Best Inventory Practices for the Professional Kitchen

You might think that barcoding and inventory control is for retail or wholesale establishment, not your commercial kitchen. However when you look at the inventory of ingredients and raw materials required by a professional establishment, inventory control and integration with the front of house suddenly seems like a no-brainer. Find out what a point-of-sale and inventory control system can do for you.

How Many Eggs Do You Use in a Month?

Don’t know? How long will it take you to look it up? Can you tell how many breakfasts you served in April, versus how many breakfasts you served in December? Or can you look at your tablet and know immediately what ingredients need to be used before they expire? All these questions lead up to a valid point: if you don’t know where your ingredients are going that means something could be literally eating your profits. Managing a restaurant presents a variety of challenges. Cost control is a major concern as restaurant margins are usually fairly thin, labor costs are high, and food costs can vary with the season. Taking a full inventory of your kitchen and your stock will let you know what you are using and when, what you are using too much of, and what is going to waste.Clipboard01

There are many sources like Shopify that can provide you with the equipment and software you will need to set up your life inventory and point-of-sale system. They range from very small and simple systems costing between $500 and $1500, to more expensive systems designed for multiple locations, and more complicated setups. Barcoding for restaurants and commercial kitchens may also require specialized software. However, implementing this kind of information system can help you reduce shrinkage in your inventory due to theft, spoilage, or inefficient kitchen practices.

Since the technology has matured it has become less expensive, and cloud-based software also reduces the cost to something within reach of most small businesses. In addition, integrating front of house, kitchen and pantry, and back office operations saves money and time by eliminating redundant tasks from the workflow. According to the Houston Chronicle, businesses that implement point-of-sale and inventory control can reduce and in some cases eliminate shrinkage problems, and may realize cost savings without needing to boost sales.

Four Steps to Controlling Your Pantry

As an owner or manager, you need to know where you stand with regards to your inventory. You need to know everything from how many stockpots you have two how many pounds of mozzarella cheese you will use in a month. Performing the initial count may require that you close down while the inventory is performed, or that you set aside provisions to continue the normal flow of business during the inventory period.

  1. If possible, perform the entire inventory yourself, even if you later plan to delegate responsibility to other members of your staff. If it’s not possible to do that, assign an area to a staff member for which they will be responsible. Have them perform the initial count, then use a colored sticker to indicate that the stock in that area has been counted.
  2. Apportion your ingredients by serving size or the size needed to create a particular offering. For instance, when inventorying the ingredients for bread you should portion by weight, and then create a barcode for that specific weight. Or when you are creating a sandwich tray, create barcodes for serving sizes of meats, cheeses, and vegetables. This will help you to understand your costs and profit margins as relates to the food that you are creating.
  3. Establish policies for inventory control, by making sure that accurate records are kept you will have a real-time inventory of all the items that you use every day. You’ll be able to chart what you use, when you use it, and what you are losing to spoilage from disuse.
  4. Confirm expected usage by tying usage to sales. In the restaurant business it is expected that use and availability of ingredients will vary according to the day of the week, the season, and other variable factors. However, large variances in accounting and inventory should be investigated thoroughly.

Value for Value

Some of the benefits you may realize from implementing this kind of information system also extend to the morale and enthusiasm of your staff, according to Microsoft. There is little that is more frustrating than repetitive and redundant busywork that is unproductive, and at times even counterproductive. Less time spent fiddling the inventory means more time and attention devoted to customer satisfaction, and creating a great restaurant experience. Remember that the basics of Inventory Management 101 apply to every business. Logistics Management gives the definition of inventory control as minimizing cash outlay while optimizing inventory usage to ensure a smooth supply of goods to your customers.