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    Restaurant Inventory Categories: How to Organize Your Stocktake to Maximize Your Profits

    `Marketing` : Posted on July 28, 2021

    Has this ever happened in your restaurant? Your chef is planning the specials for the week. She looks through the most recent inventory and sees that the shift manager recorded only half a pound of sweet potatoes in the storeroom. 

    She orders a new shipment to come in just in time for opening on Tuesday night. By the end of the week, her order has nearly run out, just as she had planned….until the shift manager finds ten pounds of sweet potatoes hiding behind some beer kegs in the back.

    Now, your kitchen is stuck with a whole bunch of sweet potatoes, and your chef has to figure out how to use them up before they spoil.

    Those sweet potatoes should have been in a visible place with the rest of the root vegetables in your stocktake. Why weren’t they there?

    If your inventory organization isn’t up to par, it can cause disorder in your kitchen and increase costs for your restaurant. Inventory management becomes much more difficult.

    A well-organized kitchen, on the other hand, makes counting inventory easier. Staff can get through their counts more quickly and there are fewer errors in the count. That saves you money by freeing up staff for other tasks, and keeping an accurate count of stocktake means you don’t run out of food or over-order anything.

    But how should a restaurant organize its inventory? The first step is to establish a consistent set of inventory categories that optimize inventory control.

    Inventory Organization Optimizes Restaurant Inventory Control

    Inventory control in a restaurant refers to the process of keeping an accurate count of all stocktake in order to maintain consistent inventory that keeps the restaurant on budget. More control means higher visibility (and control) into what goes in and out of your restaurant at all times.

    Organization is key to the inventory management process because it helps restaurants keep tight control of their costs while still offering a high-quality dining experience.

    For example, keeping a small inventory of ingredients can keep the cost of goods low by reducing food waste and controlling portioning by staff. If your stocktake is well-organized, it’s easy to see exactly how much you have of each ingredient and keep an eye on how often it’s used.

    A well-organized food inventory will also

    • Streamline counts, freeing staff up for other tasks
    • Increase turnover by reducing wait times for orders
    • Reduce theft
    • Help create more accurate inventory forecasts
    • Help owners keep an accurate budget

    Restaurant Inventory Categories

    Categories for restaurant inventory tend to reflect food and beverage types. A restaurant may organize food into categories such as dry goods, meat and seafood, vegetables, fruits, and dairy, for example. For bar inventory, there may be categories for beer, wine, and liquor and another for soft drinks and juices.

    The important thing to remember is to keep the categories and the ingredients that fall under them consistent.

    Once you’ve established your categories, label your shelves to ensure everything sits in the right place.

    Restaurant Inventory Categories Graphic

    How Should a Restaurant Organize Inventory?

    When you’re organizing your inventory, there are two questions to answer:

    • How can I organize my inventory to maximize efficiency in the kitchen?
    • How can I organize inventory to make counting stocktake easy and accurate?

    Organizing for Efficiency

    No matter what kind of restaurant you run, ingredients should be organized in a first-in-first-out system. This is particularly important for ingredients that spoil quickly. Milk you stocked two days ago should be placed in front of the milk you bought yesterday. 

    Regularly used items, such as salt or oil, should be within easy reach for line cooks. Ingredients for more popular dishes should be placed in front of ingredients that aren’t used quite as often.

    All items should be visible and categories should never mix. That keeps staff from having to root around to find things.

    All of these rules save time on food prep, cutting down on order-to-table time and increasing turnover.

    Organizing for Inventory Counts

    Having items visible and in categories that never mix keeps counts easy and accurate, as well. Staff can complete their inventories quickly and move on to other tasks. They can order ingredients in a timely manner without over-ordering, as well.

    It’s most common to group stocktake by food category. So, you’ll have all of your dairy products in one section of your refrigerator, while your meats hang out in a second. Fruits, vegetables, and grains will have their own categories, as well.

    Spices may be alphabetized or organized by how often they’re used. The same goes for oils and condiments. 

    No matter how you organize your inventory, the two most important things to remember is to keep the categories consistent and to communicate the importance of consistent categories to your team.

    Organizing for Shelf-to-Sheet Counting

    In shelf-to-sheet counting, the inventory categories on the shelves match the categories on your stock taking sheets. Inventory is then done in the same order every single time, from the top of the sheet and the first category on the shelf to the bottom of the sheet and the last category. 

    That makes daily and weekly inventory counts quicker and brings missing items to the fore more easily.

    How Can Inventory Management Software Help Organize Inventory?

    Shelf-to-sheet is a very effective way to keep inventory, but it can still be somewhat labor intensive and prone to error. Using an actual spreadsheet can lead to incorrect or missing entries. Rows and columns can be deleted by mistake, or formulas can break.

    An inventory management software solution, however, can automate the inventory process and keep all of your data in a safe and accessible mobile app.

    An inventory management app can help you organize your stocktake by

    • Allowing you to create inventory categories within the app you can then replicate on your shelves. 
    • Giving you a clear picture of your most used items in the kitchen, so you can organize for maximum efficiency.  

    Once your sitting inventory is organized and counted, a management app will help you take further guesswork out of budgeting and ordering with automated alerts when stock gets low, food and vendor cost comparisons, and recipe cards that control portioning.

    Your restaurant inventory categories should work for you and your staff. They should remain consistent and reflect the way your restaurant uses ingredients. Most importantly, they should help keep your stocktake organized to maximize efficiency and keep food costs low.

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