5 Costly Misconceptions About Restaurant Inventory

I know what you’re thinking… yeah yeah, you know you’re supposed to take inventory at your restaurant.

You’ve seen the stats. You’ve read some of the articles. You’ve heard the consultants preach about how to take inventory.

But do you know why?

In all the noise about HOW to do this back-of-house task, there aren’t a lot of WHYs.

Which leaves room for myths to float around about inventory… how it’s not that important… how you don’t get anything out of it… why the profit isn’t worth the pain.

The fact is your inventory represents a full third of your budget.

What you have on hand… from food to cleaning supplies to the staff’s aprons… represents the ebb and flow of money from your restaurant.

Ignoring your costs and holding onto industry misconceptions means you’re wasting your time and money… both of which are hard to come by.

Because taking inventory is such a critical process in bolstering your restaurant’s success, we’ve debunked the 5 most costly (really, dangerous) misconceptions about restaurant inventory.

#1 It’s okay to eyeball it…

What’s the big deal, right?

Just walk into your kitchen and take a mental calculation of how much food you have. As a seasoned restaurant professional, you can account for general fluctuations in inventory at a glance.

It’s not a spectacular or complicated process.

…but it’s not an accurate process, either.

Relying on your intuition doesn’t show you exactly how your numbers have changed from week to week.

For example, you may see as soon as you walk into the cooler you have a surplus of oysters… but you can’t tell exactly how many extra – a day’s worth? A week’s worth?

If you run a special to use up the oysters before they go bad, you wouldn’t know whether to serve 5 or 15 per platter.

And let’s face it… in this situation, you’d more than likely guestimate the price you attach to your oyster special rather than take the time to look up the price per unit.

The idea that inventory can be once-over is a misconception. In reality, you won’t know what you spent on food… how much went to waste… or why.

There’s too much competition out there and profits are too low not to worry about where each dollar is going.

#2: Inventory can be done, well… whenever

Even if you know inventory should be on the regularly scheduled program, it’s probably not. It’s one of those things you do when you have a slow night.

It’s just too long… and boring… and painful.

It’s not high up on your to-do list.

Here’s the uncomfortable truth, though: Food prices have gone up 25% in the past 5 years… and in addition, they’re fluctuating on a daily basis.

Ordering too much of one item or letting it spoil because of overstocking means you’re letting money go to waste… money you could be spending on better quality food, or paying your staff more, or repainting the dining room.

Stop believing the misconception that you can do inventory once in awhile… when you have time… when it’s convenient.

That’s not good enough to keep your restaurant in business.

You can be one of the 75% of restaurants who struggle with making profits because of food costs, or you can be one of the 25% of restaurants who are successful because they invest in taking inventory regularly.

In order to be effective at all, inventory has to be scheduled once a week… on the same day every week… before your orders are dropped off.

This will make certain you always get a consistent count from week to week.

#3 Training staff is difficult and time-consuming

Let’s shoot this misconception down right away… you don’t have to train everyone on your team to take inventory.

In fact, the more people allowed to do inventory, the more chance of error, waste, theft and overstocking. It’s just too hard to make sure everyone on your team understands the exact process… and follows it every time.

Train 2 to 4 people team members on the inventory process.

Not only can two people catch more mistakes than one, having the same people take inventory together encourages consistency… and they learn to get the job done faster over time.

Additionally, there’s less of a chance someone’s going to steal food with two people taking inventory.

By training just a few people, you’re ensuring you don’t waste your time or your staff’s time… and this can save money on your restaurant labor costs, too.

#4 It takes… so…. long…

It feels like a never-ending task… inventory is so manual and takes hours to complete.

Usually, it means trekking around your kitchen, pantry, and cooler to take counts.

Then it’s a matter of locating the last prices you paid and typing all that information into a spreadsheet or accounting system.

Let’s face it.

Because inventory is so boring and takes so long, your staff (or even you!) find shortcuts and cut corners. Not only are you wasting time, you’re also wasting money not getting a good count in.

Believe it or not, this is a misconception… inventory doesn’t have to be such a time suck.

There’s a better way, a much faster way, to take inventory.

It will keep your staff on their toes and it’s all online.

This game-changer is inventory software.

I know what you’re thinking…

#5 Inventory software is expensive & hard to use

If you’re like most restaurants, you’d rather deal with food waste than use archaic software that A, costs 10-20K a year and B, takes months to set up and get going.

And up until now, that’s the only choice you had when it came to using inventory software… more hassle than help.

But taking inventory is just too important and too complicated for a simple paper checklist… tacked to a clipboard… accompanied by a spreadsheet of numbers.

This is where modern technology steps in.

Apps and software that work on your smartphone and do all the tedious work for you. We’re talking advanced reporting in the palm of your hand… price lookups, Cost of Goods Sold, usage by day, days on hand reports, and reports by category about your COGS.

In 5 minutes, you can see what you have on hand and how much it costs so you can make a decision about how many of those extra oysters to serve on your special and at what price.

Who said technology is too expensive and hard to use?

It’s definitely a misconception… you’ve got options.


Think about it… a good part of your operational costs are tied up in the items you buy. So effective inventory management is fundamental to your restaurant making it or not.

This one process minimizes food waste, determines what food and supplies you order, and is one of the biggest ways you can cut costs. Managing inventory is a way to maximize every dollar you spend – and save – in an industry where prices go up and down every day.

How you approach managing your food costs at your restaurant… whether you face reality or believe the misconceptions… is critical to the success of your business.

But what if you didn’t have to take inventory at all?

After all, it seems like there’s a lot to remember…

If you’re interested in a do-it-for-me app that eliminated the counting, the spreadsheets, the price lookups… check out the Orderly App.



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