5. Set up a Reliable POS System
A Point-of-Sale system is not just used to record sales. You can get valuable data on which foods are selling fast or slow. Some POS systems can generate reports that can be used to calculate food cost and track inventory.
Usually, the building administrator is responsible for setting up the POS system. But if you will be held responsible for your POS, keep in mind, this can be expensive.
For a canteen, one cash register should suffice. You can have printers located in the production or assembly area. The vendor must regularly maintain the POS.
6. Purchase Good Quality Equipment
The type of food business does not matter. You must always ensure the quality and consistency of the food you sell to your market.
It’s not always about the recipe. For the most part, your choice of equipment plays a major role in food quality.
Good quality equipment does not mean you should buy expensive equipment. There are many fabricators in the Philippines that can design and build excellent equipment for cooking.
And it’s not just cooking equipment. Food storage is equally important. Make sure your refrigeration and freezing systems can maintain the desired temperature for maintaining the quality of ingredients.
7. Institute Cleanliness, Sanitation, and Waste Disposal Procedures
As the Consignee, you are responsible for providing diners not just excellent food but a clean and enticing dining experience. Nothing turns off a customer than a dirty dining area.
During my days as a private employee, my office mates and I liked to have lunch in other nearby canteens. In one of the canteens we visited, as soon as we opened the door, a large, hairy rat which was as big as the cat ran out.
We never set foot in the canteen. One of my office mates says that up to this day the experience still gives her nightmares!
A canteen has to be clean everywhere: cooking area, food preparation station, storage, and dining. It has to be a thorough job. You have to clean grease traps, exhaust covers and the areas behind the grill, oven and fry stations.
All plates, utensils and cooking ware must be washed with hot water and cleaned with industrial strength chemicals. They must be dried properly before storage. Water can breed bacteria.
Accumulated grease is flammable. Wet floors will grow molds and mildew. Food debris will attract vermin and lead to contamination.
Take the time to upgrade procedures and orient the staff frequently. Prepare a cleaning schedule and make sure these are performed every day.
Cleaning is an activity that knows no end in any food business. You start and end the day cleaning the restaurant. During slack hours, the kitchen and dining areas must be kept clean.
Strictly follow the garbage disposal guidelines by the administrator. Buy trash bins with an air-tight cover to keep cockroaches and ants from coming inside.
Lastly, coordinate with the administrator to schedule monthly pest control services.
8. Set up Inventory Control Measures
Improper inventory can result in poor quality food due to spoilage and can seriously impact on food cost. Your accounting group should be able to set up an efficient inventory system.
Designate someone from your kitchen staff to be the stockman who shall be responsible for receiving and recording all food supply deliveries to the canteen.
Accounting and Purchasing should work together to organize and document all receipts and invoices received by the canteen. This is important to have precise tracking of food cost and smart money management.
Then set up a rotation system for all stocks. You should have an idea of weekly consumption patterns, shelf life, and the stockman should always keep track of expiration dates of all products.
The rotation system shall apply even to frozen items and food that is being marinated. Frozen products usually take three days to thaw out properly in the refrigerator. Once frozen food is transferred to the refrigerator, you should not bring it back to the freezer.
9. Prepare the Cooking, Food Preparation Guidelines and Quality Control Standards
One of the most expensive private schools in Makati also has the worst canteen food I have ever tasted. I couldn’t finish it even though I was so hungry.
Even though canteen food is priced lower than other venues, it doesn’t mean you should compromise quality for the sake of profit. If your usual ingredients are getting more expensive, negotiate with the suppliers. If these are frozen ingredients, you can request for lower pricing in exchange for volume.
You can also look for cheaper substitutes but make sure the quality or taste of the food will not be compromised. For example, when making fried chicken, you don’t have to use the popular brand of flour. You can switch to generic brands of flour that can maintain the original version of your recipe.
Another option is to make food items from scratch. A good example is French fries. You don’t have to spend good money to buy packaged, imported, frozen French fries delivered to the canteen. You can make good quality fries from raw potatoes. And food cost will be significantly lower!
10. Hire Good People
The most important asset in your canteen business will be the people you hire to manage the different stations. Here are a few tips when it comes to hiring canteen staff:
- Hire based on personality; anyone can be trained to become productive in the canteen service.
- Experience is overrated; if the person is willing to learn and has the right personality, hire him or her.
Personally, people with experience tend to be a burden more than a boost in the food business. They are set in their ways and believe their approach is better than yours.
In the years I ran a restaurant, everyone I hired with experience proved to be a disappointment.
- Always conduct due diligence work; the resume, references and the usual clearances are never enough. Check their social media accounts to get a better perspective on who they are as people. You want people you can grow the business with not potential trouble makers.
Finally, don’t be afraid to regularize good people because talent with personality is hard to come by. Many restaurants do not regularize because they are afraid of being unionized.
When running a business, always look at the big picture. You want to manage a successful canteen that can give you a better life. Therefore, your decisions should be made with maintaining food and service quality in mind.
Remember that the right to form unions is provided for by our Labor laws. Treat your people well, pay them on time, update their benefits and include their interests when managing the canteen and you will not have to worry about unions.
11. Invest in Training Your People
It’s not enough that you hire good people. You have to invest in their training and development. If you don’t have the skills or experience, hire someone who does.
Before we launched our restaurant, we hired a chef to teach our service crew the food preparation techniques. We asked our suppliers to bring in resource people to show designated crew troubleshooting procedures for the kitchen equipment.
Service is very important even if you are running a self-service canteen. You have to make sure the place is always clean, tables are frequently bussed, sanitized utensils are available, food is served warm, and customers are treated with respect and courtesy.
Your people should also look and dress the part. It should go without saying that proper hygiene is a given in the food business. We still find the occasional “hair in the pansit”!
Service crew should always wear hairnets, look and smell clean before working their shift and observe the correct dress code.
12. Consider Other Revenue Avenues
Despite a captive market, a canteen will have its “dead hours.” Find ways to generate sales during the hours of the day where you have very few to zero customers.
Here are a few suggestions:
- Offer specially priced merienda meals
- Sell packaged goods like cookies, candy, and snacks
- Offer limited delivery services
- Offer catering services
Before coming up with a campaign, always check with the administrator to make sure you are not violating provisions in your contract.
Start a Canteen Business in the Philippines
A canteen could be one of the most profitable opportunities for you to consider in 2017. The keys to running a successful canteen business are the same as any other food retail business namely:
- Maintain high quality of food and service
- Keep the canteen clean and sanitary
- Offer competitively priced meals
If you can consistently maintain your standards, you could have a long and rewarding career as a proprietor of a successful canteen business.