Q My back office is a mess. How do I get it organized?
A As an accountant who works with restaurant owners nationwide, I often sit in their back-of-the-house offices. It’s typically a 4’-by-4’ space that also serves as a broom closet and a break room. It’s packed with security cameras, employee uniforms, filing cabinets, post-it boards and ethernet cables that hang around you like a nest of boa constrictors. It’s pitiful.
I urge my independent restaurant clients to mirror the national chains when setting up a back office. You need only an all-in-one printer, copier and scanner; a touchscreen computer; a shredder; and a sign that says “No Admittance.” In this day and age, you don’t need a filing cabinet or storage area for paper. Cables should be neatly encased in plastic tubing. Shift lockers for waitstaff should be located outside of the office. For communications, just set up a high-speed Internet connection and a Bluetooth headset with voice-over-IP for phone calls.
To prepare for a spring cleaning at your restaurant, start by creating a company-wide initiative to reduce clutter. Assign maintenance of the house office to a staff member and pay that person to start the process. Here’s how to do it:
Get rid of all paper. Organize all paper items into marked storage boxes. Interview every manager, employee and accountant to find out how each document got there, why it’s still there and who needs a copy of it. If it’s important, scan it and email the file to the appropriate person and throw the paper copy out.
Dispose of employees’ personal items. These should be placed temporarily in storage boxes, and employees must claim them and take them home—or lose them! If you have shift lockers, that’s where personal items should go, not in the back office. The back office is not a landfill—it’s a place of business that needs to be organized and spotless.
Create manuals for office equipment. Create a simple training manual explaining the function of each piece of equipment and who should use what, how to use it and where to store/send any processed information.
With this system in place, it’s up to shift managers to keep things orderly. There’s a direct correlation between an organized back-of-the-house system and restaurant profitability. Chew on that for a while!