Hospitality Know-how

7 Tips for Successful Restaurant Inventory Management

We have compiled 7 tips to help you efficiently conduct inventory in your restaurant business.

Sifting through inventory, counting packages, making calculations, and doing it for hours or even days at a time. Taking food inventory is not an easy process. And to be honest: there are nicer tasks than this quite monotonous and often time-consuming work. But how could you otherwise efficiently implement restaurant inventory management, avoid food waste, and be informed about losses and theft?

→ How to reduce food waste in restaurants

Proper restaurant inventory management can save you a significant amount of your recurring costs. Typically, restaurants spend about 35 % of their operating budget on food purchasing, but 20 % of that can be saved through efficient inventory. It's a success tool which, when done on an ongoing basis, saves a lot of money and significantly increases the competitveness as well as the quality of your operation.

In this article, we have compiled 7 tips to help you approach restaurant inventory management efficiently, handle it intelligently and also get your team on board. 

1. Create a schedule

It's easy to ignore inventory because something else seems more important. Nevertheless, be consistent. Set a date for upcoming inventory and plan in advance, approximately how much time the inventory process will take.

Before taking inventory, consider whether it can be done alongside ongoing business operations, or if you want to keep your establishment closed for a few days to do so. Taking inventory on a regular, piece-by-piece basis will make year-end inventory less of a hassle. Make sure that the set dates and times for inventory are adhered to. Therefore, enter inventory times as a fixed part of your staff's calendar.

2. Prepare the inventory well in advance

In order for the inventory process to run smoothly, you should organize and prepare beforehand:

  • Clean and organize the location where the food inventory is to take place.

  • Assemble the same or similar products together in advance.

  • Place certain products, such as spoiled food, in a separate location.

  • Check that individual items are labeled.

Creating a good overview before inventory will make the actual process go much faster.

3. Work in a team

Select responsible staff members to consistently complete the inventory. Designate a person with primary responsibility, who then assembles a team and makes a plan for when which person shall do which task.

Restaurant Inventory Management with your team

Involve experienced and new employees in the process. Experienced personnel are more familiar with the inventory and can train the new employees. New staff, on the other hand, often have a different perspective and can bring new ideas. The larger the restaurant and its inventory, the more employees you should plan for inventory.

4. Talk to your employees about the inventory

If you want your employees to be interested in restaurant inventory management, don't just make it a mandatory thing. Instead, make it something they see added value in. You can combine inventory with other tasks that your employees have to do on a regular basis. For example, who is responsible for the first in, first out circulation? Could this person also do the inventory?

Share the results of inventory analyses and sales figures with your employees, with a best seller-slow seller statistic for example. This way, you make it clear that, what may appear to be a tedious task, increases the employees' motivation to carefully complete the inventory.

However, as a manager, you should also remain involved in the inventory process yourself. Inventory management should not be carelessly left in the hands of others and then ignored by management. As a manager, play an active role by accompanying the process throughout and regularly asking questions.

5. Plan ahead and conserve resources

Ordering too much food will result in food waste. This, in turn, will have the consequence of having to reduce your net profit. Less profit means more employees are at risk of being let go. However, you'll also run out of products if orders are too low. This reduces customer confidence and results in a drop in sales. Fewer customers, mean less profit, which means – you guessed it – employees will be let go. With a careful inventory, these mistakes can be avoided. In addition to waste, other factors such as loss and theft, can be detected through the inventory process.

One restaurant inventory management is to plan ahead when ordering and therefore avoid food waste.

Especially in such volatile times, it is important that you do not neglect the inventory process. By taking a good inventory, you avoid excessive orders, which could turn out to be irreversible. To ensure that this does not happen, you can carry out isolated inventory sampling regularly. These have the advantage of being less time-consuming and less labor-intensive. This will give you an accurate overview of your inventory levels, and you will continue to maintain efficient inventory management during the crisis.

6. Take advantage of digitalization

In the past, restaurant inventory was done completely manually, producing huge stacks of paper. No wonder, no one took the time to thoroughly look through them, let alone analyze them. The advancement of personal computers and the ability to use spreadsheets, have greatly improved this process. But in the age of digitalization, the use of spreadsheets has also become rather redundant and old-fashioned in terms of enterprise resource planning.

Of course, you can use spreadsheets to identify price fluctuations and patterns in your item usage and try to order ahead. Nevertheless, this is and remains, an exceedingly tedious process, which includes hours or days of manual spreadsheeting and allows for miscalculations.

With the help of reliable inventory software, you can keep a close eye on your stock levels. By linking it to the POS system, drinks and foods sold, are automatically compared with those in the warehouse. This way, you know exactly which product was sold and how often it was sold. If your stock levels are too low, the system notifies you immediately and gives you suggestions on which products should be reordered. You can view figures, reports, and evaluations at any time, which will help you identify potential savings.

7. Learn from the numbers 

Many restaurateurs fail to do anything with their inventory numbers, beyond ordering more or less of individual items. The reason is understandable: without software or services that assist with analysis, processing the data is too complicated.

Doing inventory and doing nothing with it is arguably worse than not doing it at all. Not only do you waste many working hours for the process, but by not using the information you receive, you show your employees that the task is meaningless.

Instead of just setting the inventory list aside, critically analyze your numbers and utilize them! Explain to your employees what exactly has been improved - for example, that food waste has been significantly reduced. Once your employees see that you are using these numbers for something meaningful, they will recognize the importance to the restaurant's inventory management process and do the work conscientiously.

Your next inventory is waiting

Although the process of taking inventory may seem very tedious and time-consuming, it remains essential to the success of your hospitality business. Not only does it save you a significant amount of operating costs, but it also keeps you in control of your inventory levels. By using a digital inventory software, you can make the process a lot easier. Plan the inventory in advance and coordinate it with your team. Then, nothing will stand in the way of a successful restaurant inventory management. This task is much easier than you think. Good Luck!


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