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How to Do A Stock Take

Introduction to Stock Taking


Stock taking, or inventory counting, is a critical process for any business that sells products. For hospitality businesses like hotels, restaurants, bars, cafes and other food service establishments, having an accurate handle on stock levels is essential for smooth operations and profitability.

This blog post will provide a comprehensive guide on stock-taking best practices for the hospitality industry. We’ll cover everything from preparation to execution, analysis, and tips for making stock-taking a routine exercise.

The Vital Role of Stock-Taking


Stock-taking, sometimes called a stock check or inventory count, plays a fundamental role in effective inventory management. By physically counting all stock items, you can compare the actual amount against your recorded stock levels. This identifies any inaccuracies between the stock you have on hand and what your records indicate.

The data gathered from regular stock-taking enables you to pinpoint causes of discrepancies, such as theft, wastage, or procedural issues. You can then take necessary corrective actions to prevent future losses and wastage. The accuracy of your stock data also ensures you have enough inventory to meet service needs without excess wasteful overstocking.

The Impact on Inventory Management


Precise inventory counts achieved through diligent stock-taking directly affect your ability to control stock levels. Without accurate on-hand quantities, you cannot reliably manage inventory flow. Issues like stockouts, overstocking, and pilferage can arise.

Careful stock-taking highlights fast and slow-moving items, provides usage metrics, and indicates when to reorder. This helps optimise your inventory investment and maintain enough stock to meet your hospitality business’s needs. The data can also inform purchasing decisions regarding supplier performance.

Overall, reliable stock-taking is indispensable for monitoring your inventory, reducing waste, avoiding stockouts during high demand, and contributing to profitability through better stock management.

Preparing for Stock Taking


Thorough preparation is key to efficiently conducting your stock take and achieving accuracy. Here are some tips on getting organised before the stock count.

Timing Your Stock Take


Select a low-traffic period to perform your stock take to minimise disruptions to operations. For hospitality businesses, this may be on a closed day or immediately after closing. Scheduling it at the same time annually also makes year-on-year comparisons easy.

Avoid undertaking stock-taking mid-week or on weekends for restaurants and bars. For hotels, avoid peak occupancy periods. Also plan around major events, promotions, menu changes and inventory deliveries, and make sure your staff are prepared for the process in advance 

Organising Your Inventory


Start by categorising your inventory into logical groups like foods, beverages, consumables, and non-consumables. This makes the counting process smoother.

For ease of counting, arrange stock items neatly and visible. Position items of the same product together. Have sufficient lighting in storage areas.

Print checklists for each inventory category to record counts. Have measuring tools on hand like weighing scales and tape measures. Keep pen and paper ready to note discrepancies.

The Stock-Taking Process


When the preparation is done, it’s time for the stock take. Here is a step-by-step guide to conducting inventory counts:

A Step-by-Step Guide

  • Begin counts when all receipts and issues have been accounted for the day.
  • Systematically count each item, recording quantities on the checklists.
  • Clearly mark counted items to avoid double counting.
  • Weigh or measure items sold by weight/volume.
  • Separate and count damaged, expired or end-of-life products.
  • Verify ambiguous counts by re-counting or having another person double-check.
  • Raise any discrepancies immediately and place disputed items in quarantine.
  • Perform test counts on high-value goods and fast-moving items.
  • Account for all items on the premises including stores and service areas.

Tips for Efficient Counting

  • Count items in their actual storage locations using checklist order for speed.
  • Assign counting responsibilities by zone or product category to different people.
  • Use barcode scanners, scales and probes to automate counts for large inventories.
  • Conduct counts outside of operating hours when there is no inventory movement.
  • Focus on accuracy over speed to avoid recounts.

Utilising Technology in Stock Taking


Incorporating technology tools can help streamline inventory counting, improve accuracy, and enable faster stock analysis.

The Advantages of EPOS Systems


EPOS or electronic point of sale systems provide centralised inventory oversight in real-time across service outlets. EPOS allows quicker stock-taking through barcode scanning or RFID tracking. Inventory records update automatically with sales data.

EPOS reports help to identify fast/slow movers, optimum reorder points and losses. You can set stock-level alerts and monitor usage patterns. Integrated digital scales, probes, dispensers etc. enhance accuracy.

Software Solutions for Accuracy

Dedicated stock-taking software can organise the counting process and automatically update stock sheets. Features like batch barcode scanning, custom categorised checklists, and images aid easy identification.

The system can highlight variances or restricted items for verification. Data exports simplify analysis for reordering, accounting and reporting. Some apps work on mobile devices for portability.

Common Challenges and Solutions


Even experienced hospitality professionals encounter some common stock-taking hurdles. Here are tips to address them:

Addressing Discrepancies


Expected variances between physical and book counts may occur. Spot-check a sample for counting errors. Review issue and receipt records. Investigate unusual deviations.

For unexplained discrepancies, recount the item, check the location, verify identity, and confirm the unit of measure. Isolate damaged stock and items past expiry. Make note of discrepancies for management review.

Overcoming Stock-Taking Issues


  • Incomplete counts – Schedule adequate timescales, assign zones, and use checklists.
  • Insufficient resources – Delegate counting tasks, and utilise electronic aids and technology.
  • Counting errors – Validate high-value/fast-moving items.
  • Stock movements during count – Set cutoff times for receipts/issues and lock access.

After Stock Taking: Analysis and Action


The hard work continues once the counting finishes. The next vital step is compiling and analyzing the collected data for insights.

Interpreting Stock-Taking Results


Compare physical counts to stock records item-by-item. Identify fast/slow movers by consumption rate. Note variances, surpluses and shortfalls.

Highlight overstocked items not used. Consider write-offs of unexplained surpluses and damaged/expired stock. Identify causes of shortfalls.

Inventory Adjustments Post-Stock Taking


Use analysis findings to update your inventory records and reorder optimum quantities. 

Liquidate excess stock through promotions and staff deals.

Investigate significant variances by supplier, category or outlet. Review Order Points (OP), Reorder Quantities (ROQ) and Reorder Levels (ROL). Adjust future deliveries accordingly.

Best Practices for Regular Stock Taking


While periodic full stock takes are essential, more frequent cycle counts for high-value goods also improve accuracy.

Frequency of Stock Taking


Conduct an annual wall-to-wall physical inventory count. Schedule monthly or quarterly cycle counts on high-value, fast-moving items. Investigate daily/weekly variances.

For small hospitality businesses, a complete quarterly stock take usually suffices. High-volume restaurants and bars may need monthly counts. Hotels require more frequent linen and amenity counts.

Continuous Inventory Management


Ongoing inventory management practices between stock takes will help maintain precision:

  • Enforce strict FIFO inventory rotation and expiration date tracking.
  • Perform spot checks on discrepancies, damaged stock, and write-offs.
  • Monitor consumption rates and unusual usage.
  • Review delivery records and verify goods received.
  • Ensure diligent reporting of transfers, issues and production yields.



Stock-taking is a time-consuming but critical process that underpins inventory management for hospitality businesses. While conducting accurate physical inventory counts takes diligence and consistency, the business insights gained are invaluable.

The data enables you to streamline purchasing, reduce wastage, optimize stock levels, identify pilferage, and make informed decisions to control costs and boost profitability. Investing in regular stocktaking will quickly pay dividends through more efficient inventory operations.


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