5 Ideas to Stock Breakroom Supplies — and Save Time

Avoid shortages and keep your coworkers happy

Breakroom, Company Culture

A well-equipped breakroom is a welcome refuge and oasis for your coworkers — but when breakroom supplies run low, the mood can sour quickly. And as office manager, you know you'll be the one getting requests for refills.

You've got better things to do than field complaints about the state of the snack supply. So how can you keep the coffee coming and the sugar stocked without taking daily inventories and spending far too much time on your ordering process? Try these ideas:

1. Develop Your Data

You don't have to wait until your inventory runs out — you can learn to predict it. Use a spreadsheet to track the usage of breakroom supplies over the course of a few weeks, so you can learn the average rate at which your staff runs through tea bags and coffee stirrers. This process will take some extra time up front, but will ultimately enable you to calculate how often you'll need to place orders, rather than leaving it up to guesswork.

2. Streamline Your Vendors

Find a supplier that can meet all of your breakroom needs, from coffee equipment and snacks to paper towels and plastic forks. The fewer vendors you work with, the less time you have to spend dealing with invoices, searching through paperwork from multiple sources and placing orders on different sites. A single-supplier solution can also save money on shipping costs.

3. Put It on Auto-Pilot

Work with a supplier that will set you up for automatic deliveries at appropriate intervals. Always ask about flexibility: How quickly can your vendor modify your standing order if you have a sudden need for hazelnut decaf? If you need to place an extra order, how quickly can it be delivered?

4. Sweat the Small Stuff

Conventional wisdom says that buying bulk products — a big stash of sugar instead of packets, for example — is less expensive than opting for single-serving formats. Smaller sizes, however, can be more efficient for some items: An individual creamer left to expire is a much smaller loss than an entire quart gone bad on the counter, and one dropped K-Cup doesn't mean sweeping an entire day's supply of caffeine into the trash. Pay attention to your staff's habits and do some research to see where single-serve items could actually end up being money-savers.

5. Cultivate Collaboration

Employees are the ones who complain when the hot chocolate supply gets thin, so get them on your side. Implement a system that makes it easy for breakroom denizens to report low inventory — a list on the refrigerator, perhaps, or a phone number to which they can text a picture of the needed item. Strengthen participation by rewarding those who help out. For example, let your best communicators choose a favorite snack or coffee flavor to include in the next order.

Getting your breakroom operations running smoothly will take some careful planning and an investment of time in the early stages. With a little dedication, though, you'll soon find yourself with more time to tackle more critical to-dos — or maybe even grab a cup of coffee.