10 Restaurant Food Inventory Mistakes to Avoid

Part of how to do inventory in a restaurant correctly is about knowing what NOT to do. Understanding these critical errors can help stay you on track and get the full benefits from your daily, weekly, and monthly inventory tasks.

1. Winging It

If you take a laid back approach to restaurant inventory management, you’re putting your business at serious risk. Winging it when it comes to your food inventory opens the door for inaccurate reporting, theft, and a high food variance that’s damaging to your bottom line.

This is definitely not a legitimate inventory strategy, and it’s time to reconsider things if you’ve been playing it by ear up until now.

2. Using Pen and Paper to Track Inventory

With the current technology available to restaurants, trying to keep an accurate food inventory manually will slow you down and leave room for human error. And inaccurate accounting can be incredibly costly for your restaurant – shrinkage could occur, or ordering too much stock could lead to unnecessary waste. Considering the amount of calculations and analysis that goes into inventory management, using a software will be significantly beneficial.

Inventory tracking POS software also provides you with data and insights you can’t see from a spreadsheet. It can do the hard work for you by crunching numbers and analyzing patterns that you can use to inform future financial decisions. The convenience of a software will eliminate the majority of the hassle that comes with inventory management, while saving you time and freeing up your headspace for other important business tasks.

3. Not Organizing Your Supplies

Organizing your food inventory is one of the most crucial aspects of managing inventory quickly and accurately. Every product should have a specific place in your fridge or on your shelves. If a staff member moves an item, they should expect to have to put it back exactly where they found it after use. If you want to improve efficiency and ensure staff can find everything easily, organize your food inventory into categories and create labels for storage areas.

Regardless of how you organize your stock, be sure to train your staff to keep shelves and fridges clean, and always rotate your products to avoid costly food waste in restaurants.

4. Neglecting to Properly Train Your Staff

Inventory management is a task that all of your staff members should be familiar with – even if some have more detailed knowledge than others. The work can’t fall solely on one person, so giving staff members the training they need to contribute to the process is extremely important.

Managers and shift leaders should be trained to deliver detailed inventory reports whenever they clock out and keep tabs on any issues that arise.

Back-of-house staff members should be diligently taking notes of errors, rotten food, and spillage whenever they encounter it. Training your team to become inventory experts might be a lofty goal, but it’s easier if you implement an easy-to-use inventory tracking system for them.

5. Not Having the Same Staff Members Do Inventory

We just explained why it’s important to train your entire team to participate in the food inventory management process. But, when it comes to actually taking inventory, you should train a few dedicated employees for this particular task.

Your best options may be your head chef and your managers. They’re able to work closely with the stock and identify any issues or inconsistencies. With time and experience, they’ll be able to quickly recognize and correct the flow of your inventory, as every establishment’s usages are different.

While training will help everyone get on the same page, be sure to explain to your dedicated team why this task is essential. Explain how inaccurate inventory tracking negatively affects your profits and that even small errors can have huge financial consequences. Consider incentivizing your trackers by offering bonuses when they propose useful changes, generate savings, or find mistakes.

6. Failing to Track Your Daily Sales

It’s best practice to track restaurant sales every single day, even if it’s just a five-minute review of your metrics. Checking your sales daily will allow you to track and respond to every little change in your restaurant, which gives you the opportunity to make timely modifications to your restaurant’s deliveries and food inventory planning.

For example, if you have a seasonal item you plan to take off the menu, you can see when it’s becoming less popular in the eyes of the customer instead of removing it from your menu too early or too late. 

Sales tracking and data analysis can be tough if you don’t have the right tools. Instead of manually calculating everything from an inventory sheet, quickly access this information from your POS system. This will allow you to pick up on variances and quickly figure out sources of loss.

7. Being Inconsistent with Inventory Management

You need to work from a regular schedule to take accurate and consistent measurements of your inventory. Many calculations rely on specific time periods, like a week or month.

If you’re inconsistent with timing, your data will be all over the place. In turn, you won’t end up with exact measurements of inventory turnover, usage, variance, par level, or COGS.

Set distinct schedules for stock taking for different types of ingredients. Perishables and stock that is frequently used will have a faster turnover rate, so check those daily. Non-perishables and bulk items will have a lower turnover rate, so you might check them once a week.

As long as you are tracking your food inventory on a consistent schedule and keeping dates and times consistent, you’ll be able to notice the patterns and make any necessary changes as needed.

8. Not Practicing First-In, First-Out (FIFO)

FIFO – or first in, first out – is the practice of storing and rotating your stock to prevent ingredients from spoiling. When stocking new inventory, your employees should move older items to the front of their storage area. This ensures your chef and line cooks use them before the newer items.

You can avoid creating costly waste by labeling food items with use-by dates and marking older containers to finish before opening new ones. Labeling will discourage confusion and keep your employees aware of how much stock they’re using over time.

If they can’t use up the older ingredients before they expire, it may be an indicator to order less. 

9. Not Carrying Some “Just in Case” Inventory

Consider keeping an extra supply of ingredients that tend to go quickly. In the event of an extra busy service or other emergency, you can use this extra inventory to fulfill orders and serve customers. Just be sure to track “just in case” inventory frequently to ensure it hasn’t spoiled by the time you get around to using it.

10. Not Tracking Your Waste

While some waste is inevitable, you’re making a big mistake if you’re not currently tracking your food waste. Food waste and errors not only impact your food inventory records, but measuring food waste can actually bolster your bottom line and increase your profits.

Create a record sheet specifically for food waste and errors. This will show you exactly how much food waste your restaurant produces over a particular time period so you can gain insight, and set goals to save money and inventory stock.

For example, if your back-of-house staff has to throw away rotten food or expired ingredients regularly, you might need to order less of those items. Or, if diners return items to the kitchen because they weren’t correct, your servers may need a better system of taking orders. To maintain accurate records, you should include date, time, item, weight or amount, a description of what happened, and the reporting employee’s name on your food waste sheet.

At SimbaPOS, we provide an Affordable, Reliable and Easy To Use Restaurant POS System in Kenya with integrated inventory management module. Contact us today on 0700 001779 or send an email for a quote/demo

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