Managing your restaurant inventory, deliveries and suppliers

Good stock and supply management is essential for minimising food wastage and optimising costs and margins. But what are the best practices in this field? See Zenchef’s tips for managing your restaurant inventory, deliveries and supplier relations below.

Managing your restaurant inventory

In the restaurant sector, food-related expenses are one of the most substantial cost items. Good stock management can help significantly boost your restaurant’s profits

Careful monitoring of your food stock levels is also indispensable for:

  • Optimising the purchase of raw materials
  • Streamlining production costs and greatly reducing financial losses linked to wastage
  • Limiting food hygiene and safety risks caused by the spoilage of perishable food
  • Reducing the stress associated with stockouts, stock shortages or a lack of organisation when monitoring inventory.  

Here are a few tips for managing your restaurant’s food inventory:

  • Create recipe cards for each dish
  • Be meticulous about stocktaking
  • Maintain an annual inventory tracking table
  • Make teams accountable, and train them
  • Do not place orders too often.

Create recipe cards for each dish

If you want to avoid over or underestimating your actual raw material needs, recipe cards are a key tool for managing stock levels and for knowing how much each dish costs. 

Recipe cards should include the following information:

  • Name of the recipe and the chef who created it
  • Dish description and preparation steps
  • Dish serving size
  • Dish prep time
  • List of ingredients and weight/measurement of each ingredient
  • Dish selling price
  • Dish cost price.

Recipe cards can be invaluable for evaluating the profitability of a dish, calculating its margin and for planning orders accurately. They can also be used to provide technical instructions to kitchen staff. 

Be meticulous about stocktaking

Stocktaking should be carried out on a regular basis. Some restaurant owners do a monthly stocktake, but a weekly stocktake is preferable: the objective is to account for all items in your inventory. 

To save time and avoid errors, we recommend using inventory management software such as Koust, Easilys, Yokitup, Melba or Symbioz.  

Stocktaking should disclose:

  • Available inventory (the type and quantity of produce available)
  • Stock depletion (the quantity of produce used daily)
  • Inventory usage (the period necessary to use up an item in stock)
  • Inventory variance (the difference between the cost of goods sold and the cost of inventory usage).

Stocktaking can also uncover any potential flaws or inconsistencies (staff error, theft, dishes offered free-of-charge to unsatisfied customers, spillages, lost produce, etc.).

Here are some examples of best practice for properly carrying out a food stocktake:

  • Organise storage spaces by food category and expiry dates, and label each item.
  • Designate a team responsible for food inventory and food deliveries.
  • Be consistent: carry out the stocktake on the same day and at the same time.
  • Build an inventory tracking sheet to monitor the quantities sold, used, wasted or lost, and the associated costs.
  • Track sales on a daily basis and properly manage cash flow to replenish stocks accordingly. 

Maintain an annual inventory tracking table

To optimise stock management from one year to the next, many restaurant owners keep an annual inventory tracking table to analyse their monthly requirements. This table should notably include the items used based on the number of covers served. It is a particularly valuable tool for streamlining the management of a restaurant each year, and for controlling the inventory turnover ratio.

Make teams accountable, and train them

Very often, the head chef will take sole responsibility for inventory management. Although the chef should supervise this task, it is crucial that staff are trained in proper inventory management practices so that they understand its importance. 

In practice, the whole team (chef, kitchen assistant, barman, sommelier, etc.) should be responsible for a restaurant’s inventory. It is also important to manage staff well and to ensure smooth and instantaneous communication between the kitchen and dining room teams so that employees are rapidly informed of the slightest change (unavailable or spoiled dishes, spillages, replacements, etc.).

Do not place orders too often

Having produce arrive every day is very counterproductive. Not only is this extremely time consuming (orders have to be placed with suppliers, produce received, raw materials put away, stock information updated, and so on), receiving deliveries too often makes inventory control more complex and increases the risk of perishable food wastage.

Managing supplier relations

Good restaurant management and stock management also entail maintaining proper communication with suppliers. Here are some tips on how to do this:

Choose your suppliers well

Choosing the right business partners is paramount for guaranteeing the sustainability of your business and the quality of your dishes, as well as for ensuring that you benefit from fair prices and satisfactory delivery conditions.

When choosing your suppliers, consider the following: 

  • Value for money
  • Delivery times
  • Certifications and labels (organic, local, etc.), in accordance with your restaurant’s quality standards and positioning
  • Location of the warehouse
  • Purchase, restocking, payment and delivery terms and conditions
  • Supplier’s reputation, customer reviews, etc. 

Negotiate delivery prices

Make sure you negotiate prices quoted by suppliers and shop around. This is especially important if you are committing to long-term contracts or large-volume orders. 

Negotiating prices will boost your gross margin and improve your profits. You can also negotiate delivery conditions, payment terms, payment deadlines, and so on. 

Maintain harmonious relations with suppliers

Your suppliers play a pivotal role in the success of your restaurant business. Ensure you maintain a cordial and professional relationship with them, and take the time to build their trust. Lastly, make sure you settle invoices on time.

Check the goods received and control invoices

To avoid detrimental delivery errors, remember to check each order for the following: 

  • Invoice and order form content
  • Price
  • Quantities indicated and nature of each article delivered.

Remember to regularly reassess your suppliers and their prices to see if you can find a better deal or higher quality elsewhere.

For more tips on running a restaurant, check out our other articles: 

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