These often overlooked smallware items can impact your kitchen efficiency
Smallwares are an annoying detail to any properly functioning restaurant. Having enough of them, the right ones, and having them all well maintained indicates a well-run restaurant. A pizzeria that can’t find a spoodle or has to resort to the wrong-sized plastic bin shows ownership is checked out. The only alternative is they value short-term dollars over long-term operational functionality. When that ownership style occurs, it shows the owner doesn’t value the dollar at all. Let’s get into all the stuff you’ll need to effectively manage it.
These small and easy-to-lose items cost a lot over time. Thermometers, small scales, measurement cups and spoon measuring tools are vital to proper recipe building. They are the first to disappear when you need them most. Some of these items go fast, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get a solid amount of wear out of them. To keep them from getting lost or broken, keep them in a set location, potentially on a chain or a hook of some sort. This action will ensure they’re always at the ready. When they get washed, they should go into a separate bin. These items must return to that set location each day consistently to minimize redundant replacement.
Bins, Lids and Tubs
Think of the busiest sales day you could ever have. Think of all the bins of product that you would need to get through that day, take that amount of containers and double it. That is the number of bins you should have on hand in your restaurant. If you do make items in bulk, then large tubs are great for storage. This assumes that you can go through it quick enough without product quality diminishing. Never use bulk bins to transfer to small containers in the middle of a rush. I hate transferring a big tub to a one-sixth bin when everything is crazy. What’s even worse is topping off a one-sixth bin rather than changing it out completely. Not having enough containers leads to a lack of FIFO (first in, first out) which breeds product loss. Lack of FIFO also shows a lack of respect for the customer experience.
Spoons, Ladles and Spoodles
Organize smallwares in labeled containers. Never leave a bucket of “stuff” to be where smaller items land. Spoons in the spoon bin. Knives in the knife bin or rack. A little investment in efficiency will reap the rewards quickly in a rush to reduce ticket times. Enough sauce spoons available in the height of a rush seems like pizzeria 101. Having enough tools to spread pizza sauce seems obvious, but I can’t tell you how many pizzerias I’ve been in where the staff is all sharing one sauce spoon. All the while the only other two spoons are at dish station and that’s all they own. A few $3.15 investments in spoons, or lack of investment, has now crippled a rush with staff bottlenecking their production line. They can’t put sauce on fast enough because ownership was too cheap or unaware to spend four bucks needed to succeed.
Screens, Discs and Pans
These things are very individual to each pizzeria. The maintenance of these items is hard. Pans are the easiest because most dish machines can clean them. Disks and screens typically can’t. Correct maintenance requires hand washing and care to avoid losing the exterior coating of properly broken-in bakeware. All the while still cleaning them, so they’re safe and sanitary. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t seen some restaurants avoid cleaning them altogether. I suggest keeping these items separate at the dish station, so they are cleaned with a different protocol. Again, make sure you invest in your tools on hand so your staff isn’t cleaning these screens or disks in a rush because you didn’t buy enough.
Peels and Palos
These can be very expensive and easily broken. I suggest having two backups offsite. You want them accessible but not so accessible that staff assumes breaking one isn’t that big of a deal. It should be hard to get another, but you should always have one ready because restaurant supply stores are never open when you need them the most.
Dish racks, sweepers, brooms and dustpans all need to get cleaned themselves. All these items require maintenance. It’s fascinating to me how the things we depend on to clean our restaurants tend to be the dirtiest items in the restaurant. The typical assumption is, “Well, it doesn’t need to be cleaned. It does the cleaning.” Descaling a dish rack, sending a dustpan to the dish station, or cleaning the dish sprayer are all necessary to maintain cleanliness in a restaurant. Clean it all and clean it often. If you don’t clean it, it becomes a broken window. When a restaurant has a broken window item, it makes it a lot easier for another window to be broken. Like when you’re in a part of town where grass can grow tall out of the sidewalk, building’s windows can go broken for a long time, and no one cares. That’s what happens when you don’t tend to the cleaning products and make sure they’re clean just like everything else. It gives staff a feeling of nonchalance to your store’s maintenance.
Daily, weekly, monthly and yearly tasks all need to be done for your smallwares and equipment items to ensure they stay at the top of their functionality. Perform an inventory of smallwares once a month, preferably once a week, to keep on top of how fast you’re using these items. If you have multiple stores, this inventory will show which stores are losing or breaking items the most. If you do see a store that’s going through items at a super aggressive rate, you might want to put that store on a budget for specific items and say, “You only get ($X) this month. Make sure you don’t waste it.”
Ordering New Items
A local or online restaurant supply store should answer to someone who purchases based on the bottom line. Preferably that’s you. If you allow just anyone to order, other than you, it leads to overspending. Additionally, I’ve found that multiple people contacting the restaurant supply rep can overwhelm the reps. Smallwares ordering is more erratic than food ordering, so having numerous sites and people to answer for can go south quickly.
I highly suggest casters for all equipment so that you can clean under it and maintain standards. Additionally, refrigeration seals need maintenance. Ensure that these aren’t cleaned with sanitizer, instead only water or soapy water at most because they will deteriorate with sanitizer, and these seals are not cheap. Regarding cleaners: sanitizer, floor cleaner and regular degreaser are as aggressive as you’ll want to get. Other items on the market will take carbon off pans quicker, but if you spray it on your skin and it burns, it means it’s corrosive. Now these acids are creating more nooks and crannies for more dirt to seep into your stainless steel or plastic item, to make them dirtier faster. I find these cleaners do more harm than good.
As with anything, respect your smallwares, and they’ll respect you by being ready when you need them. Simple and intentional maintenance will help them last longer and not affect your budget any more than they should.
Mike Bausch is the owner of Andolini’s Pizzeria in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Instagram: @mikeybausch