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A Restaurant Inventory Guide For The Dining Business

Restaurants have to work close to the edge. You need to use up what food products you buy, present fresh and safe food to all your guests, and shop smart every time to turn a profit. The tips below can help your inventory process run more smoothly.

Focus On FIFO

FIFO, or first in first out, is critical in the restaurant business. You can’t let any foods get pushed back deep inside the refrigerator or freezer. In terms of production, for example, this may mean staying on top of salad or green purchases as winter comes on. If you give the option of soup or salad in cold weather, you may sell more soup.

Make sure you also have a tracking sheet for food waste. If you find that you’re consistently tossing a particular food item, it’s either time to stop buying it, lower your quantity, or change the presentation.

Have just one chef take inventory of foods as they come in. On their tracking sheet, include a “purchased” and a “use by” date. You and your chef may need to come up with a soup or a side dish to use up food that is approaching the end of its useful life. It may also be time to back off that product to see if demand comes back.

Take A Look At Your Menu

As food prices rise, it is time to look at your menu. If you can’t sell it regularly, it may need to come off the regular menu and get moved to a weekly special or dropped altogether. To that end, the use of restaurant inventory tracking software may allow you to track product sales by item as well as by plate.

For example, if you serve breakfast every day, you’re going to sell a lot of eggs in many different formats. If your most popular breakfast item is an omelet, your set purchases of omelet fillings will likely need to stay static. However, if your most popular omelet in terms of sales is the “choose 3 items and build it yourself” and you have a lot of waste around unchosen items, it’s time to streamline the options list.

Do take care to offer specials of items you’ve taken off the menu. You don’t want guests to come in and lament the loss of their favorite item. Loop in your marketing team and take to social media, sharing information on when former menu items will be featured so guests can still enjoy their tastiest treat.

Check Your Supplier Price List

Everyone is paying more for just about everything right now. As your guests probably have less cash to spend at your restaurant, do your best to provide them with quality food in ways that they might not think of or be able to prepare.

For example, everyone has an oven at home. Baked potatoes are cheaper to produce at home than in your restaurant. Twice-baked potatoes loaded with all the fixings are cheaper and easier to produce at your restaurant than at home.

Your chef can help you make better choices about raw goods selection at your supplier. Make sure you carefully review all the tools at your disposal in your restaurant. You probably have an excellent quality deep-fat fryer. For most home cooks, deep-fat frying at home is a messy business full of spatter and smoke. If you offer fried chicken or fried fish, you’ve got another dish that is much easier to make at your facility than at home.

Additionally, make sure you are offering combination dishes. A home shopper on a budget may not be able to justify buying a wide variety of products to generate a salad or a side dish that contains multiple items, but you can. Grilled asparagus is always yummy, but if you can pair it with a salad loaded with everything else, you can keep your costs low and offer the diner something they may not be able to do at home.

Protect The Protein

Meat prices have skyrocketed in recent months. Diners may be skipping steak at home, so make sure the ones you’re selling are prepared as only your chef can. To that end, keep an eye on special deals from your supplier and plan your dining specials for the weekend around these deals.

Try to sweeten the pot. If you can get a great price on London broil, put together a special that features a choice of potato and a free dessert or a free glass of wine with dinner. Bring in your sommelier to help you make the best choice to pair with the meat. Diners may feel that they’re getting a bargain with the free dessert or wine and a bonus with the starch choice, giving you a better gain on the London broil than on other protein cuts.

Pay special attention to the aroma that your diners first enjoy when they step into your facility. If fried chicken is your special, prepare a plate or two for your staff to enjoy before guests arrive and scent the space. If you’re preparing a pork loin with rosemary and other herbs, an essential oil diffuser featuring herbs in addition to the roasting meat could be a good choice. For restaurants that focus on fish, citrus or lemon-scented fragrance may be the best bet just inside the door.

A Word About Hardware

Eventually, breakage and loss will impact your bottom line. Catastrophic losses of cups, plates, and silverware are rare, but accidents happen. Assign an employee to take a hard look at all your cups, glasses, silverware, and plates. Your bartender can police barware. Be proactive about getting rid of items that are scarred, bent, or just worn out. Consider donating these items to a shelter or just discarding them.

Everything that comes into your restaurant needs to go out at a profit for you to stay in business. In addition to creating delicious food and a memorable experience, you need to know that you’re using your ingredients at their peak of freshness. Monitor what you bring in and make sure everything in the refrigerator and freezer has a “use by” date to avoid waste.

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