Food and supply purchases are a huge part of the food service budget and a big chunk of the entire facility budget. Purchasing is only one part of a process that is repeated day after day in the kitchen. Once food and supplies are purchased, there must be careful inspection upon delivery to assure upmost quality. Being proactive with appropriate storage can save you dollars to the bottom line. And most administrators would welcome a savings to their bottom line! Whoever is in charge of purchasing must have a keen sense of being a “smart shopper” and always be aware of where the products are and where they are going.

The manager must assure all procurement is from approved, reputable suppliers. These type of suppliers will be able to provide the facility with inspection reports and must meet all local, state and federal laws. The manager should limit the number of suppliers that are used. This will simplify the ordering process and will avoid delivery minimums or excess ordering. There can also be financial benefits with volume purchasing.

The manager should establish order guides which list items which are regularly ordered and the unit of measure. These guides should include the inventory on hand and the amount to order. It is best to limit the ordering process to one person, usually the manager. When one person is in charge of the purchasing, they have a better handle on usage and products. Par stock can be used for items such as spices, sugar, flour, etc. Other items would be on an as needed basis. The manager would determine the quantity needed, subtract the inventory on hand and then determine the amount to order.

An ordering and receiving schedule should be used which identifies suppliers and categories of products along with days orders are placed and received. This schedule should also list the vendor contact person and phone number.

When orders are received, the area must be clean and uncluttered. Only allow access to these areas to authorized personnel. The proper quantity, quality and price must be verified. If an item is refrigerated, it must be received at 41°F or lower. Frozen foods must be received at 0°F or lower. If any of these temperatures are not met upon receiving, the products must be refused. Food packaging must be intact and product expiration dates appropriate. Make sure meat, dairy and fresh produce are fresh. Cans should have no dents, rust or broken seals. Whoever receives the food should treat the food and supply products as if they were their own. If the product is not something they would accept for their own use, then they should reject it and receive credit.

After checking in all items, perishables must be placed in storage immediately. Date all canned goods, salad dressings, cake mixes, and all other food and supply items prior to placing in storage. FIFO (first in, first out) must be utilized for all products to assure proper rotation. The storage areas contain thousands of dollars of inventory and must be handled seriously by designated staff. If other departments request food, there should only be 1-2 people in the kitchen who are responsible for issuing any food or supplies. If this process of issuing food and supplies does not have a solid policy and procedure, dollars can be lost for the facility in a short period of time. The storage area must be locked when unattended. The manager should do physical inventory regularly to be aware of what is in the storeroom.

There are many ways to assure purchasing, receiving and storage procedures are appropriate and cost effective. Take the time to review each area and make any necessary changes to help your food service budget and the entire facility budget.