Creating Your Restaurant's Inventory Management Control System

best practices restaurant inventory management


“I have never kept track of inventory. I know thats bad!!! I want to start doing this but how/where do I start? I currently use square as register so i can keep track there. Is there something else thats better? Thanks.”


Taking Inventory starts with first organizing all your product by category then use (with most frequently used items being closest to the door of the storage room and placed on easy-to-reach shelves). Think of Taxonomy and provide a separate room (or closet) for: Liquor, Food, Paper Products, China & Silver, Chems, etc.

This not only makes taking inventory much easier / faster but prevents people bumping into each other when it’s time to retrieve something. Additionally, it helps to maintain the accountability within the respective departments.

The next step in taking an accurate inventory is to make a list (on paper or digitally) of each and every item on the shelves. This process (and the important order of this process) is commonly referred to as “shelf to sheet”...and it not only ensures the inventory is based off of what is actually / physically there (as opposed to going off of a sheet that might not have been updated / include everything actually there.

The list should have lines at the top for the date, time and person’s name who is taking the inventory.

On either side of each item, I like to have one fixed column. The one to the left should be par (or number you need on-hand) and the column(s) to the right should be you actual on-hand quantity.

The orders can thus be easily determined by subtraction:
PAR - OH inventory (in storage + in use) = Order Quantity*.

*just be sure to note the case quantities on the corresponding order form or on the inventory sheet if that serves as the order form as well.

Checking in orders correctly is the second half of any thorough inventory system. I like to refer to “checking in deliveries” as “Checking In Orders” to remind staff that it’s far more important to check the physical product against the order sheet as opposed to checking it off of the inventory sheet or BOL provided by the vendor. It’s much easier to deal with a vendor’s error in invoicing than it is to deal with the incorrect assumption that everything that was ordered was actually delivered.

That being said, BOTH sheets should be checked when checking in an order.
I.E., check the invoice against the order sheet, then check the invoice against the physical order delivered.

There are automated / digital solutions to this sometimes tedious process that are available through your POS and third party software but if you haven’t done it before, it should (IMHO) be done by hand first so that there is a deeper understanding of the process and an appreciation for the order necessary to ensure accuracy.

After you’ve done your own paper inventory for at least 6-12mos, I’d consider asking your POS provider for more information and Google: “INVENTORY MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS W/ SCANNERS “

You’ll find services like #UpServe, #ToastTab, #Yellowdog and #EZchef, #BevSpot & #Fishbowl. They all have apps where you can assign various tasks to different managers who can simply scan cases, input counts of opened cases, etc... so that an inventory that used to take a couple of hours now takes less than 30mins each day or week (depending on how often you receive deliveries) and reduce the pushback from managers who dred the monotony of this crucial process.

It may also making going from from a monthly physical inventories to weekly or daily/running physical inventories much easier...and that’s one of the most fiscally responsible things you can do for your business (not to mention a tried and true method for mitigating loss/theft).

Good Luck and don’t hesitate to reach out directly for any additional assistance,