5 Best Practices for Restaurant Inventory Management

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Have you ever been to a delicious restaurant where the food smells so good that you can’t help but drool? Well, let me tell you a little secret – the key to running a successful restaurant is good inventory management!

That’s right, keeping track of all the ingredients and supplies is essential for a restaurant owner to ensure they have enough of everything to keep serving those tasty dishes.

So, today, I want to share some tips and tricks on managing restaurant inventory like a pro. Let’s get started!

Key Takeaways

  • Best practices for restaurant inventory management include monitoring vendor performance, implementing the FIFO method, setting par levels, using standardized recipes and portion sizes, and monitoring expiration dates.
  • Top restaurant inventory management software options in 2023 include MarketMan, LightSpeed, CrunchTime!, TouchBistro, and Craftable.
  • When choosing inventory management software, consider functionality, integration, user-friendliness, security, and support factors.

What Makes Restaurant Inventory Management Unique?

In the restaurant industry, inventory management is unlike any other business sector.

First, the products are highly perishable, so the turnover rate is much faster than in other industries. Managing the food inventory is a delicate balancing act, ensuring enough stock to meet customer demand without wasting it.

Second, the restaurant inventory involves food and supplies like napkins, cutlery, and cleaning products, which all have different shelf lives and storage requirements.

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This adds complexity to inventory management, as restaurant owners must consider multiple factors when planning their stock levels.

Finally, restaurants face fluctuating customer demand due to various factors such as seasonality, holidays, and special events. This requires constant monitoring and adjusting inventory levels to prevent overstocking or running out of items.

To-Do List for Restaurant Inventory Management

Next, I’d love to share an organized to-do list that my friend, who has been running his restaurant for 10 years, swears by. He’s found that following this list helps him to streamline his restaurant operations and keep things running smoothly.

So, without further ado, let me share his secrets with you!



First, I will start with Counting. Keeping track of your inventory is essential for managing your restaurant business successfully. You should count inventory regularly lets you know how much stock you have, preventing overstocking or running out of items. So you can maintain a healthy cash flow and minimize food waste.

To perform an accurate inventory count, create a schedule to count your stock at specific intervals, such as weekly or monthly. This will give you an up-to-date and accurate picture of your inventory levels, enabling you to make informed decisions about purchasing and managing your stock.

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Ordering is integral to restaurant inventory management; I spend a lot with my friend. Knowing when and how much to order can help you maintain optimal inventory levels and avoid tying up your cash in sitting inventory. To do this, analyze your inventory count and sales data to determine the appropriate order quantities and reorder points.

Establish a reliable ordering schedule that aligns with your inventory counting routine. This will help you maintain consistent stock levels and prevent overstocking or stockouts, ultimately meeting your customers’ needs.



From my experience, there are some specific considerations to keep in mind. First, ensure that your suppliers deliver products in a timely manner, as delays can lead to stockouts and dissatisfied customers. Establish clear communication channels with your suppliers to stay informed about delivery schedules and potential delays.

Second, inspect deliveries upon arrival to ensure the quality of the products. This includes checking for freshness, proper packaging, and accurate quantities. Address any discrepancies with your suppliers immediately to maintain the integrity of your inventory.

Controlling Inventory

Proper inventory control is essential for successful food inventory management. One way to do this is by using inventory management systems that track and monitor inventory levels in real time. This will give you insights into your stock levels, sales trends, and potential issues that must be addressed.

Another important aspect of tracking inventory is setting par levels for each item. Par levels are the minimum stock levels required to meet customer demand without running out of inventory. (I will discuss more detailed in the best practices below)

Regularly reviewing and adjusting these levels based on sales data and customer demand can help you maintain optimal inventory levels while reducing waste and improving cash flow.

Monitor Vendor Performance with Restaurant Inventory Management

Reconciling Inventory

Reconciling inventory is crucial for maintaining accurate inventory records and making informed decisions about your restaurant’s operations. This process involves comparing the actual inventory count to your recorded inventory levels and identifying discrepancies.

Regular inventory reconciliation lets you pinpoint theft, waste, or incorrect inventory tracking. Addressing these issues promptly can help you optimize your inventory management process, reduce costs, and maintain a successful restaurant operation.

5 Best Practices for Restaurant Inventory Management

Mastering proper inventory management systems is a process that takes time, patience, and practice. However, I’m excited to share with you five effective methods I used to use with my friends back in the day. These techniques not only made inventory tracking more convenient for me but also for my staff.

1. Monitor Vendor Performance

First, establishing a solid supplier relationship is essential for a successful inventory system. Regularly evaluate vendor performance by considering product quality, delivery timeliness, and pricing.

Maintain open communication channels with your suppliers to address any concerns or changes in your business needs. By working closely with your vendors, you can ensure a steady supply of high-quality products, improving your restaurant’s overall performance.


2. Implement The First-in, First-out (FIFO) Method

I totally appreciate the FIFO method when I have experiences with my friend. Why? This method ensures that older inventory items are used before newer ones, reducing the risk of spoilage and waste. This is particularly important for perishable items with short shelf lives, such as fresh produce and meat.

The FIFO method requires you to organize your storage areas to ensure that older items are easily accessible and used first. Regularly rotate your inventory to maintain freshness and reduce waste, ultimately improving your restaurant’s bottom line.

3. Set Par Levels For Each Inventory Item

As mentioned earlier, setting par levels for each inventory item is essential to inventory control. Par levels help you maintain optimal stock levels, ensuring you have enough inventory to meet customer demand without tying up cash in overstock.

Regularly review and adjust par levels based on sales data and changing customer demand. This will help you keep your inventory levels balanced and minimize waste.


4. Use Standardized Recipes and Portion Sizes

Standardizing your recipes and portion sizes can help you control food costs and maintain consistent inventory levels. When using standardized recipes, you can accurately estimate the required ingredients for each dish, making it easier to manage your inventory and control food costs.

Additionally, consistent portion sizes ensure that each customer receives the same amount of food, reducing waste and maintaining high customer satisfaction.

5. Monitor Expiration Dates and Discard Expired Items

Monitoring expiration dates and discarding expired items is crucial for maintaining food safety and reducing waste. Regularly inspect your inventory for expired items and remove them from your stock.

Implement a system for tracking expiration dates, such as labels or inventory management software. This will help you stay organized and ensure your restaurant serves only fresh, high-quality products.

Top 5 Restaurant Inventory Management Software in 2023

Absolutely! You can manage inventory with the 5 best practices mentioned above if you like. However, in today’s fast-paced world, I highly recommend considering inventory software to help you save time and streamline your operations.

With that in mind, I’ve compiled a list of the top 5 software options that I believe will best fit your needs. Let’s take a closer look at each one!

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use-standardized recipes-and-portions-sizes


MarketMan is a comprehensive inventory management software designed specifically for the restaurant industry. With real-time inventory tracking, automated ordering, and detailed reporting, MarketMan can help you optimize your restaurant’s inventory management.

Some of the key features of MarketMan include:

  • Real-time inventory tracking
  • Automated ordering based on par levels
  • Detailed reporting and analytics
  • Vendor management tools
  • Integration with popular restaurant POS systems


Start from $127 per month ($169 for Professional and $339 for Ultimate)


  • User-friendly interface
  • Comprehensive inventory management tools
  • Integration with popular POS systems
  • Customizable reports and analytics
  • Excellent customer support


  • Pricing may be higher than some competitors
  • Limited options for smaller restaurants or single-location establishments


LightSpeed is a cloud-based restaurant inventory management software that offers advanced inventory tools and integration with its POS system. With features like customizable reports, multiple vendor management, and inventory tracking, LightSpeed can help streamline your restaurant’s inventory management process.

Key features of LightSpeed include:

  • Inventory tracking and control
  • Multiple vendor management
  • Customizable reporting tools
  • POS integration
  • User-friendly interface


LightSpeed offers a monthly software subscription fee (starting from $139 per month)


  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Advanced inventory features
  • Integration with LightSpeed POS system
  • Customizable reports
  • Excellent customer support


  • May not be suitable for very small restaurants
  • Limited features for non-food inventory items


CrunchTime! is a restaurant inventory management software that offers advanced features such as labor cost management, food costing, and inventory control. With its robust reporting tools and integration with popular POS systems, CrunchTime! can help you optimize your restaurant’s inventory management and reduce costs.

Key features of CrunchTime! include:

  • Inventory control and tracking
  • Tracking food waste and food cost percentage
  • Labor cost management
  • Integration with popular POS systems
  • Customizable reporting tools


CrunchTime! offers a monthly software subscription fee based on your restaurant’s size and needs. Contact the company for a custom quote.


  • Comprehensive inventory management features
  • Labor cost tracking and management
  • Robust reporting tools
  • Integration with popular POS systems
  • Excellent customer support


  • May have a steeper learning curve for some users
  • Pricing may be higher than some competitors


TouchBistro is a restaurant management software that includes inventory management features such as inventory tracking, cost of goods sold calculations, and menu item profitability analysis. With its user-friendly interface and integration with TouchBistro POS, this software can help streamline your restaurant’s inventory processes.

Key features of TouchBistro include:

  • Inventory tracking and control
  • Cost of goods sold calculations
  • Menu item profitability analysis
  • Integration with TouchBistro POS
  • User-friendly interface


TouchBistro offers custom pricing starting from $69 per month. For 2 user licenses, it costs $129 per month, and $249 per month for up to $399 per month.


  • Easy-to-use interface
  • Integration with TouchBistro POS system
  • Comprehensive inventory management tools
  • Excellent customer support


  • May not have as many advanced features as some competitors
  • Limited options for smaller restaurants or single-location establishments


Craftable is a restaurant inventory management software that focuses on food and beverage inventory control. With features like inventory tracking, automated ordering, and bar inventory management, Craftable can help you optimize your restaurant’s inventory processes and reduce waste.

Key features of Craftable include:

  • Inventory tracking and control
  • Automated ordering
  • Bar inventory management
  • Customizable reporting tools
  • Integration with popular POS systems


Craftable offers a monthly software fee (starting from $99.99 per month)


  • Comprehensive inventory management features
  • Specialized tools for bar inventory management
  • Integration with popular POS systems
  • Customizable reports
  • Excellent customer support


  • May not be suitable for tiny restaurants
  • Limited features for non-food inventory items

How to Choose The Right Inventory Management System?

When selecting the best restaurant inventory management software for your business, consider the following factors:


Evaluate each software’s features and capabilities to ensure they meet your restaurant’s specific inventory management needs. Consider aspects such as inventory tracking, ordering, and reporting tools


Choose software that integrates seamlessly with your POS system and other restaurant management tools. Integration ensures a smooth and efficient workflow, making managing inventory and maintaining accurate records easier.


Look for software with a user-friendly interface that is easy to learn and navigate. This will make it simpler for you and your staff to use the software effectively, maximizing its benefits for your restaurant.


Ensure your chosen software has robust security features to protect sensitive inventory data. Look for features such as data encryption, secure backups, and user access controls.


Select software with excellent customer support to assist you in implementing the software and addressing any issues. Good support can significantly impact your experience with the software and its effectiveness in managing your restaurant’s inventory.


Bonus Content: The Secrets for Inventory Management System

To further enhance your restaurant inventory management, consider these additional secrets:

1. Optimize Storage Space

An organized storage area can significantly impact the efficiency of your inventory management. Organize your storage space to make it easy to locate items, rotate stock, and maintain cleanliness.

2. Conduct Regular Inventory Audits

Performing regular inventory audits will help you identify discrepancies, monitor stock levels, and uncover potential theft or waste. Addressing these issues promptly can improve your inventory management and reduce costs.

3. Use Technology Wisely

Leverage technology to update your advanced inventory management system. Invest in inventory management software and use barcode scanners and digital scales to increase accuracy and efficiency.

In Conclusion

Effective restaurant inventory management is critical to the success of your business. By understanding the unique challenges of the restaurant industry, implementing best practices, and investing in the right inventory management software, you can optimize your inventory processes, reduce waste, and boost your restaurant’s bottom line.

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