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How to Track Inventory in Excel | A Quick Guide to a Classic Tool

how to track inventory in excel a quick guide to a classic tool
Daphne Blake

By Daphne Blake

Learn to track inventory for your restaurant with these quick tips

Inventory tracking can be cumbersome and expensive, but if you know how to track inventory in Excel, you can save time and money, while improving your store's efficiency.

Inventory basics and why they're important to know

Running a successful business takes time, patience, and money, all while moving at a fast pace to keep up with changing trends and demanding customers. It sounds like an impossible task. How do you take time and use patience while still moving quickly? The answer is to understand what your business needs to stay on top and finding ways to get things done more efficiently. Inventory control is one of the major time sinks of any retail business, and it just so happens to be one of the easiest places to improve efficiency and cut costs, too. And you do it by learning how to track inventory in Excel. But to do so, you need to understand the basics of inventory first.

Tracking inventory is more complicated than merely counting supplies. Sure, you'll need to know how many tomatoes are in the fridge and how many napkins you've got in the storage room, but to track inventory right, you need to pay attention to every detail. This means accurate counts done efficiently, and the reports in an easy-to-read format. It means tracking costs, not just heads of lettuce and cans of beans. And it means prioritizing products, placing orders, and understanding customer needs. And, as unfair as it may seem, it also means you may need to be a bit of a mind-reader.

All of that can quickly overwhelm even the most dedicated manager. Thankfully, learning how to track inventory in Excel makes every aspect listed above easier, saving you time, money, and headaches.

What to track in Excel

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Excel can be used for any number of complicated tasks, including budgets, time tracking and wages, and making charts and graphs. While all of this is useful to most businesses, even food service, we're going to focus on ways to track inventory with Excel. The program can seem complicated, so it's best to go into this knowing exactly what you need from it, to help avoid being overwhelmed.

1. Products, ingredients, and components for recipes.

Knowing what you need to make the food on your menu is at the top of this list. After all, if you don't accurately track your ingredients, how will you make meals for your customers? When learning how to track inventory in Excel, your top priority is monitoring the components to each of your recipes, side dishes, and even the garnish options. Making a spreadsheet for recipes is a great way to make sure you never run out of vital components.

2. Backend supplies.

Track your backend supplies, like non-food kitchen items, cleaning supplies, and office supplies. Your customers may not care how much printer ink you have or how many reams of printer paper you have, your employees sure will. Don't forget paper towels, toilet paper, and soap, either. If you had to buy it, even if it will never need to be replaced, it needs to be on your inventory list.

3. Front-end and dining area supplies.

Some inventory lists are missing less-obvious supplies like napkin rings and salt shakers and other front-end, non-food items. Even though these things usually don't need to be often replaced, and they seem trivial at first glance, it's still a good idea to keep track of what you have and what condition they're in. That will make it easier to replace them when the time comes, even if it's years from now.

4. Cost of goods.

Nothing is trivial—it all costs something, and you should know how much that is. Along with what you have (and what you need), you should track what everything costs. Knowing what every item costs helps you plan and maintain a budget that focuses on both qualities for customers and profits for the company. Forgetting to budget for sugar packets or stir sticks may not seem like a big deal right now, but that one small mistake can anger a lot of paying customers.

Mobile inventory apps can help Now that you know how to track inventory in Excel, you might think you're ready to get to work. But there's more you can do. Finding efficient and affordable ways to track inventory is one of the main parts of running a successful restaurant. While using Excel to get the job done is better than the old way—logbooks and paper files all written by hand—you can further increase your efficiency and maximize savings by adding a powerful mobile inventory app to your toolbox. In addition to learning how to track inventory in Excel, finding an app to boost efficiency will help your bottom line a great deal. A top-tier inventory app will be able to read the CSV files you created in Excel, meaning you won't need to spend more time inputting all the spreadsheets and inventory by hand when it's time to upgrade.

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