Time to take inventory? UGH.
That’s a common emotion when it comes to this back-of-house task. It’s time consuming, it’s manual, and it’s just not what you want to be doing right now.
You know taking inventory is important, but admit it - you often delay it, phone it in, or punt it to other staff members. And when you do it, often the result is swag. A best guess. If you’re like most restaurants, taking inventory today is a manual, inconsistent, and undesirable task.
Here’s how to be the boss and take control of inventory once and for all...
Standardization is the solutionWhen you create a process for taking inventory, you leave behind inconsistency. No matter who takes inventory, the process will be completed following certain steps.
More importantly, this standardization will reduce costly mistakes.
With process comes habit and with habit comes speed. Translation: With an inventory process in place, you’ll spend a whole lot less time taking inventory.
Additionally, when you’re tracking inventory consistently, you have better insight about where your money is going - by category and at the item level.
With this information, you’ll have better control over your food costs.This gives you the power to monitor what’s going in and what’s coming out to stop waste and theft.
The most significant benefit of following an inventory process is you receive actionable insights to make smarter business decisions.
For example, if you see an item is going bad faster than you can use it, you may order less or think of ways to incorporate it more into your menu.
When you’re creating an inventory process for your restaurant, it’s important to do it in the way that best suits your needs.
Every restaurant is different as far as menu, staffing, and hours. However, to be successful, there are three things you must include in your process.
#1 - Apply a RoutineTake inventory weekly to gain the most insight from your metrics. Choose one day a week when you’re slow.
It should fit in with your suppliers’ delivery schedules, too, because it makes the most sense to measure how much you have in stock when new items are added.
Make sure you complete the inventory process before the doors open for the day or after your restaurant closes. There are plenty of distractions to keep you from taking inventory when business is in full swing.
If you’re in a customer-free environment, you can concentrate on back-of-house tasks like completing inventory.
Best case scenario, one person on your staff should be responsible for the inventory process every time to ensure consistency and avoid mistakes.
But that’s not always practical.
Assign a few people on your team this task, so even if someone is out or busy with another task, there’s another person who can handle it.
What’s more, having several people complete the inventory process means multiple eyes are checking the numbers, which usually helps catch mistakes and errors.
#2: Be PreparedTo ensure you’re taking an inventory of all usable items, do a quick organization and cleanup of your stock rooms before a delivery arrives.
If two boxes of one item are open, move all the items to one box. Consolidate condiments into as few bottles as possible. Overall, make space in your stockroom for new items.
Next, throw out rotten or expired ingredients. Make a note if there’s a lot left of one item so you can order less of it in the future or work it into your menu.
Move older items to the front of shelves so when new items arrive, they can easily be stored back-of-shelf.
If you’ve been running a restaurant for a while, you are probably taking inventory between closing at night and opening the next day so you capture end-of-business levels.
Any deliveries coming in after you’ve taken inventory for the day should be considered purchases for the next day and included in the next inventory.
#3: Cue TechnologySpreadsheets aren’t inventory software. You know it, we know it.
It’s time for independents to take advantage of new technology that’s changing the game for inventory processes.
Did you know electronic count sheets speed up the time it takes to complete the entire process?
Imagine holding your smartphone in your hand, a list of all your items neatly displayed. The items are aligned with the order you store them on the shelf.
All you have to do is put in the counts for each item and hit save. Voila, taking inventory is done!
Welcome to the world of inventory management software, which completes counting and valuation based on your invoice data - all electronically.
Plus, in-software reporting and dashboards show you how much food you’ve been using, as well as how much you’ve spent by item and category.
There are several different companies offering electronic inventory technology, but choosing the right one for you depends on what your restaurant's specific needs are.
We just released the newest version of the Orderly app to support the inventory process, as well.
"It's an app that takes the most-dreaded manual process of taking inventory and turns it into a speedy, online way to complete counting and valuation based on invoice data," says Mark Haidet, CEO of Orderly.
So you see, taking inventory doesn't have to suck. By implementing routine, preparation and technology you're on your way to easy, simple, and accurate inventory.
Now you can focus on what's most important: Managing your restaurant.
If you're curious to see if inventory management software is right for you, try ours. We're giving it away for free for a limited time.