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Save Money With These 7 Restaurant Purchasing Best Practices


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As restaurants are hit with supply chain delays, shortages, and rising prices, purchasing decisions become even more difficult to get right. 

Figures from the National Restaurant Association show that over 90% of restaurants of all types are affected by supply chain issues. And for casual dining restaurants, it’s as much as 97%.

Let’s take a look at practical ways to stay on top of your restaurant inventory, improve operational efficiency, and take the guesswork out of your purchasing decisions.

Read on to discover:

  • Why purchasing decisions are so important, especially now
  • Best practices for restaurants to make better purchasing decisions
  • How to run a more efficient restaurant using the latest restaurant management software

By the end, you’ll be ready to confidently tackle supply chain problems with a repeatable system that helps you make better procurement decisions. 

Why Are Purchasing Decisions So Important?

The ability to make better purchasing decisions leads to a sequence of compounding benefits.

With over-ordering and over-production as two of the biggest causes of food waste and weak margins, getting control of your inventory and not over-purchasing immediately brings improvements.

A better system can make tough choices easier and less stressful for staff, allowing them to focus on other parts of the job. It gives you a better understanding of your business and what it needs to succeed. It also opens up opportunities to cut costs and source new products and suppliers, all at better prices.

Ultimately, staying in control of your inventory and making better purchasing decisions help you plan better, increase margins, and boost profitability.

Benefits of Better Purchasing Decisions

  • Happier workers – More certainty about purchasing decisions relieves stress from your team. With the information needed to make informed choices, they can focus on getting their work done without worrying that their decisions will lead to poor outcomes for the business.
  • Less food waste – Ordering the right amount of food reduces the risk of wasting excess stock or over-producing food and having to throw it away.
  • Better profit margins – Alongside labor costs, food costs are the biggest expense for most restaurants. If you can get control of your food costs through better purchasing decisions and less food waste, you can carve out a little extra margin on every dish sold.

Also Read: The Restaurant Food Costing Guide For Franchise Operators

7 Purchasing Best Practices for Restaurants

1. Forge Better Relationships With Your Suppliers

One of the most important ways to improve your purchasing is to take the time to get to know your suppliers and build rapport with them. Rather than treating suppliers as order-takers, learn about their business and what makes them tick. 

A supplier who has your back will make sure you’re the first to know about the best deals and could give you first dibs on the best produce. You can also learn a lot from your suppliers. These guys know where the food comes from and can help you do more with it. 

Ask yourself these important questions to build better relationships:

  • Do your suppliers have a strong customer service team to help overcome any issues that may arise?
  • Is it worth visiting their facility to see if it is well-organized, clean, and hygienic?
  • Are the delivery drivers polite and considerate with your neighbors and staff?

With supply chain issues plaguing the industry, using local suppliers and keeping them on your side helps mitigate any shortages or transport problems. Having a strong working relationship with your suppliers also helps with step two — getting the best prices.

2. Re-Evaluate Prices Regularly

Having multiple suppliers and building strong relationships with each of them helps you stay on top of the market rates and identify high prices when they pop up. Don’t be afraid to switch vendors or flag a high price if you come across it. 

Suppliers are not typically in the business of ripping restaurants off, but they might drop the ball and fail to update a price from time to time. A frank but tactful exchange may be all you need to get the right price. If not, having other vendors on hand can help you avoid overpaying.

Also Read: The Pizza Shop’s Guide to POS-Enabled Profitability

3. Improve Supply Chain Visibility

Transparency in the supply chain is becoming ever more important as consumers increasingly want to know where their food comes from. It is also useful for restaurants to know the links in the chain with supply uncertainty continuing to hit the industry hard.

The supply chain goes way deeper than the wholesalers that deliver your daily produce. They rely on processors who rely on farmers who rely on producers of fertilizer, feed, and seed.

If you know the suppliers of your suppliers, you’ll be better able to make tough decisions (and changes) when necessary. And you’ll have the ability to tackle issues early because you are aware of every step in the chain. 

4. Track Food Waste

If you don’t know how much of the food you buy is going to waste or where it’s being wasted, you can’t make good purchasing decisions. By measuring your food waste along the chain of production, you can account for it, try to reduce it, and adjust your purchasing accordingly.

Measuring and recording food waste helps you identify areas for improvement. Here are two scenarios to show how tracking food waste can improve purchasing decisions: 

  • Your cooks throw away spoiled carrots each week because they are over-ordered. Purchase fewer carrots and reduce your food costs.
  • Servers make ordering mistakes, leading to dishes being remade and incorrect orders thrown out. Once you’ve fixed the problem, you can purchase less food, again reducing your food costs.

Keeping track of your food waste can inform your purchasing decisions and help you reduce the amount of food that’s wasted. This immediately improves profit margins and helps you be more precise with your purchasing.

5. Forecast Demand

The most important information for making purchasing decisions is an accurate sales forecast. If you know in advance how busy the restaurant will be and the demand for certain items, you can purchase the exact amount of food that you need.

These days, restaurants can forecast sales more accurately than ever before. Insights from the huge amount of data that is collected by your POS and other systems, along with local weather, traffic, and event information are combined to create accurate forecasts of future demand — far more accurate than simply using historical sales data to predict future demand. 

And the data makes predictions more granular. You can get forecasts by food category so that you can stock up on the right items and not over-purchase.

Also Read: How to Set Up Food Delivery Without Paying 30% Fees On Every Order

6. Perform Accurate Stock Counts

It’s not hard to see how accurate stock counts can help you make better purchasing decisions. But stock counts aren’t just about the number of items on the shelf. A restaurant inventory management system goes much further.

Modern systems enable easier and more frequent digital stock takes. They update your inventory records as sales are made and provide insights into what to order and when. 

Although implementing a new system is always a slight risk, the investment should pay off multiple times in the long run, with accurate inventory data offering far more certainty when making purchasing decisions.

7. Keep Your Storage Areas Clean, Tidy, and Organized

A simple best practice when you are counting stock is to keep your walk-in refrigerators, freezers, counter fridges, and dry stores clean, tidy, and free of any clutter. This basic practice helps your staff take accurate stock counts without having to tidy up first or move stock around excessively.

Basic practices to stay clean and tidy: 

  • Daily cleaning checklists – Digital checklists are an excellent choice to gamify daily tasks and ensure they’re completed every time.
  • Prioritize unpacking new deliveries – Unopened boxes get in the way and can cause a safety hazard. Ensure you have enough staff on shift to receive, check, and put away deliveries as soon as they arrive.
  • Consistent labeling system – When every item has a place and different storage areas are clearly labeled, keeping hundreds of ingredients organized is far less daunting.

Make Better Purchasing Decisions & a More Efficient Restaurant

A better purchasing system can help you mitigate supply chain problems to be prepared for the worst. But it also makes your operations less wasteful and more efficient in general, resulting in a more profitable restaurant.

Connected systems that organize and share data help you track food waste, take more accurate stock counts, and better forecast demand, among many other features. Couple that with an effort to forge better relationships with your suppliers and learn more about where they source ingredients, and you’ll be ready to make smarter purchasing decisions to boost your profit margins for the long term.

Get on track to better purchasing decisions — use HungerRush to run a more efficient restaurant.

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