When Does Your Restaurant Need Inventory Tracking?

June 8, 2016 Andrea Victory


When evaluating systems and software for your restaurant management needs, it can be easy to lose track of what is truly important to the day-to-day operations of your business. With various opinions across the industry on must-have POS features or software that will transform your business, it's important to maintain clarity and focus on the POS features that are critical to your business's success.


For example, it can be easy to get glossy-eyed about the bells and whistles of inventory management systems that offer record-keeping down to the minuscule details, but it’s important to remember that those systems, while robust and promising, can be exhausting and meticulous to maintain and end up costing you more than you’re saving in the long run.


So how do you know when your restaurant needs inventory tracking within your POS system? Ask yourself the following 3 questions to determine the inventory management needs of your venue.


1. What are you tracking?

Are you measuring ingredients down to the cups of flour in your burger buns or the amount of seasoning per steak? Is your restaurant using pre-set portions for every item? Tracking inventory this way – per french fry as opposed to per plate – is a painstaking and complicated method, which works best when there is a strict and controlled environment for preparing dishes. A POS that will allow you to track at a menu item level, such as bottles of wine and cuts of steak, is more time effective and is a sufficient amount of information to make reordering decisions.


2. What is your capacity?

When it comes to managing your inventory, it’s important to consider the time necessary to make a detailed system work efficiently. Without constant oversight, inputting and monitoring ingredient inventory levels will become very complicated very quickly. How many staff members can you dedicate solely to inventory? You’ll need at minimum, one full-time person to keep things on track. Keep in mind that there are large scale restaurants that run a tight ship with basic inventory systems that don’t have rigorous tracking down to the ingredient. For many restaurant owners and managers, they’ve found that the labor cost for maintaining an ingredient inventory system outweighs any potential cost savings.


3. What is realistic?

If you’re running an independent restaurant business, it’s important to keep a real world sensibility about what is happening in your restaurant on a daily basis. Tracking item-level inventory as a way to evaluate food cost and determine when you place orders with food and alcohol vendors is a necessary and crucial part of running your business, but getting caught up in the possibility of counting every grain of rice is not realistic. Your time and energy is far better spent overseeing the operation as a whole, training and mentoring staff, analyzing sales reports, perfecting your menu, and creating enticing promotions to get new customers in the door.


Implementing an ingredient-level inventory system can be time-consuming and often impractical if you don't have a dedicated inventory manager at your restaurant. To avoid headaches and mountains of useless data, consider a POS with an inventory system that is less time-consuming to maintain and allows you to track inventory by menu items such as bottles of beer, instead of by ingredients such as tablespoons of salt.


Your time is money – when evaluating a POS solution make sure that it will free up more of your time, not create more work for you and your team.




About the Author

Andrea Victory

Andrea is a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she writes about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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