Select Page
7 min read

Today we are going to take a look at a few basic requirements for a successful food inventory management system. As this process can be a bit lengthy, let’s get right to it.

Set Locations

First, each of the food items in your restaurant should have a set location. Where possible, label this location. These should be detailed locations. Such as

lettuce greens go on the top shelf on the left, inside the walk-in cooler. On the line, they sit in the far right cooler, right door, second shelf in a bin. You don’t need to have a guide for these, although it may be helpful to create for new hires.

The focus here is to label the spots in the cooler so that every item has a home. Not only should this helps employees find things easier but it also helps do inventory easier.

Further by always keeping items in the same spots, you can see what you have, rotate product easier preventing spoilage, and order more quickly.

Set Delivery Times

Talk with your distributors to set up consistent delivery times. While you might not be able to get exact times, having a small range will allow you to schedule in deliveries more appropriately. Having consistent deliveries allows you or your kitchen manager to be prepared.

If you have an order coming in from a certain company, you can have your list of ordered products available, so you can compare it with what actually arrives. This helps to eliminate discrepancies and mistakes. Plus, if products are missing, you will know and be able to prepare well in advance rather than struggling days later.

By planning your times as well, you will be able to have enough time to properly rotate products and prepare your products for easy weighing or counting.

Inspect Your Boxes

Along the line of scheduled deliveries, make sure you are inspecting all of your boxes. Don’t just sign the sheet and put the stack in the cooler. Ensure your fish or meats don’t have signs of thawing and refreezing. Make sure your fruit or vegetables are not rotten. Steak and burger boxes should be sealed. Is there product missing? Weigh boxes to ensure that there isn’t any product missing.

This may seem initially paranoid, but it ensures that you only pay for what arrived. Further, it keeps your distributors accountable for delivering exactly what you ordered, without problem. If there is a product that is borderline bad, do you think they are going to send it to the restaurant that checks all of their boxes, or the restaurant that gets stacks of product put in their cooler in the middle of the night?

Record Your Waste

This is an admittedly difficult process to implement if you don’t have it in place. I have yet to have a kitchen staff that hasn’t either fought back on this or failed to write most items down initially. You need to hold your kitchen staff accountable and remind them almost so frequently that it almost becomes a running joke. You know you have it right when your fryer cook writes down one fry that fell on the floor.

A way to help motivate your kitchen staff to write on the waste sheet is to give bonuses based on waste reductions. With this process, ensure that everything is getting written down though. Check up frequently to make sure items are not entering the trash without being recorded. Check the garbages and make sure employees aren’t sneaking items out just to get bonuses.

Note: If this is happening, look for theft with this method. If they are willing to smuggle out garbage, there is a good chance they are smuggling out other products.

Record Your Combinations

Any time items are combined, record what was put in the combination. This can be easy with common recipes for salsas, salad mixes, and other common blends. Just make sure your food preppers stick to the recipes.

One of the tougher things to record are items such as soups or casserole style dishes that may reuse the left over parts of other products.

For instance, if you have two steaks left over from a Friday night feature, you can’t really run a special again with just two. So, the steak gets cut into cubes and thrown into a soup. First, ensure this is still cost effective. Second, make sure all of the items that go into the soup are recorded. How many steaks? If you typically weigh instead of count steaks make sure you get the weight rather than quantity. How many carrots? How much celery?

This information helps you fully track the downstream of food items that would otherwise go ‘missing’.

Further, this is helpful for people with food allergies or diet preferences. Is there meat or beef stock in the soup? Is there any shellfish; any gluten? If you have the list of ingredients, you can be sure it meets the needs of your guests.

Weekly Inventory

Now to the most important part, actually taking a weekly food inventory. Every week you should be counting or weighing all of your food, at least to start. Every week you should be comparing what was used with what was actually sold. Be sure to factor in your food yields and your waste sheet. Don’t forget to adjust for new orders that came in this week.

This is a time consuming process, but is imperative to running a profitable, successful restaurant. By setting up the right systems and spreadsheets, and importing your point-of-sale data you can slim down this process to about an hour or so a week; depending on your restaurant size. This hour may be your most profitable hour of the week.

As your numbers start to fall in line, you can start taking weekly inventory on just the expensive items such as meat and cheese. The rest of the items can switch to a bi-weekly or monthly inventory. I would not go longer than a month as discrepancies can be too hard to track beyond that.

Build Your Inventory Management System

Now that you have the basic steps, start setting up your systems. If you need help setting up a proper food inventory management system, contact us. We can set up the system for you and help you increase your systems beyond the basics for more advanced tracking of food through your restaurant.

With consistent dedication to food inventory management, you can significantly reduce your food cost and losses which leads to smoother operations and higher profits.