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How To Manage Your Master Items List In A Restaurant Inventory Software

Master Item List - restaurant inventory management software .webp

In the fast-paced world of restaurant management, staying ahead of the curve isn’t just a matter of culinary innovation but also efficient business operations. A critical part of that is managing your Master Items List – a comprehensive catalog that encompasses everything from ingredients to kitchen supplies.

Having a digitized, well-structured, consistent and centralized master items list allows restaurant managers to trust the presented data, easily aggregate it and rely on it to generate insights. In the absence of such a proper master items list, item information will be filled with errors, missing items, confusion, and duplications which will make data analysis very tedious, time-consuming, delayed and very prone to different and wrong interpretations.

In this article, we’ll dive into the importance and best practices for maintaining an organized master items list for efficient restaurant operations.

Table Of Contents

  1. What Is A Master Items List, And Why Does Its Configuration Matter In Restaurant Inventory Management?
  2. The Principles Of A Great Master Items List
  3. Using A Restaurant Management Inventory Software
  4. Conclusion
  5. About Supy

1. What Is A Master Items List, And Why Does Its Configuration Matter In Restaurant Inventory Management?

A master items list is essentially the list of every ingredient, suppliers, dish, tool, ingredient package that you use. It contains all the elements that go in and out of your kitchen, and is used to identify specific items in order to create alignment within your company.

Master Item List - restaurant inventory management software


A master items list serves as the backbone for streamlined procurement, inventory management, and cost analysis. It helps your business navigate the landscape of ingredients and supplies by knowing:

  • How to refer to each item and which category it belongs to
  • By which unit of measurement (UOM) the item is stored and consumed
  • Where, how and how much to store each item as per its minimum and par levels
  • Which items are deemed as substitutes of each other and which are clearly not, even if they seem related
  • The cost of each item per unit of measurement (UOM), even if the same item is purchased at various price-points
  • From which supplier(s) each item can be ordered and at which prices

As a result, it helps restaurants avoid the following situations:

  • Understocking, leading to lost revenue
  • Overstocking, leading to costly wastage by spoiled / expired items
  • Various kitchen mistakes leading to missed revenue, client complaints and inflated costs, e.g.: 
    • Wrong items used in recipes 
    • Wrongly stored items, leading to spoiled items
  • Procurement mistakes leading to increased costs and missed revenue, e.g.:
    • Wrong item ordered which can’t be used by the restaurant and causing the required item to not be available when needed
    • Item ordered from the wrong supplier
    • Right item ordered but wrong quantity due to misinterpretation on the UOM
  • Lack of (timely) item cost visibility, leading to a delayed or absent knowledge about recipe profitability

Therefore, having a structured Master Items List is key to enable your restaurant to operate efficiently and profitably.

2. The Principles Of A Great Master Items Listing

Creating and maintaining a great Master items List is based on some strong principles:

  • Centralization: identical and substitutive items must be considered as one master item.
  • Distinction: distinctly used items must be considered as separate master items
  • Consistent naming & categorization: related items to be named in similar ways to avoid confusion.
  • Data governance: establishing the necessary routines to keep data quality high.
  • End-user focused: the items list be tailored to the end user of the items (i.e. mostly the chef).

1) Centralization

This first principle is about avoiding having too many items in the master items listing. This can be achieved by thoroughly understanding how the items are being used by the end-user to understand which items are deemed as identical or substitutes in daily operations and hence can be centralized under a shared master item. Failing to do this, and hence creating multiple master items for substitutive items will lead to misleading inventory stocks. 

This is because these recipes will in reality be depleting inventory from multiple master items for the same recipe ingredient, though on paper it is supposedly using only a single master item. On paper, this will lead to over-depletion of that single master item and lack of depletion of the other, duplicated master items which obviously will lead to misleading inventory levels and cost analyses.

Example: imagine your restaurant uses Milk as a non-key ingredient for a recipe but you purchase different milk brands/types, even with different fat levels, because you simply take whatever is available/cheapest from the supplier. Hence, you may be purchasing “Milk Almarai low-fat 1.5L Pack” as well as “Milk Al Rawabi full-fat 1.5L Pack” but the end user (e.g. the chef) does not care about using one or the other for his recipes. In such a scenario, you must create one master item named “Milk” so that your recipes can be built with this single milk item.

2) Distinction

On the contrary of principle #1, it is important to not accidentally centralize distinct items under the same master item, in case they are being used distinctly by the end-user because that will also lead to misleading inventory stocks. It will lead to backlash from the kitchen staff, who will complain that a required item is no longer in stock even though on paper, the master item has available stock. It will also lead to situations where the item seemingly doesn’t exist in the master item list, leading to duplicate master items being created. This once again will lead to misleading inventory levels and cost analyses.

Example: you may think to create one master item “Hot Sauce” under which you want to put “Sriracha” and “Tabasco” but it would likely be a mistake to do so because they are usually used quite differently in recipes. Hence, in the above example you should create two distinct master items, emphasizing the difference by using the brand name as part of the master item name, instead of just having two times “Hot Sauce”. Hence, you should end up with “Sriracha Hot Sauce” and “Tabasco Hot Sauce” and ensure that your recipes are built with the correct hot sauce.


3) Consistent naming & categorization

Having a clearly named and categorized master items list is all about making it easier for the audience of this list to search and retrieve the required master items or to discover the absence of the required master item. This paves the way to the correct creation of new master items while avoiding duplication or putting distinctly used items under the same master item.

A few good practices to keep in mind:

  • Include key details: for items which are known to be highly specific by nature, the key details must be included in the master item name. Example: shrimps are known to be highly specific in how they are bought so it is imperative to add such details; e.g. if they are bought with head-on and shell-on (HOSO) and of a specific size, then the master item name must appear as something like “Shrimps HOSO 50/60” instead of just “Shrimps”.
  • Language consistency: stick to one main language which everybody understands. If specific terms are needed from a different language, add the translation in the main language into the item name. Example: although the Italian product “Carpaccio” is the actual name of the product, it benefits to name the master item as “Carpaccio (thin sliced raw beef)” so that the end users clearly know what it is, to avoid re-creating the same item.
  • Standardize abbreviations: define a standard list of abbreviations with explanation and stick to the same abbreviations throughout the items list and categories. Example: if you purchase gluten free items and wish to abbreviate that, stick to just one abbreviation such as “GF” for all gluten-free items so that you can easily search & filter for master items containing this abbreviation. This will help to avoid duplication and wrong centralization.
  • Consistent level of detail: if you choose to add details about a master item in its name, you should add the same level of detail in the related master items. Example: if you have “Red Apple” because you care about the color of your apples, then you must start adding the color to every apple item (e.g. “Green Apple” etc.). What you should avoid, is to have master items with varying levels of details like “Red Apple” as well as “Apple” because this will open the door to duplication and wrong item centralization.
  • Avoid naming redundancy & unnecessary details: do not add descriptions which don’t help to identify the precise item. Example: don’t name an item “Preserved Canned Tomatoes” because “Canned” already implies it “Preserved”. If a user now wishes to build a recipe on the basis of “Canned Tomatoes”, he will be confused whether to use the existing master item “Preserved Canned Tomatoes” because his required item doesn’t mention “Preserved”. This opens the door for duplication, as this user may now want to create a new master item “Canned Tomatoes”, next to the existing master item.
  • Consistent units of measurement: decide which units of measurement you will use for each master item’s usage & storage and stick to those. Example:. don’t mix “Kg” and “g”, instead stick to just one weight unit of measurement for all items. This will help to avoid mistakes in recipe building and ordering.
  • Usage-focused item categorization: create multi-level item categories which logically group different master items together with similar usage patterns. Parent-level item categories should be generic enough so that there aren’t more than 7-8 of them whereas leaf-level item categories should be specific enough to group together highly similar master items which are almost substitutes but still are distinct master items.
4) Data Governance

All the best intentions go to waste if there are no clear processes and routines in place to maintain the integrity, accuracy and availability of your master item data; a few suggestions that work well:

  • Use an appropriate digital tool or software (preferably a specialized restaurant inventory software)
  • Designate a single responsible person for maintaining the master items list for the restaurant group
  • Keep the authority for item changes (creation, updating, deleting) in the hands of very few key people
  • Create visibility on who conducted which item changes when (i.e. change logs) and create a system of accountability around item changes
  • Have a clear and efficient and process for requesting item changes for end users who need to use the items in the recipes so that no bottleneck arises
  • Invest in a proper, flexible search functionality to search through your existing master items list based on keywords in the name and item category so these can be retrieved easily; it is highly recommended to use the “fuzzy-search” technology with high tolerance so that accidental typos, different spellings and different word sequences will still allow you to find the item. Advanced restaurant inventory softwares will likely have powerful search functionality.
    • Example: If you have an existing item “Apple Red” and you search for “Red Apple”, you should find the item
    • Example 2: If you have an existing item “Celery” and you search for it but you misspell it as “Selery” or “Cellery”, then you should still find the item

3. Using A Restaurant Inventory Management Software

Having a solid master items list should be used in combination with a good restaurant inventory management software. Bringing digitization and automation will help you aggregate clean data in clicks, and redistribute it to decision-makers within your organization, fast.

Example: You need to visualize the performance of a bottle of Heinz Ketchup. If your master items list wasn’t clean, you would need a middleman to clean the data, match the way each branch names a single bottle of Heinz Ketchup, and then deliver the results a week later.

By maintaining a clean master item list and embedding it into a modern restaurant inventory management software, your data could be aggregated in a click, since your list is digitized, and your items standardized.

4. Conclusion

The Master Items List is the silent orchestrator in restaurant management, guiding everything from ingredient selection to cost analysis. Centralization unites identical items, while distinction ensures unique ones retain their identity. Clear naming and categorization bring order to the chaos of diverse ingredients.

However, this list isn’t self-sustaining; it requires governance. Without clear processes and digital tools, it risks errors and inefficiencies. A robust digital infrastructure seamlessly integrates complex data, transforming it from a burden into a catalyst for streamlined operations.

In the world of restaurant management, where precision is key, the Master Items List serves as the unseen conductor, harmonizing operations into a symphony of efficiency and profitability.

5. About Supy

Supy is a data-driven restaurant inventory management software built to help multi-chain restaurants cut costs. Our recipe management software, inventory management software, menu engineering software, and the rest of our suite of products are built to enable the free flow of data throughout your back of house operations. This enables decision-makers to make informed decisions any time, from anywhere.

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