When was the last time you took a complete inventory of your restaurant? First off, if you don’t have a record of a starting inventory, from the day you opened, including knives, forks, spoons, dishes, plates, glasses, and other essentials that you paid for, your inventory foundation has been weakened. But, don’t let history repeat itself. This is the perfect time of year to completely inventory our locations. We’ve been slower than peanut butter pours, product is minimal, and the bustling of spring business is about to pop. Soon, we will be so frantic trying to cover shifts with staff we have yet to hire, that nobody will have time to breathe. Now is the time to plan an inventory.Oh, you don’t have an inventory system on your register? The program isn’t working correctly. Good. Get some paper, a ruler, make some columns and begin counting. You don’t need a computerized inventory system to find out how much product you have sold, how much has been wasted, written off, stolen or perished in the idleness of business. Back in the last century, while living in a Second Ave. tenement house, little Billy Kelly would take the one-pound coffee can his father handed him and go downstairs to Donaghue´s bar on the first floor of the building. Ol´ man Donaghue’s bartender, Sweeney, would fill the can with draft beer for old’ man Kelly on the third floor. It was a Sunday ritual that happened after mass, just before dinner, while the chicken was roasting three floors above the shot and a beer saloon where the neighborhod congreagated. But Donaghue, an Irishman with an penny guarding alligator in his pocket, could never figure why his inventory count was off. One day, while complaining to Kelly, he was told how the system had been beaten.
We´ve all come across greasy beer glasses that went through the last dishwasher cycle when the chemicals were low. And, that grease prohibits any head from forming on the perfectly poured draft just pulled by the bartender. Well, in the days when a nickel was worth a dime, ol’ man Kelly would coat the inside of the coffee can with lard- he didn’t want a head on his can- he wanted it filled to the top. The bartender knew the trick, but Donaghue didn’t. The bartender was over pouring, earning his tip. Back in the days when a nickel was worth a dime, Donaghue took inventory. Weekly. And, you should do the same.
If you are on a regular inventory system, you already know the importance of the numbers. However, if you miss one here and there, or your bartender happens to be sick that day, or your chef forgot to take it, beware, these are all sure signs of a problem.
Be strict about your inventory procedures. Make sure that once the inventory is completed, you compare the numbers from the week, or month before. Keep your inventory records in a book, by year, and watch the seasonal fluctuation. If you compare your inventory, to your customer count, and your income, these numbers can also be used as guides for advertising, staffing, and other important decisions that can make the difference between a profit and a loss.
Remember, we’re all in the commodities business, just like those big brokers at the New York Board of Trade. The difference, our pork bellies, coffee, and sugar get delivered to the back door. And, our futures are based on keeping track while they are in our possession.