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10 Steps to Improve Your Restaurant Inventory Process

Taking inventory is one of the most dreaded tasks in a restaurant, but also one of the most crucial. It is critical to measure the amount of food, supplies, and other products your restaurant uses in order to control food costs and maximize profitability, yet no one wants to do it. Many managers admit that they have overlooked inventory by not doing it thoroughly or frequently. By initiating some simple structure, taking inventory becomes a much more bearable task, and can improve efficiency.

Here are 10 steps to improve your inventory process:

  • Day of the week and time
    Establish the day of the week and time you wish to take inventory in order to create consistency. It is best to stick to the same day each week, and choose a time before the restaurant opens or after it closes, in order to get the most accurate count.
  • Assign the same two people to always take inventory
    Typically, the kitchen manager and general manager collaborate on inventory together. Each completes their own inventory, then compare results.
  • Take inventory frequently and before a new shipment arrives
    Inventory should be done at least once a week. Some items need to be monitored more frequently than others and should consistently be accounted for. Complete inventory before a new shipment arrives, then add the new stock to your count.
  • Clean out and organize stock areas before beginning inventory
    Dispose expired items and keep stock area organized.
  • Ensure all food and supplies are accounted for
    Make sure that all food gets rung in and accounted. Train servers and cooks to correctly track food that gets sent back and re-ordered, ruined, or comped, in order to have an accurate inventory count.
  • Use count sheets
    Count sheets allow you to track your inventory in a consistent and easy to read manner. They can also be used to track your inventory over time, and see patterns.
  • First In, First Out (FIFO)
    Utilize the FIFO system by rotating older items to the front of the shelves in order to get used first. This is also useful to see how many items are close to expiring, and shows you what item you have an excess of, and need to cut down the order.
  • Calibrate scales
    If you use scales to weigh inventory or measure portions, be sure to calibrate them weekly to ensure they work correctly.
  • Standardize unit cost
    Prices change almost weekly, and need to be accounted for. Always use the latest price paid as your standard.
  • Invest in accounting software
    Accounting software tracks your counts and can turn them into weekly reports. This allows you to view any changes or patterns from a weekly basis.

When a manager establishes structure and consistency for taking inventory, the process becomes much easier. Using the same managers, on the same day of the week, at the same time, and comparing numbers will give you the most accurate result.

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