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Thursday, September 07, 2006

Food Storage Rules

There are certain items which must be stored more carefully in order to hit your cost targets. Highly perishable items are the top priority. With most vendors running daily deliveries (despite rising gas prices), the quantity of highly perishable goods should be minimized. Schedule the purchases carefully and avoid excessive buys. Spoilage of highly perishable items should be kept to an absolute minimum. Make sure the coolers are well organized and always rotate stock after a delivery.

Store items with a high risk of theft in very visible locations. Too often, I see small, high cost portions of premium meats and seafood left in storage areas far from management's view. Certain operations stock 5 ounce tenderloin portions and jumbo shrimp in storage areas well away from the office. It's much better to move these items close to your field of vision.

If you like video surveillance systems, make sure one of the cameras is pointed at the location used to store high risk items. If you use pull sheets, keep the sheets for these coolers in your office and in plain view. You should know how many portions are available for sale to customers at the start of each shift. On a rotation basis, you should subtract the meal period POS menu item counts from the opening quantity and check the inventory. At a minimum, count these high risk items daily.

Make your freezers easy to count. Keep everything in the exact same location at all times. Messy freezers are a problem which should be solved ASAP. If items are improperly stored in the frigid environment, it's very likely you will order more when they are in stock. Once the staff see the new delivery, theft is easier and unlikely to be detected.

Walkin coolers should follow the same rules as the freezer. If you need some space for rotation of special items, try to set aside a separate cooler or a defined section of your larger cooler. Most items should be stored in the exact same location at all times. Orderly freezers and coolers make ordering more efficient and help prevent unwanted losses due to theft and spoilage.

Finally, dry storage areas are typically the best maintained of all inventory locations. Make sure super expensive items like saffron and truffle oil is in a place where theft is completely impossible. Keep the storage rooms dry and cool and watch expiration dates. Try to reorder dry items using a par stock system. Determining par levels may be difficult for event caterers but most operations should find two or three par levels sufficient. For busy periods, build the stock to the high par level. Drop the par when business is slow. Maintain the status quo at other times.

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