Inventory Counts—Why the Numbers Matter to Your Restaurant

When you’re running a restaurant, regular inventory counts are vital to decreasing waste and lowering food costs. While inventory counts ultimately yield higher profits, they are inherently monotonous, and therefore sometimes overlooked or avoided. Inventory management software helps, but it’s just the start to getting a proper handle on your business’s inventory health.

Inventory and recipe software calculate ideal inventory—what you received from suppliers minus what was sold—but they don’t account for waste, over-plating, spoilage, or light-fingered employees. Your final inventory report is only as strong as the accuracy of the starting count and your diligence of entering invoices into your system. To ensure your data is up to date, follow these inventory management tips.

Toss the Pen and Paper

If you’re using spreadsheets or documents to track your inventory, it’s time to invest in an inventory software system. The move from pen and paper to a more advanced inventory and recipe solution alone can save a restaurant between 3 and 5 percent on food cost. Proper insight and management of your inventory will only increase those percentages. For example, if you consider the cost of prep for a recipe based on the cost of the last delivery, you can better analyze your profit margin. An effective inventory and recipe system paired with accurate counts will help you optimize menu prices and increase profitability.

Standardize Your Inventory Counts

You don’t need to count everything with the same frequency—high-value items and alcohol might be counted daily or weekly, while other items may only need to be counted monthly. The important thing is to have a regular schedule of when to count. Do it at the same time, before or after business hours. Ensure your employees are properly trained to count and leverage the same employees for each count to ensure optimal accuracy.

Divide and Conquer

Proper planning will increase your efficiency and efficacy during inventory counts. Use your software to group your inventory into categories such as dairy, meat, or dry storage and count areas for specific pantries or shelves. Arrange the order of items to streamline the counting process from sheet-to-shelf and decrease the amount of time your employees spend hunting for inventory. When your system is organized into categories and count areas, multiple people can count simultaneously. Your software will automatically combine items from each category, so if you have five bananas in your dry storage and five bananas in your refrigerator, your system will discern that there are 10 bananas total. Save your team time and let the inventory software do the math.

Calculate Ideal vs. Actual Inventory

One of the most valuable reports you can run is ideal vs. actual inventory—what you should have in inventory vs. what you actually have. Ideal inventory is calculated by subtracting what you sold from your starting inventory and adding what you received. Comparing ideal versus actual helps isolate waste, identify over-plating, recognize theft, and control inventory costs. You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Inventory software is only as strong as the effort and discipline you put in place to ensure that your staff properly uses it. Diligent inventory and recipe management will lower your restaurant’s food costs and increase profitability. If your business isn’t leveraging inventory technology, contact us today to learn more.

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