Master the Basics of Restaurant Inventory Management

Master the Basics of Restaurant Inventory Management

It’s just one of those things you’ve got to do. If you want your restaurant to be profitable enough to sustain long-term viability, staying on top of inventory management is key.

Learning and implementing best-practices for restaurant inventory management is part of becoming the empowered business owner that you want to be.

This guide will cover:

  • The 3 big reasons inventory management is crucial to your success

  • 7 of the most important inventory management basics

  • How to take the pain out of inventory management and get the most out of it

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure

The 3 Reasons You Need to Manage Inventory

If your inventory is in chaos, your restaurant can’t perform at a high level. Kitchen staff will be frustrated and hamstrung. Guests won’t get the quality food and service they deserve.

If you don’t properly manage your restaurant inventory you’ll run into these problems:

Unnecessarily Spoiled Food — This costly consequence of improper stock rotation can be avoided by establishing a system.

Over-buying and disorganization can leave you with food unfit to serve. Or worse, it gets served anyway. Throwing out food because of bad processes is like burning cash. Using spoiled ingredients is a recipe for disaster.

Serving Poor Quality Food — Perhaps it’s not “that bad” but even borderline perishables are not going to have the same flavor, freshness, and quality that you want your restaurant known for.

Perhaps the guest won’t complain to you that the freezer-burned filet was substandard, but their taste-buds know. It doesn’t actually cost you any more to serve fresher food. It just takes time to implement a proper inventory procedure.

To Catch a Thief — The restaurant is always a target for employee theft. The more chaotic the environment, the more likely they can get away with it.

Good inventory management includes frequent stock audits. If theft is detected early-on it can be dealt with before the habit spreads to other staff.

Read More: 5 Rules for Restaurant Scheduling That Works

7 Basic Restaurant Inventory Management Rules

1. Use the First-In-First-Out system — Yes, it’s a pain to mark shelf life dates on every container and place new stock behind the old stock when you unload a delivery. But it’s critical for reducing food waste and lowering costs. It also ensures that the ingredients used in your recipes are fresh enough to serve confidently.

2. Don’t split up like items — This is another important organizational rule. You can’t expect consistent proper counts if you have similar items placed all over the storage area. Inventory audits should be fast and efficient once you’re in the groove, not an easter egg hunt.

3. Don’t count stock during service/prep — This defeats the whole purpose of counting inventory. If you try to count while product is being used you’re trying to hit a moving target. Was that 2 cases of tomatoes in stock or one? Resist the urge to multitask. Make weekly inventory counts a priority. Focus on accuracy, or it’s pointless.

4. Always do inventory the same day/time — Doing inventory audits are all about looking for patterns and establishing a baseline. If you do a count inconsistently you won’t see the consumption pattern. A great way to make an otherwise slow Monday morning highly valuable and productive is to devote it to sorting out your inventory.

5. Pick a system and stick to it — You may have multiple managers with different ideas about how to manage inventory. One system needs to be picked and everyone should perform it the same way. If the counting method and the documentation are different from week to week you can’t track anything.

6. Assemble your inventory A-Team — To ensure that your counts are consistent, pick a single manager and individual kitchen staff to always be the ones in charge of counting inventory. This ensures a consistent process that just gets better and faster over time. Also, by taking a team approach, the task becomes much more manageable.

7. Count Stock Before Deliveries — To have any useful data about ingredient usage you need to get a count of stock before the delivery comes. That’s how you accurately measure how much product was used between now and the last count. Counting before delivery shows if you’re buying too much, not enough or just right. After delivery, add the new product amount in a separate column. Stock on hand plus delivery equals total inventory.

Restaurant Inventory Management Technology

Another aspect of inventory management is electronic tracking. It’s important to be able to compare the stock on hand against sales. This ensures that every reduction in inventory corresponds to a sale.

With integrated ingredient-level inventory tracking Rezku POS makes this process a snap. Turn on inventory tracking and enter the starting amount. Every item in the menu is tagged with how much ingredient it uses. So, when you sell off the menu stock levels are reduced automatically.

You can track consumption quickly, identify theft earlier and see exactly what your food costs per plate are.

Read More: Choosing a Restaurant Business Structure


When you have mastered these procedures performing a restaurant inventory audit will be a habit. Your production area will be better organized and food quality will improve.

With consistent application of these principles, you’ll have a strong basis for making powerful money-saving adjustments. Reducing food costs from waste and theft are just the start.

With a powerful point of sale solution featuring ingredient level inventory tracking you can see how much you’re selling and what needs to be reordered. With Rezku POS and Back Office in the cloud, you can check stock levels from anywhere you have internet at any time, with live updates.

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