In most public arenas an independent restaurateur is considered a creative purveyor of artistic food presentations and service. In a more pragmatic perspective, say that of a banker, a restaurateur participates in the business of manufacturing. As a food manufacturer one starts with raw materials, literally. He combines and manipulates them until they become a new product. The product is then sold for a value added price. One unique thing about the restaurant business as a part of the manufacturing industry is the instability of the raw material. A manufacturer of furniture has few problems keeping his wood from rotting, a tool factory watches it’s steel resource decay in terms of centuries.
The inventory in your restaurant, quite often hundreds of different items, begin to deteriorate the minute they are received at the back door. Dairy products or produce last only a few days. A restaurant has storage issues like no other. Fresh food has to be stored between zero and 39 degrees. Packaged food needs a dry, dark and cool environment. Even then it is in a constant state of degradation. Refrigerator compressors seem to die when you need them most, like on the hottest summer days. If you’re lucky enough not to have to sweat out the loss of a walk-in full of lobster and shellfish you will still have to pare down and throw away significant portions of your inventory before your final product can be served. For example most of your fresh vegetables will have to be peeled and trimmed and that lobster will have to have half it’s weight, the body and shell, taken off before you can sell the tail. Your inventory, instead of just being put on a shelf will be subject to refrigeration, rotation, over supply, under supply, spoilage and preparation waste problems.
Let’s say you bought a case of zucchini or spinach because the price by the case saves you money. You buy it and as you use some up in your quiches and souffle’s you watch the remainder get slimy or wilt. You’re commitment to quality is tested daily. At which point is the inventory item not fresh? At which point is it too slimy or wilted? Will customers know why you are suddenly selling lots of zucchini bread? How long can a finished product, for instance a nice trimmed New York Steak or a delicate Berry tart, stay at it’s point of optimum attractiveness, flavor and temperature? From the moment it is finished and ready to serve it begins to degrade. If you can’t get it served just after it is finished your customer will be experiencing your product in a diminished state.
Business is fickle. Customers arrive late, they tell long stories that can’t be interrupted, they go to the bathroom just at the wrong time. Let’s face it, one way or another most of the products you “manufacture” will be past their optimum state once finally consumed. Heck if you’re honest you should just open a factory seconds outlet or a second hand store! Instead of being served or picked up on time the food you serve will most likely be cooling down or warming up. It will be wilting or losing color or aging. Prepare for this, no other manufacturing or retail business has that kind of temporary product.