How to keep track of your restaurant equipment & inventory

By Erin Wagner

Restaurants contain a wide range of equipment used for cooking, storing, and handling foods, and this equipment requires regular maintenance to remain in good working condition. Tracking restaurant inventory and equipment remains a challenge for most establishments. Some businesses do not pay much attention to proactive maintenance programs, and that leaves facilities with unproductive equipment and a backlog of repairs.

Even those facilities with active restaurant maintenance programs face a few challenges when optimizing internal operations. They can struggle to control preventive maintenance schedules and maintain health and safety standards, and emergency equipment breakdowns can significantly impact restaurant operations.

A restaurant can unlock new possibilities and retain a competitive edge over its competitors by investing in a robust maintenance strategy that ensures adequate tracking of all equipment and streamlines the management of maintenance, repair, and operations (MRO) inventory.

Here is how operators can perfect asset tracking and establish best practices for their restaurant inventory to ensure better returns on investment.

Establish a proactive maintenance program

Restaurant equipment must always be in good working conditions. Operating a business with troubled assets increases business risks and lowers the slim profit margins even further. Most restaurant assets are energy-intensive, and any inefficiencies raise energy bills. Minor equipment defects culminate in damage which causes undesirable downtime and means the restaurant will struggle to serve its customers.

Restaurants can realize better profitability by embracing proactive maintenance practices. It is a strategy that ensures preventive maintenance measures are implemented regularly and also involves relevant predictive activities to monitor the real-time performances of equipment.

A proactive maintenance program is beneficial in many ways. It allows restaurants to track maintenance costs, quantify maintenance work on each piece of equipment, and optimize MRO inventories. It is a flexible maintenance strategy that can be modified over time to align with the restaurant’s business goals and expansion plans. Proactive maintenance plans are precise documents, and restaurant operations are predictable. Technicians perform maintenance when occupancy is low or when the demand for equipment is at its lowest. The restaurant also eliminates the postponement of maintenance activities as the requisite tools and spare parts are available as and when needed.

Leverage technological solutions

Restaurants benefit a lot from technology. Apart from customer engagement and retention, technology provides tools for tracking equipment and inventories. Restaurants can invest in relevant Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) solutions, Computerized Maintenance Management Systems (CMMS), and cloud solutions.

EAM solutions help restaurant owners to track every asset under their facilities. Owners can remotely access information on equipment at different locations, its operator, and past maintenance records. EAM solutions are comprehensive; restaurant owners leverage them to manage supply chains, inventory tracking, supply chain planning and scheduling, work management, and business analytics. EAM solutions are also compatible with several digital technologies. Restaurant owners connect these solutions with barcode scanners, Bluetooth devices, and GPS utilities to identify and maintain a log of the geographical locations of assets.

CMMS programs are critical for in-house maintenance programs. They enable restaurant technicians to automate workflows and enhance the quality of maintenance work. It allows them to organize work tickets, generate timely maintenance alerts, simplify collaborations, improve inventory management, and store detailed maintenance reports. These solutions are distributed through cloud platforms and are accessible via mobile devices, simplifying the management of maintenance work and data.

Establish a dedicated maintenance team and develop continuous training programs

Restaurants lose track of equipment and their maintenance cycles by overlooking the pivotal role of competent maintenance personnel. They focus on customer service and treat equipment and inventory tracking as secondary business needs. However, these activities are essential for routine restaurant operations, which benefit more by engaging specialists to track assets and relevant inventories.

Creating a maintenance department ensures that equipment breakdowns are addressed within short notice. Personnel in the department conduct regular inspections and identify underlying defects that can impede the efficiency of assets. They also perform root cause analysis and work towards eliminating the causes of restaurant equipment failures, as well as creating and managing a sustainable maintenance budget. They also advise the management on the appropriate inventory control measures and act as quality assurance specialists, confirming the quality and quantity of MRO inventories.

The restaurant should not stop at hiring competent personnel. It must develop relevant training programs, standard operating procedures (SOPs), and safety regulations to encourage innovation and continuous improvement. The training enhances the technical skills of maintenance technicians, equipping them with skills for effective equipment tracking and inventory control.

Choose reliable vendors

Finally, the success of a restaurant depends on the reliability of selected vendors who deliver essential supplies to the restaurant to support daily operations. These supplies range from equipment, foodstuff, MRO supplies, spare parts, and tools. Supply chain delays hurt the profitability of a restaurant business, and this means that restaurant owners must conduct due diligence before signing contracts with vendors.

When working with a reliable vendor, it is easy for the company to visualize expenditures, create long-term inventory acquisition plans, and control budgets to facilitate seamless restaurant operations. There are several ways that restaurants can manage vendors to suit business operations. The choice of the management strategy depends on the level of risk involved in inventory management, the desired turnaround times, and the available budgets. Vendor management strategies include:

  • Using a vendor-managed inventory
  • Using on-site kiosks and vending machines
  • Leveraging EAM for inventory management

Aside from delivering sufficient supplies, a reliable vendor ensures that they meet the quality requirements so that restaurants can acquire the best repair and replacement parts at affordable rates and simply track defective supplies.

Don’t neglect or delay

Keeping track of restaurant equipment and inventories requires a strategic integration of technology and operational best practices. Restaurant owners can achieve better profitability by implementing proactive maintenance measures and investing in proven technological solutions that enhance tracking, data, and personnel management. 

It is inevitable that restaurants will need to invest in upskilling maintenance personnel and providing them with advanced digital tools to enable them to update equipment and inventory records accurately and remotely. It is imperative to not defer critical equipment maintenance activities to minimize downtime – this can hurt customer service quality and the restaurant’s public credibility.

Erin Wagner has extensive experience in custom social media analysis. As VP of Marketing for Limble CMMS, Erin and her team get to share with maintenance teams around the world the good news that there is an easier way to manage–and get credit for–their amazing work.