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If you’re spending a sizeable amount of your time on restaurant inventory management — late nights spent buried in the deep freeze counting boxes of frozen chicken — you’re doing it wrong. Certainly, for a long time, this was the only way a restaurant manager or owner could do inventory, but times have changed, thanks to specialized software and technology.

Having the right tools can not only cut down on the time you spend on inventory management, but they can also ensure accuracy and help you avoid food waste. Here’s how.

Stay Within Your Budget

Food costs are your biggest expense, and it’s all too easy to break your budget if you don’t have careful inventory management processes in place. Not realizing until the last minute, for example, that you are out of shrimp can mean you have to rush to the store and pay retail price to get through the night’s orders. Right there, you’re leaking profit.

But when you have the right inventory software, you know plenty of time in advance when you’re running low on a product and can order accordingly. This ensures that you pay the right price for your ingredients rather than a last-minute premium for them.

You Can Be Smart with Your Ordering

Restaurant inventory management software helps you stay on top of which ingredients you’re running through quickly, which can clue you into what you should order larger quantities of. Negotiate with your vendor for larger orders to save more per unit.

Also knowing far enough out that you need to place an order keeps you from having to pay a fee for same-day delivery.

You Won’t Run Out of Ingredients

“Sorry, we’re out of chicken piccata tonight.”

It’s something you never want your wait staff to have to tell customers, but if you don’t have an inventory strategy or the right tools, it’s a possibility. A patron who was excited to order a dish that you’re out of may never come back, and that’s something that’s completely avoidable if you invest in inventory management software.

Because you can set par levels, you’ll be notified when a product is running low so you can order it in plenty of time for the weekend rush.

Track Waste and Theft

Food waste is a real problem. Whether it’s kitchen staff not using all of a tomato or fish you purchased not getting ordered by customers, that wasted cost can add up quickly. The good news is that for every dollar you invest in food waste reduction, you can reap $8 in cost savings.

That starts with inventory management software. Seeing which ingredients are not getting used, you can pull back on how much you order next time.

And theft doesn’t just happen at the cash register. Even employees snacking on ingredients, taking sodas, or even giving friends and family free meals can cost your restaurant. Your inventory software will tell you if something is amiss in terms of ingredients not being accounted for through purchases, and then you can investigate the source.

Get Real-Time Inventory

The old way of doing inventory meant that you had no idea what your stock looked like in the days or weeks between manual inventory sessions. But with inventory management software, you know at any given moment exactly what’s in your larder and what you need to order more of. And real-time reports help you stay on top of food costs, which dishes are selling well (and which aren’t), and what your ingredients are costing you.

Some inventory software (like MarketMan’s!) has a mobile app, which lets you take inventory counts on the go. It’s great for chefs and restaurant managers who find it easier to walk through the kitchen with a tablet or phone.

Technology is a restaurant manager’s best friend. Implement inventory management software to cut down on the time you spend on inventory as well as to get valuable insights into your restaurant’s profitability.