Managing Inventory in the Days of COVID-19

Whether you are closing temporarily or switching to a takeaway/delivery model, here are some tips to help

Unprecedented times call for creative solutions.

We don’t have all the answers. But we do know that creativity abounds in this industry.  As operators deal with these challenges, we are heartened by all of their creative efforts to generate revenue while serving local communities. Here are some thoughts from our Solutions teams on how you can manage stock in the immediate few days/weeks.

For Businesses Open for Delivery and/or Takeaway

Keep calm/carry on.

While demand has spiked, supply is still available. Where panic buying has caused some ingredient shortages, you can plan menus around what you already have or ingredients you can easily access. Check with your suppliers – in some places, markets may be getting priority on deliveries. Engineer your recipes accordingly.

Consider cutting down menus.

Offering a smaller menu gives you more control over your current stock situation. It will enable more efficient ordering, while also minimising the number of “touches” per dish.

Minimise minimums.

For many restaurants who already offer takeaway services, consider waiving your order minimums, especially for nearby deliveries.

Add some comic relief.

Some restaurants are offering fun incentives to diners – with purchase minimums, they’re throwing in a loo roll. As guests are not dining in restaurants, this available inventory item can be reimagined into a bonus for customers – and is a playful incentive to spend more.

Where possible, offer collection on the pavement.

This keeps the number of people inside your business to an absolute minimum. Plus, contactless collection or delivery gives customers reassurance in these uncertain times. Delivery platforms like Deliveroo have already adopted contactless delivery.


Remind guests how you’re keeping them safe with updated cleaning procedures. Send out daily menus for mouth-watering dishes available for delivery or takeaway. Encourage social sharing to drive engagement with your brand.

Rethink ordering platforms.

If you don’t have delivery infrastructure in place, leverage your social media and email presence. Some restaurants are now accepting order requests on social media. Just make sure you have dedicated support to manage incoming orders and responses!

Bring on the Booze.

Include wine, beer, or even cocktail pairing suggestions with your dishes. This can be a great way to add value to customers, and generate additional revenue.

Look ahead to get the most out of your orders.

Lean on your back-office systems to track stock volume and what’s selling to help inform ordering decisions. With added pressure on vendors, delivery delays, and increased exposure risk with ad hoc purchasing, tracking purchasing trends and inventory movement can help you keep a step ahead. That way, you can maintain a full stock of essentials without running out of critical ingredients.

Manage your invoices.

Keep track of what was ordered vs. actually delivered. 3-way invoice matching can highlight discrepancies among the goods received notes, invoice, and actual order, so you avoid paying for what wasn’t delivered. With delivery delays and short orders, it’s important to track vendor spend, and only pay for what actually arrived. This will further help control costs. Tracking all spend to cross-check it against any profit from delivery will help compile an accurate P&L, too.

For Temporarily Closing Operations

The restaurant and hospitality industry is deeply affected by COVID-19 – and many hospitality businesses simply can’t afford to stay open right now. Luckily, some items can keep until brighter days ahead. But what about your perishables?  How can you help recoup some of your costs, while minimising wastage?

Rethink “Restaurant.”

Some restaurants are transforming into supermarkets. From Sydney to London to Austin, TX, these restaurants are changing up their concepts, “reopening” as mini-markets to sell staples, alcohol, and ingredients to locals.

Move your fresh/expiring inventory.
  • Create a Meal Kit Box. Some restaurants are getting creative by packing up individual portions of things like meat, fruit and veg, and dairy, and reaching out to loyal guests. Patrons can help support your business through this purchase. Include recipes by email or in the box to help customers connect to your brand from their own kitchens. If you have the resource to do so, offering pre-prepped kits is an option that both helps your staff and your guests. Otherwise, raw ingredients and preparation tips and recipes will allow customers to cook from scratch.
  • Donate. Sharing inventory with food shelters helps the community during this time. Also consider giving meals to hospital staff, healthcare workers, and care homes.
  • Give to your staff. Where staff are furloughed, sharing inventory minimises wastage, while giving back to the people who have worked so hard for your business.
Return what you can.

Reach out to your vendors to see what’s possible. There may be opportunities to return un-opened product.

Reconcile invoices and track spend.

Make sure you have a clear understanding of all outstanding balances. Consolidating F&B related costs through a back-office solution can help get it sorted. With a clear view of expenditure, you’ll be able to create payment plans for your vendors.

Stay tuned. We’re here for you. Along the way, we’ll be sharing tips, tricks, and resources. If you have any questions, feel free to get in touch. Have another creative solution to share? We’d love to hear it!

Are you an existing Fourth customer? Let us know if you have any questions about managing inventory. We’re happy to help you leverage features like expiration date tracking, ordering, recipe and menu engineering, and 3-way invoice matching during this time.

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