This edition of MRM's "Ask the Expert” features advice from Buyers Edge Platform. Please send questions to Modern Restaurant Management (MRM) magazine Executive Editor Barbara Castiglia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Taking inventory is one of the most tedious processes in restaurant operations. Chefs spend countless hours counting inventory, purchasing new ingredients, and tracking down more cost-effective substitutions for products that are either cancelled or out of stock.
With a labor shortage looming over the foodservice industry, operators don’t have time to focus on their inventory. Instead, they’re busy working through labor issues and trying to figure out how to keep their doors open, sometimes leaving the kitchen to take a backseat.
When inventory management is done the right way, operators can reduce costs, reduce waste, and reduce the number of hours spent managing this important variable of their business. This is where technology can help as the most effective inventory management tool is the kind that allows you to streamline the entire process.
Utilizing technology to manage inventory can alleviate the stress of the task and make it an easier process for operators and/or their employees.
Here are some different ways technology can streamline your inventory management:
Using inventory-management tools can help you automatically track your in-house inventory levels. Operators can utilize technology to track inventory every time they order and receive products, instead of having to conduct large inventory counts at the end of each month or quarter. Technology allows you to keep ongoing inventory, allowing for more accurate forecasting, more insightful ordering, and real-time course correcting when you get close to going over budget.
When you don’t know the true cost of each of your menu items, there is no way to accurately order the right amount of ingredients. Inventory-management technology enables chefs to build recipes directly into the software and calculate accurate costs for each plate. As ingredient costs naturally fluctuate over time, recipe costs automatically adjust, allowing for more accurate pricing, forecasting and menu development. If you notice a higher food cost than usual, the right technology tool can help you adjust your selling price or find the same or a similar ingredient at a lower cost.
The worst thing you want to do is tell your customers you ran out of the ingredients to make their favorite plates. Not only can using technology ensure you keep your inventory stocked with your profitable plates and crowd favorite ingredients, but it can also improve staff morale. They are the ones who bear the brunt of angry customers when they have to let them down with the old adage: “Sorry, we don’t have that item tonight.”
When you don’t take timely and accurate inventory, you can end up ordering too much of something. This leaves room for unused ingredients to go to waste. Which means money down the drain for you. By using inventory technology, you can maintain optimal inventory levels and in return, minimize the amount of waste you produce from unused or spoiled products.
In today’s environment, there are technology solutions to better streamline processes in almost every area of your operation – and inventory is one of the easiest business practices to move from manual to automation. Rising food prices, over ordering and product waste can all lead to higher food costs. Through digital transformation you can let technology work for you.