Order & Inventory Management

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QUESTION From David in Chengdu:

“What apps and software do you use to place orders with your suppliers and keep track of deliveries & invoices?

Is there a good system out there for this or do you just use email, tel, WhatsApp, etc.?”


Most suppliers have a preferred way of receiving orders and often will not except orders in any other way.

In my experience, the most common method is simply by phone call / leaving a voice mail (with name of restaurant, name of individual ordering, items being ordered with specific quantities/cases.) that’s the easiest way for a rep or owner to play back all of the orders and record them without the fear of an air and copying and pasting or misreading your handwriting.

The next most common way is by an online order sheet provided by the vendor and usually available on their website. Some hospitality/restaurant groups employ a central database where all approved vendors are listed, orders/rebates are tracked and order forms are provided for their outlets to ensure consistency (like OneSource).

The old school method (but still used by many) is the printable form or handwritten form that could be scanned and emailed (or faxed) directly to the vendor by a certain time. This is something the vendor also provides or at least "approves".

As far as track orders/invoices/deliveries goes: I like the BOH to have three separate wall file bins in the receiving area/proximal to storage and near perpetual inventory and par/prep sheets.

The first/top bin designated for the order placed. The second/middle bin for the order invoice that accompanies the shipment received. The third one for credits/account corrections.

While checking for proper weights, temperatures and quality are all vitally important, the most common error I see in ordering/receiving is that the order is checked in off of the accompanying invoice (which may include everything that is physically there… but may NOT include everything that was ordered/on the order sheet).

It is imperative to cross reference BOTH the invoice AND the order. Once both are checked (and, of course, initialed) then the inventory, order and perpetual should all be entered into a spreadsheet or whatever software program you are using e.g., excel spreadsheet, your POS inventory management feature or something more sophisticated like toasttab, upserve, jamix, lightsped, fishbowl or Capterra (there are a ton of them out there that are web based).

If you’re tracking yourself, be sure to enter costs - both unit and extended cost for direct comparison / tracking and to facilitate ease of calculating COGs) . Some can be as simple as a notebook or binder while others can be as robust as systems that track the fluctuations in futures and recommend pars/ordering for you through your POS (and will actually 86 menu items that require certain items to be on hand in order to produce them)- keep in mind that these programs are only as good as the data going in to them and therefore require a high level of management.

Ultimately, I would suggest speaking to your individual vendors to see what method(s) they prefer and your POS provider to see if there are any under-utilized functions / features you may already have (and be paying for) with your current set-up.

Hope that gets you going in the right direction,

Josh Sapienza