7 Tips for Nailing Stock Control at Your Restaurant
Having a proper handle on your stock is a cornerstone of success in the restaurant business.
OK, it’s not as glamourous as dreaming up new recipes in the kitchen, or charming new customers at the front-of-house but knowing what stock you have, what it cost you, and when it’s sold (or no longer able to be used) is just as, if not more critical when it comes to building a profitable and sustainable business.
The basics of great stock control or inventory management are pretty simple: keep track of cost of goods sold and losses associated with food waste, while making sure that what is reaching customer plates is fresh and high-quality food.
But simple doesn’t always mean straightforward.
Well, there can be a few big challenges when it comes to optimizing stock control procedures.
First, the wrong data. Accurate stock counts are the backbone of effective stock control and where you’re relying on manual inputs they can miss the mark for all sorts of reasons, be it tired staff, a lack of training or simply the Herculean task of keeping track of huge amounts of inventory with nothing more than a piece of paper.
Second, poor knowledge of portions. Accurately calculating the cost of goods sold relies on kitchen staff sticking to the letter of the recipe when it comes to portions. Unfortunately, without the right training – and the right awareness around why this matters – mistakes happen.
Third, failing to manage transfers. Where a restaurant business has multiple outlets, inventory is likely moving through several different locations, often in a short space of time. It can be a major headache to keep track of. But failing to do so can turn your stock control procedures into chaos.
If all those common mistakes sound familiar though, don’t worry. With a few tweaks here and there, each one can be fixed, and your stock control optimized.
1. Get your team on board
First things first, great stock control is a team effort. As you’ll have spotted in the common mistakes above, the level of awareness across colleagues, both in the kitchen and front-of-house, about why inventory management is so important for the future of the business can be a gamechanger. Make inventory management a key part of staff training and reiterate its significance regularly at team meetings.
2. Ditch the pen and paper
For restaurants that have relied on manual stock control methods for years, with no major fallouts, it can be hard to see the potential benefits of trying out inventory management software instead. But with cloud-based inventory management tools like MarketMan, not only can you significantly reduce the time taken up with manual checks, and reduce the inevitable human errors that accompany it, but you’ll also reap all sorts of additional rewards that a pen and paper simply can’t deliver.
For example, with an end-to-end view of inventory you’ll be able to quickly spot weak spots when it comes to waste, see instantly when a supplier raises prices and be given actionable insights from the data. You’ll stop seeing inventory management as a headache in other words and start seeing it as an opportunity.
3. Allocate time upfront to integrate new procedures
When it comes to integrating new inventory management software into a business, it can require some sizeable work upfront. There may be the need to input raw ingredients or calculate portions for different menu items, alongside any necessary staff training, but allocating this time upfront will pay dividends further down the line. So whenever you introduce new stock control procedures, set aside a reasonable chunk of time to set up new systems, integrate processes across the rest of the business and bring everyone up to speed. Trust us, it’ll pay off in the long run.
4. FIFO your back-of-house
Even with inventory management software integrated into your existing systems, you’ll still need to arrange physical stock in a way that makes it easy to spot what you have and avoid waste. For a tried-and-tested approach, try the FIFO method. This stands for ‘First In, First Out.’ Simply put, organize your areas (cooler, dry storage, freezer and shelves) in such a way that ensures those items you receive first, are also used first. You could even consider containers designed specifically for FIFO dispensing.
5. Consistency, consistency, consistency
It goes without saying that bad inputs lead to bad outputs. And stock control is no different. To get the most from any inventory management software or procedures ensure it is part of the restaurant’s hourly, daily, and weekly routine. You could even consider tasking a few members of the team with particular responsibility for ensuring all new stock is entered into the system to ensure there’s accountability for any gaps in the data.
6. Minimize waste
Not only is waste catastrophic for the environment (up to 8% of toxic emissions could be cut out if we all stopped wasting food) but it’s bad for business too. Wasted food equals money lost from the bottom line. That’s why a major part of any effective stock control strategy is spotting where waste occurs and taking steps to minimize it. The right inventory management software can really help with this, automatically flagging the types of food where waste is likely to occur, pinpointing the factors behind this loss and suggesting actions to reduce that loss. These steps could include the introduction of more accurate food labeling on containers, smaller portions on plates, or even tweaks to kitchen practices that might promote wasted stock.
7. Find use for surplus ingredients
Some waste is inevitable. So as well as rethinking ingredients, organization and even menus to reduce spoilage, restaurants can also get creative with surplus. From turning common leftovers into brand new menu items, to redistributing edible surplus to community organizations, or even using scraps as sustainable feed for locally grown produce, there are all sorts of alternative homes for surplus than the kitchen bin.