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How To Control Inventory In A Restaurant: Everything You Need To Know

Restaurant inventory control
Restaurant Inventory - August 16, 2022 Written By: Krista Dinsmore

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When you own or manage a restaurant, there’s a lot that you need to do and keep track of. From scheduling and training staff to prepping for service and getting dishes out, the list can seem never ending. 

One task that usually gets less attention is inventory management. In fact, some restaurants will even abandon inventory management entirely. But inventory management plays a huge role in the success of your business.

The good news is, restaurant inventory control doesn’t have to be difficult. To show you what we mean, let's look at some inventory basics and what you need to know. 

The benefits of restaurant inventory management

Before we dive into how you can better gain visibility, and control your inventory, let’s look at some of the major benefits. Here are six major benefits of a well-managed inventory: 

  1. Improved ordering to prevent over or under ordering 
  2. Decreased food and beverage waste 
  3. Less time spent managing inventory 
  4. Improved customer satisfaction 
  5. More accurate recipe costing 
  6. Better oversight over your inventory and business 
  7. Increased profit margins 

5 methods for successfully tracking inventory

There are a number of ways for you to manage your bar and restaurant inventory. 

  1. Card method - Products are stored together and assigned a card, which is kept with the items. Every time you add or remove items, you record the adjustments on the card. 
  2. Pen and paper method - Each item, its details, location and quantity are listed on the sheet(s). Whenever an item is added or removed to inventory, it is recorded on the paper. 
  3. Spreadsheet method - This method is a digitized version of the pen and paper method. Inventory data is inputted into a spreadsheet.  
  4. Spreadsheet formula method - You will continue to use a spreadsheet to track inventory but you will use formulas to help do calculations to reduce user errors associated with doing calculations manually. 
  5. Inventory management software - Restaurant inventory management software still requires manual entry of data but is preprogrammed to calculate ending inventory and measure performance. One of the biggest benefits of using inventory software is that it has built in reports and other tools to provide you with better insights into inventory performance.
  6. Inventory app - A restaurant inventory app is a mobile phone application that helps restaurants and bars keep track of and manage their bar inventory. It is very similar to a desktop application except that you can access data anywhere. 

Common inventory mistakes at restaurants

When managing inventory at bars and restaurants, there are some common mistakes owners and managers make. It is good to be aware of what these mistakes are so that you can try to prevent them as you get control over your inventory. 

  • Not doing inventory at all

While inventory can be time consuming, not doing it can result in increased costs and lost opportunities. 

  • Selecting the wrong inventory management system 

As you now know, there are many different ways to track inventory. Ultimately, the option you choose will depend on your bar’s specific needs and budget, but your main focus should be on accurate information and limited resource strain. 

 

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  1. No policies or procedures 

Not having proper procedures to ensure every staff member is following the same process can result in major mistakes in data accuracy.

  • Having one employee in charge of inventory 

This reduces accountability and oversight, increases errors and provides the perfect conditions for employee theft. You should always have two to three employees trained and conducting inventory.

  • Not using inventory data

It’s not enough to simply record your inventory. For it to be of real value to you and your bar or restaurant, you need to review the information to help make better decisions.

How often you should take inventory

While there are many businesses that do monthly inventory, restaurants should consider taking inventory more frequently. The main reason is that restaurants and bars replenish their inventory much more frequently than other businesses. 

In addition, bars and restaurants tend to have more short-term promotions and carry many items with short shelf lives. Waiting a month or more to take your inventory could result in poor ordering practices and increased food waste. 

Instead, you should separate your inventory into items that should be counted weekly, such as perishable food, and items that are safe to count on a monthly basis, such as non-perishable food items and alcohol. 

How To Control Inventory In Your Restaurant 

Restaurant inventory can seem like a tedious undertaking but there are simple steps you can take to get control over your inventory. 

  1. Organize your inventory 

Before you can start tracking inventory, you need to organize it in a way that makes sense for your business and then stick to that method. If you’re inconsistent with the way that you store products, it will make it much more difficult to track quantities. Not to mention it will slow down your service when staff can’t find the item they are looking for. 

When organizing food, try to keep items from the same dish close to each other. That way your staff can quickly grab all the ingredients without having to shuffle back and forth. For alcohol, store bottles in the same order they appear on the menu. 

  1. Use labels 

Labeling your shelves and bins can go a long way. It not only helps keep your inventory organized. It will also make sure products always go in the same place every time and make it easier for your team to locate products during service and inventory counts. 

  1. Have designated storage areas

If your dry food and liquor storage spaces are slowly being overrun by extra place settings, toilet paper and other supplies, you aren’t alone. Many restaurateurs run into this problem when space is at a premium. The problem is, these items can quickly take over and force staff to start moving things around. 

Whenever possible, try to have a designated space for dry food and bottle storage to help stay organized and avoid accidentally misplacing products. 

  1. Find an inventory counting method that works 

There is no one size fits all method for taking inventory. Some prefer to take inventory alone to prevent mistakes and distractions, while pair up with one person calling out numbers and another writing them down. Some businesses prefer to do inventory on everything at once and others prefer doing rotational inventories by focusing on a single space or category of food/drink each night. 

Experiment with methods early on and determine which approach makes sense for your business. Once you have chosen one, write up procedures and ensure everyone follows them. 

  1. Take advantage of restaurant inventory technology 

While there are a number of different ways to track inventory, using software and apps can offer a number of benefits. Not only do they help you speed up the inventory process, but they also reduce errors, provide alerts and information on what to order and when, and help eliminate food waste and stock shortages. 

Best of all, they provide insights and reports that help you to make better decisions by gaining improved visibility of your restaurant’s inventory. This can help you better understand what drives sales, allows you to make better use of inventory and helps uncover more profitable opportunities. 

You can also integrate many inventory programs with bookkeeping applications, POS systems and barcode scanners to provide further benefits. 

Establishing best practices when it comes to organizing restaurant and bar inventory can go a long way. It will reduce losses, increase customer satisfaction and lead to greater profits. And you will spend less time taking inventory, which never hurts. 

Interested in learning more? Get in touch with one of the Sculpture Hospitality inventory management expert consultants today

Contact your Local Inventory Consultant Today

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A Complete Buyer's Guide to Food & Beverage Inventory Management Systems

With around 25 to 35 percent of a restaurant’s operating budget dedicated to purchasing food (that’s not even taking into account beverage inventory costs for the bar), proper inventory management can significantly improve expected revenue.

To maximize profits you need to improve visibility and control over your restaurant or bar’s inventory. 

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