This image and featured image by SeanMacEntee

Time is Money.  Time Management is Less Money.

As an aspiring chef goes through culinary school, or her first apprenticeship, or even as she rises through the ranks of several kitchens all the way to sous chef, the one recipe she never learns is the one for success.  And not just because “recipe for success” is a hack cliche and I’m embarrassed I went there.  But the fact is, you can’t learn how to own and operate a restaurant till you’ve actually owned and operated YOUR restaurant.  Everyone’s vision requires its own tweaks to some vague restauranteur formula that doesn’t even begin to describe the experience.  If there were some proven winning combination of foodservice success, restaurants wouldn’t have among the highest failure rates of all small businesses.  That’s probably a real downer to read for you, I’m sure.  It’s safe to presume you’re here doing your research on restaurant management tools, or you’re some kind of weirdo who reads industry blogs for kicks—either way, that couldn’t have been pleasant to read.  But the truth can often be unpleasant, like a hot chili pepper that comes back to haunt you the next day.

The thing is, though, there’s no restaurant jinx.  It’s just that managing a kitchen—and its inventory and its staff—is stressful work.  Add in a few other “departments” of employees—hosting, wait and bus staff—and it becomes increasingly difficult to get all these parts working in harmony.  It’s a delicate balance to achieve, and any tiny upset can be a major disruption.  Oh, and you all have to be smiling and polite so that the customers have a pleasant dining experience.  The movies always show kitchens as chaotic, madcap affairs that somehow toes the line between personnel implosion and gas-stove explosion—a tense walk on a high wire of unpredictability and rapidfire mire-poix chopping.  There’s drama in those kitchens, and that’s why you’ll never see them operating with wireless and tablet-based POS systems: who wants to watch a movie where everything runs smoothly?  The comedies of error happen over misunderstandings or poor handwriting, something that’s completely avoided when a server can take an order tableside and have it print automatically in legible thermal ink directly to the kitchen.  The last minute realization that the kitchen is out of the main ingredient in a signature dish—the very same night an influential food critic is scheduled to dine—would never happen if they were using a cloud-based system that allowed for inventory management and ordering from anywhere.  And a restaurant would never find itself short-staffed because of a scheduling snafu if they were relying on a solid time & attendance platform to handle the scheduling.

Photo by SMcGarnigle

Photo by SMcGarnigle

And so now we’re at the meat of the thing.  The reason the two of us here to begin with.  You, because you’re looking for a way to ease the operational and managerial burden you bear like a hot cross bun at your place of business.  Me, because I founded a post-political socialised free market collective dedicated to providing privately-backed social safety-nets to small business owners.  As you might imagine, that doesn’t pay very well, so I write blog posts like these on the side.  The point being that solutions do exist, and with the right amount of planning and creative thinking around your POS, you can automate a lot of the communication breakdowns that happen in a restaurant.  We’ve already written elsewhere on our blog about the benefits of a cloud POS like Kounta for businesses.  But while Kounta gives you a great way to track employee time (and therefore your labor costs), the whole process of scheduling them in the first place—and managing those schedules, and all the communications that happen around those schedules—is something most folks don’t care to deal with, us included!  TimeForge, on the other hand, is a company filled with people who deal with, and think about, this kind of stuff all the time.  When you integrate your TimeForge subscription with your POS, think of all the potential for human error you remove:

* Food and drink orders print clearly and automatically to the right station

* Inventory alerts let you know when you’re running low on ingredients

* Automated rule-based price lists make sure promotions or special pricing are handled cleanly

* Wastage calculations help you order the right amount in the future

* An open, transparent mechanism for employees to communicate shift availabilities prevents scheduling issues

* Auto-scheduling generates schedules based on availability, sends emails and text alerts to employees notifying of shift assignments and changes

* Data imported from POS time-clock can be used for labor costing and exporting to payroll service

Businesses of any size can benefit from the advantages received by running Kounta and TimeForge.  Only the price changes based on the size of your restaurant; the features are just as powerful for 5 users as they are for 500.  So, let’s say that you, the reader, are the hypothetical chef I mentioned in the first paragraph.  You’re opening your own place, and you’ve designed the menu, organized the kitchen, hired your staff, and you’re ready to go with your new venture.  What do you want to do next?

  1. Show up to work, prep your ingredients, cook delicious food all day, clean up, then go home
  2. Show up to work, create a schedule for the week based on a collection of handwritten shift requests, take an inventory of ingredients and order more as needed, prep your ingredients, cook delicious food all day, remake the dishes you got wrong from order slips, clean up, reconcile receipts with orders, reconcile orders with inventory, record employee time, then go home.

If you chose A, it’s clear that you don’t want to be dealing with the administrivia of restaurant operations.  You’re a chef who wants to make your living doing something you love, and it’s best that you delegate the rest of this stuff to some combination of staff and automated systems like Kounta and TimeForge.

Photo by DC Central Kitchen

Photo by DC Central Kitchen

If you chose B, you have what is called a Borderline Personality Disorder.  BPD can manifest itself in many ways, but in your case it’s clear that your stubborn refusal to make your own life easier is a form of self-sabotage, and you will continue these patterns during a life of emptiness and despair, driving away everyone you love with consistently poor decisions that you justify by saying only you know how to do things right, which makes you sound even worse and your friends begin avoiding you at Bingo night.  There is no cure for Borderline Personality Disorder, though therapy is recommended to manage the condition.  Of course, no therapist will see you with a diagnosis of BPD, because they tend to be the most difficult of all clients.  You’re going to need a lot of free time to sort this out, and juggling your treatment with the demands of a restaurant may be too much for you.  Your best bet is to focus on the part of the restaurant you love, and delegate the rest of the stuff to some combination of systems like Kounta and TimeForge.  Just be sure to proactively communicate with the scheduling system when you’ll be unavailable.