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Sarah Ward

Restaurant Inventory: 10 Inventory Management Essential Tips

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In restaurant operations, if the backend of the business isn’t running properly, the front end–the customer service end–will soon follow along. Restaurant inventory management goes a long way to ensure the restaurant's backbone is strong. It’s one part of everything a restaurant needs to be successful. 

Restaurant inventory is an integral part of a well-run restaurant. If the inventory program isn’t well-suited to the restaurant team, it can lead to issues down the line. If the inventory software in use is incompatible with, say, restaurant POS systems, that can cause problems with keeping everything on track. 

There isn’t any unimportant part of a restaurant management system, but inventory is certainly one of the most important components. Today we’ll walk through the finer details of restaurant inventory, to give you the background you need to run a successful restaurant inventory program.

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Restaurant Inventory Categories

Restaurant inventory can be broken down into categories to make the overall process more manageable. Depending on the structure of your inventory system, these categories may end up grouped together, or they may remain separate across teams and days. You may even find that not all of these categories apply to your restaurant. That’ll depend on your restaurant business plan and design. These are, however, all important to learn about for a well-rounded understanding of restaurant inventory. 

These 10 categories cover all the potential areas of the restaurant. All these moving parts come together to make a great restaurant. When they’re well managed, the rest of the restaurant falls in line. Whether you’re personally looking after each section, or you have inventory teams, paying attention to each section is key to inventory management.

10. Menus

Inventory stock for menus includes everything from the creative needs for coming up with menu design to the paper for the menus. Part of your menu creation takes place outside of the restaurant. By that we mean the printing and manufacturing of your menus. That said, you’ll be keeping the products of the menus themselves at the restaurant, and you’ll need a tidy space for them.

Menus are a small part of restaurant inventory stock, but they are integral to the restaurant overall. Keeping them counted, so you never have to worry about running out, will help you always achieve the best customer service. 

9. Guest Comfort

Guest comfort and satisfaction is a huge part of your restaurant success. Inventory items related to guest comforts can include:

  • Extra chairs
  • Booster seats
  • Extra lighting
  • Children’s place mats

…and anything else you’d like to provide your guests with. This is a rather open-ended category for inventory. It’s all about the customers you would like to reach, and the atmosphere you’re aiming for with your restaurant. It’s best to have a plan for these guest comforts before you open the doors. This area of your budget and inventory could get out of control if you don’t have a firm hold on it. 

8. Employee Support 

As much as you need to support the comfort of your guests, you always need to think about your employees. Specifically, you need to plan for what will make their lives at work easier. As their boss, it is your first and foremost responsibility to make their work environment the best it can be. 

Employee support items can be the best floor mats and gloves. It could also be a well structured break area with a couch and some snacks. Whatever it is, it’s an area of your restaurant that isn’t front-facing, but is vital to your overall success. If your employees aren’t having their needs met, you’ll end up needing to find new employees. 

7. Beverages

Beverages cover a lot of your ingredients inventory count. From liquor to wine to beer brands to garnishes, you’ve got a lot of ground to cover. Even if you plan to keep your selection small, you’ll still put a large chunk of your budget into your beverage stock. Of course, that’s not to mention non-alcoholic beverages like mocktails and juices. 

There are some key tips for keeping your beverage inventory organized and well-stocked. One of the most important is great shelving. From wine storage ideas to a space for kegs, keeping your space tidied up will help with every inventory count. Another tip is to keep an eye on what people are ordering the most. You can alter your inventory orders to fit customer choices. You should also look into different liquor bottle sizes and find which give you more bang for your buck.

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6. Seasonal Ingredients

While seasonal ingredients won’t be a year-round inventory need, they are definitely products you need to factor into your inventory. From holiday dishes to summer cocktails, there are items you’ll need for specific times of the year. 

When planning out your seasonal ingredients list for inventory, you can always lean into holidays and national celebrations for inspiration. This will help you stand out from other restaurants. From Earth Day to National Cocktail Day to International Bagpipe Day, there are plenty of days you can center some seasonal dishes around.

5. Dishes and Utensils

Dishes and utensils will be a constant need. Of course, you won’t need to buy a bunch of plastic and paper items. It won’t be a case of new dishes for every customer in that regard. You will, however, need to have fresh dishes for every table. Depending on how many tables you have available, and your open hours, that could easily get into the hundreds each night. 

On top of the sheer number of dishes and utensils you need every day, you also have to factor in potential breakages and losses-to be recorded on a restaurant profit and loss statement. The dishes and utensils number can be consistent, but it needs to be on your inventory list. 

4. Cleaning Supplies

In the entirety of your restaurant business, a running item on your inventory list will be cleaning supplies. From disinfectants to hand soap, you’ll have an extensive restaurant cleaning supplies list of items you need to keep your restaurant both sanitized and ready for customers. 

Since most cleaning supplies don’t expire, you can do some bulk ordering for these inventory items. However, there will still be items you’ll need to get every few months. Buying from a wholesale marketplace is one of the best options for your cleaning supply needs. 

3. Specialty Alcohol

Beyond your standard beverage options, having some higher end, specialty alcohol on hand will be helpful for some key clientele. You don’t need to stock your liquor shelves with everything from the top brands. However, a few high brow labels will be worth your while. 

If you have specialty cocktails with rum, or maybe a divine whiskey sour, you can invest in the best types of rum or whiskey. If you focus on gin drinks, you can dive into the world of types of gin. The main idea is, find the alcohol options you want to be able to offer, and give them a space in your inventory list.

2. Meal Prep Supplies

When we say meal prep supplies, we aren’t talking about ingredients for recipes–we’ll get to that next. These prep supplies are everything your chefs will need to mix up meals. This list can include:

  • Knives
  • Cutting boards
  • Skewers and toothpicks
  • Pots and pans
  • Baking trays
  • Mixing utensils
  • Towels
  • Blenders
  • Mixing bowls

Anything you’ll need to mix up the dishes you want to serve should be accounted for. You won’t need to constantly purchase this inventory, but it’ll be a substantial amount when you open your restaurant. There will also be replacements over time. 

1. Staple Ingredients

Staple ingredients are in the number one spot because without them, you won’t have a running restaurant. Staple ingredients include everything from spices to cuts of meat. If you’re unsure where to start, you can make up a grocery list for the meals you want to serve. Then all you have to do is multiply it by the amount of people you have the capacity to serve. When you're ordering it, looking into flat rate shipping might be helpful.

Staple ingredients go together with several other items on this list to make up everything you need to keep your restaurant running smoothly. Though not everything here will apply to you, most of it will in some capacity.

Restaurant Inventory Management System

A restaurant inventory management system drives the restaurant forward with meal preparation, customer service, and organization. With the 10 above facets of restaurant inventory working together, a restaurant inventory management system can help in all areas of the restaurant business. 

There are, of course, ways to make the process even more efficient. From technological support to mobile inventory management, inventory isn’t just about an inventory spreadsheet anymore. 

Restaurant inventory management software can go a long way toward helping a restaurant maintain inventory structure. When it comes to great inventory management software, BinWise Pro and BlueCart make a great pair. BinWise gives you control over your liquor inventory, with BinScan mobile support. BlueCart optimizes your food ordering and organization, so you always have the ingredients you need. 

How Do Restaurants Manage Inventory?

Restaurants manage inventory through a mix of physical work and technological support. A great beverage software program and food ordering system are both vital. However, great employees and a management staff who are working together are equally important. A restaurant inventory management system is only as strong and efficient as the team implementing the inventory process.

The most efficient restaurant inventory management systems rely on the best tech to make inventory simple for the team working to get it done. Restaurant inventory has so many facets to be checking, and so many numbers to crunch. A great software program lifts the weight off the shoulders of you and your employees. It gives you more time to focus on every other part of your restaurant.

Frequently Asked Questions About Restaurant Inventory

Restaurant inventory is one of the most important parts of running a successful restaurant. There will always be more you can learn about restaurant inventory, and these questions will help you along the way. Whether you’re just starting out or you’re refining your inventory practice, read on. 

What is Inventory in a Restaurant?

Inventory in a restaurant is the tracking of every item coming in and going out of restaurant stock. It’s also the tracking of the restaurant budget in regard to inventory items. A quality restaurant inventory practice keeps the restaurant always well-stocked and financially stable. 

Why is Inventory Important in a Restaurant?

Inventory is important in a restaurant because there are so many moving parts. Keeping track of inventory items and the budget keeps the whole process running smoothly. A hiccup in the inventory process can knock the entire restaurant off kilter. That’s why keeping inventory consistent is so important to a successful restaurant. 

How Much Inventory Should a Restaurant Carry?

Typically, a restaurant should have enough inventory on hand at any given moment to cover around a week of sales. Having slightly over a week’s worth of inventory can be good as a backup. However, having too much surplus will lead to clutter and potential inventory waste. Having a solid reorder point and inventory tracking system, paired with a week of inventory on hand, will make for a good inventory system.

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Restaurant Inventory: Running the Restaurant

Running a successful restaurant inventory management system is a key component of running a great restaurant. It’ll take time and effort to set up your inventory system, but once you find your groove it’ll ease every process. Come back to the BinWise blog for advice on inventory management and other restaurant business tips any time you need the extra hand.

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