Restaurant Inventory 101 – The Bottom Line

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When it comes to performing your restaurant inventory, we’ve heard every excuse in the book:

I don’t have the time
It’s a complete waste of my time
 I can do it monthly and still know what’s going on in my restaurant


To put it bluntly, you’re saying you don’t have time to routinely gauge how much money you have sitting on your shelves? Or how much money you put in the garbage each month because your food sat too long in your walk-in?

When considering performing inventory on a monthly basis, noodle this for a second:

Every month ends on a different day of the week

Ultimately, this means that if you took inventory on a Monday last month, you may be taking it on a Friday this month, right? So by not counting on the same day each week you’re skewing all of your inventory levels – making them inconsistent and ineffectual, which leads you to considerable food cost swings.

Another thing to consider is that in order to accurately purchase product, it’s critical to understand what you have on the shelf so that you are only ordering what you NEED. If you’re simply relying on what you think you should order, then essentially hoping that your memory “flags” your attention to what you need.

Not only is this inefficient and unreliable, but doing so will yield inaccurate purchase orders. These incorrect orders will then have to be modified and supplemented, adding time, cost and headaches to what should have been an easy, efficient, and cost-saving opportunity (had you taken the time to count weekly).

Having an accurate and consistent methodology for purchasing will enable your restaurant to meet the promises your menu makes while keeping your cash where it belongs – in your bank account. Restaurants are businesses at the end of the day and available cash determines a business’ ability to handle the unexpected. Money trapped in unused product can leave your operation in a vulnerable position, whereas spending based on actual usage keeps operations solvent.

Weekly counting will set the purchase levels and allow you to clearly see what you can spend.

If done properly, you’ll start to identify trends and you’ll be spending in line with your sales forecast to eliminate over and underspending.

Effectively managed inventory also helps your cash flow by recognizing stagnant items on your menu.  These unsold items, which are languishing in your storage areas, are brought to light, ultimately giving your management the chance to refocus on selling those items!

Case and point: Inventory doesn’t become money in your bank until it’s sold.

By controlling how, when, and why we order items, profits are maximized, margins are better maintained, and systems are put in place which can be taught to your entire staff, allowing you to get that next operation up and running… and maybe the next one too!