Now that it’s January, take advantage of a little down time and get organized! Charles Bililies is the founder and owner of Souvla, a Greek sandwich shop in San Francisco. Because he’s operating in a small space, Charles has made it a priority to stay organized, from tracking inventory to labeling items in his storeroom. Here are his top tips to set yourself up for success in 2015.
Never underestimate the power of organized storage. These spaces are the true foundation of your business, and, let’s face it, are often overlooked because they are the things your guests never see. Take advantage of the slower periods in the first quarter of the year to reevaluate your storage, inventory, and ordering systems.
When we opened the 1,000-sq. ft. Souvla in April, we didn’t have a whole lot of storage space. It’s always an issue when operating in expensive cities like San Francisco. We were fortunate enough to find some affordable basement storage a few doors down from Souvla, and immediately went to work.
Here are seven tips to keep in mind to get your restaurant’s 2015 operating year off on the right foot:
1. It’s better to be looking at it than looking for it.
It’s an old saying, and I wish I knew who said it first, but when it comes to product, “It’s better to be looking at it, than for looking for it.” Make sure you have enough product on hand at all times so that you’re not sweating your next delivery, or scrambling if you get shorted when your purveyor runs out of something. At Souvla, all of our products have a “par” associated with them, listed on our order sheets to help our managers effectively order (more on this later). We know roughly how many units of each item, whether its to-go boxes or iced tea, we go through per week, and so we reference these numbers to set our pars. Since we get a lot of our products in from Greece, we keep hefty stock of these items in the event that a container gets held up in port or something like that (it’s happened several times this year). It’s a lot easier than telling our guests that we’re out of something, or running around the city to find a suitable replacement.
2. Organize your storeroom in a way that makes sense for your operation and space.
Group like items together (i.e. all n/a beverage in one place, all dry goods in another). Create distinct zones for food stuff, paper goods, chemicals etc. Store your product neatly stacked, with labels facing out. Yeah, it may be a bit OCD, but you should smile when you walk into your storage room; be proud of it. It’s a nice habit for you and your staff to have.
3. Sync your order and inventory sheets with your storage plan.
Have separate clipboards for your invoices, order sheets, and inventory sheets. When it’s time to place the day’s (or week’s) orders, you can just grab the sheets and move left to right, top to bottom alongside your storage space. Your sheets should have the product name, the par needed and the contact information for your purveyor that you purchase the product from. Inventory becomes dramatically faster and easier when everything lines up nicely.
4. Get absolutely everything off the ground and invest in some decent storage racks.
A lot of people like metro racks, but we put in ten very large boltless shelving racks (available at any hardware store) which are cheaper, easier, and sturdier than metro racks, and can hold A LOT of weight. Our storage space is in a basement, which ended up flooding a few times this year. Inconvenient, but we didn’t lose a single item because of it.
5. Your label maker is your best friend.
We label all our shelves in the storage room, kitchen, and dining room with what belongs on each rack, so there’s no question from anyone as to what goes where, or where to find anything. This saves employees a ton of time both on the receiving end and when running downstairs to the basement to grab more product.
6. Your office is a storeroom, too.
Take the time to set up organized filing cabinets with hanging files for employees, and important documents like leases, tax returns, etc. We have separate cabinets for the restaurant operation and the business operation. Since so much has gone digital, this is also a great time to organize your computer files, creating individual folders for things like kitchen, dining room, accounting, human resources, marketing, etc. and placing them in one master file that can be accessed by your managers and chefs. This way, if you’re looking for a particular document, you have a good idea on where to start. Do the digital version of getting things off the ground and back up everything either on an external hard drive or in the cloud (or both) while you’re at it.
7. Don’t forget about your employee’s storage space, too.
Your employee locker room sees a tremendous amount of use, abuse, and turnover. The start of the year is as good a time as ever to have a locker clean out day. Post signs at least one week in advance so that your staff has enough notice to remove their belongings, then go through and thoroughly clean the lockers and changing areas. Now’s the time to throw away those stinky kitchen shoes that one of your cooks who left six months ago never took home!
Now that 2015 is here, resolve to make this the best year yet for your restaurant business. Every day this month we’ll be featuring a new tip from restaurateurs, chefs, and other industry leaders to shape up your marketing, operations, hospitality, and more. Check back daily for expert advice and successful strategies to start your year off right, and see them all here.