error here (Date? Ground? Who wrote this? and don’t lose the note!)

Step 2: Organizing Wholesale Orders

After a wholesale order is placed, how does the rest of your team know about the order?

Is it written down on a sticky note and placed on a communal bulletin board? Or, maybe you’re relying on spreadsheets to organize your wholesale orders for each week, month, and quarter. Some roasters use a large whiteboard to visually schedule out upcoming wholesale orders and roasts.

Your wholesale process needs a place where all orders can be seen. This can be a software platform, a whiteboard, a clipboard, or a spreadsheet. The medium is your choice, so long as members of your team have access. 

However, certain organization methods are better than others. Relying on sticky notes on a bulletin board, for example, can lead to misplaced orders when you or an employee move orders around. On the other hand, spreadsheet systems can quickly become overwhelming and data can accidentally be lost or deleted.

We’re big fans of using software to manage your wholesale coffee orders. Having one central location for your wholesale orders, such as an online platform, ensures that order information is:

  • Easily accessible
  • Secured
  • Organized

Plus, most wholesale software systems come with a multitude of features designed to help you streamline your business processes!

Step 3: How Are You Getting Paid?

Your wholesale ordering process needs to define concrete payment terms and processes.

It seems like a no-brainer (after all, who doesn’t want to get paid?) but several wholesale coffee roasters fail to get this part right. 

Not determining payment processes leads to cash flow chaos. Why? Because you end up with several different accounts paying by different means at different times. Next thing you know, trying to track invoices and payments becomes an absolute nightmare. (We’ve even seen accounts with over $100,000 in past due accounts receivables!)

Instead, define how customers should pay and keep this consistent across your accounts. Remember, just like ordering, it needs to be easy for customers to pay!

  • Payment Types — Naturally, the most common payment methods are credit card (online) and check. While credit cards are the most convenient (and fastest way to get cash in the bank), keep in mind that you’ll pay for processing fees. Make sure your products are priced accordingly to cover this!
  • Payment Terms — Remember, you are not a bank! Only offer net terms to clients who prove their ability to pay. Ask for credit card payments for at least the first six months of a relationship. After this period, you can begin discussions about net terms. 
  • Invoicing Processes — If offering net terms or receiving orders via phone/email, send the invoice as soon as possible after each order is placed. Of course, with all that goes on in a roastery, this is easier said than done. Do your best to stay on top of all invoices sent and payments received.  (This is why we’re big fans of online ordering and payment automation!)

As with all things in business, there may come a time when you need to bend the rules. For instance, large retailers have specific processes for handling orders and payments to vendors, such as wholesale coffee roasters. If you want to land the account, you’ll need to adhere to these processes, which may or may not align with your existing system.

Step 4: Set Your Ordering Schedule

If you allow customers to randomly submit bulk orders throughout the week, there will be no rhyme or reason to your roasting schedule—leading to additional labor, overhead, and inventory expenses. This is why committing to a defined wholesale ordering schedule is necessary.

There are two common approaches to ordering schedules:

  • Client-specific schedules — Some roasters prefer to assign ordering days to each customer. For example, Bob’s Coffee House’s orders coffee on Tuesday while Mary’s Café is told to place their order on Wednesday.
  • Weekly schedules — Another approach is to ask wholesale customers to place their orders by a specific day and time each week. If they meet this deadline, they can expect to have their beans shipped or delivered by a certain day. 

If customers miss their respective deadline, you can choose to kindly remind them. Or, you can institute a late order policy.

Some roasters opt to add a late fee while others prefer to schedule late orders to the following week’s production and delivery/shipping processes. No matter the late policy you create, make sure it is clearly communicated to customers.

Step 5: Figuring Out Fulfillment

Once an order is placed on time and paid for (or invoiced), it’s time to get to work. For most roasters, the fulfillment process goes like so:

  1. Input bulk orders into a spreadsheet 
  2. Calculate green coffee needs for wholesale order fulfillment
  3. Schedule roasting batches based on wholesale order needs
  4. Package, label, and organize wholesale orders 
  5. Ship or deliver orders
  6. Rinse and repeat weekly

On paper, this looks pretty easy to accomplish. All you have to do is roast and package the coffee… right?

Technically, yes.

But once you start the process, it becomes very apparent how many roasting and fulfillment inefficiencies happen along the way. These inefficiencies can derail your entire wholesale operation if not addressed!

Documenting each step in the fulfillment process ensures that your roastery operates efficiently, precisely, and with wholesale growth in mind. As you go through this experience, you’ll likely find other inefficiencies or redundancies along the way. Tackle those obstacles right away!

Be sure to include the following information in your process documentation:

  • Task details — Make it crystal clear how employees should complete a task such as labeling coffee bags or organizing wholesale orders.
  • Who’s responsible — By assigning an individual or a team to a task, you create accountability in your wholesale order management. Accountability leads to results!
  • Process flow — Be transparent about every step in the process. If someone is out sick or taking on a new role, they should be able to read the document and understand the system from the moment an order is received to the final delivery. 

Step 6: Find the Right Tools to Manage Your Wholesale Ordering Process

Let’s be honest. Managing wholesale orders is a hassle, especially as your business grows!

And with everything else you’ve got going on at your business, the last thing you want to deal with is an order mistake or worse—the dreaded forgotten order.

Spreadsheets, texts, phone calls, and in-person team communication works at a small scale. But once you start roasting and selling a significant volume of bulk coffee, wholesale order management becomes quite complicated. 

You need the right tools on your side to make sure that your entire wholesale ordering process is streamlined, efficient, and accurate. 

👉RoasterTools makes it easy to sell wholesale products online, manage green coffee inventory, schedule production processes, and get bulk orders out the door—on time and correctly.

We built RoasterTools to help growing coffee roasters manage their wholesale orders. Remember, we were in your shoes too! When we owned the roastery, we made plenty of mistakes while growing our wholesale program. It’s our goal to make sure you don’t make those mistakes too, starting with your ordering process. 

When you’re ready to ditch the spreadsheets and never-ending order emails, sign up for a RoasterTools demo and streamline your wholesale processes today.

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Jon French of Black Oak Coffee Roasters ❤️RoasterTools
"The wholesale portal is great. It works really well and it's super simple."️
Using RoasterTools, Jon French estimates saving $1,000 per month at Black Oak Coffee Roasters while supercharging his team for growth☕️+ 💻= 🚀
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Jon French of Black Oak Coffee Roasters ❤️RoasterTools
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