Restaurant Inventory: 7 Best Practices to Drive Ultimate Success

Anyone working in the food service industry knows that inventory management is the foundation of everything you do. For many restaurants, physical inventory is your greatest expense. That’s why creating best practices to handle your inventory can, in some cases, mean the difference between success and failure of your restaurant. Although inventory management may not be the most exciting part of overseeing a restaurant, establishing a comprehensive process for it will distinguish you from your competitors and set you up for ultimate restaurant inventory success

In this article you will learn:

  • How to take inventory
  • The benefits of restaurant technology
  • How to automate your day-to-day
How to Take Inventory Amidst a Pandemic

Inventory counts are crucial to visualizing your stock on hand. Usually, you may assign a team of workers to oversee this process, but you may need to reconsider this while facing the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure health safety, it’s important to limit contact with others

employees socially distanced

If you are unable to count inventory yourself, assign only one to two people to count your products and maintain the recommended distance of six feet. Wear personal protective gear when needed and create a rotating schedule to limit the amount of people in your restaurant at once. 

Restrict the number of items (i.e. pens and paper) that are passed from one person to another to decrease the chance of spreading germs. A great way to avoid this is by automating your day-to-day with inventory management software to seamlessly manage your physical inventory from a mobile device. 

Why You Should Build a Team

It’s no secret that inventory tracking is not the most exciting aspect of restaurant management, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Get your team invested in inventory counting by letting them know the importance it has on the success of the restaurant.

A well-trained team helps maintain accurate inventory, reduce food waste, and save money. In return, you can allocate the money saved towards your hard working staff members instead. 

Creating a team will also eliminate the guesswork of inventory management, and pinpoint specific waste events like over-portioning or theft. Assigning people to certain tasks and storage areas will allow you to create a consistent schedule, putting you on the track to restaurant inventory success.

When Should You Take Inventory?

So you’ve assigned specific people to handle inventory counting and you’re ready to create shifts. But where to begin? 

Restaurants that take weekly inventory counts add 2-10% to their bottom line. Setting a consistent schedule for inventory counting will allow you and your staff to have a clear understanding of accurate inventory levels. 

Visualizing the amount of products you use within certain time frames will help you recognize patterns over time and improve your menu forecasting. Although these are not strict guidelines, you should always consider taking inventory counts before your restaurant opens, after your restaurant closes, and before placing any orders from your suppliers. 

By following these steps, you’ll be able to keep an eye on fluctuating food costs, avoid over ordering and sitting inventory, and keep costs down.

How to Use The FIFO Method

About 10% of food is wasted even before getting to the customer’s table. Avoiding food spoilage of raw materials and food waste from over portioning is critical to keeping your food costs low. 

The First-In, First-Out method (FIFO) is a process in which products that were received first are also used first. Implement the FIFO method based on storage areas to decrease the amount of unused products in your restaurant. Organize your inventory of raw materials by keeping newly arrived items in the back, and older products in the front. 

first in first out method

This will make it easier for your team to access the older inventory first and ensure that they are used before spoilage. For greater accuracy, check that each section (freezer, fridge, dry storage, etc.) of your back storage is organized in a way that the FIFO method can be implemented and maintained by your inventory team members.    

How to Log Food Waste in A Waste Sheet

Food waste is an unfortunate but inevitable part of a restaurant’s inventory whether it may occur during preparation of raw materials or a mishap with finished goods. Keep track of items that you can no longer use by logging them in a waste sheet. 

Waste sheets note the types and quantities of waste in your restaurant and identify potential operational problems by recording instances of accidents, theft, and spoilage organized in a spreadsheet. Logging all of your food waste manually in a waste sheet however, can be tedious, disorganized, and simply time consuming. 

With a restaurant inventory management system like MarketMan you can log your waste events with just a few clicks, while organizing them by date, description, item type, category, or storage area. 

Streamlining this process will allow you to automatically see the value of your waste, update your stock on hand, and reflect accurate inventory levels. 

What Is Remote Temperature Monitoring

We know that if you are part of a multi-unit franchise, keeping track of all your inventory and restaurant technology to maintain uniformity may feel overwhelming. However, remote temperature monitoring technology can lift some of that burden, presenting several advantages for your restaurant’s inventory. 

Squadle Sense’s Temperature Sensors provide non-invasive and reliable temperature monitoring for perishable products in your freezers, refrigerators, and coolers. With custom tracking and alerts, avoiding inventory loss is easier than ever. The temperature monitoring system also predicts equipment failures before they happen, so you can feel confident about the safety of your inventory even when you’re not around. 

Commissary Kitchens 

If you are a multi-unit franchise, then you know all about commissary kitchens. They’re a great way to leverage buying power and order more based on negotiated fixed pricing from suppliers. 

Commissaries are able to control more of their spending, prepare large scale batch preparations, and create mass-produced orders. Commissary kitchens are a great way to streamline complicated restaurant operations for large-scale businesses.

It allows for consistent inventory and ensures quality of finished goods across all locations.

How to Automate Inventory Process

Investing in a point of sale (POS) system will help your restaurant automate inventory tracking based on customer purchases. Instead of recording things by hand, you can seamlessly combine your POS with an inventory management system. 

This will allow you to automatically deduct inventory as your staff inputs customer orders. A cloud-based solution like MarketMan will give you all you need to have full control over managing inventory, waste events, recipe building, ordering, inventory alerts, and more. 

Setting up the goal to attain restaurant inventory success doesn’t have to feel overwhelming. Refine your inventory management process day by day by implementing these best practices and ensuring that your staff stick to them. Doing so will give you the visibility, organization, and control of your restaurant needed to achieve ultimate restaurant inventory success.  

Are you ready to keep your costs under control, manage inventory efficiently, and improve your bottom line? Sign up for a free demo with us at MarketMan to find out how you can automate your back of house operations!


Greta Kovacs is the Marketing Associate at MarketMan, a leading restaurant inventory and vendor payment management software company dedicated to helping restaurants save time and money by streamlining their back of house operations. MarketMan users are able to automate their day-to-day tasks by simplifying ordering, invoice scanning, and inventory counting, so that they can focus more on their customers and manage more, faster. 

Greta Kovacs