When you run a cafeteria, there are many challenges you must face to ensure you are producing a consistent product and maintaining stellar service. To better prepare for rushes and any bumps in the road that might occur in day-to-day operations, it is wise for you to develop an operational plan that can keep team members focused and managers aware of their duties. Your plan is all about being prepared, maintaining consistency and keeping customers satisfied at the same time.

Preventing Food Shortages

In a cafeteria, running short on food can be one of the most preventable problems you can ever encounter. You have to have a good understanding of what you are serving and how much food you need to prepare. Understanding your bestselling offerings and anticipating shortages goes a long way towards preventing them. A daily run-down on portion control can help eliminate shortages and be part of your plan. Your operational plan should also determine who is responsible for checking on food shortages, relaying information to the kitchen and determining when more food needs to be prepared.

Eliminating Waste and Providing a Consistent Product

Feedback to the cooks in the kitchen is necessary to help ensure that too much food isn't being prepared. This helps eliminate waste and unnecessary food prep time and helps ensure that prepared food is not sitting under heating elements for too long. Feedback to the kitchen staff can also keep the food fresh and preparations more consistent and prevent contamination or issues with food safety from prolonged exposure to bacteria. Plan for creating dishes that can be safely prepared for the next day and for usable leftovers whenever possible.

Maintaining Service Standards

Your operational plan should outline which items typically get served by employees and which offerings can be left for self-service. More often than not, you need to serve entrees or more expensive offerings to ensure the the buffet line flows and that portions are controlled. You need to consider whether the cost of extra servers can help eliminate waste or accommodate more customers, which can both add value to your bottom line. Plan on having extra servers during rushes and backup plans in case any large groups come through the door.

The Little Details

You need to have runners who can be responsible for many of the little things that are essential to the operation of your cafeteria. Plates, glassware and utensils need to be constantly monitored, as do things like syrups for the soda fountain, salad dressings for the salad bar and tea bags at the coffee service station. A complete operational plan ensures that plates and glasses are washed before pots and pans are even considered. Your plan needs to spread the responsibility of these tasks to employees so your managers can fill in where and when they are really needed.