How To Properly Purchase, Order, and Receive Restaurant Inventory

If you can get through to your next ordering day with no leftover product, no spoilage, and no 86’d menu items, then you are winning at ordering.  However, this is hardly the case for most of restaurant operators.  How you order, receive, and store restaurant inventory ultimately helps you to control your food cost.  Here are some  inventory best practices.

Keys to Ordering Product

  • Accurately forecast your sales. It is extremely important to look at last year’s sales each day to know what to expect this year.  You must also consider other factors, such as the current economy, local events, weather conditions, and local competition.
  • Evaluate your needs. Take a look at your last order, do an inventory to see what you have on hand, then consider your sales forecast to determine where you need to be in the next few days or weeks (whenever your next order is; see below).
  • Know the vendors unit sizes. How a product is sold can differ from vendor to vendor.  Before placing an order,  check to see the unit size –- this might be each, case, bottle, container, pound, ounce, etc.  It may be necessary to check your vendor’s terms to see if there is an extra charge to split a case, and to determine if it’s more cost effective to order the case or split it.
  • Consider the timing of your order. The number of orders you place per week will vary based on your volume of sales and how much storage space you have.  You should figure out what works best for you -– do you need to bulk order dry goods, or have seafood or produce coming in every few days? Factors like these should be used to determine a regular schedule, based on your restaurant’s needs.  The key to lowering your food costs is to keep your inventory as low as possible without running out of product.
  • Have a backup vendor. No vendor can have everything you need, every time that you need it.  It is wise to have a few backup vendors already lined up in case your delivery is short and that vendor can’t provide more of an item quickly enough to accommodate your restaurant group’s needs.  Be sure to check your contracts with your primary vendors first.

Keys to Receiving Product

  • Engage help. Ensure that two to three trusted employees  are trained to properly receive and store incoming product to ensure that it is done correctly, even in your store manager’s absence.
  • Schedule deliveries wisely. Make sure to have your deliveries arrive when first authorized person is there to sign for it. Typically, between 8:00 – 11:00 AM works best (though you should consider having a specific delivery time window added to your contract during the next renewal).  Nothing is worse than having a truck at the back dock when the restaurant is slammed.  Venders sometimes offer “dark drops” outside your door for a discount.  This is not recommended, because if nobody is there to check the order for accuracy and quality, then you may not be actually saving money.
  • Print the order. The person receiving the order should have a printed copy of the order when checking it in.  Going off the vendor invoice reflects what the order contains, not necessarily what was ordered.  If your order is shorted, you will want to know immediately to fix the error with that vendor or contact a backup vendor.
  • Open each case. It is important to check the count and quality of every item.  Be sure to alert the vendor that you are planning to do this in advance so that the drivers have ample time for you to review your order.
  • Return unacceptable items. It’s acceptable to send poor quality items back with the driver.  This is easier than accepting the item and trying to replace it after you have signed for it.  Be sure to mark these changes on the invoice, and have the driver initial it to head off any possible discrepancies.
  • Spot check weights. Pre-portioned items are convenient and cut out extra steps for your kitchen staff. But even the most trustworthy vendors can over or under portion, which can throw off your consistency and/or food costs.  A quick spot check will make sure that you are getting what you ordered.
  • Lock the back door. Make sure to lock the door at all times, especially after a new delivery when items are still boxed and in close proximity to the exit.

Keys to Storing Product:

  • Get organized. The time spent organizing upfront will pay off with the time that you save down the road.  Be sure that products have a permanent home to make them easy to find.  Similar items should be placed together for easy unloading.
  • Put everything away immediately. The same key employees who check in the order should be responsible for storing it correctly as soon as it arrives.  As tempting as it may be to “deal with it later,’ putting it off will only lead to spoilage, forgotten or misplaced product/boxes, or theft.  Ensure that your managers set a good example so that employees learn from them.
  • First in, first out. Be sure to have your staff place the new items behind the items already on your shelf, to promote “first in, first out” and prevent spoilage.
  • Limit access. Place expensive items in a secure area that only managers have access to.

If you would like to easily manage inventory to increase efficiency and boost profits, consider an inventory management system that’s part of a comprehensive, restaurant-specific management solution. Restaurant365 incorporates restaurant accounting,  restaurant operations,   schedulingpayroll and HR into an all-in-one, cloud-based platform.  It also includes tools for financial reportingoperational reporting, and more.

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