Tips for ordering inventory like a pro

By Doug Radkey

Having the correct front-of-house (FOH) and back-of-house (BOH) systems in place will equally position you and your team to ‘order like a pro.’ First and foremost however, you need to understand and realize that the necessary return on both your food and beverage investment is partially a question of your trainable cost control methods.

To reduce your capital risk in terms of waste, breakage and theft, for example, you need to create an inventory cycle that works for you while holding a degree of accountability. You must first ensure that your cycle consists of purchase orders, requisitions, par levels, perpetual inventory and waste reports. Pairing this with workable data from your point-of-sale reports will reduce the need to ‘eye-ball’ your orders (often leading to inaccurate orders) and reduce tied up cash-flow.

Ordering and inventory control should not be a two-step process – they should work as one cohesive unit. There is now an array of apps, programs and point-of-sale add-ons available to assist you, but the secret to ordering and inventory control still lies within you – the owner, operator or manager.

Keep timing consistent

It’s imperative that you complete inventory counts and ordering of product consistently in terms of frequency and time of day. Don’t count inventory during operations or deliveries. Using the same staff to complete these tasks will also create consistency. It’s ideal to use a two-person system for accountability and for back-up, just in case one person is on leave.


Accurate ordering also relies on organization. All of your staff need to be properly trained to keep their work stations and storage rooms clean and organized. Before you count and place your orders, make sure your key ingredients, spirits, beer, linens and small wares are organized and easy for you to count. Also take this time to ensure dated product is properly rotated for next use and quality control.


To stay organized and consistent also means having a standardized system for weights, package sizes and prepared portions. Make sure all order sheets, sales reports and team members are using and understanding one standard weight format and portion size for prepared product. Second, have a back-up vendor that meets your product requirements in case a product is shorted; this way you won’t disappoint your customers. Have a standard ordering manual created with primary and secondary vendors for all items.

Staff training

The standardization, organization and consistency of inventory and ordering only works if everyone is contributing. It takes a complete team effort and this must be included in your staff training programs. Staff must understand the financial importance of inventory and your bottom line, and it’s up to you to show them.

Enforce it

If your restaurant or bar runs out of menu items or ingredients, it is not just tarnishing your cash-flow, but it will play a key factor in the customers’ perception of your brand. It takes ownership and management to enforce the importance of training and holding everyone accountable.

Review data

Restaurant data is serious business. If you use the above program, you will locate patterns and trends that will allow you to make better business decisions, including what to order and when to order it. You also want to keep data handy to review past orders, seasonal performance, special holiday performance, price changes and stock variances.

Instilling standard operating procedures in your day-to-day will create consistency, increase your businesses value, and improve your capital investment. It will also make taking inventory easier and more enjoyable which will lead to ordering like a pro!

About the author:

Doug Radkey is the principal owner of Key Restaurant Group, a global restaurant/bar start-up development agency based in Ontario. Being in the food and beverage industry for over 17 years has allowed him to become a leading voice in the development of feasibility studies, unique concepts, business plans, marketing plans, memorable menus, guest experiences, and financial management systems. Continue the conversation with Doug on Twitter @KeyRestaurants, on Facebook @DougRadkey, on Linkedin, or by visiting

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