With the current state of the economy, belts need to be tightened, marketing budgets and in house inventory need to be pared down to the essentials. This article is in no way accusing the vast majority of food service vendors both large and small of operating a bit on the shady side, only that restaurants need to be aware and to look out for the very small percentage of companies out there that do practice unsavory practices.
- Invariably restaurants get ripped off or lose money dealing with small vendors and larger ones too, but for different reasons and methods. With larger vendors it is mainly through mispicks, not getting credits done correctly and drivers making mistakes with orders being dropped off.
- With many small vendors, most notably seafood and smaller produce vendors, there is deliberation behind it. That is not to say that all seafood and produce companies are criminal but the frequency of shorting and tossing a product is much more likely to be found. Sometimes the owners of the companies themselves have no clue what is happening. The best investment a restaurant owner can buy is a good quality floor scale and place it right next to the back door.
- Never let a vendor, big or small, just drop product outside your door without anyone being there to check it in. If they ever drop it when you are closed, you are perfectly within your rights to claim you never got it. If they do it once, and you claim it, they will very rarely do it again.
- One of the many downsides to letting vendors do “cold drops” in addition to not being able to check the product in, is the drivers of these delivery trucks sometimes will leave perishables in the sun. That special sorbet you ordered for a big party lying outside for two hours in July before someone comes to put it in the freezer becomes a puddle. The other issue is it’s a lot harder to fix any mistakes that have been caused by mispicks or nondelivery of product. Getting credit for products can be a huge issue, especially after the fact.
- Many restaurants do not have the time or the staff to correctly check in a food order. The little companies that see this when they deliver and take notice of that; these will be the establishments that get ripped off the most. No matter how much your chef and staff gripe about checking in orders and making sure products are the correct weight, it is an integral part of making sure your costs stay where they should be. The small shortages can add up to very big money.
- Take this as an example: you have cod on the menu; you use it for fried fish and chips. The current price of cod is $4.13 lb. Out of each pound you get two portions of 8 oz. each. You sell the fish and chips for $12.95 with the cost of the fish, fries, coleslaw and tartar sauce and including your overhead, say the actual entrée costs you $7.16 to make and serve, leaving you with a profit of $5.79. The overhead would include any paper products that you might use, fryer oil, electricity (lights, heat or air conditioning and appliances) and paying your cooks and wait staff.
- The vendor that you buy your seafood from starts shorting you cod. A popular way to do this is by not deducting the tare weight of the container that the fish came in from the poundage you ordered or by adding extra ice into the weight. Say for each pound of cod you ordered, you get shorted two ounces. You go through a lot of fish and chips every night so you have fresh cod coming in almost daily. You order an average of 20 lbs. of cod per day and on each order you are shorted 40 ounces of fish, which is only a little over 4 portions. (This is not something that most people can pick out by a visual lookover) That works out to about $10.40 in product that you are paying for but not receiving. If you are open seven days a week, you are losing $72.80 a week, $291.20 a month and if it continues for a whole year, $3494.40. This is just your wholesale price, forget what you could have made as a profit.
- I cannot stress enough the importance of weighing everything, having a person check everything in to make sure of the right dates and checking for freshness.
- With produce vendors, an example of tossing a box is a 20 lb box of tomatoes, which has a pound taken out. They than put the lid back on and gently turn it over and then the right way up again, tomatoes will settle and the box looks full again. Salad greens, especially romaine heads and herb bunches, are a popular one for shorting, because they are sold by the bunch or head. If you order a lot of fresh basil, which can be very expensive, and every order you are shorted a bunch, a very similar case to the cod example can happen. The little stuff really adds up.
Weigh It and Check Everything!
- With larger vendors and this applies to paper products and chemicals too, mistakes can frequently happen. A large company like Sysco will have employees called “pickers” that pick the items you ordered from huge warehouses. Sometimes you will get a box where the label stuck on it says “canned peaches” but the box itself contains raisins, and it will even say that printed on the box. This is a mispick. This may seem like a stupid mistake and you might say, “geez, didn’t they read the box?”
- The answer is “no”; something to think about is that these huge companies process thousands of orders of multiple items per day. They don’t have time to stop and make sure every label matches the product they contain. They rely on the people who attach the labels to the boxes. It’s a bit of a trickle down effect, because long term, you will not be the only customer that ordered canned peaches and got raisins, so did 400 other restaurants.Most chefs have never been to a distribution warehouse. It’s an eyeopening experience and you will never think about the receiving your products in quite the same way.
- Large companies will not send out a recall to those customers to retrieve the mispicked product though; it’s your job as the customer to catch that, send it back and make sure that you either get a credit for it or that you receive on your next delivery what you REALLY ordered. If you don’t follow up, that mispicked box will stay with you.
- This can be a case where it can really screw up your inventory. You ordered a $300.00 box of hazelnuts and instead you have a $60.00 box of peanuts hanging around. Again the little stuff really adds up.