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Best Practices for Receiving Food

Your receiving door is one of the most important doors in your restaurant. It’s also the first door money can walk out of without proper receiving procedures. Did you know that pre-consumer waste (things like spoilage and scraps) account for 12% of your total food costs? That’s a significant amount of your budget!

We want you to make the most of your business expenditures while minimizing food waste. Today, Morton Food Service will share best practices for receiving food at your independent restaurant — plus, we’re providing a handy checklist to help guide you.


It is important to have a specific door for food deliveries, and it should be a different entrance than what is used by your customers. This may seem like common sense, but it’s important to separate the traffic flow to avoid looking unprofessional in front of customers. Customers should be seeing your front of house and experiencing the ambience you’ve set, not seeing logistics in motion. This risk is especially high during busy periods. That’s said, if separate entrances are not an option, do your best to receive shipments during off hours so your patrons can enjoy their meals without interruption and have a seamless dining experience. It is important to remember the 3 pillars of any successful food service business and apply them to all levels of your business:

  1. Product
  2. Service
  3. Atmosphere

You can maintain the atmosphere in your establishment by having a proper receiving door and not disturbing your patrons while receiving product.


Make sure you have one or two designated staff members to handle the receiving process. Whether this is a porter, FOH employee or member of your kitchen staff, ensure that each staff member is familiar with and appreciates the importance of the process. They should also be capable of following a food receiving checklist. We recommend putting a porter in charge of receiving orders as they have a good sense where product goes in your cooler and pantry, and in turn, they will develop a relationship with the delivery driver. Remember: an invoice should never be signed until the employee in charge of receiving has gone through every case.

Ideally, you’ll involve this staff member when ordering products so they’ll have a bird’s eye view of the whole process, from par counts on products to ordering and receiving. Oftentimes, it is beneficial to have a chef oversee the process and have a kitchen staff member in charge of receiving (and ordering) product so they can maintain accountability, plan properly and also incorporate orders for locally-sourced and seasonal products which often taste better and last longer in the receiving process. Consider implementing a bi-weekly review process with the person responsible for receiving and implementing KPIs and associated incentives to ensure accountability.


Before any food is stored, be sure to check the shipment for food safety and quality. Here’s a quick checklist:

  • Take the temperature of several food products in the shipment at random. Are these products at a food safe temperature?
  • Maintain the cold chain by storing the food promptly and properly.
  • Make sure you have the right amount of product by weight/size and ensure that the product has adequate code dates.
  • Is the product in good condition when it arrives? Are the boxes intact?
  • When receiving produce, inspect the product at the bottom of the case to see if there is residual moisture or mold in the case.
  • Be sure to have the invoice on hand during delivery so it can be cross-referenced against the receiving shipment.

When receiving a product, checking and double checking is the best way to ensure money isn’t walking back out the door. Keeping past invoices handy to cross reference price and previous orders is a must. Past invoices often get filed away instantaneously, but double checking price and SUPC is an integral part of day-to-day administration.

Be sure to keep item checklists for product you purchase from a supplier with notations on the quantity and characteristics you receive (ie. kg/lb/piece/case). Not only will this be easy to check-off as you determine what you need to order every week, but it also helps when conducting monthly inventory.

We highly recommend using a digital checklist on a tablet or smartphone. Digital forms are a great way to store information so data can easily be extrapolated in the future. It is difficult to dig deeper into data when you are using paper on a clipboard. We recommend using Google Forms as they are free to use and easily integrated.


Food must be stored properly, following the FIFO method (First In, First Out). Older products need to be rotated to the front of the shelf and new products must be placed at the back. Take a count of all items in cooler/pantry storage and if you have an abundance of a particular product, get ready to suggest a feature or special based on the surplus.

Fresh protein should be removed from the case upon receiving, and placed into lined ‘hotel pans’ and layered lightly. This is due to natural juices building up in the case which will degrade the meat / poultry / fish quickly. Fish should be wiped with a Paper Towel lightly. The product sticker should then be fixed to the hotel pan so the information is there for other staff members. Another great tip is to put products in clear containers so they are easier to see and use.

THE 80/20 RULE

Eighty percent of your fixed food cost is often associated with twenty percent of your product. So you need to treat this product like gold! Set priorities and make sure your staff know which products have the greatest cost, ensuring that these products are stored properly before addressing other items in the shipment.

In smaller establishments, having an involved staff member in the purchasing and receiving process will often mitigate errors and food losses. However, in this technological age, investing in a POS system to track food coming in (and going out of) the door is advantageous and can greatly benefit your restaurant as a whole.

Long before any food even touches a plate, the receiving practices of your establishment can help determine if and how you thrive. Ensure you have the right staff and procedures in place to receive food properly — it’s a simple way to invest in your long-term success.

At QNP Supplies, we offer a wide range of food containers to meet all your food storage needs. From plastic containers to glass jars, we have everything you need to store and transport your food safely and conveniently. Browse our selection today and find the perfect container for your needs!

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