3 Ways to Better Manage Your Food Inventory

For many Canadians in the food industry, business has changed. At the start of social distancing, food services adapted quickly to switch from dine-in to delivery or drive-through only. Perhaps more than ever, strategic food inventory management is key in ensuring businesses spend money where it’s most needed. It’s also important in reducing food waste.

We’ve developed a list of ways to better manage your food inventory during COVID-19 and beyond so that you can get the most out of your in-house items and budget.

1. Understand Date Labelling

We all know some food products last longer than others, but how long do they really last? The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has several categories for date labels. Understanding these labels and product shelf life will help you make more informed decisions about the foods you buy and prioritize the items that need to be used first.


Best Before Date

This food label is the most common and pertains to how long a product may retain its freshness, taste, and/or nutritional value when properly stored. This is not the same as a food’s expiry date, and products can be eaten and sold past their best before date. If the shelf-life of a product is expected to be longer than 90 days, such as the case with canned foods and pasta, then the best before date is not required.


Packaging Date

The packaging date label refers to when a food item was packaged and must also be accompanied by a best before date. The combination of the two dates helps consumers determine the anticipated quality of the unopened product.


Expiration Date

Expiration dates are only labelled on products that have strict compositional and nutritional specifications that may alter after the expiry date, such as supplements and infant formula. Items that pass their expiry date should be discarded.


2. Inventory Tracking

Inventory tracking is key in knowing what supplies enter and exit your kitchen and what’s left over. Dividing your sitting inventory (items still in-house) by their average depletion on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis will give you the usage of the item. With product date labels in mind, you can assess which foods are more likely to be used the quickest and which ones will sit on a shelf the longest. If you’re part of a chain and you notice the usage of your inventory is too low, transferring them to another location that needs them ensures the product will not go to waste.


3. Repurpose Food Items

If you’re still left with more food than you know what to do with, you can repurpose items in a variety of ways.


Flexible Menu

What if you’re a local business and don’t have another location to transfer products to? Creating meals of the week based on inventory you have in-house will not only save you costs on wasted food but can also contribute to making a profit. Use social media or an email blast to inform your loyal customers of your latest creations. If you’re low on ideas, apps like SuperCook generate recipes based on the items you have on hand.


Specialty Items

Does your restaurant have a fan favourite meal, but people aren’t ordering it to go? It’s likely because more people are cooking at home. Putting your crowd-pleasing spaghetti sauce on the menu as a specialty item that customers can buy in bulk will allow them to support your business in spite of their new dining habits.



Finally, if you’re still struggling to use all of your inventory, donating to a charity can ensure food waste is limited. Organizations such as Second Harvest accept non-perishable items and deliver them to partnered social service agencies. This is also a great way for your establishment to contribute to the community at large. 

Spending money efficiently, maximizing the use of foods, and reducing waste are all ongoing issues businesses in the food industry faces. A more effective food inventory management strategy is a key contributor to a resolution. Now more than ever, foodservice businesses, small and large, need to take careful control of their food inventory.

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