How to Keep Inventory Control Under Control

Aug 10 2017

Cost of Goods Sold Restaurant Management Manage Your Business Inventory

Inventory control is extremely important to a restaurant’s profitability.  Knowing your inventory and understanding how it moves can improve how you order product, reduce waste, and help deter theft.

Yet, many operators find the inventory control process so time consuming that they continue to take risks by simply avoiding it.  Taking inventory does not have to be an overwhelming task, however.  Below are a few helpful hints of how to streamline the process. 


  • Use the Pareto Principle. Also known as the 80/20 law, the Pareto Principle states that 80% of your sales should come from 20% of your menu items, and that 20% of your ingredients are responsible for 80% of your costs.  Save time by only concentrating on the high cost and high turnover items.
  • Set a schedule. If you decide to broaden your inventory beyond the Pareto Principle, know that not all items will need to be inventoried at once.  Higher volume items should be counted once per week, preferably at the end of the fiscal week so that it matches your P&L.  Slower moving items such as cleaning supplies can be counted either monthly or quarterly.  Those items are also easy to send someone to the store for, should you run out.
  • Organize like with like. Arrange your shelves, walk-ins, bar, etc., with similar items together.  Group cans together, bakery items together, meats together.  If you have the space, take it a step further and organize beyond simply “chicken”, breaking the meat down by cut. 
  • Build your sheet to shelf. Once your shelves are organized, you can create your inventory sheet to match it and increase your efficiency.  Build the sheet so that the top-left of your spreadsheet is labeled the same as the top-left shelf, and continue left to right, then top to bottom.  This will keep you from popping up and down as you work. 
  • Divide and conquer. Print your sheets off by section and assign one person to the freezer, one to dry storage, one to produce, and so on. This makes the process quick, and easy on everyone involved.
  • Use the data. Check your inventory against data collected by the POS.  Your physical count should match what would be left over after you compare your order invoices minus the sales that are shown in the POS reports.  If they don’t, you need to ask yourself, “where did they go?”

(Download the Deterring and Detecting Fraud series for tips to reduce theft in your restaurant)

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day

Jennifer Day has over 16 years of experience in the marketing and communications field. Before joining the Ctuit marketing team, Jennifer previously worked at a major telecom company and was in marketing communications for a major point of sales (POS) manufacturer and software provider. She brings with her a wealth of knowledge on POS technologies, software and back office systems and the understanding of how they all work together to create a seamless customer experience while increasing profitability.