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Do you realize how important the restaurant inventory process is in helping your business minimize waste and increase profit margins? Done regularly and with deliberation, your inventory process can be a big help. Here are a few ways to improve your restaurant inventory process to help you lower food cost and reduce waste.

1. Order Inventory Based on Historical Trends

Sales forecasting can be tremendously helpful in ensuring that you have just enough food for busy times, and don’t have too much when things are slow. Weather, holidays, and nearby events can impact sales, as can the state of the national economy.

You have data on sales trends in your point-of-sale system; leverage it to plan smartly for upcoming restaurant inventory orders.

2. Pay Attention to Shrinkage

Shrinkage happens in several ways: when employees unnecessarily waste food (like cutting an apple without getting the maximum flesh off of the core), food waste, and theft (employee and otherwise).

You might be certain that your staff isn’t stealing from you, but every time the bartender gives away a drink to a guest (or a friend, or the waitress), whenever a waiter munches a handful of chips…this takes away from your profit. Make sure you clearly communicate how much, if any, food you are willing to give staff for free. Maybe you give them one soda and one meal a day, and after that, they can purchase food or drinks with their employee discount.

3. Plan Ahead for Holidays

If every Fourth of July, you see a huge spike in sales, due to the holiday parade that happens in front of your business, you already know that you’ll need more ingredients than a normal week. Looking at historical sales trends will not only tell you when you’ll have more business than usual but even what dishes people are more likely to order. Given that your traffic on the Fourth is mainly families, you might order extra ingredients for kids’ dishes or shareable appetizers.

4. Do Regular Inventory

The more consistent you are with your restaurant inventory process, the better visibility you have into what you have in stock, what items are costing, and what you’re wasting. Assign this as a weekly duty to a manager to stay on top of it. You may even want to have a kitchen staff member do it with them regularly.

5. Adapt Menu When Food Prices Rise

While there are some ingredients you can’t do without if prices rise — like eggs — you can still modify the menu for other items. When seasonal fruits and vegetables are out of season, you pay a premium to have them shipped to you from far away. Forego that avocado that doubled in price, or charge extra for it as an add-on.

Likewise, you can get creative with inventory that becomes more affordable. In the summer, zucchini are dirt cheap, creating all sorts of opportunity for you to offer vegetable fritters, zucchini bread, and other innovative seasonal dishes.

6. Talk to Suppliers About Discounts for Bulk Orders (When It Makes Sense)

Most suppliers offer a discount for larger orders, so look through your pantry to find items that you can stand to have more of without worrying about waste. Dried goods like beans, grains, and pasta, will last a long time, so see what sort of savings you can get by ordering larger quantities next time.

7. Split Orders to Avoid Waste and Spoilage

While ordering in bulk can save money, that’s not always the case, especially with perishable goods. You’re not saving money if you order 50 pounds of fruit and 10 pounds of it rots before you can use it. See if your supplier will split an order so that half of the order arrives at the start of the week, and the other half toward the end.

8. Order Ugly Produce

For any fruits or vegetables that don’t need to make a visual splash on a plate, anything else doesn’t have to be perfect. There’s a newish trend toward farms and distribution companies selling “ugly produce,” which doesn’t fit the general aesthetic standards that grocery stores have. Restaurants can often get these at a discount. Given that, for example, the three-legged carrot will be chopped up in a soup, there’s no reason it has to be model-worthy.

9. Create Daily Specials Based on Inventory

Avoid food waste by creating daily specials to use up what is in danger of going bad. Those potatoes with eyes on them would make a great potato soup, and the fish you ordered too much of might be a blackened salmon special. Specials can be marketed by your wait staff, who describe them before patrons order, thus enticing them to order them.

10. Save Money With a Little Prep Work

Ordering cauliflower rice is much more expensive on a per-ounce basis than buying whole cauliflower and making it yourself. The same goes for deboning chicken. Teach your staff to properly prep items, even if it takes longer, as a way to lower food cost and increase efficiency in the kitchen.

These tips are simple to implement, and highly effective at not only reducing food waste but also maximizing profits.

But the best way to improve your restaurant inventory process to help you lower food cost and reduce waste is by using a restaurant inventory management system like MarketMan, that simplifies and streamlines the entire process. Contact us to learn more.

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