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How to Get the Most Out of Restaurant Inventory Management Software

how to get the most out of restaurant inventory management software
Caroline Sams

By Caroline Sams

What's the Problem With Inventory Management?

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Your restaurant inventory management system should be pretty self-explanatory, right? Unfortunately, many businesses are looking at their inventory control in the wrong light and missing out on some hidden benefits, features, and tools. All that missing knowledge tends to stall a business, making everyone's job much harder than it has to be. But isn't inventory control just about keeping tabs on your stock? How can it be the center of your problems, and the solution to them, too?

The answer to the question is simple. Without a properly setup and efficient inventory control system, you're setting your business up for problems along every turn. If you don't know how many pounds of chicken you have in the freezer, you may order too much and end up with major costs due to spoilage. Or you could assume you have plenty and end up losing sales when you run out of the main ingredient for Friday night's special.

What about employee theft? If you haven't been tracking your inventory properly, you'll miss the subtle signs of theft, costing you thousands a year. Then there's the problem of order tracking. How will you know when to order, how much you need, and when your orders should be arriving if your restaurant inventory control system isn't right for you? Add to that frightening list all the issues that can crop up from frustration, lack of trust between employees and management, and the poor planning and communication that come with it all.

It's easy to see how inventory control touches every aspect of your restaurant, but how do you fix it before it's too late? Thankfully, we've got the answers for you right here.

Step 1 - Start at the Beginning With Inventory Count

Seems obvious, right? However, many restaurants skip the beginning and go right to the middle, thinking they already know the facts and can save time. Don't make the same mistake. If you're reading this, you likely have already run into some inventory issues, or you know they can happen and would like to avoid them. So, if you only take one piece of advice from us, let it be this one. Go count your stock, right now. It's okaywe'll wait!

You need to know the exact amounts of everything you have on hand right this second. If you have a mobile inventory solution already in place, this is a pretty easy step. Just pull up your logs and make a report, which you'll need in the next step. If you're still handling inventory control the old-fashioned way, it will be more tiresome and frustrating for you, but you absolutely cannot skip this step.

Count raw materials, anything in the process of being finished (whatever is being prepared as you count), and anything already finished and waiting to be served to customers. You can subtract the finished meals in a bit, but you need to know what hasn't gotten in the customer's hands yet. Doing your business' inventory count during its off-hours is even better as it will reduce any miscounts and help prevent estimating.

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Step 2 - Log Inventory Counts Obsessively

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When it comes to a restaurant inventory control system, logging features are some of your best tools for success. If you've run into an issue of disappearing stock or your finances have been ever so slightly off, tracking and logging everything for a few weeks should help you figure out what's happening.

Is it spoilage that hasn't been reported? Is it theft? Or was it a miscount at the beginning? Compare your order history with your inventory counts and sales, and look for inconsistencies. Some of the best inventory control software comes in handy for this step because it can automatically flag anything that looks suspicious or doesn't match projections. It can be done manually, of course, but that takes a lot of time.

If, on the other hand, everything looks good so far, note that and store those logs. Keeping them in a cloud-based database is your best bet since those logs will never be lost or damaged due to fires, floods, or mishandling. You can also access cloud-based data in real-time, all at the tap of a finger, if you're using one a modern restaurant inventory control system. Still using paper? Label this inventory count and your notes, and file it away. You'll need this information later.

Step 3 - Train Your Staff in Inventory Management

Your staff functions as your eyes and ears on the floor, so, they need to know what to look out for. The people you employ are a very important part of your restaurant inventory control system. Train employees well, let them know you appreciate their hard work and give them the tools to communicate with you.

A great inventory control system includes some form of communication between staff and management. This communication can be achieved through alerts, notes, emails, and texts in real-time. Bonus points for a restaurant inventory control system that uses mobile devices like phones and tablets.

Mobile devices allow everyone to stay on their feet, actively working, yet still connected enough to get real-time updates to and from each station. Issues spotted in real-time can be resolved in real-time, too, not a week or two later. Considering most people have some kind of mobile device already, this solution fits perfectly with modern restaurant management techniques. As a nice bonus, using an inventory app that employees have access to also shows them you're keeping up with the times, earning you some "cool boss" points.

Step 4 Adjust Inventory Management Methods As Needed

All of these steps lead you to the solution to your problems. Find where your mistakes are happening, where the loss of product or money starts, and make the necessary changes. Remedying the problem(s) might include tighter security on the stock room after hours, or perhaps a round of training in food safety and handling is all you need. Whatever the solution is, your restaurant inventory control system can help you implement it. Make your notes, keep your logs, and allow real-time communication between all your staff.

You can further increase the power of your inventory control apps by adding complimentary apps to your toolbox. We have some great articles, such as How to Choose the Best Inventory Control Software for Small Businesses, covering how to use inventory tracker apps, like Zip Inventory and Zip Ordering, and ways to maximize their effectiveness, too.

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