I would have to rate a computer as a must have for a Chef, second only to a good set of quality knives. While utilizing a POS (Point of Sale) System and knowing how to use it can be enormously useful to a chef, I think spreadsheets are the cat’s meow.
Before I migrated to MS Excel I was a MAChead and used a program called Clarisworks which had a similar spreadsheet program. I couldn’t have done without and been as organized as I was without the heavy use of spreadsheets.
I strongly recommend if, as a cook or chef, if you don’t know how to use spreadsheets, take a course in it, even over learning to use Word.
These are many things that spreadsheets can be used for to make your life easier. (While some POS systems can spit out reports in CSV (comma separated value) format, so you can integrate them with information you are using at home, you can’t take the POS system home with you.) As a former chef, much of my computer time was spent at home working on things for the restaurant on my own time (something that happens a lot, especially if you are on salary)
Here is a listing of some of the things you can use spreadsheets for:
- Staff scheduling
- Order sheets for vendors
- Vendor lists with contact information
- Daily prep lists
- Inventory control lists and tracking
- Variable food cost lists (if you learn to program formulas this makes life much easier.) The cost of fish for the special you run every Friday varies dramatically week to week. Plug in the cost and if your calculations are in correctly, it will give the cost of what you should sell the entrée for in order to maintain your food cost properly.
- Recipes (again if you learn to program formulas) changing a recipe with ingredients for 10 servings to 150 becomes a snap.
- Long term recording and forecasting (track inventory levels and compare them month to month, track vendor usage, track food pricing, track covers (people dining), track your scheduling of staff-who needs a vacation?)
- Waste and food loss usage: If bread baskets are coming back from the dining room with an average of 2 rolls left in them, track waste and reduce accordingly. Having to note and track raw food (vegetables, meat, fish and poultry) being prepared also cuts down on waste, cooks who have sloppy knife skills will show up wasting more food over time then ones with better. If a cook, in an average time period, cleans a case of tenderloins, make him weigh the trimmings. Trimmings should be just silverskin. If the average unusable trim is high, it’s something you need to keep an eye one.
- Menu items and trends (if you track an average of two weeks worth of sales of a new entrée and compared to a similarly priced entrée or one that it is replacing, sales are down, it may not be worth keeping it on.)
- Schedule your specials and date when you ran them; this makes finding out whether certain ones sold better easier and also whether some sold better if ran on certain days then others. I always found it interesting that a high end grilled vegetable panini special sold better when run midweek then on the weekends for example.
In the long run, use of spreadsheets will save you time, make you better organized, save your food costs and down the road save quite a few headaches.