inventory management | 9 mins read

Top 5 Features To Look for in Inventory Management Software

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Sanchari Chatterjee

By Sanchari Chatterjee

What is Restaurant Inventory Management?

One of the most important assets a restaurant or bar owns is its inventory stock, and managing it well can spell success for the business. Restaurant inventory management is the process of tracking inventory levels, identifying trends and allocating raw materials and finished goods to the right places. While there are a number of ways to do this, streamlining the management process with inventory software is by far the best solution, for it makes the job easier and more accurate.

Inventory management is crucial because it makes sure you have absolute inventory control, which in turn will help you run your restaurant efficiently. To understand how to use inventory management in a restaurant, it's important to understand what makes a good inventory system. It's also important to know how inventory systems work in general. An effective inventory system will be able to accurately track your assets, allocate them correctly and help with other simple tasks, like ordering supplies, inventory accounting and placing orders in quick succession.

How Does Inventory Management Software Work?

Inventory management software works in the following ways-

  • Inventory management- An inventory management software streamlines your restaurant operations, from inventory tracking to alerting management about low stock levels and enabling it to get rid of dead stock, and keeping the supply chain running in sync with sales in real time.
  • Order management- When inventory stock levels run low, the software not only issues alerts but can also be primed to place orders to replenish supplies. You no longer have to manually keep track of ingredients and raw materials used in the restaurant.
  • Integrations- Be it a small business or a large chain of restaurants, every establishment uses a number of technological solutions these days that need to run in tandem with each other. An inventory management software will integrate with your accounting software, point of sale (POS) system, payroll management system and so on, to improve the workflow and optimize your operations.
  • Kitchen management- An inventory management system works as a link between your kitchen staff, the wait staff and restaurant management. From tracking orders, to inventory tracking and chain management, the software provides different solutions to make these operational processes smoother.
  • Reports and analytics- One of the most essential needs of any business is to have an overview of the entire operation. Inventory management software can help in this department as well by providing reports and analytics that allow business owners to take a deep dive into inventory usage, sales orders, cash flow and Cost of Goods Sold (COGS).

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How Can a Good Inventory System Profit Your Business?

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  1. When an inventory management system streamlines your restaurant operations, it saves you manual work and thus reduces labor costs. Such a management system also reduce the time it would take to complete each task, which increases the efficiency and productivity of the staff.
  2. An inventory system will make sure a restaurant never runs out of stock and risks having its operations disrupted. The software will help the staff maintain an optimum inventory level, get rid of dead stock and keep the flow of food and beverages going. This way a restaurant owner doe not overspend on unnecessary supplies.
  3. From warehouse management to supply chain management, order management and payroll, inventory systems now come with a range of tools that help business owners take care of all their operational needs. They no longer need to buy different tech solutions from different vendors, and can have one integrated, all-in-one solution at a better rate.
  4. The inventory system will reduce food wastage and prevent loss of ingredients, raw materials and other supplies.
  5. Inventory software that is integrated with employee management tools takes care of labor laws and food safety compliances. This protects restaurant owners from hefty fines they may incur from labor and food safety violations.
  6. With the reporting and analytics tool of inventory management systems, business owners can dig into expenses, revenues and sales and optimize operations through reduced costs.
  7. The software will also keep track of variance reports, which is a comparison of expected sales and expenses with actual sales and expenses. Regular reports will identify problem areas if any, so that they can be immediately addressed.

5 Features To Look for in Inventory Management Software

When selecting a restaurant inventory management software, you need keep your business needs in mind. Opt for a management system that best suits your restaurant and its operations. However, there are some essential features every good restaurant inventory management software must have. Let's take a look at them.

  1. The software must be able to effectively track different types of inventory at multiple locations across the restaurant and maintain stock levels without a scope of error. Flawless and speedy inventory tracking is absolutely essential for smooth restaurant and kitchen management.
  2. If you are a small business looking for tech solutions to optimize your restaurant operations, you must find software that seamlessly integrates with your accounting software, point of sale system, and so on. You can also look for an all-in-one solution such as Zip Inventory that comes with a raft of restaurant management tools, in addition to inventory management.
  3. Consider the kind of sales reports, Cost of Goods Sold reports and variance reports the software generates. These will help you gain better insights into your business.
  4. An inventory management software must be easy to use and hassle-free. So look for tools such as barcode scanning, Bluetooth scales and an easy interface that can be used easily by all your staff. This will reduce your shelf-to-sheet inventory tracking time and improve operations.
  5. Look for inventory software that will also help you streamline your order management. The software can track your sales data, inventory usage patterns, stock levels and supplier delivery schedules, as well as forecast your supply needs and prompt orders.

5 Top Inventory Management Software Solutions for Restaurants

  1. Zip Inventory by Hubworks- The Zip Inventory software by restaurant back-office solutions provider Hubworks will take the load of inventory management off your restaurant manager and free them up for other tasks. With its digital inventory tools, Zip Inventory will streamline your shelf-to-sheet inventory counts and reduce the time it takes to track each inventory item. The software will also help you track wastage, reduce variance costs and simplify vendor ordering. With its analytics tools, Zip Inventory will make sure you are on top of your game and fully prepared to address any sales, cost or labor issues.
  2. Upserve- Upserve by Lightspeed is a restaurant management software that takes care of all restaurant needs such as inventory management, POS system management, employee management, online ordering and marketing. Upserve also supports contactless payment methods, provides insights into business operations and helps improve profit margins.
  3. Toast POS- This software has been rated among the best inventory management apps in the restaurant business because of its easy to use features and integration with other management systems. Toast supports restaurant loyalty programs, real time monitoring, and customer management, among its many features. It offers a free starter kit to small businesses in need of inventory management and POS system tools. However, it only works on an Android-based operating system and doesn't support iOS.
  4. TouchBistro- This is a complete restaurant management and POS suite that works with iPads. From menu management to staff management, employee scheduling, POS system functions like tableside ordering and contactless payments, TouchBistro has a plethora of useful tools to offer. This is a user-friendly system that comes with its own hardware. You can also get the software to run on iPads. However, this one's not for you if you don't go the iOS way.
  5. InFlow- InFlow Inventory is a restaurant management system that takes care of inventory and order management with its software and hardware solutions. The InFlow app works on desktop and mobile devices, allowing you the flexibility to track inventory and manage operations on the go. The inventory system works on both, Android and iOS devices and is suited for small businesses, medium and even large-sized restaurant establishments.

Online employee scheduling software that makes shift planning effortless.
Try it free for 14 days.

What to Consider When Buying an Inventory System?

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The golden rule when shopping for restaurant inventory management software is to list out your specific business needs and analyze which inventory management apps can meet them. This is absolutely crucial when choosing an inventory system. However, there are a few other factors, too, you need to keep in mind.

  • Ease of use- You must take a close look at the software's usability and the kind of interface it offers. You cannot afford to have a complex system that confuses most of your staff.
  • Pricing- This is definitely one of the primary determining factors. If you are a small business just starting out and are in need of an inventory system to streamline operations, you could look at free software solutions available in the market. For others, there are different pricing plans depending on the tools they need and the scale of operations.
  • Locations, Users- An inventory system will work best for you if it supports multiple users operating from multiple locations. A cloud-based inventory management software will help business owners and management manage operations without being restricted to a single terminal. Owners can also keep track of inventory usage, sales and get real time updates without being physically present at the establishment.
  • Integrations- These days, restaurants use a number of tech tools, such as accounting software, POS systems, warehouse management software, online ordering, delivery systems, and so on. It is therefore crucial for an inventory system to be able to integrate with any kind of software seamlessly, so that you don't have to manually migrate data from one system to another.
  • Reports- Lastly, in order to have a better overview of the business operations, you need to have real time insights into sales, purchase orders, supply chain management and expenses. The inventory software should be able to help you with this by tracking all historical data of the inventory and sales and preparing analytical reports for each.

Restaurant Inventory FAQs

Q1- What's wrong with free inventory spreadsheets?
A- Inventory spreadsheets have been the traditional way of tracking inventory, not just for restaurants and bars, but also for other retail businesses. However, it is a cumbersome and often inaccurate method that requires staff to manually enter inventory data at the start or end of the inventory period on a spreadsheet. This leaves room for human error. On the other hand, you have restaurant inventory apps that streamline your restaurant operations, reducing the scope for error and wastage, while also speeding up the process.

Q2- How much do inventory management systems cost?
A- Different inventory systems come at different price points, depending on the tools and features opted for. These software solutions may vary from $60 to $400 or even more, while there are some products available for free.

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