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Why documenting procedures in a restaurant is important.


Procedures are something that we very rarely think about. As a business owner, you know what needs to be done, and you do it. The problem here, is that you know what needs to be done, and all that knowledge is still in your head!

You end up asking your team to do things by talking to them which is absolutely fine if it’s a single task, or a couple of relatively simple tasks whilst they’re in down-time, but usually your staff are going to be busy and shouting things to the back of their head across a busy kitchen or bar isn’t going to get them done. Most tasks will get ignored or half-arsed, and that it’s because the staff don’t want to do them, it’s because you haven’t given clear and concise instructions.

For example: you’re busy dealing with customers and your delivery has just shown up. You turn around from what you’re doing and ask a relatively new member of staff to put it away, before quickly getting back to dealing with customers. It’s a fairly large delivery with fresh, frozen, and ambient items on it. Your team member starts with the ambient stock because it’s easy to see where that big box of napkins usually lives in your storeroom. After they’ve struggled through the ambient, they then move onto the frozen stock and try to find a home for it. Nothing gets decanted, and stock gets put wherever it’ll fit in the freezers. A while later, they start on the fresh produce.

You go to check on them and immediately realise what has gone wrong: deliveries should always follow a specific pattern- fresh, then frozen, then ambient. Fresh food spoils quicker than frozen, so you probe a few items and find that they’re all at 12 degrees because they’ve been sat on the floor in a hot kitchen for an hour or so and now it all needs to get thrown at. You check the freezer to find boxes everywhere, nothing organised and no First In, First Out system in place. You’re going to have to clean and reorganise the freezer. You’ve potentially just lost hundreds of pounds of fresh produce and several hours of your time, and that of your team. Your new team member is going to feel demoralised and embarrassed.

Now imagine that you had already documented your procedures and go from the top. You ask the new staff member to put the delivery away and you tell them to look at the delivery section in the blue folder on the shelf in the kitchen. They spend a bit of time reading through it, then they check the temperature of a few high risk items on the delivery- a couple of products are over temp, and a few other products look damaged and so the delivery driver writes a returns note and takes those items back with him. The temperature checks are recorded in your due diligence logbook.

Next, take it a step further and imagine that you’ve got fridge plans, freezer plans, and shelf layouts for every fridge, freezer, and shelf in the kitchen. The person putting the delivery away now knows exactly where it all goes.

They then check the folder again and read through the FIFO “First In First Out” section and the need for decanting products from their external packaging to avoid the risk of contaminants. They pull the older stock out of the fridge, put the newer stock behind it, and discard of all the packaging. When they’re done, they tidy the storeroom, breakdown all the cardboard and brush and mop the floor.

Now imagine that you had a written procedure for every task that you know how to carry out. How many of these tasks could you now delegate? How much work could your team help to lift off your shoulders once you’ve explained how to do it?

Next: start making a list of all of the jobs that you do. It can be difficult at first to put it into words, and you’ll often find yourself stuck in listing jobs out, knowing full well that you do far more than you’ve written down. Keep a clipboard with you for a couple of days and every time you do something, no matter how small, write it down.

Once you’ve gotten together a list of at least 50 tasks, you should split out what can easily be delegated, what you’d like to delegate, and what can’t be delegated at the moment (i.e. accessing your bank to pay your staff).

Now that you have your list, do a checklist for the smallest or simplest task- break it down element by element. What you want to do here is to break down the task fully- include everything, no matter how simple it may seem. Does it need one person, or two to carry out the task? How long does it normally take you? Do you normally finish the task?

For instance, your opening checklist might look something like this:

· Enter through the door to the side of the building,

· Turn off the alarm,

· Turn on the lights in X areas,

· Turn on the coffee machine,

· Turn on the oven,

· Check the fridge temperatures and record them in the logbook,

· Put the pre-trayed bacon, sausage, mushroom and tomatoes in the oven,

· Clean down your workspace,

· Turn on other equipment such as the bain marie, grill, and fryers,

· Check your prep list,

· Carry out the raw meat prep,

· Veg and salad prep for the day,

· Defrost anything needed for the following day,

· Put away deliveries as they arrive (check the delivery procedure),

· Get all items out and ready for service,

· Ensure that the bain marie is full for service,

· Open the doors for customers.

Obviously, the list above isn’t extensive, and depending on where you work and the type of business that you own, there will be several more steps that need to be included. Once you’ve bulleted your opening checklist, try and carry out the opening checklist and only follow what you’ve written- what have you missed? What should have been included? Rewrite your checklist and try it all again.

Once you’ve mapped out your checklist, it’s time to write it into a full procedural document. Don’t just list off what you do, explain it in depth and include pictures, diagrams, or examples to document what you need your team to do. Try and include a couple of lines for each task on your checklist- if you explain why something needs doing and why that particular order is imperative, then your team are more likely to follow your method.

If you’re not the best at writing things out, then don’t worry. Get one of your managerial team to do it for you- just be sure to walk them through the whole process first. If you don’t have a management team and you’re unable to write your own procedures, then there are a lot of service-based businesses out there that can help you to put together a full set of procedural and operating documents.



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