4 Everyday Items That Help Restaurant Kitchens Stay Organized
Let's face it, your restaurant's success or failure depends on a strong inventory control system. While numerous technological systems are available to help professional kitchens manage, track, and analyze their inventory methods, some simple, low-tech household items can also be used to help your BOH staff effectively manage inventory.
[br][clear] Something as simple as a Sharpie, a thick gauge, black permanent marker, can provide a huge stop-gap for inventory spoilage, overage, and mishandling. The key to leveraging the sharpie in the commercial kitchen is making it a part of the everyday fabric for the back of house staff. Along with their chef's pants, jacket, apron and towel, the sharpie becomes an inseparable part of the daily uniform and each BOH staff person should have one on their person at all times.
[br][clear] The manager should always ensure that plenty are on hand so that labeling any food item in-house, clearly, in a standardized way with date clearly visible, is a crucial method to maintain strong inventory control and to put 'ownership' of inventory on your BOH staff. Make them responsible. The sharpie is their main tool to do this. Another added benefit of employing this labeling method is that risk of cross-contamination is diminished while confidence that your customer's food allergies can be safely accommodated since ingredients are clearly marked and less mistakes are apt to occur.
[br][clear] During the hectic dinner rush, running into the walk-in cannot be like an Easter Egg hunt. When everything is labeled clearly and dated, even the most rushed trip to the walk in can be completed quickly and safely, using a first-in, first-out methodology afforded by the labeling system.
[br][clear] Masking tape
[br][clear] Masking tape is the other key component to a strong BOH labeling system. Even the most obvious containers of fully-prepped or semi-prepped items needs to be labeled. These items are often found in plastic containers and masking tape allows the labels to adhere and remain despite rough conditions. There are numerous types of masking tapes with various sizes and colors. Find the one that works for you.
[br][clear] You can also use the different colors to add another level of categorization, creating an immediate visual signal for your staff on those hurried walk-in trips. Like the sharpies, masking tape needs to be plentiful and always on hand. As soon as you run out your staff will become lax and lose the drive for continuity in the labeling methodology. For a couple extra dollars spent on making sure you have plenty on hand, thousands of dollars can be saved by ensuring your inventory is well managed.
[br][clear] Colored Dots
[br][clear] Small, brightly colored sticky dots can be incorporated to add another level of inventory control especially to delineate produce in-house that is destined for special events, catering jobs or specific tastings. It essentially creates another level of quick categorization that instantly tells a BOH staffer what is up for grabs and what is off limits.
[br][clear] This methodology could also be used to mark gluten-free items or other concerns rooted in allergies or dietary concerns of your clientele. The best thing about the dots is that they are easy to use, and colors can be codified to have various meanings.
[br][clear] Dry Erase Board
[br][clear] It may seem obvious that every professional kitchen have a centralized location to put prep lists, things to be ordered, and special ideas for upcoming shifts. A dry erase board is of minimal expense, situated in a fixed spot and centralized so that all employees can access. Making sure you have plenty of dry erase markers and backups on hand is key. This is one item that won't benefit from the use of sharpies so making sure you don't run out of markers is key.
[br][clear] Again, this is a small expense that makes huge strides toward improving communication from shift to shift, day to day. Moreover, there is sense of accountability created in that if an employee has used the last of an item, its on them to put a note on the board. No longer can the excuse of "I told so and so" be used. If it didn't get written on the board, it didn't happen. Managers can even create a log of the dry erase from shift to shift or day to day by taking pics with their cell phone.
[br][clear] Spending a little bit on some of these items could result in saving thousands in spoiled or misused inventory. More importantly, these tools empower your staff to take responsibility for your inventory. It creates a team mentality based on the fact that management provides the tools to help their BOH staff do the best job they can despite the unending list of challenges.