Counting Plates (Part Two)

This is why we can't have nice things

In part one; we discussed the difficulties faced by managers, servers, and guests resulting from shrinking renewals budgets.  I advanced the idea of treating glasses, plates, and tableware as inventory rather than purely as an expense.  This allows the cost of these items to be more accurately reflected on your P&L.  Breaking a plate is an expense.  Buying a plate is a revenue generator that is essential to posting profits.

Imagine for a moment what would happen if food or beverages were accounted for in the way we account for plates.  At the end of each period, the walk-in would be empty.  The bar would be bare because anything not used became valueless.  The last hour of the last period would become a fire sale on the three menu items you have in stock.  Would anyone really run a restaurant like this?

They do when it comes to renewals though.  Not supplying your kitchen and servers with the items they need at the end of the period because the budget has been consumed, directly affects the guest experience.  The several extra minutes a server spends looking for items around the restaurant not only affects the table it is needed for, but it also delays the needs of their other tables from being met.  Each of these tables’  turn time will influence your later tables and have a snowball effect.  At the end of the shift, you have gone beyond the time you quoted at the front door and potentially turned away guests that you otherwise could have accommodated.

This is just the most immediate benefit; several others can be achieved as well.

Supplies When You Need Them: When you are first alerted that you are lacking something, you are already behind the curve.  You must wait to place the order, order enough to avoid paying delivery fees, and wait for it to be delivered.  This is enough time for a small problem to turn into a much larger one.  This also allows you to avoid any issues with the items you need being on backorder.

Accurate Evaluation of Loss: When you account for items by the case, you only get a big picture view of what you are ordering.  Knowing which items you are losing allows you to know which items are being lost.  This will allow you a more detailed understanding of where your money is going.  This will also allow you to change any practices that could be contributing to your loss.

Avoid “Snowball” Loss: When you are running low on high-use glassware, you are costing yourself more than you realize.  A server who needs a pint to serve a drink runs to the dishroom to have some cleaned.  They then bring that rack of pints out into the hands of other anxious servers.  Soon the glasses are filled with ice and crack from the heat transfer.  Now you have at least one more glass to replace and potentially workers comp paperwork to fill out.

Improve Morale: It is frustrating to your floor and kitchen staff to not have what they need when they need it.  Prevent this from becoming something they have to worry about and their morale will improve.  This also saves your dishwasher from having to run emergency racks to get a specific item clean.  This leads to a better guest experience and one less thing you have to field complaints about.

Protect Your P&L: When a server can’t find a ramekin for a guest, they are faced with some options.  The first is to have the dishwasher run a load of ramekins to get them clean and then stock them.  The other option is to grab a to-go ramekin and send it to the table.  The cost of the first option is the server, guest, and dishwasher’s time.   The cost of the second option is the price of countless lost plastic ramekins.  Both will show up on your P&L in far more costly ways.

Prevent Passive-Aggressive Loss: When servers do not have the tools they need, they will get frustrated.  When you complain about being over budget, they get more frustrated.  They cannot take out these frustrations on the guest for fear of losing part of their tip.  Instead some will take it out on the remaining items you do have.  This happens far more often than you would expect.

Better Experience For Your Guests: If none of the other reasons existed, this one should be sufficient.  When you fail to order necessary tools for your staff, the guest suffers.  Even minimal delays based on lack of supplies leads to food sitting in the window, getting cold at the table, and guests not having what they want.  Failing to keep supplies in house is failing your guests.

In the big picture, your time is better spent attending to your guests than it is ordering supplies.  Keeping an inventory on hand will solve much of this problem.  It will also better represent the financial situation of the restaurant.  Making the transition will require time, but will save far more in the long run.  Avoiding complaints, preserving morale, and providing superior service are all benefits of making the change.  This is time well spent.

The post on a fellow bloggers page that inspired this post is filled with feedback from servers on this very topic.  Worth a read if you doubt the effect this can have on morale.

Tips²: Tips For Improving Your Tips, the new book from the author of The Manager’s Office, teaches the skills of exceptional servers that will increase customer satisfaction and dramatically improve restaurant sales.  This book is more than a server training manual.  It is the secret to teaching your staff to enjoy selling and give your guests the experience that will create raving fans.  To learn more about the book, visit  Use the coupon code “MANAGER” to save 20% at the checkout.

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About David Hayden

David Hayden is a restaurant marketing and training consultant based in Kansas City, MO. He writes a series of 9 blogs collectively known as The Hospitality Formula Network and is the author of "Tips2: Tips For Improving Your Tips" and "Building Your Brand With Facebook"

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