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One of the most important aspects of running a restaurant is effectively managing inventory. No restaurant owner wants food to spoil because it’s gone unused or face disappointed customers when you run out of a key ingredient for a popular dish. Whether you’re a new restaurant owner or have been in business for years, there’s always an opportunity to improve your inventory process.
Assign a team to take inventory
Rather than training the whole staff on inventory management, assign a specific team to make the task part of their routine. Doing so requires less training and increases the chances of the assigned team becoming experts at the inventory process. Once the team is selected, train them well on all aspects of inventory management and establish a set frequency for an inventory count. This could be as often as close of business each day or as infrequently as once a year, depending on your restaurant’s needs and the specific items you’re counting.
Follow the first in, first out rule
For food items, especially perishable ones, follow the “first in, first out” rule. When you order new produce, for example, move the items purchased previously to the front of the refrigerator so they are used before the expiration date hits. Additionally, keep food volume as low as possible (without risking running out) to reduce spoilage.
Keep an eye on your menu
Your restaurant likely places regular orders (weekly, biweekly, etc.) for food items you use all the time, such as milk and eggs. However, your menu is likely to change throughout the year, as you offer seasonal specials or customers order more soup during the cold winter months, for example. Keep an eye on menu trends throughout the year to ensure you order all the ingredients you need for every dish.
Invest in inventory management software
Inventory management software takes much of the hassle out of the inventory process. Identify a solution that complements other technology you have in place, such as online ordering, POS systems and invoice systems. Inventory management software also enables you to analyze inventory trends, such as a particular ingredient that’s increasing in popularity and needs to be ordered in a larger quantity next time around. To make your staff’s lives easier, select software that is easier to use and consider one that is also compatible with smartphones and tablets so staff members can easily track inventory all around the restaurant.
While much of your inventory management consists of tracking food items and checking expiration dates, supply levels (cleaning supplies, napkins and more) should also be checked on a regular basis. Every so often, dishes and other items might break, so you will want to re-order as necessary. If your restaurant offers delivery, keep track of your delivery order volume. Are there spikes of delivery orders at certain times of the year? If so, consider ordering extra delivery packaging and disposable utensils so you’re prepared for the increase in orders.
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