2009 April: Ask Chef Jeff

2009 April: Ask Chef JeffQ: I know you can save a lot of money buying in bulk, like pallets of sauce. But then you’re tying up inventory dollars that can be used for operations. So, to what extent should you buy ahead?

A: It all depends on your cash flow. Cash is king. When you have it and can buy pallets of sauce or other products that will save you substantially, you’re typically using previous earnings or profits to save on future expenditures. You don’t generally buy a year’s worth of something, however, unless it is a substantial saving and will not expire. Tying up that much inventory can result in the inability to operate effectively in other areas of your business.

There are some items, like cucumbers, that end up going rotten before I use them all. Am I better off just buying a dozen at time in the grocery store so I’m not wasting any?

It depends on the market price. Cucumbers vary from 50 cents to $1 each in the store. If you can get a case of 75 cucumbers for $35, you’re talking 47 cents each. If they’re $1 in the store, you’re better off buying a case even if you only use 40 and waste 35. If that’s the case, create a cucumber salad recipe and give a two-ounce soufflé cup with every sandwich instead of a pickle. That will also set you apart from your competition!

How do I choose the right candidate through the interview process?

I have implemented an observation day. After interviewing someone that I think is a great candidate, I have them come in for a paid observation day. I explain that it is not simply to stand back and watch, but it really is like the first day of training. Tell them you want them to show you what they are capable of. It’s their chance to observe your business and determine if they want to work for you — and your chance to see if they have what it takes to make it. If they stand around like a bump on a log, get rid of them, do a payout for the couple of hours they were there and save the headache of all the paperwork and training.

How do I fire someone who performs poorly and avoid having to let them collect unemployment?

It bothers me so much to see employers keep staff who consistently perform below standard. You need to use performance-counseling slips.You need to warn the employee in writing what they are doing wrong or what they need to change to meet the company standard. Let them know, in writing, that continued poor performance will lead to termination. Make two copies. Have them sign a copy and put it in their file. When you fire them and they try to collect, that will be your safeguard. ?

Jeffrey Freehof, owner of The Garlic Clove in Evans, Georgia, is Pizza Today’s resident expert. Send your questions to: Ask Chef Jeff, c/o Pizza Today, 908 South Eighth Street, Suite 200, Louisville, Kentucky, 40203

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