Don Bye
Blog, Restaurant reporting

Your QSR has a way to track inventory. All restaurants do. But are you making the most of your inventory tools? You probably spend 25 to 35 percent of your operating budget on food. Optimizing your inventory tools or implementing an inventory software system can reduce the amount of time inventory takes, generate more accurate counts, and improve your margins by reducing spoilage and ensuring you never run low. 

Inventory is always a delicate balance between having enough product to not run out, but not too much to flood the shelves, tie up capital, and increase theft/loss opportunities. Regular reporting and new digital tools can help you get there. So, here are five ways you can make inventory software work better for you.

1. Show your employees the importance of inventory

Your inventory software is only as good as the people who use it, and odds are you’re not always going to be the one doing the inventory. From managers to shift runners and even team members, every employee has a hand in the inventory process. And while some of them know the importance of taking inventory, most of your employees probably aren’t too enthusiastic about counting cups.

Show your employees the importance of inventory, not just because it’s good for the store, but because it makes their jobs easier. Here are a few of the ways taking a good inventory helps your team members:

  1. An accurate count ensures your line is fully stocked, which means your employees don’t have to tell customers they’re out of their favorite ingredient.
  2. Taking a quick inventory periodically throughout the day means less time counting at the end of the day, which means closers get to go home sooner.
  3. Less waste means more revenue for the store, which can mean more money for store improvements or raises.

Your store employees are the ones who’ll be doing the majority of the inventory, so it’s important to get them invested in doing it well.

2. Be careful with guessing and rounding

Ok, let’s be honest: you’re not going to get exact inventory counts for everything in your store. Employees aren’t going to empty a large container of ketchup to measure the exact number of ounces that are left, nor are they going to open a box to make sure there are really 250 to-go boxes inside instead of 249. But some estimations can be more accurate.

Going back to our ketchup example, it’s not uncommon for an employee doing inventory to say that a partially empty container is half full. Have your employees estimate with as much accuracy as they can; it won’t be exact, but a container that’s 75 percent full is very different than one that’s only 25 percent full. 

Estimating some of your inventory is inevitable, so you’ll always have some small inaccuracies. But these discrepancies add up. Improve your guessing and rounding practices, and your inventory software will be more accurate.

3. Don’t ignore what your inventory is telling you

Taking inventory isn’t just about making sure you know when to re-stock. It’s about reducing waste, preventing under- and over-ordering, and identifying discrepancies due to store trades or theft. Your inventory tools can show you these things and more – but it’s your job to take action on these things.

If your inventory software identifies that you’re consistently ordering 20 percent more of a certain item than you use in a busy week, order less. Sounds easy, right? It’s perfectly okay to order a little more than you need, to prevent running out, but don’t go overboard.

Pay special attention to items that expire quickly. If you order too many non-perishable condiment packets, that’s not a big deal – you’ll use them eventually. But if you order too much cheese or fresh veggies, you’ve got to find a way to use them before they expire. Pay special attention to diet soda – the expiration date on diet soft drinks tends to be much sooner than their non-diet counterparts.

4. Upgrade your inventory software

As Delaget’s inventory software expert says, “use the tools.” Inventory software tools include activity reports, variance reports, and more. Tools like Delaget Stats combine multiple other reports into a single period-end report detailing all activity at the end of a period.

Do you have more than one QSR? Inventory software tools are often available not just at the store-level, but at the region level. Use inventory software to manage your inventory across all of them. Compare like-volume stores, and have your managers share best practices between them.

5. Set goals and guidelines (and track them)

Above store leaders should set location-specific goals and guidelines based on volume and delivery day and then follow up on them in the reporting. Be sure to include your more predictable costs like beverage and paper, and monitor them month-to-month or period-to-period for variances. 

Using your inventory software to monitor product transfers from store to store is also helpful for identifying the root causes of inventory issues and variances.

Key takeaways

Whether you upgrade to new inventory tools or better utilize the ones you already have, the number one most important thing you can do to improve your inventory is to make it a routine part of your store operation. Taking inventory once per period – or even once per ordering cycle – isn’t enough. Have your employees take a quick inventory of a few things every day, as accurately as possible (within reason), and make sure to track it in your inventory software system. Improve your inventory practices today to reduce waste and increase revenue.

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