The case of the missing muffins… and other adventures managing waste

My maths isn’t great. So maybe you can help me with this calculation. At the start of the day there were 12 muffins on the counter of my cafe. I knew this because I took the tray from the kitchen and stacked them next to the register. At lunch time we did a register clear and sales report for the morning. The report said we sold 6, but there were no muffins left.

12 – 6 = 6 right?

Where my missing 6 muffins at?

A few investigative questions later and I knew my missing muffins had been accidentally served, dropped, and put through the register as a cake not a muffin.

The kitchen checked the sales and didn’t bake another batch for the afternoon trade. We lost add-on sales, our stock and sales reporting was inaccurate and what was the flow on effect to customers? Not having the product they wanted so they went somewhere else, serving them the wrong thing which made us look incompetent? How long had this been going on? Was it just muffins or was this happening right through the business? Why weren’t we more focused on the implications of missing muffins? So many questions!

As the new manager of a busy café, this was one of my ‘aha’ moments.

If you work in hospitality you’ve no doubt been where I was. It’s a fast paced, reactive environment and mistakes happen, but these types of mistakes are avoidable or at least minimisable.

After my muffin melt down had passed, I got help from the team to put a plan together to manage waste. Turns out a big part of it was training the team. This is what we did:

1. Inform

We had a team meeting and updated everyone on muffin gate, why it was such a big issue, and l laid out a draft plan to address.

2. Buy in

I asked the team to help come up with ideas, identifying the real problems and ways to change our behaviour. The team had better ideas than I did, grabbing the waste ball and running with it. In an hour we had rock solid ways to set goals, track and manage waste in other areas of the business from coffee to kitchen and even take away.

3. Managing Waste Training

We found there were gaps in the teams understanding of why and how we managed waste. We went back to basics and covered what constituted waste, why is was important to manage; from the impacts on profit to the product we served our customers. So we did training. Lots of it. This step was definitely the most impactful. I was new to managing waste, some of the team were too and others had varying degrees of understanding. We realigned on the basics.

4. Managing Waste Systems and Process

Once the team were clear on what we were doing and why, we implemented some quick and efficient waste management tools and circled back continuously for a few weeks making sure they were being correctly used and the results managed.

5. Set Managing Waste Goals

We set targets and managed them every shift. It became pretty competitive, with charts printed and posted on the fridge, weekly prizes and regular celebrations.

6. Retrospect

We regularly evaluated our performance and regrouped on the failures.

The result? Mistakes still happened. But in the space of six weeks we applied waste management processes to every stage in the business. Our stock was better managed, we saved money, served our customers better, the team felt empowered and proactively contributed to our business and we had some fun.

My maths is still pretty bad, but I can say with pride, after that 6 weeks focus muffins didn’t go unaccounted for anymore.

Got a missing muffin problem of your very own? Or just want to train your team on the ways to save and make money with cost effective, efficient, easy to implement and manage training? We can help.

Contact us on 1300 721 121 or email info@opportune.com.au for tailored strategies to make positive improvements in your business.

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