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9 Tips That Will Shape Up Your Inventory

If you have been managing restaurant inventory with a pen and paper, old school spreadsheets or technology products that are overly complex, expensive, incomplete or ill-suited for smaller operations, then you might need some tips to help you get a better handle on your inventory situation. Here are 9 tips that will help you shape […]

If you have been managing restaurant inventory with a pen and paper, old school spreadsheets or technology products that are overly complex, expensive, incomplete or ill-suited for smaller operations, then you might need some tips to help you get a better handle on your inventory situation. Here are 9 tips that will help you shape up your restaurant inventory .

1. Practice Makes Perfect

Like most habits, inventory consistency and accuracy isn’t something that happens overnight. It is sort of like going to the gym. You can’t just do it every once in awhile if you expect to see results. Inventory is a part of the business that requires dedication and discipline. Establish a routine that includes the same day(s) of the week and time of the day, as well as the people that you want to be doing the counting.

2. There’s No “I” In Team

Even though you run a business, you can’t do it alone. You rely on your staff to keep your operations running, and taking inventory is no exception. Assign a few people to help you with the process. Ideally, these individuals are slightly more detail-oriented and show interest in how the BOH runs. Help them get to know the suppliers, ordering process, established par levels, food lists and where all stock is stored. Make sure they understand that inventory is more than counting – it’s understanding how important accurate inventory is to the entire business.

3. Ditch the Clipboard

Pieces of paper are prone to ruin and loss. And legible handwriting is at the mercy of the counter’s penmanship. Clipboard counts also do not provide insight into historical count changes, order discrepancies, food waste issues or potential internal theft. Save the time you would have spent shuffling papers and get back to what’s most important to your success – customers!

4. Quit the Spreadsheets

It is estimated that for every 300 characters entered into a spreadsheet, there is at least one mistake. With hundreds of inventory items, can you afford to find and fix every data issue? Also consider that spreadsheets and other manual processes, like paper, don’t work in real time or allow more than one user to access them at the same time.

5. Location, Location, Location!

After establishing your inventory routine, focus your next big effort on getting organized. Organize your inventory in a sheet-to-shelf manner. It is far easier to have your inventory checklist organized in a logical layout that matches your store layout. This can include multiple in-store locations. This makes the process much more efficient for you and your appointed inventory management team.

6. Read the Labels

This doesn’t apply just to GMOs and fat grams, it also applies to your units of measure. Make sure you know what you are ordering from your suppliers. Clearly make note of the ounces, the bottles, what comes in cases. When inventory details aren’t documented, your count is more likely to be inaccurate. Keeping track of what you ordered and the receiving variances are key. And once you receive these variances, make note of which suppliers are regularly sending different sizes, different weights, substitutions or damaged goods. All of these are metrics that can be tracked and analyzed to determine a supplier’s reliability and their ability to deliver the products you require.

7. Set Par Levels

What is a par level? A par level is the minimum quantity of an item you need to have in inventory to make it to your next delivery. If the on-hand quantity is lower than the par level, simply order what you need to bring it back up to par. To establish a good par you need to forecast customer demand. You also have to take into account delivery schedules, and perishability. A good rule of thumb is to have approximately 20-30% of the weekly inventory used set as your par level.

8. Beware of the Menu

Watching your inventory closely will help you identify ingredients that are not being used fast enough. A few simple recipe adjustments can help you utilize wasted items and lower the number of items carried in your inventory.

9. Inventory Management Software

A centralized and secure restaurant inventory management solution can make every aspect of the inventory process better and more intuitive. Ideally, your solution should be compatible with your ordering, recipes, and invoice systems so that you can easily monitor your cost of goods sold (COGS), inventory carrying costs, and inventory trends. Know what you need and look for a solution that fits the bill without overcomplicating it. Ensure that you purchase from a supplier that understands the industry and knows how a restaurant operates. Avoid incomplete solutions that only focus on one aspect of inventory, like your bar.

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