The holidays are a great time to be in the restaurant biz – tables are full of celebrating families and eager tourists, while event spaces are booked up with corporate parties and happy hours.

But the holiday season brings its own set of challenges, especially when it comes to managing food orders and inventory. Catering clients and seasonal menus often call for ingredients that you may not usually buy, and those large parties can wreak havoc on your inventory.

Implementing a restaurant purchasing software can go a long way in helping you manage the ebbs and flows of the holidays and more easily keep track of irregular vendor orders. Here are a few ways that restaurant purchasing software can help you make the most of the most wonderful time of the year:

1. Taking Stock of What You’ve Got

Before you place any orders for the holiday season, it’s important to take stock of  what you’ve got. This means taking your routine inventory counts of your food, beverage, small wares, etc. as you typically would. If you’re not taking regular inventory counts, now might be a good time to start. Establishing a baseline is key to ordering properly and minimizing food waste – a common problem for restaurants, especially during the holidays.

Using an inventory management software is an easy way to stay on top of what you have and what you need. Setting up an easy-to-use, repeatable methodology for taking inventory is important for your business throughout the holidays and the rest of the year. Referring to historical inventory values and seasonal sales volumes helps you better prepare for whatever the holiday season brings to your restaurant.

When your vendor order management and purchasing software is tightly integrated with your restaurant inventory management software, it’s easy to order the right ingredients at the right quantity at a price you expect.

2. Setting Par Levels

When it comes to ordering the right quantity you’ll want to have easy access to your par levels. However, setting appropriate par levels during the holidays can be tricky. Seasonal menus and unusual traffic patterns mean you’ll need different products in varying quantities compared to what you would typically do throughout the rest of the year.

Restaurant purchasing software allows you to not only track current food orders, but it also allows you to see what you ordered last year and how you’ve been trending this year. That way you can make informed decisions about what you’ll need on hand for the current holiday season. Additionally, adding a restaurant budgeting tool is a great way to track sales and cost of goods sold (COGS) over time and set targets for the coming weeks and months.

3. Keep a Close Watch on Seasonal Ingredients

Holiday menus often require ingredients that are outside your norm (cranberries and chestnuts, anyone?). Collecting bid sheets from various vendors (and doing a bit of your own research to see what the going rate for an ingredient is) is a good way to anticipate food costs and make sure you’re getting a fair price for seasonal favorites.

Once you’ve done your homework it’s important to keep an eye on what vendors are actually charging as the price of seasonal ingredients can fluctuate greatly from order to order.

Last year, an xtraCHEF client snagged a good price on a seasonal ingredient and decided to stock up. A few days later, they ordered additional cases, assuming they’d be the same price. But when they received the invoice they saw that the unit price had almost doubled due to the vendor’s depleted inventory…which our client had depleted themselves! Luckily, our client was able to catch the price change and negotiate with the vendor to get the price back down to what they had originally paid (thanks to xtraCHEF ☺️).

Cheers to a great holiday!

We want to help you make sure that the holidays really are the best time of year for your business! Implementing restaurant purchasing software and using data to drive sound decision-making are great ways to prepare for the holiday rush…and the year ahead.

Is restaurant purchasing software on your restaurant’s holiday wishlist? Ask us how xtraCHEF can help your restaurant manage food orders, track vendor prices and keep your team on the same page throughout the holidays and the rest of the year.