When we think of various facets of the inventory management process, one of the most frequently overlooked is quality control. Despite that, this aspect remains arguably the single most important. Let’s discuss why exactly that is.
Inventory management is a complex process. I know, that seems obvious to most of you, but think about it- it involves not only the actual inventory count, which in and of itself is so important that it can almost appear complicated strictly because of how intimidating it is, but it also involves things like data recording, observing, and analyzing. Within each of these components, there are even further almost sub-components to the inventory management process, such as documentation, trend analysis, interpretation of reports, and so on and so forth.
It's a process that can get incredibly involved, even if you are employing an inventory management system such as Zip Inventory. It’s clear to see why owners and managers experience some stress when it comes to trying to conduct the most effective and efficient form of inventory management possible. Failure to do so can result in not only improper inventory counts and order but can then translate into having a negative impact on other aspects of the restaurant as well, such as customer experience and staff happiness.
Even beyond this, there are other aspects of the inventory management process that can be just as vital and are just as frequently overlooked. We have, for example, concepts such as inventory par levels. These are essential ideas because they allow your restaurant a sort of buffer in case you begin to run low on specific supplies before you had expected to (or before your order is due to be placed).
And then we get to the idea that, despite being inherent in the very process of conducting inventory, seems almost always to be overlooked in the relevant discussions. We’ll discuss in just a little bit exactly what quality control is, especially for those who don’t know (though, if you don’t, you may need a bit more help than just inventory management). However, the key takeaway, if nothing else, is the fact that quality control can be the step that makes or breaks your business and its success, and is one of the last things that you should ever overlook.
This article, as such, will delve into two major concepts. The first concept, to explain precisely what quality control is, as well as a couple of ways that you can help to enforce a certain level of it concerning inventory management. The second concept is why exactly it is so vital to your restaurant’s success, which will hopefully motivate you to give inventory management quality control the attention it deserves, as this best practices for inventory management technique is one of the most vital there are. With all of that out of the way, let’s get into some definitions!
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In this section, we’re going to talk about quality control in two different respects. In the first respect, we’re going to look at it in its broadest of definitions as it relates to restaurant management. In the second, we’re going to look at it more specifically with regards to inventory management and the best practices therein. We want to take both perspectives into account here because it may help you to understand the subject in a more well-rounded way and be able to implement some of these practices into your restaurant more effectively.
1. In a restaurant -
So, generally speaking, what does quality control in a restaurant mean? Well, as the name suggests, quality control quite literally means controlling a situation to ensure you maintain a certain level of quality. We see this most often about food coming out of the kitchen, where consistently high quality is stressed immensely to give the customer the best meal possible. An excellent example of this comes from the way people like their steak cooked. There is no uniformity to the way each customer prefers their cook, but with each grade of doneness, there must be consistency, such that two steaks that were ordered medium rare should not go out to the table cooked at medium well. Consistency is the name of the game when we talk about quality control.
2. In inventory management -
Now let’s apply this line of thinking to inventory management. When we talk about quality control in inventory management, we’re discussing the maintenance of consistent storage environment and quality levels for things like packaging and containers. It ultimately has very little to do with the ingredients as they exist. It is much more to do with how the ingredients are stored, managed, and handled. Think of it like this- a significant part of inventory quality control involves making sure that the food is safe or otherwise acceptable to be cooked in the first place, whereas your more traditional understanding of quality control in a restaurant takes over from the cooking process onwards.
Now that we understand one of the major, fundamental differences between quality control in the broadest sense of the concept and quality control specifically about inventory management, let’s go through some of the things that you should be looking out for or actively doing to ensure that you maintain quality control in your restaurant.
1. Make a list -
Step one, no matter which of the other options we’re going to mention you decide to follow. Making a list is an excellent way to ensure that the below measures are followed precisely by your team members. The list can include any of the quality control checks that you think are appropriate since every restaurant’s situation is a little bit different, but the result should be a definitive indication to your employees about what you expect from them.
2. Always check for leaks -
Here’s one that should seem on the surface to be obvious, and yet is easy to forget if staff are not adequately trained to be on the lookout for such things. Leaks can be a clear indication either of food that has spoiled, depending on the item in question, or of some tampering. Ultimately, it is a breach of food safety regulations, , and you should address this immediately.
3. Always check for tears -
This one goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. Any sealed container, be it a plastic container or plastic wrap, is sealed for a reason. That reason is for the continued safety of the food whenever you end up cooking it. Any breach in that seal, such as a rip or a tear, is an indication that the barrier you intentionally placed around the food has been made ineffective, and thus the food may no longer be safe for consumption.
4. What you got is what you ordered -
Now, this point isn’t strictly to do with the food as an item that will be cooked and served, but it is to do with the food as a product that you have purchased. Because you don’t go to the supplier and cherry pick every single item yourself, there is always the potential that what you receive from your supplier isn’t necessarily what you initially ordered. As such, it is always important to go over everything, preferably with the delivery driver there with you, and make sure that everything you received matches what you placed in the order.
5. Always check prices -
Another way that you can boost your level of quality control in inventory management is to make sure that the prices you are sent from your supplier when they bill you, are a match for what they quoted you when you placed the order. Any discrepancy does not automatically mean that they are trying to get one over on you; it is distinctly possible that they had a price rise between the time you placed the order and when it was delivered, and they forgot to grandfather you into the old price. Alternatively, it could just be some other kind of mix-up on their end as well. Whatever the case, paying too much for something has a very direct impact on your profit margin, and you should address this immediately.
Now, these are not the only ways that you can be on your way to boosting the level of quality control maintained by your employees and your restaurant as a whole. However, these are a selection of best practices for quality control in inventory management and are a step in the right direction. With all that said, though, it is still important to train employees on these methods, where applicable, so that everyone will be on the same page when it comes to his or her execution. Once trained, any failure to execute the techniques you establish will be an indication not of being unaware, but of being uninterested in following these procedures, and this warrants a one on one discussion about their importance. Speaking of their significance…
By now, it should be abundantly obvious that we here at Hubworks place a high degree of importance on the issue of quality control in inventory management. The question that you are likely asking yourself now is- 'Okay, but why is it so important?' A valid question, to be sure, and one that will drive this next section of the article. We’re going to go through some of the key reasons behind the importance of quality control in inventory management, including a discussion on both the benefits of doing it properly and the detriments of doing it poorly.
First, though, we ought to start with some of the broad strokes. In general, quality control in inventory management is crucial because it ensures that the experience your customer has is a positive one. That is the ultimate goal of good quality control, and really should be the ultimate goal of your function as a restaurant period. If the quality control of items coming out of the kitchen is no good, then you’ll find an increase in customers returning food, or leave negative reviews online, or otherwise ending their dining experience on an unhappy note. Keeping up quality is one of the hallmarks of a successful restaurant, and it should be one of your primary goals too.
So how does this tie into the inventory management aspect of a restaurant? Well, when you consider quality control in inventory management regarding some of the points we outlined in the previous section, you begin to notice a trend. Namely, quality control regarding inventory management seems to serve the goal of ensuring the quality of food and other supplies before their use, whether that be food you plan to cook or beverages served. In this context, we look at this level of maintaining quality as a means to avoid a loss of money in the more rudimentary sense of the idea. It’s less about directly improving the customer experience and more about ensuring that products do not go to waste because of some issue with their storage or maintenance.
Now that we have a basic understanding of why quality control in inventory management matters, let’s dive into what direct benefits you might see crop up as a direct result of taking your quality control more seriously. These benefits are presented in no particular order and are merely meant to outline some of the things you stand to gain by boosting your levels of quality control.
1. Money Saved -
This one is the most obvious but is still worth its fair share of discussion regardless. When you aspire to have excellent quality control concerning your inventory, what you’re doing is striving to guarantee a certain standard for the storage, maintenance, and preparation of ingredients. While the preparation is another article entirely, the storage and maintenance do come into play pretty quickly. If some storage situation should fail to maintain the barrier between food and the external environment, then that item would then be rendered unusable. If you can’t use the food item, then it is something you paid for and did not make your money back on - a loss. Proper inventory quality control would prevent such a loss entirely, as such exposure would never have occurred in the first place.
2. Time Well Spent -
It’s true that performing this involved level of checks on your inventory system can be time-consuming. However, this is not to say that it is time wasted; in fact, quite the opposite is true. By devoting time to ensuring staff within your restaurant follows the proper quality control measures, you do manage to save time down the line. If all is followed properly, you will no longer have to drop what you’re doing when there is some breach in containment and storage to assess the situation, reevaluate inventory, and potentially spend time and money placing an emergency order to fill the gap left by the unusable supply.
3. Customers Well Served -
I know, I went on a tirade about how quality control concerning inventory management has more to do with the food before it’s cooked than it does the actual service, but let’s be real, everything in a restaurant boils down to the experience that your customers have in your restaurant. All rivers flow out to the ocean, and all facets of your restaurant’s functioning flow back to your customers. So how does this relate to quality control? Think of it like one, big chain; if some issue with your inventory arises, and it is one that you cannot immediately rectify, then you run the risk of being unable to meet the orders placed by your customers since that food item is then considered to be unsafe to prepare and serve. You see the issue? Also, since customers are kind in this industry, doing everything in your power to guarantee them the best experience possible is always priority number one.
Well, there you have it, our in-depth look at some best practices for quality control in inventory management. We hope you’ve found these inventory management tips useful, and that, going forward, you find yourself motivated more than ever to improve the quality control measures of inventory management that exist in your restaurant.