How to Maximize the Shelf Life of Your Ingredients

When looking at your restaurant’s inventory management, one doesn’t have to go far in order to see one of the largest areas of waste: ingredients spoiling. By ensuring your ingredients last as long as possible, you’ll be reducing the need to order new inventory unless demand requires it, potentially saving you tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in inventory costs. Through the course of this article, we’ll explore what controls are available to control the shelf life of your ingredients, and ultimately result in lowering your food costs. Let’s dive in!

Storage Areas

Before we begin looking at ingredients themselves, we’ll start by taking a look at your storage areas. Yes, your storage areas can be one of, if not the largest determinant of ingredient shelf life. If your storage areas are not up to their optimal condition, and we don’t mean simply to code, you could be severely limiting the quality and longevity of your ingredients. Look first to your temperatures, are they within the correct range? Freezers need to be kept within a certain range to maintain the cold chain and ensure the product stays within the safe range. Refrigerators must be kept within a different temperature range, but that range must also be maintained in order to maintain the quality of the product. In order to do this, we recommend that maintenance be kept up-to-date and records of this maintenance are kept. In addition to keeping up-to-date and tracking maintenance of your storage areas, you’ll want to keep track of your temperatures multiple times each day, as this will allow you to spot any variations in temperatures that may indicate any other issues with your areas.

A second key component of this is the humidity of your storage spaces. If the humidity in your storage spaces is not ideal for your ingredients, this can drastically reduce the ingredient shelf lives, or even outright ruin ingredients. For example, if your dry storage is too humid, ingredients like flour may absorb the humidity in the air and ruin your existing stock. This would have a ripple effect through your operations. Dishes containing the ingredient would have to be removed from your menu temporarily until new product is obtained, potentially leading to a loss in revenue if they don’t order anything else. You also lose the money invested in that ruined inventory, and to compound that issue, you have to buy more inventory from your supplier on your next order, or paying a premium to obtain those ingredients from a local store or supermarket.

Storage Containers

Now that we’ve established the effect that your storage areas can have on your ingredients, the next step is to look at your storage containers, how you track ingredients and preps, and how they’re used. Having quality containers for your ingredients can help with the variability of humidity, as well as keeping them from spoiling. Proper containers should provide a solid seal and allow you to put labels on them. These labels should indicate the date the ingredient was purchased, or when the prep was prepared, and any other important information such as nutritional values or allergens. Using date labels will allow you to ensure that the oldest product in your inventory is used before it becomes waste, and also ensuring that your products are as fresh as possible while still allowing you to be profitable. 

Training

The final area we will discuss regarding how to keep your ingredients are fresh for as long as possible is training. Your staff must be trained in the proper methods used in your restaurant to ensure that processes are are consistent and continuity is maintained so that in the event that something happens to a chef or other member of staff, there will be someone able to step in and continue the work that needs to be done until they return. By doing this, you keep your operations as status quo, your restaurant’s inventory management protocols continue, and your business operates as though nothing had changed.

As we can see, the impacts of ensuring product is kept in its optimal state are wide reaching, and your restaurant can help keep its inventory controls simple to ensure this over time. To learn more about our restaurant inventory management software, visit our learning center!