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The winter holidays can be a boon for your restaurant…if you plan ahead smartly. A little advanced planning, as well as processes you can use over and over again, can go a long way to ensuring that you never have food inventory shortages during the holidays.

Here are a few simple tips to help you stay ahead of the game.

  1. Look at Last Year’s Sales Numbers

Historical data is incredibly helpful in informing you approximately how much of a given ingredient you might need during a surge of sales. If you use restaurant management software, you can look back to see which dishes you sold the most of this time last year and plan accordingly. If you offer seasonal menu items, like peppermint mochas or turkey and dressing, these are likely going to sell more than other menu items, so you’ll know to stock up.

  1. Buy Ahead…and in Bulk

For any nonperishable items you regularly purchase, you can buy a little extra in the months leading up to the holiday season so that you don’t break your budget ordering a much higher quantity in November or December.

And take advantage of bulk pricing! Knowing that you’ll need three times as much flour this holiday season, you can place a larger order…and negotiate lower prices per item from your vendor. It’s great to not only plan ahead but also save money!

  1. Get Your Food Inventory Organized in Advance

If you aren’t using inventory management software yet, now’s the time. Doing so in advance of the rush season gives you time to organize your inventory process so that you know what you’re doing when things get hectic.

Once you have all your ingredients logged into the software, taking inventory should be a breeze, especially if it’s also tied to your point-of-sale system. When you sell a ribeye dinner, your inventory will automatically be reduced.

  1. Take Advantage of Trends

Food is definitely a trendy industry. Just look at the rise in popularity of gluten-free diets: the number of Americans who follow this diet is three times the number of people who suffer from celiac disease. If you know what’s trending, you can plan ahead in terms of ingredients for dishes that will meet current palates.

More restaurants are offering both gluten-free options as well as vegan dishes to suit a wider range of tastes and diets. If you expect business to rise, you can expect demand for these types of dishes to increase, so plan ahead.

  1. Train New Hires on Your Inventory Management Process

Many restaurants hire more help during the holidays, so make sure to get them trained early in all aspects of their roles, including using your restaurant management and inventory management software. A simple mistake due to not understanding the process or software could have a huge negative impact on business, so make sure they’re comfortable with them.

  1. Consider Having Supplies Delivered More Frequently

While it’s easy to stock up on nonperishables, that doesn’t solve the problem of meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy. Talk with your supplier to see if you can increase the frequency that products are delivered if demand requires it. Some vendors may charge a premium for additional deliveries, so find out if that’s the case.

The holiday season provides your restaurant with a fantastic opportunity to boost sales and profit margins…but only if you plan ahead!