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5 things restaurant owners should do every month

Restaurateurs have a lot on their plates. After learning how to start and open an eatery, they still juggle tasks as they try to bring the best dishes to their customers’ tables. Those who relied on a checklist to open their restaurant have already managed marketing to real estate.

They may have handled everything from safeguarding their restaurant with small business insurance and even dived into coverage specially designed for restaurants and bars. They’ve conquered menu planning, equipment, and opening night.
But an owner’s side duties aren’t over when the doors open. Here are some monthly tasks spanning restaurant operations that savvy owners schedule every month to keep bringing home the bacon.

1) Set a monthly restaurant cleaning schedule

What should be cleaned monthly?

Bustling restaurants have a daily cleaning schedule for kitchen equipment. And it’s easy for your employees to recognize that it needs to be cleaned if it gets dirty on their shift. But how do you make a monthly restaurant cleaning checklist?

Start by making sure you understand the requirements on your local health inspector’s list and how they relate to the food safety and cross-contamination best practices you already use. If you aren’t already doing these tasks more frequently, here’s what your monthly cleaning checklist should include:

  • Handle hard-to-reach cleaning: Your employees can’t move the refrigerator every night, but that doesn’t mean you can neglect greasy build-up behind large appliances like ovens, soda dispensers, and freezers. Once a month, remove fans, deep fryers, and vent hoods to sanitize them, too.
  • Deep clean the front of house: Move booths to clean and vacuum underneath, inspect upholstery for stains and tears, and dust the art, plants, and molding. Wash the lighting fixtures to eliminate cobwebs and polish the door handles.
  • Degrease the grease traps: Clean and empty grease traps if your staff handle this task independently.
  • Deep clean: Give extra attention to the back of house equipment. Scrub and disinfect flattops, beverage dispenser heads, and prep area staples like cutting boards. Deep clean ovens and microwaves.
  • Check your sinks and floor drains: Use drain cleaner to remove any blockages. Replace drain covers.
  • Do a fridge refresh: Remove everything from refrigerators and walk-ins. Clean and disinfect interior shelves, then wipe the dust from the condenser and refrigerator coils. Ice machines deserve the same treatment every 6 months.
  • Polish the floor: You sweep and mop floors every day, but once a month is perfect for deep cleaning or polishing. Don’t forget the restrooms and under the floor mats.
  • Delime: Start with coffee machines and coffee makers, then hit the kitchen (and bathroom) faucets and the dishwasher.
  • Do your own health inspection: Check hidden areas for signs of pests, like holes or droppings. Replace pest traps. Inspect your storage areas.

What is the procedure for cleaning a restaurant?

Check with your managers for times and days when cleaning shifts are logical, and get some tasks out of the way during the slowest hours. Schedule cleanings during early-morning hours or days when the restaurant is closed.

The best procedure for scheduling cleaning shifts is to rotate employees and ask about days when employees can come in outside food service hours. Allow tipped employees to clock in at a higher wage for cleaning shifts. Use your first monthly cleaning days to determine how long an average monthly cleaning should take, and adjust weekly cleanings if your restaurant kitchen cleaning checklist feels overwhelming.

Looking for some good supplies? Your monthly cleaning checklist requires:

  • Heavy-duty supplies: Think restaurant-grade griddle cleaning pads. Use no-frills scouring pads, shop towels, and safety gear, like reusable PVC gloves.
  • A tough degreaser like Stanley Home and Commercial Use Degreaser: It’s good for removing grease build-up on walls, steam tables, and stoves.
  • All-purpose commercial sanitizer, like Nu-Foamicide: This concentrate, EPA-listed ammonia disinfectant can keep your surfaces clean and your restaurant safe.
  • Extenders: Remember, you’ll need to reach the ceiling for deep cleanings. Pick up extendable scrubbing brushes and window squeegees for your team.

2) Conduct a marketing refresh

Marketing can fall by the wayside when you’re in the weeds. But restaurant marketing keeps new customers coming in. If you don’t have time for these tasks during the dinner rush, make time every month to get essential duties done.

Wrangle your reviews

About 90% of your potential customers read your online reviews before deciding whether to give your restaurant a try.

This leaves the question: Are you reading them? And, even more importantly, are you responding to them ASAP? Add time to your monthly schedule to read and respond to Yelp, Google, and Facebook reviews. Make some graphics for your best reviews and save them to your social media scheduler. Finally, strategize your next campaign to keep great restaurant reviews coming.

A once-a-month sweep of all the review sites can show potential customers that you’re willing to engage with them and to learn from your mistakes. (And while you’re at it, take a minute to double-check your restaurant listing is still accurate and that your opening hours are correct. It’s the little things that get you.)

Monitor your brand

Take time every month to check your mentions across websites (hint: Use Google Alerts to set up your business name and relevant keywords). You can keep tabs on when your restaurant gets written up in the press, like food critic reviews and sponsorship mentions. You’ll want to share those wins on social media.

Schedule your social

If you’re in charge of your restaurant’s online presence, batching posts a month at a time is a great way to keep your presence out there without worrying about what to post each day. Don’t neglect your email list, either. Email is a great way to highlight new menu items, offer coupons, and drive reservations for upcoming events.

3) Track your financials

Did that vegan pho fly off the menu last month? Is curbside pickup here to stay? Even seasoned owners wonder how their customers’ changing tastes impact their business and ordering strategies.

Your monthly receipts are your best tool in understanding trends and predicting future sales. They’ll help you with cash flow, and ignoring these numbers every month can put your restaurant at risk. Sit down once a month and review the trends.

If your prime cost went up last month, you need to determine why and make adjustments. This is also the time to count up your category costs to see which purchases put you over budget. Dig into the details if your “Miscellaneous” column is more expensive than expected. Did something get miscategorized? Are you purchasing supplies you don’t need?

If food costs went up unexpectedly, you might need to research new suppliers or check on your staff to ensure the portion sizes aren’t creeping up.
Here are the basics you should understand every month:

  • Asset accounts and revenue: Know the state of your assets, checking accounts, and receipts, making sure they reconcile every month. Check your inventory. Ensure you know what to expect for costs like restaurant insurance and that you’ve budgeted for your business needs.
  • Accounts payable and liabilities: Know what accounts you owe, what payroll looks like, and keep tabs on sales tax collected.

Don’t know what unusual looks like? All the more reason to spend time with your budget every month. The closer eye you keep on your records, the more you’ll start to recognize if a line item seems odd.

4) Review your restaurant hiring

With a view of your financials and restaurant reviews, you can start thinking about hiring new restaurant employees. Consider your monthly assessment and ask yourself:

  • Do I have enough cash flow to hire more employees?
  • Do my restaurant reviews highlight particular hiring needs, like a new star chef or additional wait staff?
  • Are there other trends in my receipts this month that can help me make staffing choices, like growing alcohol sales or happy hour visitors?

You need enough staff to keep your customers happy but beware of overstaffing. You’ll manage more payroll, but your employees will make less in tips. The key to balance is in making sure reviews continue to praise customer service.

Here are some other restaurant hiring tips:

  • Identify the roles you need. Small restaurants may have overlap, for example, that servers sometimes bus tables or do other front of house tasks. Include them in the job description if you’ve identified shifts you need to cover.
  • Make a permanent “Work for Us!” page on your restaurant website. You’ll get a steady stream of candidates, so you can always be on the lookout for qualified employees.
  • Check the pay rate and employment laws in your area. For example, in California, the minimum wage changes based on the number of employees.
  • Make sure you’re adequately insured. You’ll want to have a restaurant endorsement and other coverage every restaurant needs.

High restaurant turnover (up to 75%!) means hiring is a common business concern for owners. But retention is just as vital to keeping experienced, happy employees in front of your customers.

Once a month, set aside time with each team member to get a read on how they’re doing, what’s going well, and how they think the restaurant could improve. These meetings can be as structured or as unstructured as you like. Setting a purpose can be as simple as saying, “Hey, I’d like to know more about how things are going in front of house,” or “I wanted to check in to see if there’s anything I can do to support you better.”

A quick, “I have a few questions, and I’d like you to be completely honest,” can go a long way—as long as you mean it. And the insights you can gain from a straightforward conversation will be more than worth it.

5) Take a step back

Finally, schedule an hour or 2 to get an idea of the big picture.

To do this, you’ll need to pull out your original business plan and any documents you made for this quarter. How close are you to your projections? Where have you stuck to your plan, and where have you veered away?

Restaurant owners are like prep cooks setting up a chef for success. The things they do keep the restaurant humming successfully even into the next rush. Your restaurant’s monthly checklist is no different. Prepare for a clean, safe, well-staffed restaurant with a healthy cash flow, and you’ll be serving up success.

And if you haven’t planned for your restaurant’s insurance needs, get an online quote from Huckleberry. It takes less time than prepping tomorrow’s lemon slices.

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