Stocktake is an exciting activity for restaurant and cafe owners – said no one ever. Inventory management can be a daunting task but it has to be done. Even if it’s not on your list of favourite things to do, it has to be done right. Proper inventory affects a restaurant’s ability to serve high-quality and fresh food, and a small error in stocktake can spell the difference between satisfied patrons and low-quality meals.

Read our foolproof inventory management techniques to guide you through your next stocktake.

Start strong

You know it has to be done and it has to be done right. Managing your inventory from day one is ideal because it increases efficiency and saves you a lot of money. It prevents nasty surprises such as running low on ingredients when your restaurant is starting to cater at full capacity.

Most POS systems should be able to help you do a stocktake. Just make sure that your POS is set up properly for this task. If you don’t have a POS in place, you should seriously start considering getting one for your business.

Train your team well

While not everyone in your team will do restaurant stocktaking, you will want everyone trained for this task in case you need them to help out. Inventory management could be done at several levels. Shift managers, for example, should deliver inventory reports before they clock out for the day to alert the next shift of any issues. The back-of-house staff should also be trained to note down spillage, errors and issues of rotten food as and when they encounter them. These are factors that the POS system may not be able to track automatically so you need your team to step up and report these as accurately as possible.

Inventory items may vary from one food business to another, but make sure your staff are familiar with general terms such as sitting inventory, usage, variance, depletion and yield.

Minimise human error

Restaurant or cafe inventory management is best practiced in twos. This ensures you have an extra pair of eyes looking out for any discrepancies or anomalies throughout the entire exercise.

In a previous post, we talked about preventing employee theft in your food business. Having two or more people accountable for the stock helps to minimise the risk of theft.  

It’s impossible to avoid human error completely but you can help minimize mistakes by running a smooth inventory management process. Structure the stocktake sheet according to your kitchen’s layout so the staff can just move from one area to another.

Organise your kitchen

One secret to faster and more efficient stocktaking is keeping your kitchen and your storage organised. Practice the ‘first in, first out’ mentality when handling food stocks so nothing goes bad and to make sure you’re efficiently using your sitting inventory, saving money in the long run. Label all food with the date received and expiry dates and make sure to use the ones that expire soonest.

Do it regularly

Stocktaking in the foodservice industry should be done regularly. You should create a reasonable stocktaking schedule and make sure that you and your staff stick to it. As much as possible, run inventory around the same time of the day and around the same time of the week so you don’t get thrown off by inconsistencies in your data. This will also ensure that you can accurately forecast how much to order.

Always do a stocktake before a new order arrives. Don’t keep adding new stock without checking your inventory first.

Minimise food waste

It is inevitable that some of the food in your storage will go bad before it can be used. Also note that there will be variance in your inventory figures. But it’s important to understand where the discrepancies are coming from so you can limit them. Establishing a clear process such as “first in, first out” and regular cafe or restaurant stocktaking can help you minimize food waste and get as close to 100% food economy as possible. Implementing automated systems for tracking inventory around your food business can also help alleviate overspend and wastage.

Ready to automate? Contact for a more in-depth advice on inventory management techniques you can apply to your food business.