Restaurant Profitability Blog

5 Big Lies About Restaurant Inventory

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They say the truth hurts. What’s more painful than 60% of restaurants failing their first year of operation and 80% failing 4 years later? Not much. The worst part is… you’re not even out of the woods after that. Competition is fierce. Food prices are increasing. Labor & rent costs are astronomical. The best way to keep your head above water? Implement solid business practices… like inventory. Restaurants that complete regular inventory increase profits by 24% a year. There’s just no better way to accurately manage your profits and losses. But if you’re like many restaurant owners, you’re probably not being entirely honest with yourself about the inventory process. In fact, here are the 5 biggest lies we hear about restaurant inventory. How many have you told yourself?

Lie #1 – I just don’t have time to take inventory

Running a restaurant isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s hectic. It’s busy. It’s overwhelming. But… hear us out. Your inventory doesn’t have to take a long time to complete. You can skim away the minutes and hours you need to invest in completing inventory by taking a few actions: TRAINING – Select a group of responsible and detail-oriented employees and train them on how to do inventory efficiently and effectively. ORGANIZING – An organized stockroom should be your happy place. Spend some time establishing a place for everything and clearly labeling all items. Once you’ve got your stockroom spick-and-span, inventory will be decidedly easier to complete. USING TECHNOLOGY – Scanners and clunky computer programs and paper spreadsheets, oh my. If technology isn’t a part of your inventory process, it’s taking you longer than it needs to. Put technology to work for you, today. Yes, like any other worthwhile task, inventory will require its fair share of time from you. But it probably doesn’t have to be as tedious or time-consuming as you’re making it.

Lie #2 – My employees couldn’t care less

It may be true your employees may not give a fig about inventory… but it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, did you ever think you might be to blame? Let’s face it, if your team doesn’t care… it may be because they think you don’t. Ever said anything disparaging about the inventory process? Ever assigned your weakest staff members to perform the task because you knew that even they wouldn’t be able to muck it up? Either of these actions can send the message to your employees that you think inventory is a waste of time. And that will make them see it as a waste of time, too. But keeping too close a control over inventory can result in the same problem. Say you’re the only one who does inventory… and you never share your numbers with your staff. You’re basically telling them that they don’t need to worry about it. With the lady at table 2 asking for her 8th glass of wine, and the kid at table 31 coloring on the tablecloth… your staff’s got plenty to worry about. They aren’t going to add anything else to their proverbial plates voluntarily. That is… unless you prove to them doing so is important. Train your staff on the importance of inventory by showing them how you use the numbers you get from it. Once they see that the figures make a difference to the business – and directly to their paychecks – they’ll likely care more about and support the inventory process as a whole.

Lie #3 – I can feel it out

Think you don’t really need to count all of your avocados? Assume you can eyeball the number of bananas you’ve got in the pantry? Actually… you can’t. If your restaurant’s inventory needs to be one thing, precise is the word that should come to mind. Sure, there’s always going to be instances where a sleeve of that or a bag of this is open… and you have to guess on that item. But the real no-no is doing a count in your head. A mental checklist won’t cut it when it comes to maintaining accurate inventory. You wouldn’t eyeball the amount of sugar you dump into your soufflé, right? So don’t eyeball your inventory either. You want your final Cost of Goods Sold and usage reports to be as close to the penny as possible. Inventory that’s more guesswork than science will contribute to financial problems in your business.

Lie #4 – Restaurant Inventory Software Sucks

If you’re still performing inventory with a corded scanner… likely reinforced with neon duct tape as a result of one too many drops to the tile floor… your process (not the technology) might be the reason inventory sucks. While you can use clunky, outdated and expensive hardware to perform your inventory… you don’t need to. And you don’t get the most out of the process if you do. Count sheets… spreadsheets… manual lookup systems. They’re all outdated and ineffective. Even though these tools might have been integral to getting the task done back in the day, times they are a changin’. And they’ve done so significantly, even in the past 5 years. Now you have options… You have access to mobile apps and simple software solutions that can take the extra effort out of inventory. You retired your Watergate salad decades ago. Why? Because not everything that you’ve “been doing forever” is good. So why are you still using restaurant inventory software of the same vintage?

Lie #5 – Inventory doesn’t make an impact on my business

The belief that inventory doesn’t matter may be the biggest lie of them all. At the end of the day, taking proper inventory is paramount to maintaining profitability. With a reliable inventory, you can:

  • Calculate Cost of Goods Sold (COGS)
  • Complete accurate financial reports
  • Confirm rate of product usage
  • Identify significant usage rate variations
  • Reduce waste
  • Catch (and stop) theft
  • Prevent over-ordering

By using inventory data and insights like the above, you can make the decisions needed to keep your business… well, in business.

We Speak the Truth

If you’ve been lying to yourself about restaurant inventory, you’re not alone. Managers… owners… chefs… everyone has been know to do it. But believing these lies won’t keep your restaurant in business or help you become financially successful. The truth is:

  • Inventory taking and estimating aren’t the same thing
  • Your employees will care if you care
  • It doesn’t have to take forever
  • There’s technology out there that doesn’t suck

And, most importantly, taking inventory will have a major impact on your bottom line. In fact, effective inventory taking is the single most significant way to make your restaurant successful. And that’s no lie.


At Orderly, we don’t like restaurant processes that are so painful and time-consuming, you lie to yourself to avoid them. That’s why we created the Orderly Inventory App. You can use it to take an inventory count and get Cost of Goods Sold in half the time. Best part is… it’s free. Pinky promise.

Orderly5 Big Lies About Restaurant Inventory

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