Best Tips for Managing Inventory

According to a 2014 Food Waste Reduction Alliance study, eighty-four percent of unused food in restaurants is disposed of. That’s money sent straight to the trash can.

Inventory management can seem daunting for employees, but restaurant owners understand its importance as one of the most crucial tasks to stay on top of in order to stay in budget and not waste funds.

But what is inventory management? Essentially, it is a loss prevention process to keep track of what comes into your kitchen, what goes out, and what is left over. But it is much more than a pen and paper, once a month, 2-minute glance inside your restaurant refrigerator.

Depending on the size and location of your restaurant, different levels of inventory checks should be completed daily, weekly, and monthly. And while that might seem time-consuming, there are tools and tips to streamline checks and to improve overall efficiency.



Do away with paper lists—these are easy to lose or accidentally throw away. The most efficient and modern way to complete inventory management is to use apps or software. For example, you could use your POS system to help track inventory.

Today’s cloud-based point of sale systems does more than just process payments. Modern POS systems process inventory management, labor management, track and update customer loyalty programs, send bank deposits, and much more.

The cloud-based feature means all of your terminals are connected to one another through a wireless network so you can access real-time inventory levels at any time, anywhere.

With a POS system enabled with inventory management, reports can be scheduled on any basis you find best for your restaurant and reports will be sent to you.


Keep both your inventory management process and inventory storage simple and organized.

Standardizing your inventory will eliminate confusion amongst employees.

Be sure to label everything. All labels should follow the same format, such as product name, date arrived at restaurant, and expiration date. All employees should be labeling one product with the same product name, even if the product could be identified as more than one name, such as sweet potatoes versus yams.

Each item of inventory should have a designated space. It should always be placed in this area and if it is to change, all employees should be informed.

Create a standardized unit of measure for each item of inventory. What is one unit of bananas? One banana or one five-banana bunch? Is one unit of broccoli one head of broccoli or a full container of broccoli florets?


As mentioned in the previous tip, all employees should not only know where items are stored and what one unit is but should also be trained on how to complete inventory.

It is not smart to have one, or even two, employees running inventory. Emergencies are unavoidable so if a manager may not be available to perform inventory at the end of the night, someone else will have to step up. Training everyone also helps catch mistakes.

The more employees that are trained on inventory, the more prepared your restaurant will be.


Ask yourself, “Do we have enough of every item on this recipe to make this meal X amount of times in X amount of days, or is it time to purchase more?”

It is not always best to just order your last exact inventory purchase and it certainly not ideal to just guess or assume

Managing inventory by the meals you offer is effective because you will only spend money on what you need. But to do so, you will need to look at trends of each meal—keeping in mind seasonal changes and how many items and why you purchased your previous order. This method can predict how many of each meal’s items you will likely need to order.


Use a note-taking program, such as EverNote, to store versions of your restaurant’s recipes so you can digitally mark off each item as you check inventory physically or with your POS software. This beats paper because one document can be used time and time again, without printing costs, and it’s easy to refer back to. If you prefer spreadsheets, you could follow the same steps using Microsoft Excel.



Be active rather than reactive.

When completing inventory and ordering products, take any potential losses into account. Employee meals, staff mistakes, customer complaints, and spillage are unavoidable losses that can be estimated based on past trends.

It also helps to pay attention to uneaten food left on plates. If the busser repeatedly brings back plates of the same meal and there’s pasta continuously left, your pasta portions might be too large. While this isn’t exactly inventory management, this analysis can help you revisit portion sizes so non-perishable inventory can last longer, which ultimately saves money.

All-in-all, the reason restaurants care about inventory management is that proper methods can increase efficiency and save money. Using these tips, find an inventory-style that works best for your restaurant and stick to it to become pros.

By Paula

Editor in chief | PR Media Specialist | Social Media Marketer