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enjoying coffee and cookies while managing restaurant inventory

Restaurant Inventory Management: All You Need To Know

As a restaurant manager, you have a lot on your plate. Marketing, staffing, supplies, daily operation, and scheduling, just to name a few. With its powerful suite of cloud-based tools, Sling can help with a big chunk of those concerns. But what about other issues, like food waste, supply theft, and controlling costs? How are you going to keep those matters in check? The answer is easier than you might think: restaurant inventory management.

8 Tips For Effective Restaurant Inventory Management

We talk about inventory management in our articles 6 Types Of Inventory For Business and 8 Inventory Management Techniques That Will Save You Money. But in this article, the experts at Sling get specific and reveal everything you need to know about restaurant inventory management.

1) Get Control Of Your Finances

Many managers base their restaurant’s financial health on money in the bank. The more money the healthier the business. But you can’t determine overall business health as a result of just one number.

Restaurant inventory management gives you a clearer picture of where you can improve other aspects of your business, such as food waste, over-ordering of supplies, and cost of goods sold. When you have these issues under control, your restaurant will be much more financially healthy.

2) Schedule Your Employees For Inventory Training

One of the best things you can do to get the most out of your restaurant inventory management is to schedule your employees for inventory training. That way, there’s more than just one or two people who understand how supplies are stocked, used, and tracked. But when is the best time to schedule this kind of training?

The Sling scheduling app can help. It can show you who’s worked what hours during the week and what hours they will work in the future. It can also show you when each employee has time to learn about inventory. Sling can do all this as well as a myriad of other features, such as:

3) Follow The FIFO Rule

The best way to organize your restaurant’s inventory is by following the FIFO rule. FIFO stands for “First In, First Out.” In other words, when you stock your shelves, you should:

  1. Pull old product to the front of the shelf
  2. Store new product at the rear

This ensures that you always use up older goods before digging into new arrivals. It also prevents you from missing a box of perishable supplies here and there, which can lead to spoilage and a total loss of money for that product.

4) Don’t Ignore Unused Inventory

People eating at a restaurant

Surplus in your restaurant’s inventory is a bad thing, especially for perishable items. If you see certain supplies begin to pile up, take them off your next order. Don’t order them again until you get back to a more manageable level.

For example, if you use one bag of sugar per week but suddenly find yourself with five bags of sugar on hand, don’t order any more for a while. Wait until you get down to one or two bags before ordering another bag for delivery the next week.

5) Count Instead Of Estimating

It’s going to be a lot of work, but make sure to actually count everything when you take inventory. Don’t estimate. It’s all too easy to look at the shelf and say, “Yeah, that’s 10 boxes of pasta,” when, in fact, it might be nine full boxes and one that is all but empty.

Estimating doesn’t give you a clear picture of what’s going on in your restaurant. It’s like estimating your blood pressure numbers by counting your pulse with your fingers. There’s no way to tell if you’re healthy unless you get an accurate count.

6) Check Inventory On A Regular Basis

Conduct a thorough inventory check once a week if possible. Although, for some restaurants, taking inventory every two weeks is ideal. For yet others, taking inventory once a month works best.

We suggest checking once a week for one month, then checking every two weeks the next month. If you feel like you still have control of your inventory after counting every two weeks, try counting once a month. If, at any time, you feel like things are getting away from you, go back to counting once a week.

Keep in mind that you should never try to conduct an inventory count during hours that your restaurant is open. There’s just too much going on. Use the Sling app to schedule a few employees to take a count before the restaurant opens in the morning or after it closes at night.

7) Treat Your Inventory Like Cash

Example of restaurant inventory

It may not look like it, but those boxes sitting on your shelf are actually stacks of money. Would you let all of your employees have access to the safe where you store petty cash? Of course not. It would be too easy for someone to walk off with a twenty-dollar bill here or a fifty-dollar bill there. You prevent this by keeping your cash under lock and key.

The same should hold true for your storeroom. If you don’t have an accurate count of materials on hand and you don’t keep those materials secure, what’s to stop someone from walking off with a pound or two of butter?

You don’t want to think ill of your employees, but theft does happen. Take steps to prevent it altogether by treating your inventory like cash.

8) Maintain Your Inventory At A Sustainable Level

One of the best ways to keep your restaurant financially healthy is to maintain your inventory at a sustainable level. But what exactly is a “sustainable level” for your restaurant? You can find out by keeping an accurate accounting of the supplies you use every week.

Once you know what goes out every seven days, you can keep your inventory at just enough to handle an emergency. We recommend maintaining your inventory at 1.5 times your weekly needs. That way, should you have a run on french fries (for example), you’ll have enough to get through without placing a rush delivery.

Keeping track of your inventory is vital to the success of your restaurant, but it doesn’t have to be a major undertaking every time. Use the tips on this list to streamline your restaurant inventory management and take control of your restaurant’s bottom line.

For more free resources to help you manage your restaurant better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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