How to Do the Shelf-to-Sheet Inventory Process Accurately (and Without Stress)

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How to Do the Shelf-to-Sheet Inventory Process Accurately (and Without Stress)

When it comes to inventory, accuracy is the name of the game. From the fruits, meats and dairy to the spices, grains and straws, everything needs to be counted. And rightly so. If you want to see your profits increase, inventory management is a crucial part of running a restaurant. 

A shelf-to-sheet inventory process is one method of counting stock that restaurants have historically used in order to manually count the items they have physically in store.

So, let’s ask the obvious question: what is shelf inventory and how does it work?

What is shelf-to-sheet inventory?

The shelf-to-sheet inventory means that you look at what’s on the shelf and match it to what’s on your inventory sheet. Systematically moving along the shelf, the goal is to count every single item whether it’s top to bottom, left to right, or whatever works for you. It’s one of the many basic inventory procedures that are out there. 

Using the shelf-to-sheet process you go through your stock with a fine-tooth comb, missing nothing. The chances of having write-ins on the worksheet are high.

Write-ins reflect the items on the shelves that aren’t on your inventory taking sheet. They could also be the items that have dropped off the inventory sheet for some reason or other. A lot of the time, they’re the newly purchased items that haven’t been added to your inventory taking sheets. 

How to do shelf-to-sheet inventory properly

To get the most out of shelf-to-sheet inventory:

  1. Start with getting organised for stocktake
  2. Have an inventory tracking sheet that’s easy to use
  3. Adopt a systematic approach that leaves no item uncounted

Ticking these three boxes as you plan your shelf-to-sheet inventory process will mean you’re able to consistently scale the process and accuracy while cutting down on the stress and time it takes.

1. Get organised for stocktake

Imagine you have a box of lemons.

If the box of lemons is open - with half of them in the bar area, another in the dessert section and the rest in the storeroom - you’re going to have a problem. Especially if you’re doing your shelf-to-sheet stocktake as a team. In that scenario, all it would take for incorrect figures is to have two different estimations from two different people. 

Getting organised means having the majority of your stock in one place, with the understanding that not everything will be. It also entails having enough floor space to facilitate the shelf-to-sheet process, helping you systematically navigate around the room/s. 

A good way to keep your storeroom organised is to use measured containers that are suitable for the product. Luckily, most food containers come with volume measurements on them. 

Lastly, keep your inventory periods consistent. Weekly and monthly are ideal but see what works for you. The idea is to have a framework that allows you to refer back to previous inventory periods. 

2. Create an inventory tracking sheet that’s easy to use and understandable

Next up is arranging your inventory tracking sheet to have stock items in the same order as they’re stored. You’d be surprised how this simple technique alone creates significant efficiency and time-saving. Think of it as an order guide that keeps things organised as you go. 

Add a column for each storage area, another to count unit totals, one with the unit cost, and the last to calculate the total on-hand unit cost.

3. Take a systematic approach to inventory management

With your inventory tracking foundation built, you can begin the actual inventory process. A good place to start is with the walk-in column that’s generally the majority of your stocktake. Tally the count for each item. 

When you get to the line column expect more batched and portioned items. Even if it doesn’t follow the same order as the walk-in, keep going.  

Your freezers, paper goods and dry storage should all be counted. Once you’re done, tally up each row of the unit totals column, then multiply by the unit cost on the total on-hand unit cost also. 

After just a few weeks of doing your shelf-to-sheet inventory in the way we’ve outlined above, you should end up with beginning-and-end inventory figures. 

That said, there are actually quicker ways to manage your inventory.

Where shelf-to-sheet inventory falls down

The shelf-to-sheet inventory tracking method may be a well-established staple of restaurant management culture, but it does come with risks and limitations that restaurant management teams probably don’t question and challenge enough.

Here are some of the shelf-to-sheet pitfalls that should get you thinking about transitioning to more modern, digital methods of managing inventory.


Shelf-to-Sheet is inherently error-prone

No matter how many times you check-off items and match what’s on your shelf, there’s always a risk of miscounting and manual-input errors which could affect the sales (you think) you’ve made, or the items of stock you then go onto order. Particularly if you get interrupted during the shelf-to-sheet counting process and forget where you are!

Shelf-to-sheet is slow and counter-collaborative

When you’re working with the shelf-to-sheet method, you’re working solo with only a single person running the inventory management process.

Not only does this reliance on print-outs and manual counting performed by a single team member increase human-error and discrepancies, it also means you’re over-investing tons of time in just one task of many that need doing.

With modern, digital alternatives to shelf-to-sheet, multiple team members can be in multiple locations at once. Inventory management gets done faster and more accurately while generating business-intelligence data for better decision-making.

Modern alternatives to shelf-to-sheet inventory management

You can argue that ‘shelf-to-sheet’ is ‘tried and tested’. Sure, it gets the job done (eventually). But you can also argue the need for innovation. The restaurants that innovate to achieve marginal gains are the ones that eventually go from ‘survive’ to ‘thrive’.

growyze enables that ‘thrive’ mindset by promoting accuracy, efficiency and marginal gains that all add up to protected, optimised margins.

With growyze on your smartphone, you’ll simply scan items by their barcodes. You’ll easily match them to what was in stock last time and what you’ve ordered or sold since.
growyze also performs a three-way validation between orders, deliveries and invoices which means you can easily manage your stock in a 360-degree approach and leaves nothing unaccounted for.

From the comfort of your mobile device, you and your team can do stocktake on-the-go, at the same time, from the cellar, kitchen and main bar areas - all while growyze’s smart algorithms run the numbers and calculations for you.

growyze analytics allows you to scan over the cost of goods sold (COGS) so that you can make the necessary adjustments.

Stock is matched to orders, deliveries and invoices providing a three-way validation that additionally highlights any discrepancies. What’s even better is that it’s all paperless.

Make stock control a breeze with growyze

For a stock inventory management tool that your staff and bottom line will thank you for, book a demo to try growyze for 30 days free.

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