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Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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Building the Restaurant Owner’s Rolodex

 

Once upon a time, business owners had something called a Rolodex on their desk. For those who don’t recall, a Rolodex was a “rolling index,” and one could flip through it to see all the phone numbers deemed important enough to keep on file. Today, a business owner is more likely to use the contacts app on her cell phone, but the concept remains. Let’s take a look at some of the service providers a successful restaurant owner might keep handy.

 

Handyman Services

A general purpose handyman who answers the phone--or returns phone calls quickly--and can stop by at short notice almost any hour of the day, including weekends, might be one of the most valuable resources a restaurant owner will ever have. Ideally, this person will have some experience in basic-to-intermediate heating and air conditioning troubleshooting and maintenance, and the same goes for refrigeration equipment, plumbing, and gas ovens and stoves. Now we must be reasonable; a handyman with this array of knowledge and availability will be hard to come by. Once your restaurant empire has grown to several restaurants, you may be able to hire one full-time. 

 

It’s nice to lay the foundation for your wish list anyway. General handymen are also helpful with the myriad upkeep tasks that need to be done to maintain the restaurant. The paint often needs to be retouched, bathroom mirrors can need to be replaced, doors need to be fixed, and so on. There are always projects for the handyman.


Cleaning Services

Also in the general service field, a good cleaning crew is helpful. Restaurant owners generally ask their front of house staff, composed of servers and bartenders, to maintain the restaurant’s cleanliness. The thought process behind this is that the servers and bartenders make the most money, so they should be asked to “chip in.” Or perhaps this is a carryover from times of yore when servers were essentially servants and were required to polish and clean all day while they weren’t waiting on their employers hand and foot. While there is some sense to this, there is no shame in realizing that someone whose gifts lie towards making customers happy, hustling for long periods of time under stress, and maintaining a cheerful demeanour under almost any circumstance is not going to be great (or enthusiastic) at cleaning. It’s not laziness; it’s just a different skillset. 

 

So, while servers and bartenders can have their daily cleaning duties, a thorough once-over by a skilled cleaning crew can do wonders for how your restaurant looks. And you, as the owner, can stop riding your front of house team for dusty light fixtures and instead let them focus on making sure your customers are having a good time.

 

Specialized Services

Aside from general services, a slew of trusted specialists should live on that Rolodex, too. One thing restaurant owners focus on is climate control; everyone in a restaurant usually works really, really hard, and the heating and air conditioning units are no exception. As a result, the equipment occasionally fails--usually at the most inopportune times. Let’s be honest: A restaurant is just one giant living proof of Murphy’s Law.

 

A refrigeration specialist is also important. If you can’t keep your food storage at 41 degrees, you not only risk issues with your health inspector, but you risk harming your customer base. Also, drinks kept in cold storage are enjoyed best while they’re actually cold, not warming up--especially beer. 


For additional service providers, it might behoove the restaurant owner to make a few internet searches for items such as electricians in my area, and so on. Never underestimate the value of these specialists. Many owners will keep a list of multiple providers in each category, setting up an order of priority of who to call first, then second, and then third in the case of catastrophe. Good luck out there, restaurant owners.

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