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The top three expenses in restaurant management are general overhead, labor and food cost. Restaurant owners and managers consistently agree that one of the greatest challenges they face is knowing how to manage restaurant kitchen inventory. Novice restaurant managers and seasoned proprietors alike can easily fall victim to inventory issues because they lack effective policies, procedures and tools.

If you’re in restaurant management, you simply can’t afford to operate without these vital processes in place.

Keeping restaurant kitchen inventory under control is essential to prevent ballooning costs. And given your dynamic and fast-paced schedule, you simply don’t have time for the added chaos caused by inventory mismanagement.

Neither do your customers.

Try these tips to manage your restaurant’s kitchen inventory more effectively.

Perform a Personal Initial Inspection

Even if you plan to delegate inventory management to another employee, it’s best that a manager performs the preliminary cataloging. This provides a baseline and allows your management team to know what inventory you have on hand. This can also allow managers to question any unusual purchases and stay on top of inventory needs.

Invest in Restaurant Inventory Management Software

Technology has simplified inventory management to allow owners and managers to put more focus on other restaurant needs. Even small operations need inventory software to keep track of items. Evaluate the features and benefits of different software options and invest in software that calculates and automates inventory needs. The system can either alert the inventory manager when they need to replenish certain items or even trigger an order when supplies fall below a certain threshold.

Implement Inventory Controls

Designate at least one key staff member as responsible for inventory management. That employee should keep precise records and perform frequent inventory counts. Some restaurants do this daily or multiple times per day. At minimum, they should perform inventory on a weekly basis. If possible, assign two employees to handle restaurant kitchen inventory. This means two sets of eyes are looking at the numbers and can catch mistakes before they become a problem. It can also reduce theft issues.

Track Usage to Identify Discrepancies

Establish a baseline of inventory usage. This allows you to pinpoint any significant fluctuations to trigger an investigation. For example, some major increases in inventory make sense. Inventory consumption will increase during major holidays such as Valentine’s Day. However, big changes can indicate loss due to damage, spoilage, or theft. Be sure to investigate any significant inconsistencies and determine their root cause.

Improve Restaurant Kitchen Inventory Accuracy

Part of the problem with managing kitchen inventory is ensuring accuracy. Taking inventory is not a popular job in the restaurant industry, but it is vital to the establishment’s success. You can improve the accuracy of your kitchen’s inventory taking the following steps:

  • Always take inventory before placing an order. This may seem like common sense, but if you forget to do it, you could forget to order items of critical importance.
  • Take inventory before or after a restaurant opens or closes. Taking inventory while orders are going in and out can result in confusion without an automated system.
  • Take inventory on a regular schedule. If you usually take inventory on Tuesdays and Fridays before the restaurant opens, you will see major fluctuations if check inventory on those days after closing.
  • Take inventory before a shipment arrives. Trying to take inventory while employees are loading the shelves will cause mass confusion and double-counted items.
  • Implement a first in, first out policy. When employees are pressed for time, they may load shelves quickly rather than by date. Make sure employees always rotate older goods to the front to ensure they are used before they expire. This will cut down on spoilage and waste.
  • Calibrate scales. Some restaurants use scales to weigh and measure food when performing inventory. Staff should calibrate the scales on a weekly basis to ensure they remain accurate.
  • Use consistent measurement standards. When tracking inventory, managers should use the same data. Switching from pounds to ounces or from number of boxes to number of cans will cause significant confusion and large fluctuations in inventory.

The biggest key to successfully managing inventory is consistency. Using the same employees, taking inventory at the same time, and using the same units of measurement all result in more accurate inventory.

If you are struggling to manage your inventory, and consistency is not the problem, it may be time to look at your software. MarketMan offers restaurant inventory management system that simplify ordering, eliminate waste, and boost profitability. Contact us to learn more.

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