At a certain point each year, clubs start planning for the following year based on their unique fiscal parameters. Typically, the department heads are tasked with providing a detailed list of capital needs for their department. Capital expenditures are most often considered higher-priced needs to help run a department as efficiently as possible, but they don’t have to be limited to essentials.
For example, a club can manage just fine without a wood-burning char grill; however, steak cooked over a wood-burning flame is a tremendous amenity for members.
It’s fun for chefs at any stage of their career to shop for new and exciting toys to keep their teams and members engaged. But the real financial impact can make it seem like a daunting task. For a lot of new chefs, this is difficult to navigate. Here are a few things to note when planning:
Needs vs. Wants
When starting this process, it’s important for me to start by simply walking the kitchen and taking inventory of your current equipment. I look for items that are obviously outdated and for which obtaining parts tends to be difficult (and can cost a lot more). I also start looking at the placement of our current equipment as analyze how the placement of these pieces affects the flow and efficiencies of our kitchen. If I know we’ll be replacing a flat top, I consider how extensively we use it. If we rarely use the entire surface, can we replace it with a slightly smaller unit to make room for a larger range, which we use heavily and need to replace as well?
After I’ve determined what the club’s needs are, then I pivot toward items we can add that will bring a new dynamic and dimension to our operation. I’ll think about how often I anticipate using a certain item, whether it will produce something that our members will use consistently, and what value it will bring. Having an anti griddle is awesome, but will it only be used for specific events, or can we commit to using it in our daily processes?
Although this is an area with expected higher prices, budgets are still an important factor. These budgets, just like everything else, vary from club to club, and what ‘qualifies’ vs. what doesn’t fluctuates significantly based on, in many circumstances, revenue. I make note of this as I don’t want to ‘waste’ my submissions on items the club is in a position to purchase without necessarily planning for. Remember, these are higher-priced items like a new oven or a blast chiller, not a new blender or utility cart.
Inevitably, at some point in our careers, we buy a new piece of equipment (whether large or small), when it arrives, a connection is wrong, an outlet needs moved or upgraded, or a cord isn’t compatible. To avoid this, I start my planning process a few months ahead of a new fiscal year so I have time to do my homework.
I like to call in the pros, too. This year, we purchased a new combi oven, and we built into the price a certified inspector to come out and verify that what we were getting could fit and was also compatible with our current setup. In fact, we determined that we needed to switch our specific breaker to a higher capacity to support the added power. Whenever possible, identify these issues prior to the retaining and delivery. Trust me: You’ll be better off, both financially and emotionally!
A consistent experience is made tremendously difficult without the items your team needs to deliver the experience your members deserve. But remember to have fun with it, too. Once you get your systems down and in a routine, you can look forward to plugging in the ‘wants.’