When you work in a restaurant, numbers can be your best friend or your worst enemy. Some days, they can be both.
When profits are up, customer satisfaction rates are high, your balance sheet works out, and your inventory is in line, there's no reason not to smile. However, poor record keeping and tracking of your restaurant's metrics lead to stressful nights of digging through receipts and scouring your back room for that one inventory sheet that you've misplaced.
In a recent post, I talked about the importance of food inventory tracking in your restaurant and how your price points, profitability, and long-term planning should all be based on the accurate tracking of inventory. Now, I'm going to go over some of the ways restaurateurs track their restaurant inventory and why a simple inventory spreadsheet is just not enough.
A Pencil and Paper Inventory Sheet: Your Worst Enemy
I hate to be the one to tell you this, but if you still track and manage your inventory with tangible notepad, a pen or pencil, and a piece of paper, it's time to move on to bigger and better things.
While I applaud your reluctance toward becoming too technologically dependent, I urge you to reconsider when it comes to restaurant inventory tracking.
Media theorist Neil Postman famously said "Am I using this technology, or is it using me?" A digital restaurant inventory sheet is a technological feature that you should have no reservations about embracing. This is an instance of you using technology to the benefit of yourself and your business to save time and money.
Some of the the biggest problems with a handwritten inventory spreadsheet include:
- The difficulty of adjusting your inventory records.
- The inability to draw conclusions based on data.
- Stressful or poorly-constructed menu engineering campaigns.
Why flip through your books to see the trends of your restaurant sales, profits, and inventory variance when you can see your reports clearly compiled in one place? This is tough - sometimes even impossible - with a paper inventory sheet.
As for altering the inventory sheet, how many times have you had to vigorously erase a number or cross it out because you had written it in pen? One minor alteration in your inventory could result in that entire sheet becoming useless.
This kind of inventory tracking adds hours to your day and removes you from more important tasks in your restaurant, especially when one of your managers makes the mistakes of entering the wrong thing in the wrong place.
Talk about an inventory nightmare.
The Computer Inventory Sheet Tracking: Your "Frenemy"
Frenemy (n): One who pretends to be a friend but is actually an enemy. - Merriam Webster
If you have graduated from a notebook-based inventory spreadsheet to a digital one - like Excel or Google Sheets - you're on a better path towards smarter inventory management.
However, there are still some time-consuming problems with this method.
Much like tracking inventory with pen and paper, using a computer spreadsheet outside of your point of sale system requires manual entry of all inventory adjustments. With computer-based sheets, last-minute inventory changes won't cause you to go into a nervous breakdown.
However, many of the same issues of a pen and paper inventory sheet carry over here as well (hence "frenemy").
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Here are some of the potential downsides:
- Manual entry - on a computer or on paper - is time-consuming, leading some restaurateurs to shy away from inventory tracking altogether.
- The sheet is not fully associated with the items in your actual POS, meaning your inventory sheet could be inaccurate.
- Without a direct connection, it's more difficult to track where every ounce of food goes.
- There's no two-way communication between your system and your inventory sheet, so there's no direct tie-in with sales, what's coming in, and what's going out.
- It's tough to do menu engineering without concrete and accurate data on your inventory usage and waste.
With these said, your restaurant may need a better solution.
POS-Integrated Inventory Sheet Management: Your New Best Friend
An inventory function integrated into your point of sale will save you hours of time and unspeakable effort. Why waste hours manually entering all the reports from your daily sales when you can have it done automatically from one location?
You can easily make inventory adjustments when needed without confusion. This allows you to unlock insight into what's selling and what's not, which lets you make more accurate orders from your suppliers.
Some integrated inventory sheets also contain a recipe cost calculator, which lays out the cost of components for each menu item. This will identify your stars, puzzles, plowhorses, and dogs, and help you determine if finding a less expensive supplier or setting a higher price point is a worthwhile route.
With a POS-integrated inventory management platform, you won't have to make the excuse that inventory tracking takes too much time. Read your reports easily and engineer your menu wisely with little time and effort.