1st steps in a new kitchen

Joined Oct 22, 2016
Hi everyone. Long time lurker, first time poster here. The kitchen is not really a new kitchen. The restaurant has been in business for 5 or six years but there was never any type of stock/inventory/accountability system in place. I was hired a few years ago as a cook and have recently been appointed by the owner as a kitchen manager of sorts. We throw away a lot of food because of lazy employees. The restaurant is small (seats maybe 150 people or fewer) but is in the process of expanding to a second location. I have been instructed to manage waste and inventory and kitchen inspections and health and safety etc..

The things Chef can do without having to deal with so he can concentrate on good food and the menu. I feel I am more useful to the boss in this new position. Previous chef wouldn't inventory for the boss. He said it wasn't necessary. He wouldn't even write recipes down for new employees. He felt everything should be done from memory.

Anyhow I am not new to working in kitchens but I never had to deal much with inventory management. I was just a cook/gopher. Where do I start? I am looking for software/apps for inventory etc..

Software for storing recipes and such. Kitchen signage maybe. Inspection checklists. We don't do any of these things. I feel our kitchen is too relaxed if you know what I mean. Like people taking smoke breaks during lunch service. Any inventory management advice would be appreciated.
Joined Dec 23, 2004
Wow!  How on Earth did the restaurant manage to be successful enough to open a second location with a staff that neglects such basic practices as inventory and creating menu specs?

Just a few basic bits of advice.  Create a waste sheet to track any loss from spoilage, improper preparation, etc.  Organize your walk-in and dry storage area.  Do you have an order guide that someone uses to create an order?  If so gather up all the old ones and establish pars for everything.  See what you're ordering on a daily/weekly/monthly level. 

Get every recipe down on paper. Every. Single. One.  This will ensure they're all being prepared the same every time and it will give you baseline for tracking inventory.  Assuming you have a computerized POS system run reports- print a Pmix (ie Product Mix) to see how many of each menu item you sell.  This will give you a handle on how much stuff you should be going through.

Then just start counting.  It's important for financials to see how much you have tied up in inventory.   Doing an accurate and timely count will also show 'shrinkage' aka employee theft.  If no one is counting then it's almost a certainty that stuff is getting stolen.  Even otherwise honest people will tend to view the place as their own grocery store if they know nothing will be missed.

Organizing your stuff is important.  Note the units of everything; meat may be pounds, pear tomatoes might be by the #10 can, dressings could be by the quart, etc.  Count everything!  Count all the teas & coffee, the sugars and salts, the condiments, the paper goods, etc.  Obviously count the actual food. This includes stuff you buy and the stuff you make in-house.  Especially count the alcohol!   That's towards the top of the list of stuff that 'walks off' of the premises.

At first you may have to do it all yourself.  For the owners it would be good if there were a couple trustworthy people that traded off. That assumes a good, standardized method of counting.

The standard in most places is once per month but it can vary.  Some stuff may be counted more frequently.  Patterns will quickly emerge.
Joined Aug 15, 2003
Get a copy of your state and local health code. This should list all the signage and stuff you need to be compliant. Usually falls in the realm of "Employees Must Was Hands" signs but the hand sinks, in the bathrooms, etc. You can buy these online at any restaurant supply store for pretty cheap. If you haven't ever, for the love of God take a ServeSafe course and get a certificate. Someone in your position should know the sanitation rules so you can know what corrective actions to take when your employees do something wrong. Ask your boss to pay for it. 

Create your order sheets and inventory sheets. They will be similar. I sort mine (many chefs do) by location rather than alphabetically. In other words, things in Dry storage are grouped together, things in the cooler are grouped, freezer, chemicals, etc. If your goods don't move around much (like, say, your flour is always below the cans of tomatoes and rice) then you can organize your sheets the way the shelves are organized, so you can count and record as you go. Then yes, as Pheadrus said, take your inventory. 

Make some common sense guidelines, hell, even make an employee handbook. Let them know the rules and regulations. Hold your cooks accountable! Smoke breaks during lunch service? No more...you can make rules like they can take one before service (if they are set up) and after (quickly before break down) if you want, but during? Hell no. 

I agree with Phaedrus too, get your recipes written down and in the computer. Print a "master" binder with all the recipes in it. 

You guys must be busy if the restaurant is that disorganized but you are still making money and able to expand. Think about how much better everything will be once the kitchen is organized and humming along nicely. 

If people need a reason why there are new "rules" for things, just let them know that with the new expansion happening, you guys need to get serious and get systems in place to reproduce the concept in a new location. Expansion is a great time to do some housekeeping with stuff and really asses and re-asses what you are doing, why, etc. 

Make lists for yourself...all this stuff won't be done in one day, or two. Tackle things in stages, and don't overwhelm yourself right away. Select tangible things you can do that will help, then move on to other stuff. GET DATA! Know what you are selling, how much, what you are throwing away...all that. 

Instill some standards. Don't let your cooks be lazy, serve shitty food, etc. Why are you guys wasting so much food? 

You can eventually move into prep lists, par lists, etc, which will help with wastage if you are throwing things away because of overprepping. 


Staff member
Joined Jun 11, 2001
I would look at the receipts and start your inventory by listing the major purchases.   That will get you 80% of the way.
Joined Jun 23, 2015
Contact your point of sale company and ask if they know of compatible software.  Set up a desk and start organizing purchase orders and receiving reports.  Compare these to insure you are getting what you order.  Restrict the employees who may sign for inventory coming in.  Have all purchases go through your desk and assign a PO to it.

Purchase a book such as this one: https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_...field-keywords=food+and+beverage+cost+control.  It may not be the best but is good.  Buy a used 5th edition for less than ten bucks.  Search standard recipe card template and find one you like and try it.  You will find a whole new side of your vocation here.  Once you have it mastered it is not difficult.

Welcome to Cheftalk
Joined Oct 22, 2016
Thanks so much everyone. I like my job very much and my boss is very good to me. She is happy when she is making money so I figure it is in my best interest to keep her happy. It is a very long term to permanent job for me as well so my future is directly linked to the future of the restaurant. Most of the other employees are very young and will move on so they don't care very much. I am coming back to this thread with a pen and paper lol.
Joined Dec 23, 2004
Sounds like you're in a good situation, NatMat.  I would suggest you take Jimyra's advice and pick up a couple books on restaurant management.  Lots of good basic info there.
Joined Oct 22, 2016
Yeah. A local college has a 10 month class called hospitality restaurant/management or something like that.
It includes ordering and cost management and such as well as breads, soups and sauces. I'm gonna do it in the spring.
Top Bottom