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Archive | April, 2012

Buy The Right Flatware For Your Restaurant

When purchasing flatware for your restaurant or commercial kitchen, the two most important factors to consider are the type of stainless steel the flatware is made from and the weight of the flatware you want to buy.

18/10 vs. 18/0 Stainless Steel

Buy The Right Flatware For Your Restaurant

Windsor pattern flatware

All flatware is made of stainless steel, but not all types of stainless steel are the same.  The term “stainless” is actually a misnomer because stainless steel does in fact stain and rust over time.  Most stainless steel is mixed with other metals like chromium and nickel to improve durability and rust resistance.

The amount and type of metals added to the steel affects your flatware’s performance and cost:

18/0 flatware contains 18% chromium and 0% nickel.  The chromium forms a thin layer over the steel, making it stronger.  18/0 flatware is more affordable than 18/10 flatware but stains and rusts more easily and isn’t as shiny.

18/10 flatware has 18% chromium and 10% nickel.  The nickel gives the flatware a bright shine and is less susceptible to staining and rust.

Flatware Weight

Flatware is also made in different weight classes.  The heavier the weight, the sturdier the flatware, but also the more expensive it will be.  There are four common weights:

Medium weight flatware. Also known as “economy weight,” this flatware is easily bendable and has a relatively short lifespan.  It is, however, very affordable compared to other types of flatware.  This type of flatware is ideal for restaurants where flatware is frequently lost.

Buy The Right Flatware For Your Restaurant

Dominion Heavy Duty Flatware

Heavy Duty flatware. This flatware is probably the most common.  It is much sturdier than medium weight flatware but can still be bent by hand.

Extra Heavy Duty flatware. This is the heaviest weight flatware and is by far the strongest.  Heavier duty flatware costs more up front but lasts longer and is less prone to breaking or bending.

European Style flatware. European dinner knives and dinner forks are about a third heavier and a third larger than normal heavy duty flatware.  This type of flatware is most commonly found in high end restaurants.

Caring For Flatware

Flatware is a large up-front expense for any restaurant or commercial kitchen, but at least once you purchase flatware, especially if it’s heavier duty, it will last a long time.  However, improper care can cause flatware to tarnish or rust and reduce its usable lifespan.  A few simple care techniques can help maximize your flatware investment:

Pre-Soak your flatware for about 10 minutes before washing. Pre-soaking for longer times isn’t recommended as this encourages rust to start forming.  If possible, remove food bits manually with a soapy sponge or a pre-rinse.  Don’t use an abrasive pad as this scratches the finish and encourages rust to start developing.  Washing flatware as soon as possible after it has been used is ideal to help prevent tarnishing.

Use flatware holders to store and transport flatware. Do not use aluminum or metal pans for pre-soaking or transporting your flatware because the metals interact with chlorine in the water and speed the oxidization (or rusting) of stainless steel.

Use a high temperature dishwasher to wash flatware. Most restaurants and commercial kitchens already have a high temp dishwasher to meet NSF regulations.  However, if you don’t, avoid using chlorine or bleach products to sanitize stainless flatware as these chemicals will damage it.

It’s also recommended to use a scale inhibitor filter on the water line to your dishwasher.  A scale inhibitor removes minerals from the water, preventing harmful buildups on your flatware.

Dry flatware quickly. As soon as possible after washing your flatware, dry it and store it where it will stay dry.  Wetness is the friend of rust and therefore the enemy of your flatware.  Most commercial dishwashers have a drying cycle, but this doesn’t always get flatware completely dry.  It’s a good idea to wipe down your flatware after it comes out of the dishwasher.

Don’t use abrasive detergents or materials. Whenever you clean flatware, avoid anything abrasive that will score or scratch the stainless steel surface.  Those scratches penetrate the thin film coating of chromium and nickel on your flatware that protects the steel from rusting and tarnishing.

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Restaurant Management: Are You A Sergeant Or A General?

For those of you who do not know me personally, I have a confession to make.  I am a huge history nerd.  This means that The History Channel’s “America: The Story of Us” is taking up a large portion on my DVR.

I was watching the episode on World War II the other day when a particular statement from a General caught my attention.  He talked about the reasons soldiers fight.  He said that beyond all other reasons soldiers almost universally fight for the guy in the foxhole with them.

As a server, I can relate to this.  When the entire restaurant goes down in the weeds, you don’t fight through it for the sake of corporation or their shareholders.  You fight through it for your coworkers. You fight through it for those people who are fighting with you.  After the fight it is a bond you share.

There are many former coworkers out there I don’t particularly like as people, but will always respect because of the battles we went through together.  I would lend them a hand when they need it, because I know I could count on them when I need it.

To take the military analogy further, there are two types of restaurant managers: Generals and Sergeants. Generals send you into battle.  Sergeants lead you into battle.  You fight for Sergeants and you curse Generals under your breath the whole time.  Managers who fight with you and for you as Sergeants make you want to fight with and for them.  Managers who command as Generals will find a staff unconcerned with helping them win their battles.

It all comes down to one very simple principle:

Strong managers gain respect by their actions.  Weak managers demand respect because of their title.

With this in mind, here are three ways a manager can transition from a General to a Sergeant:

Get in the Battle: A manager who is on the floor running food and bussing tables will command the respect of their staff.  You cannot lead the troops from the host stand or the office.  If you don’t find it important enough to join in the battle, then your staff will feel their battle is not important to you.

This does not mean being a food runner during slow times.  It means helping out when the battle gets heated for your staff.  If you are not willing to help your staff when they need you, you can expect the same level of help in achieving your objectives.

Show You Care: Serving is different than most jobs.  Most jobs start with an agreement to pay a certain amount for a certain level of performance.  Servers agree to charge far less (sometimes less than minimum wage) with the understanding management will put them in a position to make far more in tips.  That is why servers take the job.

If you show your staff that you do not care about the amount of tips they make, you can not expect them to care about the parts of the job they are making minimum wage or less for.  When you show you care about them making more in tips, they will care more about the additional things you need them to do.

Be Willing to Apologize: Servers and managers are both experts at apologies to guests. Both generally stink at apologizing to each other.  Managers are forced to make judgment calls that can impact server’s income on a nearly shift-by-shift basis.  Even great managers get these calls wrong sometimes.

The reason they are great managers is because they are willing to own up to these mistakes.

Nearly all of these mistakes can be forgiven with a simple, “I made what I thought was the best call and I got it wrong.  I am sorry.”  This goes a long way in showing that you care.  This does not reduce your authority, but instead increases the respect for the decision.  Trying to stand behind and defend a decision that turned out poorly is a fool’s errand that shows you are more concerned with being in charge than being correct.

As a manager, a vast majority of your objectives depend on the effort and cooperation of your staff.  Having them fighting with you makes achieving most of these objectives far easier.  Managers who feel they must have an adversarial relationship with their staff will find little help in achieving their objectives.  This does not mean that the staff must love a manager who acts as a Sergeant.  Sergeants are not necessarily liked, but they are respected.  The troops respect the Sergeant though because they are in the battle with them and therefore are much more likely to fight for them.

Do you work for a Sergeant?  Any Generals out there want to tell the other side?  Any other suggestions from servers on what they appreciate in a manager?  Any former server turned manager who wants to share some insight?  The comment section is yours!

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Food Safety Tips: Safe Seafood

Food Safety Tips: Safe SeafoodFresh seafood will always sell well in your restaurant, and for many businesses it’s a staple item on the menu.  Making sure the seafood you serve is safe requires some careful maintenance and preparation, and it’s good to develop some strategies for ensuring the seafood you serve is safe.  More than likely you already have guidelines in place for serving other types of protein like beef, chicken, and pork.  Preparing seafood requires many of the same precautions along with some additional strategies to make sure you serve safe seafood every time.

Some food safety tips for serving seafood:

Know your distributor.  Always buy seafood from a reputable distributor whom you can trust to deliver a product that has been properly maintained.  This means fresh seafood and shellfish are kept at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower throughout the entire food distribution process.  You have to be able to trust that the distributor is on top of this before the product reaches your door.  Be sure to shop around for several different distributors and weigh price versus quality until you find the right balance between the two.  If you have any doubts, ask to see certified product tags.

Manage raw product.  Once that seafood or shellfish comes through your door, managing it properly is your responsibility.  Store fresh product at 41 degrees Fahrenheit or lower as soon as possible after you receive it.  Seafood should be stored in an airtight container or using cling wrap until it is ready to be prepared.  Use a thermometer or a data logger to track the temperature of your seafood to make sure it is staying out of the “danger zone” between 41 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Store live shellfish, lobsters, and crabs in a ventilated container covered with a damp cloth.  Storing live shellfish in salt water shortens their lifespan, and using fresh water will kill them outright, so take care when deciding how to store live shellfish.

Before you use seafood touch and smell it.  Assuming you have been tracking temperature and know that the seafood product you are about to prepare has been maintained below 41 degrees Fahrenheit, the fastest and easiest way to make sure the product is safe is by using your senses.  Clean, fresh seafood should have a mild smell.  A fishy or sour smell is a telltale sign of contamination.  Fresh seafood should also be soft yet firm to the touch.  A mushy or dry, hard feel also indicates contamination.

Avoid cross-contamination.  While preparing seafood product on the line, take care to avoid cross-contamination.  The best way to accomplish this is to use color coded knives and cutting boards during preparation.  That way your kitchen staff knows which knives and cutting boards have been used on raw seafood and can avoid using them on other items being prepared.  Also make sure your staff follows proper handwashing techniques and uses disposable gloves to avoid contamination during preparation.

Cook seafood to the proper temperature.  All seafood served in your restaurant should reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit when cooked.

Food Safety Tips: Safe Seafood

Sushi and other seafood served raw require extra care

Serving sushi or other kinds of raw fish and seafood add a whole other element of risk to your customer.  If you do serve raw fish or shellfish, like oysters, the guidelines above that cover temperature, cross-contamination, and handwashing become even more important.  Also, many states require that seafood to be served as sushi must be commercially frozen first to kill harmful parasites and viruses that may be present.  Check with local and state laws to make sure you are in compliance.

Seafood can be a delicate product to store and prepare properly while avoiding contamination, but a little extra work and some attention to detail can yield some very popular dishes for your menu that will have customers coming back for more.  Having a clear set of guidelines for maintaining the food safety of seafood products is only half the battle.

The real fight is training and educating your staff on following these guidelines and then conducting regular quality control measures to ensure the standards you have set are being met.  Being vigilant about food safety procedures is the only way to achieve real success in any food safety program, whether it’s for seafood or any other item on your menu.

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Repairing Commercial Fryers

When your fryer needs to be repaired you probably want to get it up and running again fast.  Fortunately, commercial fryers are generally easy to repair, and parts are also pretty easy to come by.  There are 4 fryer parts that most commonly cause a fryer to fail:

1. Hi-Limit
2. Thermopile
3. Combination Safety Gas Valve
4. Thermostat

How to Determine What the Problem Is

BE SURE TO TURN OFF THE POWER AND/OR GAS FIRST!

If the pilot light will not stay lit, 1 of 3 things have failed:

  1. Hi-Limit. First, check to see if the hi-limit is the culprit by taking one wire off and connecting it with the other wire.  Do as you always do and light the pilot.  If the pilot remains lit, then the high limit is bad and needs to be replaced.  To replace the hi-limit, you first need to empty the oil from the tank.  This needs to be done because the sensing bulb for the hi-limit enters through the side of the tank.  There is a large nut in the side of the tank and a smaller nut inside the large nut, loosen and pull these off.  Now you can remove the defective high limit.  Reverse the procedure to install the new hi-limit.  Always screw the larger nut into the tank first and then the smaller nut.  Light the pilot and your unit should be working.Repairing Commercial Fryers
  2. Thermopile. If the pilot still will not stay lit, then the thermopile is most likely the culprit.  One end is attached to the pilot and the other is attached to the gas valve.  Remove the thermopile from both places and replace.  Light the pilot, and if it remains lit you are good to go.  Also, remember to reconnect the hi-limit wire.Repairing Commercial Fryers
  3. Combination Safety Gas Valve. If the pilot still will not stay lit, then the only thing left is the combination safety gas valve.  To replace the combo valve, you will need to have a couple of pipe wrenches.  This is the most difficult part to change, due to the limited space.  Remember to install the new gas valve in the same direction and replace all the connections.Repairing Commercial Fryers

If the pilot is lit, but the fryer still does not work, the thermostat may be faulty.  Only 3 things can happen:

  1. Either the burner will not light when turned on even though the pilot is lit.
  2. The oil will not get hot enough.
  3. When the oil reaches temperature it will not shut off.

Thermostat. In either case the thermostat will need to be replaced.  If it is running wild (will not shut off) the oil will overheat causing the hi-limit to trip out and shut everything off.  By resetting the hi-limit and relighting the pilot and it stays lit, then you will know that the thermostat is not good.  To replace the thermostat follow the same instructions for replacing the hi-limit.Repairing Commercial Fryers

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Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

Converting any piece of gas equipment from natural gas to propane or from propane to natural gas is fairly simple and can be accomplished in 5 easy steps.

Parts needed to convert the equipment:

  • Burner Orifices
  • Pilot Orifice
  • Regulator
  • Combination Safety Valve conversion kit
  • Nomenclature (tag on unit that has model and serial number on it).

ALWAYS REMEMBER TO TURN OFF ALL GAS TO THE UNIT!!

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

1.  Replacing burner orifices. First, the most important thing you need to know is the brand name, model and serial numbers of your unit.  Next thing you will need to know is what altitude the unit you are converting is at.  This will determine what orifice size you will need.  You will also need to know the number of top burners as well as any other burners such as oven burners and the number of oven pilots (if you are converting a range).  The conversion can be done one of two ways: either by using the manufacturer’s conversion kit or with individual parts.  The conversion kits can be more expensive than using individual parts.

The conversion can take some time because whatever piece of equipment you are converting has to be dismantled and then reassembled.  Begin by removing all the burners and then remove what is needed to be removed in order to access the burner valves.  The burner valves do not need to be removed.  Remove the old orifices and install the new orifices (orifices are screwed to the end of the valve).

2.  Replace pilot orifices. If you are converting an oven, you also need to change the pilot orifice.  The pilot tube is attached to the pilot with a nut.  Unscrew the nut and pull the tube out of the pilot assembly.  When the tube is pulled out, the orifice should fall out; if it does not, tap the pilot assembly.  Replace the pilot orifice and reassemble.  Reassemble the unit the same way you took it apart (you are almost done!)

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps

3.  Replace the gas regulator. You must change the gas regulator usually found at the back of the equipment.  Remove the old regulator and install the new regulator, making sure that the gas flow direction is accurate.  The regulator has an arrow on the bottom of it and it must point toward the piece of equipment.

Reconnect the gas hose, turn on the gas and check all connections for leaks.  This can be done with soap bubbles – wipe soapy water onto the connections and look for places where it bubbles up, indicating a leak.  Light all your pilots (it may take a little time to purge out all the air).  Adjust the pilots to the correct flame height by turning the adjustment screw on the pilot valve.  Now turn on one burner at a time (you want a nice blue tip flame).  If there is yellow or orange in the flame you will need to adjust the air shutter on the burner to  correct the flame.   This goes for top burners as well as the oven burners.regulator, making sure that the gas flow direction is accurate.  The regulator has an arrow on the bottom of it and it must point toward the piece of equipment.

Converting Gas Restaurant Equipment In 5 Simple Steps4.  Converting combination safety valves. Some pieces of equipment have combination safety valves, most notably fryers.  There are conversion kits for them (there is no choice on this).  The kit contains a plate and gaskets.  There are instructions with each kit, and it is very simple to change.  Remove the old plate from the top of the safety valve and follow the instructions to install the new plate and gaskets.  The conversion is complete!

You can special order a conversion kit easily by calling 1-888-388-6372.

5.  Replace the unit’s nomenclature. By law, the nomenclature must also be replaced.  This is only available through the manufacturer of the piece of equipment being converted.  Sometimes it takes awhile to get them, so until you get the replacement, you should remove the word “natural” from the tag with a magic marker and write in large letters, “LP”.  When you receive the new tag, simply stick it over the old one.

You have now converted your equipment from natural gas to propane or vice versa.

Congratulations!

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5 Ways to Turn Your Staff into a High Performing Team

In a restaurant, it takes the concerted efforts of an entire team to create a great dining experience. Everyone has a part to play.

If your team breaks down, or isn’t working together effectively, it will impact your customers. But it’s also likely to impact individual employees, resulting in dissatisfaction, lower performance, tensions or animosities, and even higher turnover. All of which are bad for business.

If your team works well together, people feel supported, better enjoy their work, and are likely to be more engaged and productive. That means happier employees, happier customers, and happier owners.

Here are 5 things you can do to help your staff function as a high-performing team.

1.    Set Performance Expectations for Each Role

It’s important for everyone to know what their role is, what’s expected of them, how they interact with or impact others, and what they can expect from other staff. There are three important ways that you set and communicate performance expectations: job descriptions, competencies and goals.

Right from the start, you should create clear job descriptions for every role in your restaurant. Job descriptions help everyone understand their key responsibilities and tasks. You should also share all job descriptions with all your staff, so they understand their role on the team and their interdependent relationship with other team members. Understanding your role on the team is the first step to being part of a high-performing team.

Next you should identify the competencies (sometimes called skills, values or behaviors) that are critical to success and high performance in each role. You may find it helpful to identify core competencies that everyone should display – these help build your restaurant culture and brand – as well as job specific competencies. However you choose to do this, every employee should clearly understand what competencies you expect them to display on the job.

Finally, you need to set and assign clear goals for each employee. If you do this in collaboration with each employee, they’ll likely be more committed to their goals. Every employee goal should in some way be linked to a higher level organizational goal. This gives every employee a context for their work and helps them feel like they’re part of a team working on a larger effort.

By setting clear performance expectations for each employee you identify their role on the team, their relationship with every other team member, and give them a context and parameters for their work on the team.

2.    Provide Training and Cross-Training

To build a high performing team, it’s important to provide everyone with training in their particular role. The training can be to address identified skill gaps or to further expand or deepen existing skills. The training doesn’t have to be formal classroom training. It can include things like job shadowing, mentoring, reading, observation, podcasts, etc.

When assigning development plans to your employees, consider the power of cross-training to build team relationships and strength. Cross-training allows you to “walk in someone else’s shoes” for a period, and gives you an understanding of the workplace and team from their perspective. Having a waitress work a shift busing tables or doing prep in the kitchen can give her a broader perspective of the work that another team mate does, and how her own work impacts others. There are ways to do this effectively, on slower days or shifts, so that service to your clientele is not disrupted. Cross-training employees like this invariably gives them a better understanding and deeper appreciation of the challenges their team mates face – and results in better teamwork and communication.

3.    Give Everyone Ongoing Feedback and Coaching on Their Performance

Every employee need to hear, on a regular basis, what they are doing well, where they can improve, and what you expect from them. By giving all your employees feedback and coaching on their performance, you help improve their individual performance, and that of the team.

4.    Gather Feedback on Performance from Peers and Coworkers

In a restaurant, with its busy work environment and varied shifts, it’s almost impossible for a manager or owner to have broad and deep knowledge of each employee’s performance. By gathering 360 degree feedback from those who work most closely with each employee, you can get a better perspective and understanding of their performance. You can also better understand how they are functioning on the team, and how they are perceived by the team. This invaluable information can help you and the employee maximize their performance and address any problems.

5.    Recognize and Reward Team-Focused Behaviors

If you want to encourage strong team behavior and performance, recognize and reward it. Get everyone one board with this initiative, encouraging praise, “thank yous” and recognition for individual work well done, in support of the larger team. If you do recognize and reward good performance publicly (in front of the team) rather than privately, your acknowledgements and rewards will serve to motivate the entire team to perform. And sometimes, when the whole team is performing well, it’s important to recognize and reward the team as a whole, not just the high-performing individuals. If you want to encourage good performance, recognize and reward it.

These 5 things are really core elements of good employee performance management that fosters employee high performance. In a restaurant, where you need everyone working together as a high performing team to deliver a great dining experience, you can use these techniques to improve both individual and team performance.

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Why Buying Hobart Mixer Attachments Shouldn’t Cost You An Arm and a Leg

Why Buying Hobart Mixer Attachments Shouldn’t Cost You An Arm and a LegAnyone with a Hobart mixer in their restaurant or commercial kitchen will tell you what a great machine it is.  These mixers last a long time despite constant, heavy use, and for many kitchens they are essential to the success of daily operations.  Often the attachments that make your Hobart mixer so indispensable wear out or break long before the machine itself does.

That’s good in the sense that Hobart’s tank-like mixers are a seriously long-term investment that pays off big time in reliability and durability.  But it’s also bad in the sense that Hobart likes to charge an arm and a leg for their mixer attachments.  Dough hooks, mixer bowls, flat beaters, pastry knives, graters/shredders, you name it, if Hobart makes it, they’re going to make you pay for it.

That leaves you with two choices:

1)  Hobble around a limbless freak but have nice, shiny new Hobart brand name attachments on your mixer
2) Forego prosthetics and buy generic attachments

I’m sure you know where Hobart comes down on this issue.  Their attachments are high quality, and cheap knock-offs are likely to break, underperform, and cause you all kinds of problems that will make you wish you had never valued your limbs so much.

It’s true, there are some cheap mixer attachments out there.  But what’s also true is that you can buy high quality, durable mixer attachments that fit any Hobart mixer but do not carry the Hobart name.  These mixer attachments are equal in quality to anything Hobart makes, and they’re also a fraction of the cost.  So no matter what kind of mixer attachment you need, get quality replacements that have everything a Hobart brand name attachment has, except the Hobart name stamped on it.

If you are in the market, here’s some key things to keep in mind before you buy:

Determine if your Hobart mixer is a Standard or a Legacy HL model.  Standard Hobart mixers are older models.  The attachments for Standard models slide onto the mixer shaft and twist into place.  Legacy HL mixers are newer models.  The attachments for Legacy HL models slide onto the mixer shaft and lock into place with a pin.  Make sure you buy the right kind of attachment according to the type of Hobart mixer you have!Why Buying Hobart Mixer Attachments Shouldn’t Cost You An Arm and a Leg

Look for shredder/grater attachments with German steel blades.  German steel is hardened, which means the blade lasts longer and cuts sharper than your average steel blade.  Any extra cost is more than made up by how well this blade will cut over the long term.

Keeping your Hobart mixer going with new attachments shouldn’t feel like buying a whole new mixer.  Buying smart by finding high quality generic replacements will save you a lot of dough, and won’t force you to sacrifice any quality (or body parts).

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A Smaller Supply Chain Means Bigger Savings

A Smaller Supply Chain Means Bigger SavingsGoing back to 2008 there has been a growing trend among suppliers of charging a flat delivery surcharge on all orders to help defray the cost of fuel. There was some relief in the past few years from this tactic but with the dramatic rise in gas prices over the past year the surcharges reappeared.

This is just one example of how restaurants are faced with rising transportation costs within their supply chain and while gas prices may have peaked according to AAA, it is more than likely that restaurants will continue to feel the pinch moving forward.

The problem with rising costs in the supply chain is that managing them can become increasingly difficult without having to eventually pass on the additional expense to your customers. Unfortunately, more often than not, your customers will already be feeling the same pinch that you are as a business.

You can pretty much bet that just as rising fuel costs make business more difficult for you, they also lead to more customers eating at home rather than going out in hopes of saving money.

To help combat these issues companies can look towards ideas based on procurement theories. When you talk about procurement for your business there are 5 key rules that you want to keep in mind. You may not be able to meet all 5 at all times but when purchasing any item you want to get as many as possible; this means finding it at the right price, at the right time, in the proper quantity and quality and getting it where you need it.

Take for instance this Ruth Chris Steak House in Atlanta that has seen the price of their meet increase up to 11% over the past month.

There’s not much they can do about purchasing this product because, not surprisingly, steak is the most popular item on the menu. So despite the fact that they aren’t getting the product at the right price the restaurant must continue to buy the product. However, for many businesses I believe there is an extremely viable option to improve their supply chain – local vendors.

By moving towards a locally focused supply chain, restaurant owners can hope to achieve two things: lower costs and more control. Here in Reno many restaurants are looking to local suppliers to save on costs while simultaneously getting a higher quality product.

Take for instance a Reno restaurant called Campo and their push to focus on local suppliers. The key of going local is that your food travels a shorter distance and in many cases you can pool your orders with other businesses to help save on transportation costs.

The overall goal of going local is to threefold. First, you are able to cut down on costs by working with local vendors who have lower overhead and other fixed costs than the larger suppliers.

Second, you can control quality by dealing directly with the farmer or rancher who is supplying you with your inventory. Finally, your customers will feel a deeper sense of commitment to you when they see your commitment to sustainability and the local economy (not to mention reasonable prices and higher quality menu offerings).

So while rising costs are probably not going away any time soon, there is an answer to help alleviate the strain. By shrinking the size of your supply chain you can look to create savings while also increasing your ability to control more of the risks.

Supply chain management is all about realizing the risks inherent in running your business. The restaurant industry comes with more than its fair share of variables that must be constantly monitored – from labor costs to inventory and quality control.

Looking towards the local community to help is one of the easiest and most efficient ways to create better controls while maximizing your customers’ experience.

That is a win-win.

Matt Molinari blogs about supply chain management and the Food & Beverage industry on his blog and is always looking for new and interesting ways to better manage a business through innovation. You can connect with him on Twitter @matt_molinari

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Restaurant Inventory: Tips To Increase Efficiency and Boost Profits

Restaurant Inventory: Tips To Increase Efficiency and Boost ProfitsAs a restaurateur, you probably struggle with inventory on a regular basis.  Balancing walk-in space, fast-selling menu items, and slow moving items can create a constant headache.  Some of your product moves quickly, some does not, and inevitably some ends up sitting in the walk-in for far too long.

That sitting product is costing your restaurant money, because you’ve already invested money in it but you aren’t seeing any return in the form of sold entrees to customers.  Even worse, it’s taking up room in your walk-in while it costs you money.  So how to turn frozen product into dollars in the cash register?  Some tips to help you manage inventory:

What do you need?  What do you already have?  It’s very hard to manage inventory when you don’t know what you’ve got and what you need.  More than likely you use a POS system to help you manage existing inventory and to track sales so you know what you need more of.  However, it’s important to supplement any POS tracking with a regular manual inventory of your stock.  That way you can double check what the software is telling you while also checking that food quality has been maintained.  A regular inventory schedule will also let you track trends in your inventory, like items that sell better or worse seasonally and product that you consistently have too much or too little of.

Get creative with what you’ve got.  Once you identify the food products you’ve got more than enough of, you need to think of a way to move that product from walk-in to plate.  That means getting creative.  Develop specials and supplemental menu items that feature your excess product at a sale price.  This strategy has multiple benefits: it adds some variety to your menu, it turns sitting product into dollars, and it can provide a little easy market research.

Variety and selling product are pretty self-explanatory.  The most exciting benefit is testing new items made from product you already stock on your customers.  You never know when you’re going to stumble across a hit that really sells well.  When you do, adding it to the menu is easy because you already buy the product and you know how to prepare it.  The best part is, you’re taking extra inventory that was sitting around and moving it out the door, all while giving your customers something new to rave about.

Effectively managing and utilizing your inventory first takes accurate data.  Once you know what you’re dealing with, you can apply the best of your creative process to maximize the efficiency of your kitchen.  The opportunities the extra product lying around your freezer represent an exciting way to hone your menu into a selling machine with very little waste.  And once you get your restaurant operating at that level of efficiency, better sales, and better profits, will follow.

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Restaurant Equipment: 4 Factors For Calculating Total Cost Of Ownership (cont)

There’s always a significant amount of cost involved whenever you buy a new piece of restaurant equipment.  Those costs only continue as that equipment ages in your restaurant – from energy use to repairs, the consequences of new equipment will be around for a long time after you’ve written the check to purchase.

Of course, restaurant equipment makes you money as well.  Without that fryer or reach-in refrigerator or griddle, you wouldn’t be able to prepare your product for your customers.  But understanding the total cost of a piece of equipment over its lifespan has been ignored all too often in the food service industry for years.

Many chains have started doing Total Cost Of Ownership analyses for equipment because they buy large numbers of the same type of equipment all at once.  A faulty or inefficient piece of equipment can mean thousands of dollars in extra expenses for the chain over the lifespan of the piece, and conducting a cost analysis beforehand helps avoid problems down the road.

By and large, most independent operators do not undertake the complicated task of calculating total cost – usually because the information or the know-how necessary to make an accurate calculation isn’t available.

That doesn’t mean independents and smaller chains can’t benefit from a cost analysis before they buy new restaurant equipment.  In a continuation of yesterday’s post, here are two more factors to consider when calculating the total cost of a piece of equipment over its lifespan:

Restaurant Equipment: 4 Factors For Calculating Total Cost Of Ownership (cont)Service and Parts Availability.
Every food service operator loathes equipment downtime.  If your equipment isn’t working, you’re losing money.  Therefore it’s usually a good idea to do some research on the availability of equipment services and parts in your area before you buy.  It’s also good to get an idea of how easy it is to make do-it-yourself repairs on a unit that will save yourself an expensive service call.

There are many quality manufacturers in the food service sector who design units that are easy to pull apart and fix common component failures.  If you’re shopping around, make sure you ask about common parts and how they can be fixed on each unit so you can get a better idea of how quickly (and affordably!) you can fix those problems down the road.

Finally, consider the availability of generic parts for new restaurant equipment pieces.  Generic parts can save you a considerable sum of money if they are available for the unit you own, and are equal to or better in quality than Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts.

Ease Of Use. Energy efficiency is important, but so is labor efficiency.  A piece of equipment that’s difficult or dangerous to operate means more training time and a higher incidence of work-related injuries.  In a high turnover industry like food service, equipment that requires a lot of training to operate simply doesn’t make any sense.

In addition, difficult to operate equipment slows down production and reduces worker efficiency, which can bring some pretty high costs in a high-pressure environment like a restaurant kitchen.  When people order food, they want it quickly and usually at the same time as a lot of other customers.  Easy to use equipment that promotes employee efficiency rather than hindering it is an important cost to factor into your buying decisions.

Considering these factors before you buy a new piece of equipment will help you make an informed decision that goes beyond simply finding the lowest price.  In many cases, the initial price tag has little to do with how much that piece of equipment will actually cost you over its entire lifespan.  A total cost analysis helps you make a more informed decision.

If you’re interested in a more in-depth analysis of total cost, try this standard practice resource from ASTM International.

Read the first installment of this article.

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