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  1. i usually give cookbooks, but I've also given really cool teaspoons. i try to get something they might not buy for themselves, like one year, I gave my chef a his first le crueset. i try to be personal.
  2. Proper Planning Prevents Stress at the very least, you need the following at your disposal: - master item list of what is in season at any given time - master recipe books with any preparation and portioning guidelines - prep list with par amounts - if you don't have a pre-written prep list, your chef can use the master item list as a guide to make the daily prep list - the prep list for the following day should be written and/or ready to go half way through the PRIOR day. this is critical for us so we can look at the following day and say "well, there's too much on the list". there should be a buffer on that list, and perhaps 1 or 2 things could be "optional" so if things go smoothly, they can be done, if there's some disasters, the optional things can be moved. for my bakery, the buffer is key...it means we're actually always a day ahead of schedule. - shopping list with par amounts for each vendor. I try to order certain things from certain vendors, and then put a little note for certain products that can be ordered from different vendors. (say you run out of tp and you aren't doing your paper order until next week, perhaps your dry goods supplier might be able to hook you up) - waste log (depending on the business, this should be tied into the prep list. Say you always toss 5lbs of chopped onions. you need to know about that so you can adjust your par. - chore list. we have certain chores due each day. we also have monthly things like clean the fridge that we put on the calendar. - maintenance schedule. This is something I dream about, but have yet to implement. i think it's extremely important to know when equipment is purchased and when it needs repair. Right now, i have a lot of these in just printouts; however, I would love to move this into a database (especially shopping) so I could run reports to see how much we're purchasing and perhaps work budgeting into my weekly shopping. Start there. the above are great tools to track the progress of your staff. Revisit your tools at least every month to start and then every quarter after things are rolling. And most importantly, make sure your staff understands the importance of filling out paperwork.
  3. i think it's better to start with a smaller chart of accounts. It makes it easier to be consistent. If somewhere down the line, you decide to break out say ingredient purchases to "fresh fruit" and "dairy", you can easily single those purchases out and add the extra detail. Another thing I like to keep a little bit trimmed up is my vendor list. Say you buy something from someone once...I just add it as "miscellaneous vendor" and put the name of who you bought it in the memo. Sure, it makes it harder to find, but for those one time deals, it's just easier for me. my previous bookkeeper liked to go wild with the chart of accounts and the vendor list. It drove me crazy so I consolidated a lot of them and it's much more manageable for me. So in the end, it's a matter of personal preference. Even though many people might think otherwise, honestly, I would recommend finding a bookkeeper that will meet with you monthly to help you really understand how your accounting is working. I think it is really important that you work very closely with your bookkeeper and not just "hand over the books" and get a nice stack of "all done". In the early stages of running a business, understanding the financial aspects is extremely important in building. I would also invest in recipe costing software and get all of your recipes in there. It's a major piece of the puzzle often overlooked.
  4. Obviously, we all know the reality of restaurant life. Sure there are restaurants that make every single thing fresh daily. We bake all our breakfast pastries, cookies, mini desserts and of course cupcakes daily. But the reality is certain products like deli salads might be able to live a 3-4 day shelf life and still remain delicious. We have almost 75 products we produce daily between two very talented bakers. I don't want to lie to my customers, but I certainly don't want to steer them away from a delicious product just because it wasn't made fresh that morning. Here are some options I'm considering: 1. The white lie. We bake everything fresh daily. 2. The honest but telling too much. We believe our deli salads taste delicious over a 4 day period. This one was made two days ago. Thoughts?
  5. that's very good advice, lisa! I'm actually a quick service bakery so this is for our takeout menus for our customers to place orders from. We're trying to increase our lunch and catering sales, but we are introducing a lot of new products so we want to be careful not to commit to them if they don't sell. Our new menu items are also going to put a little bit of strain initially on our chefs, so I want to be really careful on how I proceed. Planning Planning Planning. However, I think I really need to rely on my instincts about my customers (we've been in business 7 years). I also really agree that the printed menu should be our "core" and that really helps me to make some decisions. I think I should make a little test to make sure each item on my core menu fits my overall creative vision, and fits into the production cycle of the bakery. We do plan on building a more modular menu board which will reflect our daily specials and things that we could test out.
  6. I am re-printing my menu and want to achieve a few different goals this time around. 1. I want to put just the basic things we usually have. 2. I want to drive traffic to my web site where I can put info on daily specials. (easy, I'll just put graphics in key areas of the menu.) 3. I want to entice people with what we could POSSIBLY have. For cakes, this is not a problem because we don't have all of our cakes available daily. For lunch, it seems weird to me to list all the items and then the customer comes in finding we don't have a particular sandwich. Of course, all our items are subject to availability. I don't know that I want to have "inserts". Does anybody have any examples of how this could work semi-smoothly?
  7. The filling is very similar to a flourless chocolate cake, with a little bit of espresso flavor, so if you have that recipe locked down in your repertoire, I would use that. I think a graham or oreo crust tastes good. The main thing you want is the effect of cracking on the surface, mimicking the cracks in the mud along the Mississippi River. Good luck and have fun with it.
  8. I've been exploring different techniques to making a prep list. We used to just make it at the end of every day, but things kept getting missed and then there would be last minute additions. Lately, we've been doing inventory once/week and then making a prep list for 5 days. The goal is that we could start seeing trends and then adjust our batch sizes to streamline things. How do you folks manage your prep lists? Do you use a par system? Does one person do the list, or does everybody contribute?
  9. I usually do 3 turns with a 30 minute rest in between, and was intrigued by the double turn idea. It certainly saved a lot of time; however, I noticed my croissants didn't look as fluffy and nice.
  10. Since this fall, we introduced a new cake, a vanilla confetti birthday cake, to our lineup. I believe the white cake is really delicious, flavorful, and cute. My staff likes it too so I feel pretty comfy about it being good quality. It's become pretty popular, however, it seems to have a dark side. I've had a few customer complaints about it. I even had one customer invited me up to their office and had me taste it in front of them while they stood around and said "she's the one that made the cake". It was pretty humiliating, but I held back my emotions and tasted it and it tasted fine, just like I would expect. I told her so, and simply said, "well it seems that if you didn't like the cake, so I should offer your money back." But then I felt bad about doing that. I just got another call and the person said they ordered one a few days ago and couldn't even eat it. I cut into the cake that we had in the case from the same batch and it tasted just fine. but I still offered this customer her money back. I am unsure whether I have a product that actually sucks and I should get rid of it, or if this is just one of those products that simply isn't for everybody. In any case, I'm not sure I should keep offering to give people money back I've tried a lot of white cake recipes, and this one is my favorite. I believe it fits into our overall product line, but I'm just so confused as to why it's so polarizing for my customers. I'm just looking for advice on how I should handle these complaints. I've always had a no questions asked policy, but I am starting to feel taken advantage of.
  11. I'm surprised about the "no-more-than-3 day rules" too since last year we made the filling once/week. We made another batch yesterday and I'm watching the progress to see when it "turns". So far, looking good on day two. I'm also going to ask my health inspector about this three day rule.
  12. So we're using the same pumpkin pie filling recipe we've been using for over 5 years: 20 oz pumpkin puree 9 oz granulated sugar 1 T cinnamon 8 oz cream 8 oz milk 8 oz egg We add sugar and cinnamon to the puree, then add the wet ingredients. We mix by hand. It's a pretty liquid filling so we put it into one of those pouring dispensers and fill our tartlets as we need to. We usually store the filling for about 1 week. BUT these last two batches have gotten really THICK after about 4 days. Almost like a mousse. And the taste is very off. the cream seems fresh when we use it the puree looks good we use liquid eggs(but this year we're using cage free??) we haven't forgotten the sugar I can't think of a reason, besides the cage free which doesn't make sense, why this is turning into a mousse.
  13. We generally try to have 6-7 variety of cakes per day. About 50% of our cakes are walk-in and the rest are special order. Cakes are about 8% of our business, but it's an area I'd like to grow. One thing I've observed is the higher quality bakeries offer fewer choices than lower quality bakeries. We'd like to position ourselves as the former, so a goal of 10 cake varieties (maybe even less) feels just more comfy. Simpler. Easier to train. But it's an interesting risk. Offer less with the hopes to sell more.
  14. I've just been running some numbers on the amounts of cakes we're selling each month and found some surprising info... There are several cake flavors we simply only sell 1 or 2 of each month. Now some of this data might be skewed as it comes from both the cakes on special orders, and what we have available in the case, which varies day by day depending on mood, how much time we have to make cakes for the case, etc. (I plan on having a better system to track these cakes moving forward) Firstly, most of our cakes are modular, and simply consist of different combinations of the same basic components, many of which we have on hand regularly. So essentially, it's not too much extra work to have this extra variety. My question is more of a marketing one. Do you think it would be better to edit our cake menu. We currently have 17 cakes and 11 cupcakes. I feel like customers might be overwhelmed by too many choices, but I fear that they may be turned away by not enough choices. Thoughts?
  15. I've just scaled up my snickerdoodle recipe and they're a little bit flat so I want to adjust the recipe. Everything was already in ounces before I converted, but I can't decide whether to decrease the egg or increase the flour. I still want a somewhat tender cookie, just want it a little less flat. we do bake the scooped cookies right out of the fridge, and we've also tried baking a touch longer to help "set" the cookies. many thanks, stephanie
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