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Restaurant Inventory: Tips To Increase Efficiency and Boost Profits

menuAs a restaurateur, you probably struggle with inventory on a regular basis.  Balancing walk-in space, fast-selling menu items, and slow moving items can create a constant headache.  Some of your product moves quickly, some does not, and inevitably some ends up sitting in the walk-in for far too long.

That sitting product is costing your restaurant money, because you’ve already invested money in it but you aren’t seeing any return in the form of sold entrees to customers.  Even worse, it’s taking up room in your walk-in while it costs you money.  So how to turn frozen product into dollars in the cash register?  Some tips to help you manage inventory:

What do you need?  What do you already have?  It’s very hard to manage inventory when you don’t know what you’ve got and what you need.  More than likely you use a POS system to help you manage existing inventory and to track sales so you know what you need more of.  However, it’s important to supplement any POS tracking with a regular manual inventory of your stock.  That way you can double check what the software is telling you while also checking that food quality has been maintained.  A regular inventory schedule will also let you track trends in your inventory, like items that sell better or worse seasonally and product that you consistently have too much or too little of.

Get creative with what you’ve got.  Once you identify the food products you’ve got more than enough of, you need to think of a way to move that product from walk-in to plate.  That means getting creative.  Develop specials and supplemental menu items that feature your excess product at a sale price.  This strategy has multiple benefits: it adds some variety to your menu, it turns sitting product into dollars, and it can provide a little easy market research.

Variety and selling product are pretty self-explanatory.  The most exciting benefit is testing new items made from product you already stock on your customers.  You never know when you’re going to stumble across a hit that really sells well.  When you do, adding it to the menu is easy because you already buy the product and you know how to prepare it.  The best part is, you’re taking extra inventory that was sitting around and moving it out the door, all while giving your customers something new to rave about.

Effectively managing and utilizing your inventory first takes accurate data.  Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can apply the best of your creative process to maximize the efficiency of your kitchen.  The opportunities the extra product lying around your freezer represent an exciting way to hone your menu into a selling machine with very little waste.  And once you get your restaurant operating at that level of efficiency, better sales, and better profits, will follow.

About Greg McGuire

Greg has blogged about the food service industry for years and has been published in industry magazines, like Independent Restaurateur and industry blogs like Restaurant SmartBrief. He lives in Colorado with his wife and two sons and enjoys reading, live music, and the great outdoors.

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