Updated: The Proper Food Receiving Procedure to Save You Money
The food receiving door is one of the most important places in your restaurant — and a place where money can vanish into thin air without proper food receiving procedures. Pre-consumer waste such as spoilage accounts for 12% of a restaurant's total food cost. Food that ends up in the trash because it wasn't received and stored correctly can eat up your budget.
Establishing a proper food receiving procedure (or improving your existing setup) can minimize food waste in your restaurant while making the most of your business expenditures. Let's dive into best practices for receiving food safely and efficiently at your restaurant.
The Importance of a Consistent Food Receiving Procedure
Food in a restaurant follows a set of steps called the flow of food, which can look different from one establishment to the next. One thing remains the same across restaurants, however: receiving is step one. It lays the groundwork for all the other events in the flow of food, from prep to cooking to completed dish.
That is why it's crucial to create consistent, proper receiving practices. If there's an issue with receiving, it will affect the following steps down the line until it affects the food's quality and the guest's experience.
Create a Food Receiving Checklist
These are the three steps in the receiving process:
- Receiving: The physical action of taking delivery of ordered items
- Inspection: The process of looking through delivered items to ensure everything ordered is there and that they meet restaurant standards
- Acceptance: Confirmation that the food items are suitable and have met food standards and safety requirements. This step also includes storage of the food items.
Here's a checklist to run through each time you receive an order:
- Ensure that the delivery vehicle is well-maintained and clean to ensure cross-contamination was minimized. If ordered items required refrigeration, check the cargo area’s internal temperature to ensure the cold chain wasn't compromised.
- Take the temperature of refrigerated and frozen food products in the shipment to check if they're at a food-safe temperature.
- Store the food promptly to maintain the cold chain.
- Ensure you have the correct amount of product by size/weight and check that the product has acceptable code dates.
- Check the general condition of the items upon arrival, double-checking that the boxes aren't damaged.
- Inspect produce shipments for residual moisture or mold in the packaging or case.
- Inspect produce for damage such as bruising and spoilage.
- Have the invoice on hand during the delivery so you can cross-reference it against the receiving shipment. You can easily store invoices in restaurant management software so you can pull them up while receiving shipments.
Check and double-check everything on this list; don’t let money walk out the door. Keeping past invoices to cross-reference prices from previous orders is an excellent way to ensure you're not being overcharged.
Ensure you're keeping checklists for food items you purchase from a vendor or supplier with notes on the characteristics and quantity (e.g., kg/lb/piece/case.) This practice will be quick to check off as you figure out what you need to order each week, and it also comes in handy when conducting monthly inventory.
Digital checklists accessible by a smartphone or tablet is an excellent way to compile receiving data to extrapolate from later. After all, it isn't easy to analyze data when you're using paper on a clipboard!
Make Your Food Receiving Procedure Efficient and Cost-Saving
There’s a lot that could go wrong when receiving food, from spoiled produce and assorted quality issues, to food stored at unsafe temperatures. That’s why it’s essential to (a) store food properly, and (b) designate a food receiving team to make the process seamless, efficient, and cost-effective.
Designate a Food-Receiving Team
Assign one or two employees to handle the receiving process. Whether this is a front-of-house employee, line cook, or porter, ensure that each employee is familiar with and sees the importance of the food receiving process. Remember, no invoices should be paid or signed until the staff member in charge of receiving has inspected every case.
Often, it's helpful to have a chef oversee the food receiving process and have a kitchen employee in charge of ordering and receiving products. That way, they can plan appropriately, maintain accountability, and incorporate orders for seasonal and locally sourced food products that often taste better and last longer in the process. Consider scheduling a bi-weekly review process with the employee responsible for receiving to ensure accountability.
Store Food Properly
Food must be stored promptly and adequately. Ingredients that spoil quickly should be stored using the FIFO method (First In, First Out.) Older food items should be rotated to the front of the shelf, while new food items should be placed at the back.
Employees should remove fresh protein from its case upon receiving and set it into lined pans, layered lightly. This method is used due to juices building up in the case, which will degrade the poultry, fish, or meat too quickly. Employees should also wipe off fish with a paper towel.
Another smart storage tip is to place products in clear containers, so they are easier to spot and use.
Take counts of all products in pantry storage and coolers, and if you have an abundance of a specific item, prepare to offer a special featuring that surplus. Consider using restaurant management software to input new inventory so your stock is up-to-date and you can avoid under or over-ordering in the future.
Setting up a proper food receiving procedure helps set up your restaurant for success. Using restaurant management software can help you get there faster. With the right software, you can scan and track receipts and invoices and take accurate inventory counts. You can also track depletion rates and set up alerts to notify you when you need to order more stock.
Check out Marketman to see how we can help you achieve your receiving and inventory goals.