The Importance of an Organized Cooler

I was working in the walk-in cooler of a restaurant several months ago, the restaurant was struggling to turn a profit; sales were increasing but they weren’t seeing the increase make it to the bottom line. The assistant kitchen manager was with me as we started re-arranging products on shelves, moving cambros, securing lids, store-fronting cartons of cream, organizing herbs, etc. At one point he said – to me directly or to the room in general I couldn’t tell – that it felt like rearranging the chairs on the titanic.

I responded with something to the effect of, “That’s true if the Deck Chairs keep you from seeing the Iceberg.” If having the deck chairs organized on the titanic allowed them to avoid the Iceberg, you’d better believe no one would have ignored those chairs.

An organized cooler is just as important to a restaurant. Keeping shelves organized helps save time, reduce costs, and builds sales.

An organized walk-in saves time by making it easier and quicker to fill out daily prep lists – nothing slows down a prep list like digging around shelves behind various bags, boxes, cartons, etc. and moving product from one spot to another because you’ve got it in multiple locations. If it’s a salaried manager filling out prep lists, you want that manager spending more time on guest experiences, and if it’s an hourly employee filling out prep lists, you don’t want to pay for1 hour of work if you could be paying for 20 minutes. It also saves time when it comes to placing your orders: your order guide (you’re using order guides, right?) with each vendor should line up with the shelves in your cooler, and vice versa. You know what you have, what you need, and nothing is lost or missed or duplicated because you simply can’t tell how much you have spread throughout the cooler.

An organized cooler saves food costs in making sure you’re not over-ordering and using product before it spoils. It also saves food costs by making sure you’re not over-prepping. If your par level is 1 gallon for example, but you can’t see the two gallons that are already hiding in the cooler behind other products, you’ll prep or buy the 4th gallon and then end up having 3 gallons go to waste. You can also identify products that are not stored properly and correct the issue before anything goes to waste simply because it wasn’t wrapped tightly, or the lid wasn’t on fully.

Finally, an organized cooler helps build sales by ensuring you’re providing the best products you can to your guests. It’s really expensive to throw out a sauce that was hidden on the back of a shelf, for example, but it’s even worse if that old sauce makes it into the dish and is served to a guest. It’s nearly impossible to build sales when you are serving food that isn’t fresh, wholesome, and tasty.

A restaurant that serves old food, throws out 20% of the products it buys, and throws out 10% of the product it preps is destined to sink.